Day two: Monday. Brighton to Newhaven, then ferry to Dieppe.
23km, av. 11.8km/hr, max 31.8km/hr.
Calories: 201, CO2 offset: 3.47kg, time: 1hr 57mins.
A much easier day but it’s a heck of an early start!
We wake up some time around 5.30 am for breakfast, bid farewell to our overnight accommodation, and then convene in central Brighton with the other groups some time around 7am (it’s still dark at this time… who knew?) before setting off in one almighty ‘Bike-Train’ much to the bemusement of bleary-eyed Monday morning commuters, or ‘norms’ as they suddenly now seem.
We cycle en-masse along the Brighton sea-front, passing the ferris wheel and the arcades, and generally stopping the traffic. Then, as dawn turns into day, we’re on the sea-wall path heading towards Newhaven, but the tide is right in, which means crashing waves against the sea-wall and spectacular walls of water which somehow don’t soak us.
It really is an incredible way to start the day, and a fantastic little ride, but there are casualties along the way. The powerful waves have thrown into our path hundreds of stones and pebbles, among them razor-sharp flint which make easy work of unlucky tyres – at least three people are hit by punctures in a stretch of path no more than a couple of miles long.
The path then leaves the seafront and rises up to join the main road, and from here it’s a full-on BikeTrain all the way to Newhaven, much to the annoyance of the traffic. Some of the people deployed to block side-street traffic, AKA blockers, are having to deal with some pretty unpleasant drivers yelling and screaming that what we’re doing is illegal, etc, etc (as they sit in their metal boxes, waiting to join the traffic jam into Brighton).
It’s funny how my perceptions have literally been changed overnight. Yesterday I was encouraging the group to pull over to let the cars pass, today I’m more like “sod it, they own the road 364 days a year and they can’t deal with it for the one day of the year that we own the road.” As much as this is a ride about being low-carbon, it’s also (in my mind at least) a ride about reminding motor vehicles that other modes of transport exist,reclaiming the roads, and making them safer for cycling. If we slow the traffic down for the morning then maybe that’s a good thing.
So, at Newhaven we de-flag our bikes just in case the customs people don’t approve, and then – after a long wait – walk our bikes onto the ferry. It’s a four hour trip, but feels pretty leisurely and comfortable. It’s been a long time since I took a cross-channel ferry, and I’d forgotten how fun it is, especially the blast of fresh air you get when you venture out onto deck. We use the time to catch up on sleep, have lunch, talk together in our groups, and generally mess around until it’s time to depart.
At Dieppe, the local mayor has come down (on his bike, of course) to welcome us and, once we’re all on dry land and been reunited with our bikes (we reclaim bikes from the ferry at random, to save time), we’re led on a cycle around this seemingly sleepy little seaside town, as the sun sets. It’s a beautiful French dusk to match the spectacular English dawn we experienced a few hours earlier.
Next, to the hostel where, after a bit of a scramble for beds, Bee Team manage to get all the worker bees and our queen into two neighbouring bedrooms or, as we prefer to call them, our hive.
The evening is given over to food, wine, cheese (when in France…), map-reading, phone recharging, and preparation for our first full day riding in France tomorrow.