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Páramo’s very own Ben Phillips takes on an epic cycle ride through France.

Keen cyclist Ben Phillips has been working with Páramo for over 3 years and this summer, along with a group of friends, he set himself the challenge of a 1,635km cycle ride with over 13,412m of elevation. Read on to find out how Ben prepared for the trip a lifetime, and how he fared…

Ben in his Páramo Enduro Windproof Jacket


We are a group of 9 long-time friends from all over the UK who have decided to take on an awesome cycling challenge (or is it part of our mid-life crisis!?). A bunch of middle-aged mates dressed in Lycra for 13 days straight and using the incentive of a good feed at the end of each day to get us from the northern coast of France to the Côte d’Azur in the south – St Malo to Nice. We also have 3 support team members who will be sampling culinary delights along the way and driving our gear from each day’s start to its finish. The route takes us from Brittany, down through the Loire, Dordogne and into Provence as we stay at small, rural B&Bs whilst taking in all the beauty that nature puts in our way.

The ride began as an idea by David Beattie, who celebrates his 50th birthday this year. As more of us decided to give this bucket list opportunity a go, we felt it was important to support a charity as well. One of our fellow riders, Ken Orledge, started raising money for Blood Cancer UK as he commenced training, and we are sharing the following link, our central Just Giving page, in order to bolster support – France ride Just Giving page. The wife of one of Ken’s best friends passed away last year from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (a Blood Cancer), and we felt it was an extremely worthy cause to raise money for. You can learn more about the extremely sad story that led to our wanting to support Blood Cancer UK via the Just Giving link above.

Training for many of us began towards the end of 2022 and the last few months have seen a number of group rides, solitary hours on the road in the cold, and humid mornings in the shed on the turbo trainer. It’s been a great opportunity to get back to a reasonable level of fitness as careers and family life have taken priority over the last couple of decades. For me, a keen cyclist, it’s also been an opportunity to increase the length of my training rides and explore the local Sussex and Kent countryside. Visiting beautiful villages I’ve never seen before and taking a tailwind (when possible) to experience one of the most varied and stunning coastlines in the country has been wonderful.

With less than two weeks to go until the ferry departure from Portsmouth to St. Malo, I’m being careful to not go crazy with the mileage, having accrued over 6,400km since Jan 1st and nearly 60km of elevation. This week it’s a few jaunts out into the local lanes to keep the legs turning over, but I’ll still be out for 5 days covering approx. 250km so I can burn off enough calories to enjoy a beer on the weekend, and cake, the key dietry requirement for any active cyclist! Next week it’ll be the last long-ish ride at around 70-90km, and a few gentle 1-1.5 hr rides in the early morning sunshine… then off to France.

Kit-wise, I rotate several pairs of shorts and tops washing after every use, but also making sure I use Nikwax® BaseWash® and BaseFresh® on my baselayers and other synthetic gear. I’ll be taking plenty of BaseWash Travel Gel with me to France as we ‘tread grapes’ in the shower each night washing the gear from the day’s cycling!

We should be able to expect some good weather in France at this time of year, but for wet conditions, I’ll be making sure my Páramo Enduro Windproof Jacket has been re-treated with Nikwax Tech Wash® and TX.Direct® Wash In before I leave home. This jacket is so lightweight and compact and will fit into my saddle bag to use whenever needed. It’ll be ideal for keeping the chill off during any longer descents, and for general use too, to keep the wind and rain out when we’re not in the saddle.

When each day’s riding is over, comfort will be the order of the day. So after the bikes have had a once-over, the washing is done, and we’ve had some food, I’ll be using my Páramo Enduro Fleece as the evening gets cooler so I can relax and stay cosy. It also has excellent breathability and will therefore be useful in the early evening when it’s still milder, but it’s so versatile as a general mid-layer to travel with, I can throw it on at any time.

