Duchenne Dash from London to Paris

Duchenne Dash from London to Paris

It’s been three years since his last cycle tour, but Mr T is finally back on his bike. This time taking part in a charity cycle ride: The Duchenne Dash from London to Paris. Sounds fun? Well, there is a catch. This cycle ride isn’t ‘just’ a leisurely cycle tour. Oh no. The 300km from London to Paris would need to be completed within 24 hours.  

Full disclaimer: As with Mr T’s other cycle rides (like his trip from Cambridge to Norfolk), I am only here to tell the tale. I did not take part myself (you’ve probably guessed that already).

So how did it come about that Mr T signed up for the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris? Especially since he hadn’t done much cycling in the last two years. Keep on reading and you’ll find out. But first things first.

What is the Duchenne Dash?

The Duchenne Dash from London to Paris is an annual charity cycle ride, which has been going for 12 years now. Around 150-200 cyclists participate and help Duchenne UK raise vital funds in their fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). 

DMD is a rare genetic disease that affects mostly boys and gradually causes all muscles in the body to weaken. Approx. 2500 people in the UK live with DMD and life expectancy lies at around 20-30 years. Unfortunately to this day, there is no cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But the money Duchenne UK raises is vital for providing clinical trials to aid the search for a cure. 

It is important to say, that the Duchenne Dash itself is not funded by those donations. The support teams, the ferry, hotel, etc is all paid for by the participants and the sponsors.

How comes Mr T took part in the Duchenne Dash?

Back in December, his company announced that they were thinking of participating in this year’s Duchenne Dash from London to Paris. One of the big shots had taken part in previous years and is a big supporter of the charity.

The company planned to participate with a team of 11 cyclist from across all departments and depots. Excited by the prospect of cycling to Paris, Mr T threw his name in the hat. Surprisingly, he was less concerned about the actual cycle ride or distance. It was the fundraising aspect that scared him a little. As each cyclist was expected to raise 4K for Duchenne UK. Luckily for him, they would raise the funds as a team, not an individual. 

Come January and the team was announced. Happy days, Mr T would be part of it. Time to get training. Mr T hadn’t really done much cycling the past year. But this would have to change, if he wanted to complete the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris.

Until the weather got warmer, the trusted Wahoo Kickr was set up in the shed, so that training could start indoors. Eventually moving the bike out to start commuting to work. And even doing a (freezing wet) 90km sportive to Cambridge in March.


To ensure not only he, but also the bike was ready for the big tour, Mr T booked a service for his bike. And whilst he was at it, he also ordered a new group set and new tyres. However, what was meant to be a quick service turned into an unplanned three week wait. A teeny tiny plastic part had broken and without it, the bike wasn’t usable. And obviously it was one of those parts that wasn’t meant to break and therefore didn’t even have a parts number to re-order it. Good fun. Eventually the manufacturer sent a replacement directly from Germany and the bike was back in action. Training could commence.

Packing for the Duchenne Dash

Fast forward a few weeks and it was finally time for the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris. This cycle ride would be a little different from Mr T’s previous tours. There was no need to pack all his belongings into paneers and have them with him during the entire ride. Instead, the Duchenne Dash support team would take care of the luggage. Therefore, every cyclist was asked to pack three bags: 

Day Bag

This bag would ride in the support vehicle, so that cyclists had access to it at rest stops. This bag contained their waterproofs and spare cycling gear, spare inner tubes, some energy gels / snacks, credit card, phone charger. Only the absolute necessities. Since there would also be mechanics on hand, there was no need to bring a pump and tools.

Ferry Bag

This small rucksack would contain everything they needed for their overnight ferry crossing. Passport, toiletries, change of clothes and comfy shoes, fresh cycling gear for the next day, eye mask and ear plugs, sleeping bag and mat, phone charger etc. 

Hotel Bag

Lastly, this bag was for the overnight stay in Paris. It would only contain the clothes for the evening dinner and to travel back to London. 

It seemed weird to pack so many different bags. But there was some logic behind it, as anything else would have been a logistical nightmare. Each bag was loaded into a specific area and was given out for one specific purpose. 

Only once they arrived in Paris would they be reunited with all their bags (and would have to schlepp them back to London).

