If you were to trace the inspiration behind the design of the Boris Bike, you wouldn't be surprised to end up at the Rhino Charge. As the primary means of transport after a session in the pub, these hefty bikes are built to withstand the gauntlet of pavements, stairs and broken glass that stands in the way of an English gent that’s missed the scotch eggs and the nearest kebab shop - not to mention the impatience and mal-coordination brought on by a few pints of ale...
So, in the spirit of the Rhino Charge and to support the valuable work done by Rhino Ark, Harry Peck and I suited up and put the Boris Bike to the test with a straight line commute for Paris.
The route from London to the coast is filled with the undulations of the South Downs and this leg was dominated by a struggle against gravity. The 23kg steel girder chassis gave Sir Isaac Newton the upper hand and, much like a stone lorry ascending the bottom road escarpment, we spent most of the day in the climbing lane. As a result of this, we arrived at the ferry on legs of jelly by the light of our flashing green bicycles.
At the ferry we were joined by a squadron of far more sensible cyclists along with their support crews, nimble road bikes, padded lycra, protein shakes and foam rollers. Our two man crew, suits and overweight machines drew many a disapproving look, leaving Harry and I with a feeling that we were trampling their sacred shrine to the "gods of cycling".
Arriving in France at 4.30am and fearing that gravity would once again delay our journey, we set off before Lance Armstrong and his crew had even packed up their EPO. This was soon to become a race between the tortoise and the hare as each passing of the peloton was followed by a pit-stop, to stock up on protein bars from their support crew - giving us a chance to take the lead once again.
Although Sir Isaac was far more forgiving in France, the same cannot be said for google maps. Fortunately, the Boris Bike was in its element as Google constructed a puncturous route of goat tracks and wheat fields for us to negotiate.
Twenty miles from Paris, overcome with fatigue and losing the will to live, we were overtaken for a final time by Team Sky and the rest of the peloton.
As our phone batteries deserted us we were released from the evil clutches of Google and left to our own, even more deadly, sense of direction. Like a midnight trip to the bathroom, we stumbled our way towards the Eiffel tower bumping into some of Paris' less hospitable suburbs.
Our final hurdle was France's equivalent of the Nyayo stadium roundabout - the Arc de Triomphe. Once trapped in this circling mass of maddened Parisian drivers it was every man for himself and we all bee-lined for our own exits. Thankfully, the Boris Bike has a significant presence on the road and we escaped the whirlpool of hooting baguette eaters unharmed!
Finally, after 160 miles of cycling, 22 hours in the saddle and not a single complaint from our bikes, we made it to the Eiffel Tower! A big thank you to all those who donated - Africa Born in particular - we raised a handy £2400 towards a great cause.