Adventure

2017: The CyclingEurope.org Year

As 2017 draws to a close I take a few moments to look back over the 150 posts from the past 12 months on CyclingEurope.org.

It started in reflective mood, looking forward to the publication of Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie in May. Here I am pondering over life as storm Doris was approaching in February. The new bike – Dale the Cannondale – hadn’t seen much action since he was purchased in the late autumn of 2016 but I finally took him for a rather wet ride to exotic Bradford in late February:

There was something not altogether ‘right’ about the bike however. The gears? The whole chainset? It would be a recurring, nagging thought throughout the year. He did increasingly get out and about, however, primarily on the new commute to my job at a local secondary school:

That would change again later in the year (see below). Away from the commute, here is Dale (or at least his handlebars and front wheel) along cycle route 66 in the Calder Valley in March, still with that annoying ‘something’ not working as it should:

In April, things got a little heated in the pages of the local newspaper in a battle entitled “The Latest Lycra Doesn’t Make You A Cyclist” v. “I Am A Cyclist And Proud To Be So”. I won, I think… but there were greater things to concentrate upon in May with the arrival of the Tour de Yorkshire in Calderdale…

…and then the publication of Spain to Norway… on May 11th. It was a moment of some pride in that, after two self-published books, the publishing industry had given me their seal of approval and allowed me into the club of ‘published authors’. The first reviews were kind, and they have continued to be so. The book still retains the full five stars on Amazon.co.uk and long may that continue. Here’s the view of the CTC/Cycling UK, and here’s the opinion of Road.cc. This is what you need to look out for in Waterstone’s or other good bookshops:

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Shameless plug over, back to the review of the year. Well, kind of. The publication allowed me to set off on a book tour taking in the Cycle Touring Festival in ClitheroeBath, Bristol, Oxford and then the Lismore Festival of Travel Writing in Ireland. It was my first visit to Ireland and I had always imagined it to be a run-down version of Britain. How wrong could I be! A highlight of the trip was a cycle along the wonderful Waterford Greenway, a model for similar projects elsewhere (keep reading…).

Back in the UK the speaking tour continued in London and York. Then, in mid-July, it was off to France with the people behind the Tour de Yorkshire to witness stage 10 and stage 11 of the Tour de France as the race whooshed through the Dordogne. It was a mixture of tourism and cycling and a real highlight of the year.

Here’s a longer piece that I wrote about the experience: When Yorkshire Met The Dordogne… And The Tour De France.

Things slowed down later in the summer…

…a video that proves, if you hadn’t yet worked it out, that CyclingEurope.org is not all about cycling and/or Europe.

The most read post of the year was this rather sad one about the deaths of cyclists in long-distance races; the most commented upon  post was this one about the linguistics of the word ‘sportive’.

Then, in the early autumn of 2017, and partly inspired by having met Scott O’Raw of The Velocast Podcast at the Tour de France in July, The Cycling Europe Podcast was launched on September 1st. It allowed me to add an extra dimension to what I had previously only been able to write about (and occasionally video) for the site.

Episode 001 included:

This is what you can still listen to in episode 002:

While episode 003 was all about cycling and film as explained in this post from November 1st.

The podcasts have allowed me to feature the people I meet and the events that I visit in audio form and, apart from hopefully being of use to the people who have so far listened to them, then have been good fun to make. There was no December episode of the podcast but fear not, The Cycling Europe Podcast will return in early 2018 with episode 004. (If Star Wars can get away with a gap of several decades, a couple of months is good for me…) If you are interested in contributing, do get in touch.

Some of you may be unaware of this but CyclingEurope.org is also home to HikingEurope.org and 2017 saw me head off on foot to the hills of Yorkshire; the Three Peaks of Yorkshire in fact – Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. Then, in the autumn, I was in the Lake District climbing first Blencathra and Skiddaw on two consecutive yet contrasting days when it came to the weather.

Episode 002 of the podcast (see above) is worthy of mention as it included reports from Brussels – where I had been invited to the launch of a EuroVelo 5 app developed by the European Cyclists’ Federation – and about the much more local Ryburn Valley Greenway. Here I am in early September stumbling upon the old disused railway line only a couple of miles from where I live in West Yorkshire:

Since ‘discovering’ this local jewel (the comparisons with the Waterford Greenway are obvious), I’ve been working with the small group of people who would like to see it become a fully fledged greenway and it is something that I will continue to write about in 2018 and beyond. It is an asset that is in desperate need of exploitation for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians of the Ryburn Valley but there are obstacles. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the Ryburn Valley Greenway but one day it will be built, of that I am sure.

Back to Dale the Cannondale. Here he is in October tackling the second ‘new’ commute of the year:

I started a new job in October working at Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax. My role is to manage the volunteers and it’s only part-time role so I have been combining it with supply teaching across West Yorkshire. As you may have spotted at the end of the video above, my morning commute sees me pass through the magnificent Piece Hall in Halifax. It reopened on August 1st and, before a drive down to Cambridge to give a talk to the Cambridge Cycle Campaign (they are a learned bunch!) I was delighted to be one of the first people to walk through its spruced up gates:

It was shortly after these events that, finally, I sorted the problems with Dale. The crank holding the pedals together had cracked and was the reason why things never felt right. They never were and, once the repairs had been done, it was like riding a new bike. It’s just a pity that it had never felt that way when the bike was, well, new.

The final couple of months of 2017 have been quiet. Perhaps that’s the nature of winter. Or is it that I’ve just been too lazy? Perhaps… There was a little more publicity for the books; a couple of talks and this piece based upon an email conversation that I had with someone who is planning to cycle from Spain to Norway as I had done in 2015: Cycling Tarifa to Nordkapp In 24 Questions. If you want to know more, read the book! Much of what didn’t get a mention on CyclingEurope.org in 2017 probably didn’t escape the tentacles of Twitter including an interview on BBC Radio Leeds in May, a visit to Wembley to see Huddersfield Town promoted to the Premier League and more shameless plugging of the book here, here and here. And here (etc…).

My year has ended with me looking forward to 2018. Most of what is mentioned above was never planned in advance, it just sort of happened and somehow I suspect that 2018 will be very much the same.

That said, one event that I know will be taking place in 2018 is the 10th anniversary of the first post of what was to become CyclingEurope.org. It was published on August 6th 2008. Much has happened since… Perhaps some kind of celebration is in order. We shall see.

I’ll leave you with my final adventure of the year, alas not on a bike and a rather tame ‘adventure’ all things considered; a walk along the coast of Northumberland on Boxing Day. Happy New Year 2018!

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