The Route

Same as the Avenue Verte, the Duchenne Dash goes from London to Paris. Some of you might remember that Mr T did the UK part of the Avenue Verte three years ago. But whilst the Avenue Verte follows the National Cycle Network, the Duchenne Dash goes almost exclusively along roads. After all, the route needs to be suitable not only for bicycles, but also for the motorcycles and vans of their Dash support teams and medics.

Starting at the iconic Herne Hill Velodrome in South London, the first leg of the journey is 97km (60.3 miles) down to Newhaven. Via Bromley, Brasted and Fairwarp. 

In Newhaven, the cyclist would then board an overnight ferry to Dieppe in Normandy / France.

The next morning, the second leg of the journey would be from Dieppe to Paris. A whopping 204km (126.8 miles). Finishing at the most iconic Paris landmark there is, the Eiffel Tower.

OK, now that we’ve covered all the prep and general info about the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris, how about we finally start with the actual event.

Duchenne Dash: Thursday

The final day before the big event. All training finished (cyclists were advised to give their legs a few days rest before the Dash), it was time to get the bikes loaded. As no one fancied adding an extra 25 miles to the starting point, the team had arranged for the bikes to be transported from the office to the velodrome by a company van.

Bikes and bags loaded, it was time for carbing up at dinner, and an early night. 


The big day had arrived. The Duchenne Dash was finally about to start.

After a quick breakfast at home, it was time to meet the colleagues and head to Herne Hill Velodrome. 

Source: Reynolds Catering Supplies

As they arrived around 10.45am, they had plenty of time to unload the van and head to registration. Here they received their Duchenne Dash jerseys and day bags. As well as a set of stickers for their bikes and all the gear. Including the most important sticker of all: the one showing all the rest stops (nothing like a bit of motivation to keep you going). 

Before it all kicked off, the team had a chance to socialise with the other riders and the organisers of the event. And get some lunch. Overall, there were about 160 cyclists taking part in the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris. 

Source: Duchenne UK

During the rider brief, Duchenne UK introduced their charity work and shared some stories of people affected by DMD. They also explained a little more what to expect whilst cycling in the UK and in France. 

Around 1pm, it was finally time to start the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris. The cyclists loaded their day bags into the support vehicles and set off, staggered in four speed groups. Mr T and his team rode in the slowest group. Each speed group would ride with several volunteer ride captains, that would keep them at pace. For the slowest group, this was an average of around 22 km/h. So definitely no leisurely stroll. In addition to the support van, each group also had a second van with mechanics following them (to help with any bike troubles) and a couple of motorbikes, ensuring the safety of the cyclists.

From Herne Hill, the Dashers had a slow start through South London traffic, before eventually picking up speed towards West Wigan. Past Biggins Hill airport and towards Brasted. Around 30km into the ride, it was time for the first short break. 

Generally, the route was mainly country roads, avoiding most villages. 

At Fairwarp (64km into the ride), it was time for the next 15-minute stop. Time for some snacks, a quick toilet break and to fill up those water bottles.

After 97km, at approx. 19.15pm (around 6 hours after setting off in Herne Hill), the last team finally arrived at Newhaven. Before grabbing their dinner at Brewers Fayre, they all headed to the Premier Inn next door for a shower and to change into their comfy clothes for the night. The ferry bags were handed out along with a breakfast bag (containing a breakfast drink, some oat bars, fruit and snacks) and the cyclist were ready to cycle the short distance down to the ferry. 

Heading through border control, they all boarded the ferry and secured the bikes. There were no cabins booked for the Duchenne Dash, so they needed to find themselves a suitable spot to put their heads down for the night. Either a bench, a chair or the floor. Now it was just a question of settling down as fast as possible, to maximise on sleep. After all, they had a big day ahead of them. 

Come 11pm, the ferry departed Newhaven and headed towards Dieppe.

Duchenne Dash: Saturday

Comfy or not, the night was a short one. By 3.45am, everyone needed to be back up and down by their bike by 4am. They got off the ferry 15 minutes later and went through a second border control. They handed their ferry bags back, regrouped and set off. Again staggered, although this time it would be slowest group that started first.