So not long until the adventure begins, and I hope you are able to keep up to date with our progress and antics as the ride plays out. We all realise we are very fortunate to be able to undertake such a challenge, so a big thanks to our families. Everyone is raring to go and with the help of my Nikwax products and Páramo kit, I am sure I’ll stay clean, comfortable and protected as we make our way south through France.


Saint-Malo to Nice, France

1,635KM done.

13,412 metres of climbing done. (It was actually 18,522 metres as the guide book was a bit out!)

Over 28,000 calories burnt in addition to the normal daily amount.

6 punctures between 9 of us over 13 days of riding.

1 beautiful country, France, explored from north to south – Done!

When setting off from Saint-Malo on the north coast none of us knew exactly what was in store, apart from the fact we would need to keep the momentum up to reach our destination in Nice, and that this could well be an experience none of us would ever forget.

France delivered – wonderful countryside, lovely food, friendly locals always offering a wave as we rang our bike bells and some warm weather. Well, the weather was pretty rough for the first 3 days, then it settled as we headed south and it got hotter, but our wonderful support team of 3, who met us for lunch each day, made sure we were extremely well looked after.

The nine of us came from all manner of backgrounds and shared a variety of cycling experience, but one thing was for sure, we would stick together and enjoy seeing France as a team. The first couple of days saw us travel south through Brittany, and into Pays de la Loire. My Páramo Enduro Jacket was tested extensively as we battled through wind, rain and constant spray from passing vehicles but eventually, as the better weather appeared, we were able to shed the outer layers and enjoy proper summer conditions.

The Dordogne followed, an area I’ve not visited before, but we all agreed it was the most culturally appealing, quieter, enjoyable and ‘more untouched’ region we passed through. It’s beauty was unrivalled and the people so welcoming as we visited various cafes for an espresso and patisserie.

Provence delivered too, beautiful patchwork fields of wheat, steadily growing sunflowers and of course lavender, plus rolling countryside that towards the end of the day, tested our stamina and resolve.

The climbs became more prominent as we started to head south east towards Nice, the biggest being the mighty Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence. I punctured half way up and our advanced group of three became two as I stopped to make the repair. However, reaching the summit meant I fulfilled a lifetime ambition, completing an iconic French climb, and what a view at the top at over 1,900m on a beautiful, still day.

The last day started early as we pedalled from our hotel at 6am – just under 160km to cover with over 2,500m of climbing. The route was through the mountains, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes with a steep descent into Nice, our final destination. The day had a quiet, focussed feel to it, conditions weren’t good. The steep switchback roads were laden with rocks in the early morning following a night of heavy rain, then thunderstorms came and went as we worked our way across a plateau at over 1,200m. Following a sketchy and slow descent in torrential rain, we hit the outskirts of Nice, cold and soaking wet, but we at last saw the sun shining through. The heat didn’t take long to make its presence felt and we could see the Mediterranean in the distance. So, heads down and spinning the pedals good progress was made on the flat until we hit the coast – we’d made it to the iconic Côte d’Azur!

We proudly had a final picture with the bikes and made our way to our hotel to dry off. Everyone was shattered, but the relief at making it meant the adrenalin kicked in and we were at last able to look back at what we’d achieved…  obviously after we’d used the last of our Nikwax BaseWash to clean our gear for the final time!

With over £11k and counting raised for Blood Cancer UK, we smashed our original target and all benefitted from a wonderfully cultured, physical challenge through some amazing countryside. A huge thanks to all who supported us along the way, plus our families, and donations can still be made via the following link:

2 thoughts on “Páramo’s very own Ben Phillips takes on an epic cycle ride through France.

  1. Excellent effort Ben. You went through some of my favourite bits of France, especially Ventoux! Its something I’d love to do one day but I found out I had lung cancer last year and lost half my left lung through surgery at Christmas. I’ve now started back cycling although not as fast or far as I used to but you never know, I might do something similar one day 😉 Well done!

  2. Excellent Trip Ben and team
    France North to South Done!

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