About the challenge
Cycling from London to Brussels is one of the great cycle experiences in Europe. Passing through undulating Kent countryside, we cross the Channel to Calais and ride north into Belgium. Our route takes us through the lowlands of Flanders, a very cyclist-friendly region, via the lovely towns of Bruges and Ghent, passing through small medieval market towns – many with beautiful World Heritage-listed buildings. After long days in the saddle and some challenging hills, our three days of cycling ends in the capital city of Brussels, where we celebrate our achievement in style!
Day 1: Arrive London
An opportunity to meet the crew and your fellow cyclists before an early night in preparation for the challenge ahead!
Day 2: London – Calais
Cycle approx 135km (80 miles)
An early start from Blackheath Common allows us to avoid the morning traffic as we pass through the outskirts of London onto quieter roads. It is not long before we are among the rolling fields and villages of rural Kent, passing orchards and traditional oast houses where hops are stored. We head through Tonbridge and follow country roads across the hills of the North Downs to Dover and the coast. Taking the ferry to Calais, we have dinner on board and cycle the short distance to our hotel in Calais. Night hotel.
(Dinner on ferry not included)
Day 3: Calais – Bruges
Cycle approx 124km (77 miles)
After a hearty breakfast, we ride parallel to the coast from Calais towards Dunkirk, a historic city known best for the British evacuation in the Second World War. A few miles later we cross the border into Belgium and cycle through East Flanders countryside to the lovely old town of Veurne, which roughly marks our halfway point. Veurne’s market square is one of the most attractive in Belgium with Renaissance and Gothic buildings and a belfry included in UNESCO World Heritage Site listings. Our route now takes us east, inland through polders – low-lying areas reclaimed from the sea; we will see many dikes and canals which protect the land. This area is extensively farmed and dotted with small villages. Crossing the Yser at the small village of Schoorbakke, we follow a loop of this picturesque, wide river as it meanders through open green fields and meadows. Continuing eastwards, we ride through Ichtegem – one of many small Belgian towns which has its own brewery – and head towards Bruges, our destination for the night. Famed for its canal networks, this ‘Venice of the North’ has some beautiful medieval buildings; the historic centre is a World Heritage Site. An evening wander is a very pleasant way to wind down after our day’s efforts! Night hotel.
Day 4: Bruges – Brussels
Cycle approx 120 km (75 miles)
After a couple of long days in the saddle, our legs may feel a little tired but it’s the last day of the challenge and there is plenty of motivation to keep us going! Heading southeast, we leave the lovely sights of Bruges behind us and cycle through green farmland and small towns with striking churches and town halls. Cycling roughly parallel to the Bruges-Ghent canal, it’s not long before we arrive in the ancient city of Ghent, which we cross with care, marvelling at the impressive medieval buildings as we pass. On quiet roads again, we cycle through an area dotted with old castles, mills and many waterways; much of this region forms a drainage basin. We cross through Aalst, another lovely medieval town and ride through farmland which traditionally provided hops to the many local breweries. Now not far from our goal, we enter the suburbs of Brussels and ride past the famous Atomium, built for the 1958 Expo, and past Laeken Royal Park before we come to the Grand’Place. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the central square of Brussels is surrounded by impressive buildings including the Gothic town hall – the perfect location for a celebration! Night hotel. Celebration meal.
Day 5: Brussels – London
We depart this beautiful city on an early Eurostar back to London. (Lunch and dinner not included)
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The tour cost includes all accommodation, as well as transport (by ferry and Eurostar) and all meals except 3 as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, drivers and mechanics.
It does not include personal travel insurance, three meals as specified, transport around Brussels on Day 5, drinks, extra food, personal items or entry to any optional tourist sites you may wish to visit. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable with en suite facilities; standards may vary between the hotels.
All food is included except 3 meals where specified. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going! Dinners are generally eaten in the hotels.
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities where you are free to explore and find something to suit your budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Support vehicles are with the group all of the time. All luggage and spares will be carried in them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack or large waist-pack to carry items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening. Your bikes will return in our vehicles in time to meet you at St Pancras. They will be well-packed and protected during transit in our vehicles, but if you have an expensive or delicate frame, you may prefer to bring extra lagging to protect it more, or a soft bike bag. Hard case bike bags are not suitable as we do not have space to store them. We offer a bike courier service for those who prefer not to collect their vehicle at the station; further details and costs will be sent to you nearer the time.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, first-aid kits and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
The cycling is mainly flat or gently undulating. There are few strenuous climbs once in Belgium. Distances are fairly long, varying from 75 – 80 miles per day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances. The first day is particularly strenuous with some tough climbs. We ride mainly on small country roads. Traffic is light on most of the roads but when we pass through busy areas we may go through as a group. Belgian drivers are generally far more considerate to cyclists than here in the UK. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.
We strongly recommend that you ride a road/racing bike (rather than a mountain bike) for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. However Discover Adventure can provide hybrid or mountain bikes at an extra cost if you wish.
There will be a range of spares in the vehicle along with a full tool kit. However it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality so it is vital that when bringing your own bike it is in good order before departure. It is imperative that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with the straps done up.
Clothing & Equipment
We could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures and remember that weather conditions can change quickly. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
Belgium’s climate is very similar to that of southern England. Temperatures can vary widely and rain is always a possibility. Rural areas are very open so there is little shelter from wind in flatter areas.
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential; it must be valid for at least three months after entry into Belgium. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. AITO, our Trade Association, has recognised the work we do in this area and has awarded us 5 stars as a Responsible Tour Operator.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up. Please see our website for more details.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with BTCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Make your volunteer pledge by going to www.tcv.org.uk