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Ride a Parabike to France!?

James Lee

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I am new to the forum so thank you for welcoming me in.

I only own a BSA Airborne Folding Bicycle, a very rust pitted sad looking yoke so far, but I am rejuvenating it. My aim is to ride it to Ranville, Normandy for DDay75 next 6th June, from the site of RAF Broadwell Airfield, Oxfordshire, about 100 miles, in memory of my Grandfather (1Royal Ulster Rifles, 6th Airborne Div.) who was killed June 7th 1944.

I will use the original frame but wheels and tires will be later replacements, brooks leather saddle and if I can the original 'sliding peg' pedals. I will also dress in appropriate repro battledress and boots, and may use my Grandfather's original Denison smock.

Any advice? Any experience of riding a parabike that far?

best wishes James

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Hello James,

in 2014 I took my BSA bike to Normandy for 3x days, I parked my car in Portsmouth and then boarded the ferry, loaded down with tent, sleeping bag (both strapped to my bike) and a large ruck sack. I made the short journey to the campsite LES CAPUCINES at Ranville, riding along the canal to Pegasus bridge, this was at 6am, 6 June, 70 years on !  (that was an incredible experience).

The only thing I decided to change on the bike were the pedals, as riding any distance with the push through type pedals, can become very hard work. I also added a vintage rack, purely to add the carrying ability of the bike and not wishing to have an Everest carry on the front, which I did consider.

During my 3x days I covered approx. 60x miles, the furthest ride being out to Saint Aubin sur Mer, to visit the NOBS campsite, where friends were staying, and getting a very welcome cup of tea there. This area is mostly flat, so riding is not to difficult, the only thing is the saddle and this proved hard on my arse ! I think this is the one factor to consider and maybe finding someway when cycling to provide yourself with some sponge/padding, to ease the soreness, is a MUST !

The experience was fabulous, where ever you stop people chat and want to know about the bike, and of course being there for the anniversary of this piece WW2 history is everything.

Riding the 100 miles to the port, will be tough on a bike which has no gears and there are a few hills to get over from your start point to port, and to carry any kit with you would be very difficult, so you might need to arrange other transport for your needs when staying in Normandy,  maybe a friendly HMVF'er on here might be able to take a tent etc over for you ? 

The photo was taken over looking the 5th Parachute Brigade landing zone, when on my way to the Merville Battery.

 Best Regards



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Thanks Gary, great to hear from someone who has done a similar thing. I wonder did you wear ww2 battledress? the idea of pedalling in boots on hills with no gears using original sliding peg pedals and wearing old rough materials appeals to my masochistic side! ( I ran 65 miles to Pegasus bridge for the 65th anniversary.)  might hide a pair of cycling padded shorts underneath though for this ride! any ideas where I can get hold of repro clothing - I might have an original Denison smock.

BW James

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I rode the Race to the bridge from Renkum to Arnhem for the 1st time. I did ride from the Belgian border to Eindhoven.

Arnhem area is a tad hilly which made the ride way more tiresome than the flat drive to Eindhoven.

Riding as such shouldn't be a problem, even with the sliding pedals. Taking kit and Luggage is a bit more difficult.

I did find out going downhill with 70+ year old hardened rubber brake pads in the rain is allmost useless, especially when the rear brake gave out due to a loosened screw.

So to be short, you'd be mad and thets a GOOD thing!. Go fot it!

Do make sure you are visible for other traffic. A uniform is correct but camouflage on a bike with motorised traffic can get dangerous.

HiVis looks bad but may be the sensible thing to do.

Using a Original smock isn't a good idea, you may damage it and regret that.

Edited by Enigma
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