1. Cycle from London to Istanbul!

Bodensee-Königssee-Radweg, Germany

It has been a tough few days for furious green ideas. We have experienced our first significant mechanical problems alongside some challenging terrain and a turn in the weather. The cycling, however, continues to improve!

After our rest day in Konstanz we took the ferry across the Bodensee to Meersburg before racing the 50km or so down to our real start point at Lindau. Lindau marks the beginning (or end) of the 420km Bodensee-Königssee-Radweg, a route that follows the foothills of the Austrian Alps along the southern German border, taking in some of the minor climbs amongst some breathtaking scenery.

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The ferry crossing to Meersburg

It’s is a more challenging tourist trail than those which follow the Rhine or circle the Bodensee, but worth every climb. As ever, the route is fantastically signed – our map was only useful for picking out lunch/beer stops 20km or 30km down the road. Some signs will even have the gradient of ascent/descent marked so there are no nasty surprises. We had a Kompass map (8.99€) which marks steep gradients and has a profile overview so you can choose to miss some of the larger climbs if you wish.

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Our one criticism of the route so far is that there is no distinction between minor roads and unpaved forest trails. This meant we spent around 25kms on Sunday crawling along at less than 10kph on bumpy tracks, just waiting for a spoke to snap. We even had a river crossing to negotiate!

That said, the views have been spectacular. We have climbed above 1000m, and rarely dropped below 600m since the Bodensee. It is worth noting here that if you’re thinking of coming this way, bring some more wintery cycling gear as the weather can turn quickly at this height, as we found out last night!

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Bivi bag failure!

We are only able to complete half of the Radweg as we must head north to Munich, but if anyone is looking for a challenging four day/week long cycling holiday, get to Lindau and head east!

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Boys will be boys..

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Stuttering along…

So a few absent days due to a lack of internet. They have been fairly frustrating for us.

For Ben, battling against the boredom of flat, pothole and traffic free cycle track has taken its toll. We called up reinforcements in the shape of Trivial Pursuit and have seen a mild improvement in character.

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For me a broken spoke has proven that I did indeed eat all the pies, and have most probably got a few more tucked away in my panniers. This has caused a delay to a day which started so well with a 11km descent before a dip in the bath water warm Rhine.

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So, we sit in Bad Säckingen, just on the german side of the river after a few navigational mishaps in Switzerland last night, waiting for the bike shop to open to true up my back wheel. No idea how far we’ll get this evening, so time to relax..

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Zen hasn't taught us anything about attaching spokes

Some stats from the first week

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.

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Us looking smug.

Max Speed : 64.5 km/h (it sounds more impressive than 38 in old money)

Countries visited : 5 (yes, Luxembourg counts)

Showers taken : 1

Schengen in the rain

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.

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The trusty domestique - Tom

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.

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Lunch à la McEldowney

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.

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A room with a view, possibly

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.

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Belgium even had a cure for cyclist's foot

A quick update from Dinant

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.

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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.

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Don't door me or i'll keep making this face

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View over Saint-Gilles, Brussels

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.

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With ed lancaster aka mr. EuroVelo

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.

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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.

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The prices weren't steep but the gradient was

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…

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I swear there were some cigars in here...

Day 1 – london to faversham, kent

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.

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Ed enjoys a mouthful of stornoway's finest black pudding. Ooh arr.

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.

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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!

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Nikki from the RLNI

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.

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A pint opposite the Shepard Neame brewery

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!

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Ben enjoys some mixed beans

One more day to wait!

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.

Ed


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