In our seven days’ riding so far, we have notched up the following juicy little numbers :
Distance covered : 867 kms , 210 of those on one epic/ill-advised day from Saint-malo to Brussels
Vertical climb : 7562 metres. That means that although we’ve been going through what they told us were the low countries, by tomorrow we’ll have cycled up (and down) Everest.
Max Speed : 64.5 km/h (it sounds more impressive than 38 in old money)
Countries visited : 5 (yes, Luxembourg counts)
Showers taken : 1
Athough this was the winner of today’s on road caption competition, It was bone dry, a scorcher, more parasol than umbrella.
Our day started with a parting of ways. Our domestique left us mumbling something about an unfair split of prize money so we were left to fetch our own water bottles. 600+ miles done, he hopped on the train and later, we’re told, did a ‘victory lap’ of Brussels, and a few hours spinning the other side of dover ‘for the craic’. Expect Hamlet cigars to be on the Wada banned substances list shortly.
A morning of smooth traffic free trails led us towards Schegen, a village that’s in Luxembourg, France and Germany all at once, and is known the world over for its fantastic area. As ever, close to the country border all signage disappears as each country helpfully assumes the other will cover that section. Nevertheless, proud Europeans that we are, there are plenty of non-border photos coming up at our next computer stop.
Then we entred Germany. And it was so terribly German. Call me Clarkson, but we enjoyed perfect signage, cracking traffic-free paths and wonderful hospitality. We followed the Saarland Radweg for most of the afternoon, which included a wee siesta and a spot of cricket using tiny apples and a rolled up mosquito net. No sticks of rhubarb here. We even found a backstreet icecream shop selling hooky cornetos at bargain prices! Oh Germany.
We sped onwards towards Saarlouis, undertaking some of the toughest climbing thus far, arriving in town just late enough for all the shops to be shut. Cheeky meal out, where Ben was delighted to find that Germans make pizzas out of fadge (potato bread) before a nightime spin along the river to own camping spot, which might just have a nice view in the morning. Joyous.
Tomorrow we head into wine country.. the main aim being to teach Ed how to spell Gewurztraminer. More posts coming soon, including our impressions of EuroVelo so far, and our Sweat-o-meter of the facilites offered to touring cyclists in each of the countries we pass through.
So we’ve been in Belgium for the past few days. Ben feels very much at home, not because he has Belgian heritage, but because he has been living in Brussels for the past year or so.
Local knowledge should therefore have ensured getting lost would stop at the French border. Think again.
After a breezy spin through southern Flanders on some of the best cycle track so far, we hit Eddy Merckx country. The route turned “sportif” to say the least. An icecream van at the top of one steep climb our only restbite in what turned out to be a hellish afternoon. Sixteen hours and 205kms later we arrived a Ben’s place.
After our mammoth previous day we thought we deserved a rest. The first bed, shower and proper meal since London helped recharge batteries and enabled us a bit of planning time. The plan was to spend the next two days journeying towards Luxembourg.
In the morning we enjoyed a leisurely tourist route through Brussels before meeting the EuroVelo team at the ECF HQ. We were greeted with tea and medals before finally setting out for the day around noon.
Ben had a quick chat with some friendly tarmac while the rest of us enjoyed a superb forest trail south. The afternoon was unusual in that we didn’t get too lost before stopping for an evening beer in Namur.
As darkness fell we prised ourselves away from the bar to find a suitable spot to bed down. After climbing for a while we stumbled upon a track which provided enough cover for the three of us.
We now sit in a cafe having been on the road for a couple of hours, following the river Meuse south to Dinant. Next stop Rochefort, famous for such originally named beers as rochefort 6, rochefort 8 and rochefort 10. Once some of us stop faffing…
We are up and underway after a slap up breakfast and a warm send-off at ‘look mum no hands’, east london’s chic-est cycle spot.
Lunch was a Weatherspoons special. The handy menu has the number of calories marked next to the dish so the choice is easy – go big! Steak and kidney pie has a delightful 1165.
Onwards along the south bank of the Thames, Gravesend being our first afternoon pause. We met Nikki who chairs the Gravesend RLNI rundraising group and had a go on her Tombola. Our luck was in and we walked away with a pack of Polos. Minty fresh!
We later steered inland to Gillingham, travelling swiftly through the beautifully sunny countryside. A few wrong turns followed before we stopped for a well earned pint in Faversham.
A nightime search for a camping spot was perhaps not the most clever idea, though we were lucky to happen upon an idyllic setting on the edge on an orchard. Food cooked and eaten it was time for bed – our first border crossing tomorrow!
So it’s tomorrow that we leave London with Istanbul a distant blur in our minds. Ben is getting in later so I have some time to kill and have popped down to CyclePS, a new coffee shop / bike workshop on the Cycle Superhighway 7 in Kennington.
Harvey, the manager, tells me the that they have been up and running for about 9 weeks. Attracting hoards of commuters during rush hour, the quieter afternoons are spent repairing bikes. Tonight, Friday, is the late night evening when the cafe/bar stays open for a more rowdy crowd.
Having been served a delicious toastie and cheeky cider, we discuss our expedition. Krzysztof, who also works here, kindly found me some spare spokes and taught me how to fit them. I was also given a CyclePS hat which I’ve promised to wear on our travels.
A wonderfully moist Victoria sponge followed and I retired to the corner to get scribbling. You can see why libraries are getting less and less popular with places like this popping up like mushrooms. If they had the Ashes on I would never leave!
Check out their website cycle-ps.co.uk and find them on twitter @cycle_ps.
Fame awaits… inspiring words from a fellow London-Istanbul biker.
In an age where the monstrosity of pointless celebrities take over our airwaves and headlines; Big Brother, X-Factor and Paris Hilton’s My New Best Friend Forever are just not going to be enough to satisfy the needs of a fame craving population.
I have a solution that may take the pressure off the more traditional methods.
In just 3 months I have become a local celebrity phenomenon from Hungary through half a continent into Turkey.
- Do you want the adoration of screaming kids on bicycles and constant beeping of car and lorry horns?
- Do you want to command free cups of tea and gifts of chocolate from passers-by?
- Do you want to be the center of attention with inquisitive questions and smiles?
- Do you want to be hot property with offers of a private nature and invitations to meet the most highly esteemed local officials?
If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’…
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Cycling has increased by 16% in London since 2006. Cycling related accidents have increased 50% in the same period (2011 saw 4497 incidents, 16 of which were fatal). London Assembly calling for double the funding for TFL to support cycling safety related projects and comes with big backing from the bumbling Boris. Let’s wait and see…