Cycling

Berkshire to Southern Europe On A Ridgeback Panorama!

That sounds familiar doesn’t it? I have received this very nice email from Alf in Newbury. He sounds as though he may be one of the first customers for my new book (big news about that within the next 24 hours, hopefully) although if I knew how to do it, I would probably send him a free copy for the adulation he heaps upon me in the first paragraph. His comments are in blue, my responses in red…
Hi Andrew!
I happened to stumble across your blog which seems to be the most in-depth review of the Via Romea [Francigena] route or Eurovelo 5 I can actually find!  I think it is; someone pointed out recently that when it comes to the Eurovelo 5, all roads don’t lead to Rome, they lead to me! …It has given me inspiration to embark on my own journey. Glad to hear it. That’s one of the nicest things about having the website.
I recently purchased a Ridgeback Panorama (you can’t call him Reggie!) and have moved to Newbury (not too far from Reading!). A graduate (see Alf’s comments below) who has moved to Newbury; do you work for Vodafone? I have cycled along the canals and feel I can go a lot further afield (with a little bit more fitness training). That was really where I was in terms of my cycling experience prior to a couple of summers ago. And it was probably the very same canals that I frequented. So Based on the Eurovelo route, I plan to visit a friend in Athens and another in Sofia, obviously taking ferries from the end of the route at Bari to Athens and then from Athens to Thessalonica, cycling the rest of the way north to Sofia. And I would imagine that you will be following the Eurovelo 5 (although you could opt for the slightly less hilly east coast of Italy but it would be also less interesting).
The end journey is there as two of my best friends live in these cities and ever since I left uni 3-4 years ago I promised I would visit each summer, but something always gets in the way! Again, similar to me; I had friends to visit in Puglia, southern Italy and it makes for a much better trip if you know that there will be someone at the end of the road to help you celebrate your efforts.
I plan to take 6-8 weeks part unpaid leave for this next summer (or are you a teacher…?) , so I am essentially asking for any advice on the following:
– Money!! How much would I need to have in the bank before I set off? I need it to be as cheap as possible really… I tried to do it on the cheap but spent lots of money in the run-up to the trip on buying equipment (especially the bike). Once on the road, you can make it as cheap or expensive as you like I suppose. Stick resolutely to camping and it’s cheaper, use a few hotels and it becomes more expensive. Why not investigate the options made available for accommodation via the Couch Surfing and Warm Showers websites. That would be free. I stayed with a guy in Boulogne via Warm Showers and had a few other offers of accommodation via this website so why not start your own website! You’ll be amazed how quickly people start taking an interest in what you are doing and they might help you out with a bed for the night if they happen to live en route.
– Camping? I read that you camped in several places for relatively low prices, but over 30 odd days it adds up! How did you keep costs down? Go for the cheap camp-sites. Most places in France have a municipal site where the costs for staying overnight are very low – I paid only 6 euros at the council-run site in Metz.
– Food? Eating out all the time must all add up too. Buy stuff from the supermarket and eat al fresco in front of the tent. I didn’t eat formally in restaurants very often.
– Would you recommend stealth camping? Do you mean wild camping? I never had to do any and that was because I always managed to find an alternative. The problem with wild camping is that, compared to some places on earth, Europe isn’t very wild…
– Would you recommend taking a laptop with you? I was considering just taking my Android mobile phone so I can connect to WiFi hotspots in various cities. Should I invest in a tiny notebook or iPad type computer to keep weight down? I typed out all 35,000 words to send to this website on my iPhone! The iPhone was great as it was compact, connected to WiFi networks when they were available and of course, connected to the phone network when they weren’t. Before I left the UK, I bought a 2MB data allowance from Orange which served me pretty well. I could send large amounts of text and a small picture quite a few times each day and still not go over the 2MB limit. When I came back to the UK, I had a phone bill of about £80 to pay which I thought was quite reasonable. If you do work for Vodaphone, you probably know more about all this that me! If I were to do the same thing in the future, I might look into using a cheap Notebook computer so I could write a bit more (and have a book waiting to be published when I returned home rather than having to write it from scratch!)
– Would you recommend a cycling partner? Or did you prefer it when cycling solo? I had arranged to meet people in London, Kent, Boulogne, Strasbourg, Pavia, Rome, Benevento and then Puglia. I met countless others as I was cycling. I am glad I didn’t make real efforts to find a cyclist to cycle with; I loved having the freedom to make my own decisions and suffer the consequences without falling out with anyone when things went wrong.
And just anything I can do to prepare over the next year, words of encouragement, begging me not to do it… etc… Do it, do it, do it! Don’t let others put you off! It would be much appreciated! I understand you probably get a million emails like this every day, I get about one every few weeks… I’m not quite up there with Bill Bryson just yet! …so I won’t be offended if I don’t receive a response don’t worry 🙂 I wouldn’t think of not replying, especially when you have taken the time to write to me. Thank-you!
All the best on your current adventures! And the same to you!
Alf

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2 replies »

  1. I used Go-SIM which worked well for data for me as I did a similar trip.
    I also camped most of the way and cooked for myself which did keep the costs down quite a bit. I had originally planned to go down the east coast, but found that places of interest were necessary for my motivation!

  2. Thank you so much for your detailed response!

    I work ‘with’ Vodafone but for another telecoms company… BUT in facilities management. Complicated I know!

    I will definitely use that Warmshower and Couchsurfer websites you mention, looks like it is exactly what I need. Shame I cannot offer a place to stay in return at the moment. One way I am keeping costs down and saving money is lodging with a family within cycling distance to work as opposed to renting my own grey bedsit in a few train stops away. I have definitely slashed my cost of living in half! Let’s see if I can keep it up for a year.

    I will certainly be one of your first customers don’t worry about that! I need some good reading material and inspiration for my route.

    And thanks for reminding me about network coverage across Europe, I will need to buy a package before I leave and try to use wifi when I can.

What do you think?