Pedal to Paris: 'The emotion is immense – I've seen grown men cry'

David Bower became hooked on his first Pedal to Paris in 2013. This year’s ride will be his fourth in a row.

“I originally signed up for Pedal to Paris because I felt the time was right. I served in the Scots Guards from 1983 to 2005, and after I left the Army, The Royal British Legion helped me out an awful lot, eventually helping me train to become a London cab driver. I decided it was time that I started to try and repay the charity for all the work they had done in helping me.

“I’d taken part in one charity bike ride before, but nothing like this. On my first ride I didn’t know anyone else doing it – I received all my leaflets about training schedules and having the right kit and just went down to the start line on the day. The first thing that struck me was how friendly everyone was. It didn’t matter where you came from or what your background was – we were all there doing it for the same cause, and the camaraderie was amazing.

"The organisation of this ride is the best by far" David Bowyer

“As well as this bonding, the ride’s organisation is the best by far – and I’ve heard that from other riders who have done more events than me too. It’s like a poor man’s Tour de France! Once you reach Calais there is a rolling roadblock by outriders on motorbikes all the way to Paris. If you get a puncture, you put your hand up and someone comes along, whacks a wheel in and you’re on your way again. If you’re feeling a bit sore, the massage team are there to look after you. And every time you go in for a break, the support team are cheering you on.

“To top it off Pedal to Paris is the only cycle ride, other than the Tour de France, where they actually close the Arc de Triomphe. As soon as you turn right off the roundabout, the emotion that comes over you is immense – so much so that I’ve seen grown men cry!

"It's like a poor man's Tour de France" David Bowyer

“It’s not just about the cycling. Even though you are in different groups in the day – be it the social, intermediate or advanced speed categories – everyone gets together in the evenings to share stories and have some good fun.

“Because of all this, I’ve become absolutely hooked. On my first Pedal to Paris I made a great group of friends and we’ve all done it every year since – even signing up for this year’s edition on the day we got back from Paris after the 2015 event. As long as you can ride a bike, you can do it. In fact there was a young girl last year and her first time on a pushbike was in April, five months before the event. If she can complete it, and pedal herself almost 300 miles to Paris, then you’ve got no excuse!”

If you think you're up to the challenge, join us to Pedal to Paris this September.

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