“My lad got a nice little Pinarello second hand for his 8th and hasn't looked back,” said Andrew Baker about his son, Oscar. Earlier this month father and son spent five days riding from London to Paris via the Newhaven-Dieppe route.
“The original idea was to get three generations on the London to Paris,” said Andrew. However, 85-year-old granddad Richard decided he wasn’t up to the task and so drove in support.
On day one, Oscar and Andrew rode from Coulsdon to Brighton. After crossing the Channel the following day, they picked up the Avenue Verte for most of the rest of their journey to Paris.
“The first day was awful,” remembers Andrew. “We both have road bikes and the route surfaces were the worst. Signing poor; tracks so, so bad; tarmac completely overgrown; pavements by the side of the road; very rough tracks; some really dangerous spells on the A23 (glass and artics); and at the end some weird route over the South Downs that only a tracked vehicle could cope with.
“The boy learned loads of new words as I described my feelings. But the National Cycle Route is a joke. France was magic – just lovely, by contrast.”
They rode about 40 miles a day and while Andrew said that Oscar was coaxed into action when slacking by the promise of pain au chocolat, for the most part he seemed to take the challenge in his stride.
“We took a custom route, part Avenue Verte (great) and part expedience, taking us through some super rough parts of Western Paris, west of Foret Domaniale de St Germain en Laye.
“He really had no issues with any of the riding parts – even the parts I did, like the roundabouts on the Champs Elysees, which have lanes on the outside perimeter of the road, making you the first to get it as the cars come racing on.
“Next time, we’d plot good B roads in the UK and do better in Paris.”
It sounds like Oscar will be following in the pedal strokes of another young London-Paris rider next. Nine-year-old Alfie Earl has taken on a number of well-known European climbs and Andrew said of his own son’s plans: “Climbing somewhere next, as he seems to like it.”