On the 18th March I blogged about it being four months exactly until the day that I set off on my little cycling adventure. Actually, although I was correct, the most important period of time in terms of preparation is going to be from the 1st April to the 30th June. We’ve been stuck in what has felt like a longer and colder winter than usual but in recent weeks there have been real signs of things turning for the better and so the arrival of my seventeen-day Easter holiday which sits nicely this year at the start of April – from the 2nd to the 18th of the month – is perfectly timed to allow me to devote the time and energy I need to kick-start my training and preparation. If I don’t have my plans and fitness in place by the end of June, I will have serious issues catching up, so you can see how the months April, May and June have an elevated place of importance in the run up to the 18th July.
So, with all this in mind, it’s worth taking a few moments to consider what actually needs to be done. I think it boils down to three things;
The detailed itinerary: this needs to be finalised. Although I took a massive step forward by breaking down the route into a semblance of stages (you can see the details in the Route section of the website), it was a fairly ad-hoc thing and it needs to be revisited and analysed with a bit more rigour. To make the accommodation situation slightly easier, I would like, if at all possible, to be able to say where I plan to be on each night between the 18th July and the end of the trip. If I do this, I can at least reasearch places to stay – campsites in the main but perhaps hostels as well – in advance of setting off. There is nothing worse than spending a day travelling and worrying about where you plan to be sleeping at the end of it. If you are in the wilds of Canada or the Australian outback then fine, you just pitch the tent, but I am travelling through Western Europe which is a little more crowded! This must be a priority to get done by the end of the Easter holidays and certainly by the end of April.
Physical preparation: I consider myself to be a fit person (I am, after all, one of the minority in society who really does get his government-recommended five periods of exercise per week through my daily commute), but I need to move to the next level. I see this being primarily in two areas; losing some weight (each kilogram shed is one less kilogram to haul up those Alpine climbs) and increasing my stamina. I’m quite looking forward to doing both and will re-join the university gym at the end of this week, followed up by some intensive use of its facilities over the Easter holidays. I may also, once the holidays are finished, consider riding a significantly longer route to commute home, perhaps a route that will take me anything up to an hour and a half to complete. The lighter evenings (we changed the clocks last night!) make this a real possibility and it is such an effective use of time. Cleary this preparation has no deadline but I do need to commit myself to a rigorous programme throughout the three important months.
Equipment research: not buying! I have much that I already need including, most importantly, the bike itself, although there are some items of kit that I will need. I do not, however, want or even need to rush into spending money before absolutely needed. I see the following as things as necessities; a tent (probably a Terra Nova Laser Competition), panniers, basic camping equipment, some clothing suitable for hot weather cycling and, of course, a pair of cycling shoes. None of these however need purchasing before at least June if not the start of July itself apart from, that is, the shoes as I need to master the art of cleating and uncleating myself from the bike. If I look at the various kit lists that I have come across over the past few months (see the Equipment section of the site), many of the smaller items I already have and again, I’m travelling through Europe not Siberia so will have plenty of opportunities to pick up things en route if needed.