It was still pitch-black, as they cycled through Dieppe. Which is a shame, as this is such a pretty town (Mr T and I spent a couple of days here back in February), but I doubt the cyclists noticed it much. Instead, they were concentrating on the task ahead. 

The first leg of the day was 37km. All at a slight uphill, although it felt relatively flat. As they arrived at St Saens, it was time for the first short stop with some coffee, water and sweets / snacks. 

By now it was full day light and although the weather wasn’t brilliant, at least it wasn’t raining. 

Freshly fuelled, the next 45km consisted of rolling hills and French countryside. 

At Gournay en Bray (82km in) it was time for a slightly longer break and some proper food: Ham and cheese baguettes, coffee, croissants. 

The next stint was the shortest section with just 30km. But it started with a big climb just after they set of. 

After another short rest stop at Bazincourt, it was time for the hardest and longest stage of the Duchenne Dash. Almost 70km with plenty of climbs. Unfortunately, this stint also included a last minute ‘short’ detour of 15km, thanks to a joisting tournament along the original route. 

As Mr T tore a muscle on day one, he gave the worst hills in this stint a miss and rode in the support van. But he wasn’t giving up completely. After all, taking part in the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris meant cycling into Paris. And he was determined to do just that.

In Vaux sur Seine (approx. 180km into Saturday’s route), it was time for the last rest stop. A longer lunch break with nice artisan baguettes, sweet pastries, plenty of chocolates, sweets and crisps. Also, now was the time for everyone to regroup. As the last 40km into Paris would no longer be done in speed groups, but as one big convoy.

They approached Paris via Paussy, Saint Germain, and past Bougival.

As they arrived into Paris, there was one last-minute surprise for the Dashers. They had received permission to ride past the Arc de Triomphe and down Avenue Marceau. They then crossed the Seine via the Ponte de l’Alma and cycled the last bit along the river to the Eiffel Tower.

The finish line was just outside the Pullman Hotel at the Sport Centre ‘Émile Anthoine’. Enabling the cyclist to do a little ‘victory lap’ around the stadium. 

The relief was huge. They actually made it to Paris. Time to celebrate with a quick beer and about a million photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. As the adrenalin started to wear off, they started to realise what they had achieved. But also, that all muscles started to ache.

Source: Reynolds Catering Supplies

As the last job of the day, it was time to say goodbye to the bikes. They were loaded and secured on vans and would be transported back to London over the next few days. 

Source: Duchenne UK

A few maniacs (i.e. some of the volunteer ride captains) would actually cycle back to London the next day. But everyone else was happy to see the back of their bike for the time being.

Conveniently, the Dashers were staying at the Pullman Hotel. So, once they got rid of their bikes, they went down to the basement to collect their bags and checked into their rooms. 

By 7.30pm, it was time to head up to the roof top restaurant for the big gala dinner: A few speeches, a 3-course dinner, some drinks and amazing views of the Eiffel Tower.


After the very short night the day before, Sunday started rather slow for everyone. A relaxing breakfast at the hotel, before eventually packing up (by now, the cyclists were reunited with all 3 of their bags) and checking out. 

When they signed up for the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris, every cyclist could choose whether they wanted to take the mid-day or evening Eurostar back to London. Mr T and his team opted for the earlier option. Somehow no one was up for a few hours of sightseeing in Paris. Although I would have happily provided guidance on a two-hour walking tour through Paris. Really can’t understand why no one was up for that (only joking obviously, I don’t blame them for running on empty by now). 

How did Mr T feel after the ride?

Unfortunately, he tore a muscle on the first day and had to miss a few bits of the ride. But even so, it was still his longest ride ever and it was an incredible achievement that he can be proud of. 

Would he do it again? Well, when asked directly after the ride, it didn’t sound likely. But give him time. I have a feeling he might be up for it, should his company decide to participate again next year. And who knows, maybe next year, they do allow their partners to come and meet them at the finish line.

Even though the Duchenne Dash from London to Paris is over for another year, the fund raising isn’t. If you would like to help Duchenne UK fight DMD (and help Mr T reach his fundraising goal), you can still donate here.


Special thanks to Reynolds Catering Supplies and Duchenne UK for letting me use some of their images.

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1 Comment

  1. Simone

    Respekt! 👍🏻