CyclingEurope.org often veers off topic, but here’s a story that is bang on topic. It starts with an email from Harry:
I’m planning to cycle EuroVelo 3 in September this year, and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions?
My father read about La Scandiberique (EuroVelo 3) in a French newspaper back in May, and just a week later I’d got the time signed off work to take it on. I’ve done a bit of long distance cycling before so definitely think it’s manageable. I’m looking to go from Norway to Spain. I saw you did it the other way round, how did you find it?
Any advice would be hugely appreciated.
My response summarised my experiences of piecing together the cycle routes of Europe to complete a long-distance trip:
As I cycled from Tarifa to Nordkapp, I was able to follow good quality, segregated routes from Bayonne to La Rochelle (Eurovelo 1 / Vélodyssée), La Vélo Francette from La Rochelle to Saumur (not a Eurovelo route but, if you do choose to follow it, is almost all of road), La Loire à Vélo from Saumur to Orléans (Eurovelo 6), various smaller routes when I arrived in Belgium (the country is a maze of off road cycling), the Rhine Cycle Route (Eurovelo 15) from Cologne to Dusseldorf, the HB-HH route from Bremen to Hamburg, the Ochsenweg from Hamburg to the border with Denmark), various national routes through Denmark (many on road but they were quiet roads), the Kattegattleden along the coast of Sweden from Helsingborg to Gothenburg (an excellent route that you shouldn’t miss if you are travelling that way) and from the border with Norway first the national route 7 and then, all the way to Nordkapp, the national route 1 (which is also Eurovelo 1). Again, in Norway, the roads tended to be quiet and it would have been senseless making special provision for bikes. The coastal route along the west coast of Norway (which follows the road) can be spectacular.
Earlier this week, Harry reported back on his experiences. What follows is his account of his ‘cycling Europe’ adventure…
I’m just about settled now back home in Bristol after the transition of going from cycling 100km a day in a foreign country to talking about it to lots of people, to putting together a mini-documentary for my own post-cycle project/bit of fun.
The trip was a huge success and included many ups and downs (physically and mentally) just as I predicted which was frustrating at times but which made for much more intriguing footage for online followers, showing exactly what the challenge involved. Seeing me go through the torrential rain on day 4 cycling up dirt tracks in the hills between Koppang and Moelv was when it first hit home that the challenge wasn’t going to be all plain sailing in the sun as the previous days had been.
It was an exciting journey through Norway and Sweden as I hadn’t been there before, Denmark was smooth and you felt well looked after as a cyclist as expected. Every now and then the journey was broken up by a bridge or a ferry crossing which gave you a real feeling of progress as you left one island to join another. Germany was also relatively smooth, if not monotonous at times; cycle paths by most roads direct from one city to another but nothing too exciting. Germany also saw my only rest day of the whole trip in Hamburg, where my brother and friends came out to see me which was great fun.
Belgium was without a doubt my favourite country I cycled through, very well signposted and their own cycle network appeared to be very well kept and well organised; some beautiful scenery too.
Now France was a little harder to enjoy. It got to the stage where cycling was very achievable but no longer as new and exciting as it had been in the first couple of weeks. The landscape didn’t really hold anything I hadn’t seen before or anything too challenging and I got a little fed up. Funnily enough it was around Tours and Orléans where I established this and decided to shake it off, a little like when you mention in your book about being grumpy but when you take a step back and look at what you’re doing, you have no reason to be grumpy as you’re cycling across the continent having an incredible experience. My Dad also joined me for that weekend to Tours and to Poitiers which was great to have someone to discuss it all with. It sounds unusual, but as I approached the Pyrenees I didn’t get nervous as a tough part of the route was approaching, I relished it. Not only did I cover some of the route that I cycled back in 2010 (when cycling John O’Groats to Tarifa) but I was eager to have some more interesting, challenging parts of the route thrown at me.
It did just as I expected, and gave me a new lease of life, the last 7 days or so cycling westerly across the top of Spain was a joy. Hilly and temperatures of up to 27 degrees, but a joy nonetheless. Whether that was the fact I was so close to the finish matched with a more thrilling part of the route I’m not sure.
Overall, I don’t think I actually pedalled wheel on a single part of EuroVelo 3 and if I did it was so badly signposted that I didn’t realise, I should probably write to someone somewhere and give them this feedback. However the route from Trondheim to Santiago, whichever road you take is a fantastic one, there’s so much to see and comparing a days cycling in Norway to a days cycling in Spain is an amazing thing to be able to do especially after doing both within such a close time of each other. There was one day in France where I popped into a supermarket to grab some food for lunch and spent 5 euros on a small baguette, some salami, cheese, a drink and some crisps, maybe a croissant or two (aka ‘the usual’) and I remembered doing exactly the same order in a supermarket for lunch one day in Norway but it cost, I worked out, 5 times as much. Crazy looking back now, but at the time I was quite blissfully loving every day without a care in the world.
My task now is to look through the 100 hours of footage or so that I took on my GoPro and edit it all into a mini documentary which I will upload to youtube and social media channels once complete to share my experience with the world, raise awareness for Cotswold Breast Cancer Now and hopefully inspire others to take on similar journeys in future. This was the objective all along so I’ve done a lot of talking to camera and explaining each day as my journey went on.
I’ve so far raised £1500 for Cotswold Breast Cancer Now which is incredible, especially as although I’ve been promoting the justgiving page through my Facebook videos, my objective in terms of the charity is much more about raising awareness than necessarily raising a certain amount, and what better time than October, Breast Cancer Awareness month.
If, like Harry, you have your own ‘cycling Europe’ story, please do get in touch! Follow this link to find out how to do just that.