Cycling from London to Dover is fun and can easily be done in a day, but most people cycle to Dover to take a ferry to France. Literally, Dover is the start of cycling holidays throughout Europe for British cyclists.
Our plan was to cycle through the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg in 11 days and return to the UK. Our goal was to raise money for the charity “War Child”. We planned our route a couple of months in advance, but we didn’t book any accommodation or campsite, only a hotel in Dover for a night and the ferry to Calais.
We have already documented our trip as a video series on our YouTube channel, and I am going to share more details about our journey with tips and advice, here on my blog.
This article is the first episode or, better said, “Day 1” of our bike tour around Europe.
You can also read about "Bike Touring Gear: What to bring on a Bike Tour"
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Avoid cycling through London
Our cycling trip started in front of our door in the west of London on a sunny day in April at 8:30 am. We packed everything and put all our gear into our panniers the night before because it is always good to have an early start.
The route from our home to Dover can take almost 10 hours without stopping. We basically had to cycle inside London for more than four hours, which wouldn’t be a fun start. That is why we planned to cycle to Victoria Station and take a train instead.
Everything seemed as good as it should be. I did have an issue with my front weel earlier in the week, but that was fixed. So, we began cycling.
Our route to Victoria’s train station took us to Hyde Park Corner where we couldn’t find cycling lanes and we were not allowed to cycle on the pavements. The only option was to cycle on the high street with all the running buses and cars.
If you cycle in London you should be used to cycling with cars and buses racing against you. But what we didn’t know was that my bike had an issue. We were going quite fast because of a big red bus chasing us when I noticed my front wheel was wobbling. I can’t remember how, but in some way, I signalled Bruno and told him there was an issue with my bike. Stopping on the road or slowing down could have been very dangerous, but continuing without fixing the issue could have also turned into a disaster.
I locked my eyes on my wheel and continued pushing the pedals and hoping that the wheel stayed where it was at least until the end of the road.
We saw a broken bus on the side of the road in front of us. This was our chance to stop and used the bus as a shelter to fix my wheel. Fortunately, there was nothing broken. the issue was my front wheel’s quick-release skewer not being properly locked. That was it, our problem was easily and we continued towards Victoria’s train station, which took us around an hour to reach.
Train from London to Kent
You can go from London to Maidstone, Canterbury or a small town in Kent like Lenham and then cycle to Dover.
We decided to take a 30-minute train ride to Lenham to avoid cycling in the city of London. Our train departed from the station with a lot of empty seats at 10:20 am.
Carrying bicycles is permitted on Southeastern Railway trains during off-peak services. The peak time is between 7 am to 10 am on the services terminating in London from Monday to Friday.
Cycling route planner
We began cycling as soon as we left Lenham’s train station. It was a sunny and warm day in April. We went through a beautiful path which was surrounded by fields full of yellow flowers.
We used google map to plan our cycling route for the whole trip. It might be a bit difficult to get used to map-reading at the beginning, but when you get used to it, it will be very convenient.
There were at least two routes from Lenham to Dover, one was going to Canterbury and the other one was going to the coastal path, which was the one we chose.
We arrived at Kennington at around 1 pm and we continued our journey cycling uphill. We had a short stop for lunch in a local restaurant on our way, where we had big burgers, fries and a Coca-Cola. When you cycle for long periods of time you get hungry more often and you can eat without worrying about gaining weight.
After lunch, we continued our way to Dover by going through Hythe, where we started cycling on the coastal road. Cycling next to the beach was very relaxing and enjoyable until we passed through Folkestone. At this point, riding uphill was the only available option to get to Dover.
The view of the sea was getting better and better, we were cycling on the top of the white cliffs. After a while, while getting closer to Dover, the view was interrupted by concrete walls and the path became bumpy.
We were also really tired. You should keep in mind that the first few days of a cycling tour can be the hardest, your body is trying to get used to the saddle and being on the road for hours. We were quite tired and we had more roads up the hills to fight through. The worst part of the hill was the last segment. The situation also got worse as we went in the wrong direction twice on these very steep hills.
We couldn’t give up even if we wanted to do. We were in the middle of nowhere but not too far from Dover. We continued and reached the peak of the hill, after that, we could finally enjoy an effortless downhill ride. This meant we were in Dover. The last bit of the day was easy, but it was getting cold and windy.
We managed to arrive at the hotel before the sunset. Our hotel was not far from the port where we took a ferry the next day.