There are plenty of good ways to get to Paris – by plane, by Eurostar, by car (via ferry or train for the watery bit) – all quicker, but nowhere near as exhilarating, gruelling, sociable and just plain fun as HotChillee’s 550km, 400-person bike ride between the two cities.

Two days after I rolled along the Champs Elysées’s wrist-melting cobbles, crossed the finishing line and clambered off my bike, I’m still riding a big happy wave of euphoria – and just keeping at bay an equally large wave of exhaustion. We rode up hills, down hills, nowhere near any hills (with evil cross winds threatening to blow us into hedgerows full of blood-red poppies), through a southern England and northern France both struggling to get used to the idea that it’s supposed to be summer. (Note to the weather gods: sun please, thanks). We burned tens of thousands of calories, replaced them with kilos of high-energy bars and gels, we popped tyres, snapped spokes and crunched gears, all to complete a journey you can happily snooze through in a two-hour train journey.

But to sum up London to Paris as a three-day bike ride from the big smoke to the city of lights is to miss the point entirely. As one rider said to me as all 400 of us poured into the centre of Paris on closed roads, you find something out about yourself when you do something like this. And you find out about lots of other people, too – you bond pretty quickly when you’re up against it, after all.

Sat back at my desk, nursing stiff quads and battling heavy eyelids that threaten to shut at any moment, I’d do it all again tomorrow, if only there were someone to close the roads, carry my gear, fix my bike when it breaks (just the one puncture, as it turned out) and gee me along when the going gets tough. Looks like I’ll have to wait until June 2014. Maybe I’ll see you on the start line…

Visit for pictures and information on how to take part next year.