Category Archives: Cycling

Tarifa (Spain) To Nordkapp (Norway): Challenges Needed!

I’ve just exchanged a few tweets with a chap who is living in Toulouse at the moment and who is planning his own cycling trip from Menton (on the border with Italy) to Arcachon (just to the west of Bordeaux). As I often do when I’m having such ‘conversations’ (because I’m quite nosey) I look back through the person’s previous tweets and pictures. It’s amazing what you can sometimes discover and a few minutes ago I found this tweet that Sam (that’s the guy in Toulouse) had written:Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 20.34.15

Wild camping. Mmm… Something I have failed to do on both of my continental crossings so far but something which still attracts me. Apart from being cheaper than a campsite (let alone a hotel) it puts the cap on (or rather in) ‘escape’. Who can purport to be a real adventurer without having ever wild camped? (Well I have for the past five years…) The link in Sam’s tweet by the way is worth a read. Posted by Tom Allen back in 2009 (“How to wild camp anywhere and not get busted“), it is written for the likes of me and Sam who are just plain terrified of pitching our tents in what could be an alligator farm (OK, admittedly unlikely in Europe) or next to a serial killer (even that’s not so likely is it? Well apart from in Belgium).

The upshot of all this is that I have resolved to wild camp on the trip from Tarifa to Nordkapp this coming spring and summer. I see it as a challenge and what’s more, I shan’t do it just the once, I will do so for at least night in each of the seven countries through which I will be cycling.

Now extrapolating a little from this resolution, I could do with a few more. Such things will keep my mind working as I pedal across the vast interiors (steady on, this is Europe not the Mid West!) of Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I suppose Norway has a vast interior… I digress. Ten is a good number so I need ten challenges. And I’m open to suggestions. I will ultimately choose what the ten challenges will be but I reckon a signed copy of book 3 (due out in 2016) might be sufficient motivation to get some of you to put on your thinking caps and come up with some good ideas. A few ground rules might be of use. The challenge must be legal(!), not contrary to what most people would define as ‘moral’ (so running down the rue de Rivoli in Paris stark naked won’t be on the list) and not wildly improbable or impossible. The more interesting the better. Any thoughts? Any ideas? Please post them here or to Twitter (@CyclingEurope) or to the Facebook page. Or even, should you not want to make your idea public, via email.

So, here’s the list as it stands:

  1. Wild camp at least once in all seven countries of the route
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?

Don’t let me down!

Incidentally, someone may have to remind me about the signed copies of the books in 2016 but I will make a point of keeping a note of the names of the people who came up with the idea in the first place. I suppose Sam in Toulouse was the inspiration for challenge 1 so that’s one book down, nine to go!

Cycling In France

So, after Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Belgium I arrive in France on my pre-Eurovelo 1/3 quest to have put at the very least a bit of thought into the planning of the route. Only one country to go – Spain – which will be the first of the trip. But back to France. Here are my thoughts…

The country I know best. That said, cycling across southern France in 2013 from Italy in the direction of Spain had its issues; following the Route du Sud a Velo wasn’t quite as easy as I had imagined and the Mistral wind as I crossed the Rhone Valley around Avignon was one of the greatest physical challenges I experienced throughout the Mediterranean journey. Fortunately my 2015 route will stay well clear of that… On the subject of which, here it is:

France

I arrive from Spain at St. Jean Pied de Port, the starting point of the (last leg) of the Camino de Santiago. In fact, the blue line on the map above isn’t quite correct as it follows the Eurovelo 1 which doesn’t actually pass through St. Jean Pied de Port. I plan to do so however before hopping over from the Eurovelo 3 just north of St Jean to the Eurovelo 1 which follows the coast (probably at the point where they appear closest on the map above). I want to experience some of this French section of the Eurovelo 1 that hugs the coast and this portion to the south of Bordeaux seems the best place to do so. It is, apparently, a very well sign-posted route, away from the traffic along the flat western coast of France. In France they call this route the Velodysseythere’s a website dedicated to it – and a lot of time, effort and no doubt money has been spent developing a bit of quality cycling infrastructure. There are more details about the section from Bayonne to Leon here and from Leon to Arcachon here. Somewhere shortly after Arcachon I will once again move over in the direction of the Eurovelo 3 as it passes through Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is a beautiful city. I visited a few years ago and have no hesitation is taking the opportunity to do the same on this trip. Once back on the Eurovelo 3 I’ll be straddling the ancient French regions of Poitou and Limousin and I will stay on the Eurovelo 3 all the way to the border with Belgium. The following information is furnished by the official Eurovelo page for the French section of the Eurovelo 3;

“Eurovelo 3 is 1500 km long in France. It starts in Jeumont along the Sambre river next to Belgium and reaches out to the Pyrenees between France and Spain, going through Paris and its region, the Loire Valley, the Poitou and the Gascogne regions. Eurovelo 3 is not quite in place yet but the french are working on it. So there is more to come in the next few years for the greater pleasure of all European cyclists on the French part of the pilgrim’s route!”

