Eurovelo 8: A Much Needed Update

I have received an email from Monica.

Hi Andrew
Next year starting 29th March I will be cycling from Lisbon to Athens using the Eurovelo Route 8, raising money for Camfed. I am organising the trip myself and spotted your website. All advice, large or small gratefully received.  From the basics – I am struggling to plot my route, to the major… how long will it take (I have given myself 10 weeks)…
Hope to hear from you soon
Best wishes

Now first of all, I have to thank Monica. I’ll try to answer her questions in a few moments but she puts into sharp focus the fact that I have committed myself to cycling from Athens to Cadiz along the Eurovelo 8 in summer 2013. The problem is that so far, I haven’t done a great deal about the whole thing. I’m spending a lot of time reliving my past glories of having cycled from London to Brindisi along the Eurovelo 5 and having written a book all about the experience (do buy it by the way, it is “wonderful & witty” according the CTC!) and thinking about my hopefully exciting summer ahead as a London 2012 Games Maker. But I do need to start putting a bit more flesh upon the bones of my 2013 Eurovelo 8 trip.

What have I done so far? Well, I’ve written a bit about my plans on the Eurovelo 8 section of; the description of the route from the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is on there as are a few very general overview maps. I’ve also been contacted by many people – see these comments – asking for the copy of the PDF document that the ECF produced a few years ago but which they have now removed from their revamped website. I seem to have the only copy in Europe which I am happy to send out. Many people come back to me pointing out that the detail about Spain is missing (I didn’t write it!). It probably makes more sense for me to upload it to which is what I have just done. You’ll find it here but please do bear in mind it has nothing to do with me and is somewhat out of date. I can’t find out when it was written but I guess at the start of the new century. It is, however, a good starting place for anyone’s trip and I will read it in much more detail at some point soon. Well, soonish. After the Olympics, probably.

To answer Monica’s questions about the route specifically, it’s perhaps worth quoting from my “inspirational” (shut up!) book, Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie. In fact, I’m going to quote from the very last two paragraphs of the book which I hope doesn’t ruin it for anyone who is planning to read it;

“At the very start of the planning process for the ride I wanted someone to tell me when to turn left, when to turn right and when to go straight forward. People still write to me asking the question that I had been asking myself for much of the two-years of planning; where can I find a route map of the Eurovelo 5?

In the end, I’m glad that one didn’t exist and I’m even happier that I never wrote one. As with many things in life, it’s often better just to work it out for yourself. I did and I don’t regret it for a moment.”

So taking that on board Monica, my advice would be to not create a very detailed route of the Eurovelo 8. Yes, have a list of the main towns and cities, identify points where you think the terrain or some other aspect of the trip might offer more challenges but actually, you may find it more enjoyable to make it up. Within reason of course. Much of the Eurovelo 5 ‘piggy-backed’ upon regional or national routes, the best example being in Switzerland where I was able to follow Swiss route 3 from north to south, but having the freedom to decide your own day-to-day route is interesting and extremely liberating. However, to use the Swiss example again, it was the one section of the entire trans-continental route when I found myself obsessing about where the next signpost was. Everywhere else, I just followed the direction I was supposed to be travelling in, more or less, and it seemed to work just fine. That is more than likely going to be my tactic as I cycle the Eurovelo 8 in summer 2013 and I secretly don’t want anyone to come along and update the document linked to a few moments ago.

Monica also asks ‘How long will it take?‘. Yes, another point that I have been purposefully ignoring. I think it will take me a maximum of 8 weeks. There it is, I’ve stuck my neck out and said it! My logic is that the Eurovelo 5 is, officially at least, 3,900km. The Eurovelo 8 is 5,388km. It took me five weeks to cycle from London to Brindisi so with an extra three weeks available, I should be able to make it all the way to south-east Spain, no? I’ll leave you to do the maths. If you are planning on ten weeks Monica, you might even be able to squeeze in a nice long break somewhere along the French Riviera! I now just need to broach the subject with my employers. I have a summer holiday of six weeks of course as I am a teacher but I would really need to set off on 1st July to give myself enough time. That’s a conversation I really need to have soon. I will, I promise.

If you are a novice cyclists, I really would recommend reading my book (there you go again!) as it is written from the perspective of a naive touring cyclist and many of the questions and worries that you have are probably addressed whether it be from finding accommodation to saddle sores, from mosquitoes to officious police officers!

And then there is the question of the bike. Shh… Keep your voice down. Should I replace Reggie Ridgeback with a new Koga bike as mentioned a few weeks ago in my post entitled Koga Trekking Bike Pornography? I’m beginning to salivate once more so I better stop writing.

I hope that helps Monica. Please do keep in touch and let me know how your plans are progressing as I may well steal them from you! You suggest in your comment on the Eurovelo 8 page that we may well cycle into each other; how wonderful would that be! Probably nearer the Athens end than the Cadiz end and then it will be me asking all the questions!

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What do you think?