A friend commented to me a few days ago that I seemed to be on a three-year cycle. Not a three-year ‘ride’, but a three-year ‘cycle’. Here’s what Google says:
Plan a long ride on my bike, complete a long ride on my bike and then write about a long ride on my bike. My friend wasn’t, however, quite correct. Have a look at this:
It hasn’t been a perfectly repeated three-year cycle; the rides were in 2010, 2013 & 2015 with the books being published in 2011, 2014 & 2017. Indeed, it would be more accurate to call it a four-year cycle with significant crossovers between the end of one project and the start of another. But however you look at it… I should be well into the planning of project 4. The problem is, it doesn’t seem that way.
Now at this point you may be thinking ‘hang on, isn’t he going to cycle the length of Japan?‘. And you’d be correct, kind of. It’s certainly been in the back of my mind for some time and there’s even a page of this very website dedicated to the idea. But I haven’t done much planning; writing a page for a website isn’t too onerous; putting some time and effort into serious research a little more time-consuming…
Here’s a quote from the first chapter of Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie:
“The previous academic year must have been a difficult one and for some reason I had resolved to do as little as I possibly could come the summer holidays. As I was sitting on my sofa watching the rain-drenched cycling events at The Great Wall of China, I was effortlessly working my way to achieving an A* in procrastination.
However enticing a period of six weeks of doing very little may seem… the novelty can soon wear off. How wonderful it must be to do something exciting. Really exciting. The kind of exciting that makes other people stop and want to know more. My eyes and thoughts returned to cyclists at the Great Wall. That was exciting.”
It was August 2008 – almost 10 years ago – that I came up with the idea of cycling to southern Italy. That was my ‘exciting’, and, in 2010, it was. I had, however, dismissed other, perhaps more ‘exotic’ destinations. ‘Exciting‘ and ‘exotic‘ was too much to deal with, more on a practical level than on any other. I sense another Google definition coming:
‘Originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country‘. I live in Europe. My travels around Europe could never be ‘exotic‘ as they have been simply too close to home. Japan isn’t close to home; it is, by definition ‘exotic‘. The inspiration afforded by those cyclists at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was primarily in that they were cycling in an exotic, exciting location. So far, I’ve only managed the ‘exciting‘ bit; in Japan, I have the opportunity of fulfilling my ambition of cycling in a place that is both ‘exciting‘ and ‘exotic‘.
Yet that’s not quite everything. My next four-year cycling cycle – as depicted above – includes the year 2020. During the summer of 2020, the Olympic Games are being hosted by Tokyo. How wonderful it would be, not just to cycle from the top to the bottom of Japan, but to do so at a time when the elite cyclists themselves are heading to the land of the rising sun for their own bit of exciting and exotic cycling. How wonderful would it be, not just to watch them on the TV, but to watch them from the side of the road in that exotic location itself.
I have a plan.
As in 2008, it’s a distant plan. Between now and the early summer of 2020 there are, roughly 700 days. In 2008 I wrote this short post marking the 700 day point prior to me setting of on the cycle to southern Italy. Looking back, those first 700 days passed quickly and before I knew it, I was heading off south in the direction of Brindisi. This is what I posted to CyclingEurope.org on the morning of my departure. During those 700 days I had much to do and learn. Although no longer a naive touring cyclist, a cycle along the length of Japan, taking in the cycling events at Tokyo 2020, will require much more planning than that relatively simply jaunt of 2010 that started with me cycling off down the road from my flat in Reading where I was living at the time. Yet essentially, the main challenges remain the same:
- Fitness: I have let things slip since returning from Nordkapp in August 2015. I don’t think I would be physically capable of cycling the length of Japan if I were to set off tomorrow. Clearly I’m still cycling on a regular basis, but not on the daily basis of ten years ago. I’m also ten years older than I was. I wouldn’t like to ‘wing’ it as I have done in the past. I need to get fit.
- Time: Although I continue to work in schools for two or three days most weeks, I now have a ‘normal’ job for the rest of the week that has much less holiday and certainly not a lengthy summer period during which I could head off to my ‘exotic’ destination. I have no wish to quit my job as I did in late 2014 in order to cycle from Spain to Norway. This is not a deal-breaker however and I think there are ways around this potentially thorny problem.
- Money: Writing books doesn’t make you rich, far from it. 700 days should, however, give me the time to finance the trip to Japan. There will be costs that I have not had to consider before, notably a return flight to a far off place and then the cost of living in a notoriously expensive place. Then again, that’s what I thought about Scandinavia but it never really lived up to its eye-watering reputation. It helps if you’re on a bicycle and camping so it’s rather fortuitous that that’s my plan.
- Equipment: If I had the money (see above), I would go out tomorrow and buy everything I need. Alas I don’t, not yet anyway. What I do have, is considerably better knowledge about what I need. Top of the list is a new touring bike. Bespoke? Perhaps… But they don’t come cheap.
Much of what was written on the pages and posts of this website in 2008, 2009 and 2010 focused upon the four topics above, especially the final one. The same was the case prior to the second and third cycles. Expect it to be no different in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Aside from any of that, what has been so nice about the past ten years is having something upon which to focus in the future. Since the publication of Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie in May 2017 I have been missing that long-term focus. In making a concrete commitment to cycle the length of Japan in the summer of 2020, I once again having something in my life that not only needs planning but, crucially, something towards which I can look forward.
There’s just one problem: isn’t this supposed to be ‘Cycling Europe’?
If you have any thoughts or advise, please do get in touch or comment below. Thanks. 🙂