I’m cycling in a reverse direction to that of the description of course and two sections of the route in France are ‘realised':

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 15.13.59

I wait to see just how the section that passes through Angouleme has been ‘realised’ but the section from Tours to Orleans is a section of the route that is shared with the Eurovelo 6 as if follows the Loire river. I spent several years during the 1990s living in Tours and it will be interesting revisiting the city (as well as meeting up with an old friend and colleague who still lives nearby) and seeing many of the chateaux that dot the landscape en route to Orleans.

From Orleans to Paris I’m not too sure what awaits me as when I lived in Tours this was a journey that I only ever made on the high speed train that whisked me to the capital in under an hour. Once in Paris, I am tempted at this stage of the planning process to say that I will take an extended break from my cycling and stay for a two day break. Accommodation could be provided by the excellent FIAP Jean Monnet. I have stayed in this establishment several times over the years with groups of school children but it caters equally well for the lone traveller and is centrally located. I can’t really imagine there is a better alternative. It may, however, require advance booking.

The section of my route north of Paris towards the border with Belgium might not be the most exciting part of the entire trip but I await to be surprised. I guess that the crossing point between this journey and my cycle along the Eurovelo 5 (or my version of it) back in 2010 will be in or around the non-descript town of Maubeuge. This is what I wrote about my stay there at the time. The good news is that it does indeed have a campsite – here’s the link – and I shall endeavour to make sure I find it this time rather than spend another night in the Grand Hotel…

Le Tour Yorkshire 2015

So here it is… More details on Le Tour Yorkshire website.

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Hold The Front Page! “Teacher Quits…”

IMG_0794UPDATE: You can now read the Henley Standard article referred to in this post online by following this link.

It’s not often you make it onto the front page of a newspaper for bad reasons let alone for a good one but I’m please to say that I’ve managed to do just that (for good rather than bad reasons) this week courtesy of the Henley Standard, the paper local to the school where, until the end of December, I worked as a teacher. “5,000 miles on Reggie the Bike” is the strap line that entices readers to turn to page twelve where, very clearly, the headline reads “Teacher quits to cycle 5,000 miles on bike called Reggie“. I’m sure that some of my former pupils and their parents were a little taken aback to see me beaming out of their paper but the article faithfully reports the details of my plans to cycle from southern Spain to northern Norway from just after Easter this year. I was interviewed over the phone at the start of January but wasn’t necessarily expecting to get the bulk of one page to myself. It’s a nice feeling however to have one’s plans and opinions out there for all to read. The students that I used to teach never did really understand why I had given my bicycle a name or indeed believe that I had cycled twice across Europe already so by reading the article they will perhaps have their curiosity satisfied… and even begin to believe that I didn’t just make the whole thing up!IMG_0785

The Henley Standard is a weekly paper and it will stay of sale until later next week should anyone be interested in reading all about my plans (if you don’t know them already by having read this section of the website). The article doesn’t appear to be available online although that may at some point change.

Bicycle Traveler Magazine: January 2015

A new edition of the free Bicycle Traveler magazine is out. I have mixed feelings when browsing this online publication; admiration and envy in equal measure. The stories of the trips that it recounts put my own little jaunts across Europe into perspective somewhat but perhaps one day I will venture to Argentina, Congo, India, The Phillipines, Alaska, Iran, Bolivia, China, Turkey… (all countries which are mentioned in this January 2015 issue). If you do nothing else, just download it and look at the pictures: gorgeous!

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Bike Sense: The Future Of Motoring?

This is brilliant technology from Jaguar Land Rover that, if it saves lives, is worth every penny. My only misgiving would be that we ever get to the point where drivers become more reliant upon such devices than they are on their own ability to keep a good look out for other road users. But credit where credit is due; it’s good to see that motor manufacturers are investing money into this kind of research. Perhaps in 10 years time it will be the norm on most cars in the same way that parking sensors are increasingly the norm nowadays. More info here.

An Email From The CTC / Jon Snow

“Dear CTC supporterHeaderLogo

At the beginning of next week, your MP will have a chance to make not only a difference to cycling but also to the future health and economy of the country.

As CTC’s research issued today has shown, with ambition, leadership and long-term funding commitment between now and 2050 cycling could bring economic benefits worth £248bn. That’s the equivalent of 2.5 times the General Government’s Net Borrowing in 2013-14, or 4.5 times health care spending in England at 2012-13 levels. Many of these benefits come not only through improved health but also through reduced congestion and better air quality.

£248bn in economic benefits is a target worth aiming for, and next week on Monday 26 January your MP can help make it happen.

CTC in coalition with other partners is supporting an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which would create a legally binding Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. In just the same way as our railways can plan for the long term future, and our roads too through the Infrastructure Bill, so could cycling through this amendment.

All you need do is email your MP through this link and help get us that one step closer to a UK which cyclists of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

Thank you for your support.

Jon+Snow+signature

Jon Snow, CTC President”

(I just did…)