Tour de Cycle Hire

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Photographer and filmmaker Chris Lawson tells us about 3 friends, 3 Boris Bikes cycling 300km from London to Paris.

I’d been doing some work for ITV covering the start of the Tour de France 2014 when I contacted James Greig of CycleLove to see if he’d like to get involved. Unfortunately he was busy planning a mad trip from London to Paris on Boris Bikes. Starting in just a few days I was surprised to hear that no one was making a film about the trip. I immediately offered and thus signed up for a 300K Boris Bike road trip.

The next day I met James and Graham McLoughlin of Borough to work out some trip details. It became apparent that they’d done no training what so ever. Add in the fact the route hadn’t really been worked out and, if the bikes went wrong, it was going to be long walk home. Fortunately they had contacted Transport for London who agreed to waive the hire cost of the bikes. TFL’s only stipulation was not to take a yellow bike. So naturally we took a yellow bike.

The loose plan was to do the trip over five days. I would follow in my car and cycle with them on the last day into Paris. So just three days after an initial conversation we left London. With the Tour de France arriving in London the same day it was a kind of reverse cultural exchange.


Our brave “Tour de Cycle Hire” rouleurs resplendent in Vulpine Short Sleeve Merino Tees and Summer Shorts.


The chaps kept up an impressive pace heading out of London, cycling in a peloton and overtaking numerous confused looking commuters. They passed through Croydon and then on through the hills of Surrey. The Boris Bikes started to look really out of place. It took over eight hours for them to finally reach Brighton; arriving in the dark they all looked shattered. They had completed just a fifth of the overall journey. Next stop France…

If you want to see how the rest of the trip went you can watch my 8 minute short film here:

Here’s some things you won’t see in the film. On day two Graham had quite a bad crash. His brake cable snapped and he came to rest upside down in a bush. If you watch the film again, you’ll notice on day three when he’s fixing the bike there’s evidence of the crash across the back of his hand. 

On day four we did an impromptu photo shoot on a chateaux driveway. But we were chased off the property by the lady of the manor her gardener and a very large dog. Not sure what they were shouting (unknown “colourful” French terms) but we didn’t hang about to find out.

Then on the ferry going home (whilst backing up the Paris footage) the memory card developed a problem and overheated. I had just lost all of our Paris footage. 

Painful as it was, to finish the film, we needed to go back to Paris and record day 5 again. The next weekend I met the chaps on the outskirts of Paris. They’d arrived in a transit van with the bikes the night before. Last time they were exhausted due to days in the saddle. This time to recreate an authentic look of exhaustion they’d stayed out all night, paying great attention to continuity!  

Overall the film was a huge fun to make. It wasn’t made as part of a campaign or for financial benefit. It was pure folly. In the past people made buildings in the middle of fields constructed primarily for decoration. For me this is the film equivalent.


I do a lot of cycling both commuting and at the weekend. I’m a self-confessed bike snob. This experience has taught me, however, that you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds to have an adventure on a bike. And I hope the film inspires a couple of you to go for a ride.



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