Surprise Surprise! Connecting The European Family Of Cyclists

The world is indeed a small place; the cycling family even smaller. I know this as three things have happened this week and they all have nice connections with my third book, Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie.

First up is an email, but before you read the email, listen to the following two-minute extract from The Cycling Europe Podcast, Episode 013 published at the start of February 2020:

(You can listen to the full interview – and full podcast – by visiting this page of

That was Helen Moat speaking about her journey from her home in the Peak District of England to Istanbul alongside her then 18-year-old son Jamie. Her book – A Time for Birds – will be published in April.

Yesterday an email arrived from… Brian. (If you skipped to this bit without listening to the audio extract, go back and do it now!)

“For number of years we have followed your cycling trips and bought a signed copy of Spain to Norway [on a Bike Called Reggie] at the Cycling UK rally in York [where you gave a talk]. We listened to [The Cycling] Europe Podcast Episode 013 [and] we were delighted to hear Helen [Moat] talking about us! Iris was delighted to hear her comment about her bike (“Helen did you purchase the bike before the trip?”). Iris told Jamie off on a number of occasions about jumping off the kerb as he would break spokes. We have fond memories of cycling with Helen and Jamie. Since hearing your podcast we have phoned Helen and had along chat and supplied an updated email address.”

Brian and Iris

How nice is that! I feel like the cycling equivalent of Cilla Black on Surprise Surprise, reuniting long-lost friends who met along the cycle paths of Europe. Perhaps I should contact ITV with the concept…

The second ‘Spain to Norway…‘- connected incident this week was a story – headlined “GPs prepare for 7,500 km bike ride across Europe” – that appeared in the York Press newspaper on Thursday. You can read the full article by following this link but here are the edited highlights:

“TWO York GPs are about to set off on a 7,500km bike ride from Gibraltar to the northernmost tip of Norway.

Haxby Group lead partner Dr David Hayward will be taking a break from work to cycle with his wife Dr Lesley Godfrey, who has just retired from Priory Group Medical Practice.

The couple plan to pedal about 60 miles a day, and the trip is expected to take them three to four months.

They are aiming to raise ยฃ5,000, with the money divided between St Leonardโ€™s Hospice in York and a hospice in Africa.

Dr Hayward said they were inspired to do the ride after reading a book, โ€˜Spain to Norway on a bike called Reggieโ€™ by Andrew P. Sykes. โ€œAs Lesley retired at the end of February, we wanted a project to aim for when she finished work,โ€ he said.”

It’s quite humbling to have played a small but influential part in such a worthy endeavour. You can follow their progress on their website BigBikeRide2020.Travel.Blog. Good luck to David & Lesley. I wish them well as they cycle… well, not quite along the same route as me. They have decided to choose a route that will see them cycle along the Spanish Mediterranean coast and then beside the Rhine. When I set off on my trip in 2015 from Tarifa, I headed immediately north to Seville and then onwards to northern Spain. Perhaps my choice was influenced by having cycled along the Mediterranean during my 2013 European journey, as recounted in the book ‘Along The Med…‘ and wanting to explore other parts of Spain. I do, however, seem to be in the minority with that choice of route. Which brings me to the third ‘Spain to Norway…‘ connection of the week; Paul Gentle.

Paul first contacted me in April 2018. He wanted to buy a couple of signed copies of my books; ‘Along The Med…‘ and ‘Spain to Norway…‘. I duly sent him the books. At this point, the story goes cold. I assume that Paul went off and read the books.

On February 1st this year, I notice the following tweet that had been posted the previous evening, the infamously tragic day upon which the UK left the European Union:

That’s the distinctive causeway that links the Isla de las Palomas to Spain (thus rendering it useless as an ‘island’). The southern tip of the ‘isla’ was the starting point for my ‘Spain to Norway…‘ trip in 2015. Looking at other tweets posted by ‘Crawl for the Moon’, it became clear that here was someone also setting off to conquer the longest possible point-to-point journey on the mainland of Europe. Curious name… I sent him a ‘good luck’ tweet in response:

I also dispatched a message via Twitter asking this person – whoever he happened to be – if they’d be interested in contributing to The Cycling Europe Podcast. The following reply arrived soon after:

“Hello Andrew, my name is Paul – I keep forgetting I’m a bit anonymous on Twitter! Thanks very much for the message, and the offer, that sounds very exciting, and I’d be honoured to contribute to the podcast if you think there would be some interest! …Thanks for the twitter support earlier today, that was a great morale boost when I was just setting off.


It turns out that this is not just any old Paul but the very same Paul who had bought my books back in 2018.

I’ve been following Paul’s progress over the past few weeks. He too is following the Mediterranean (hence his interest, presumably, in not just the Spain to Norway book but also the Mediterranean one) before heading in the direction of central Europe and then through Finland. Paul uses Instagram more than he does Twitter and you can follow his progress @EuropeanUniCycle2020. Here’s his latest post with, as you can see, a lot of sheep in Provence:

You can also follow Paul’s track as he cycles in the direction of Nordkapp (he aims to arrive some time in July or August) via

But more exciting than all that is that he has written something for about his journey so far and, hopefully over the next few months, he will continue to update us on his progress. (No pressure Paul…)

“I was the most southerly person in the most southerly bar in continental Europe on the 31st of January 2020, as the sun set on Britain’s membership of the European Union. I had anticipated what this moment would feel like during the previous few weeks – sitting in Tarifa, Spain, and looking out to Tangiers in Morocco, which I could still just about make out across the Strait of Gibraltar, only 14km away. I thought that all kinds of poignant thoughts would be occupying my mind, literally being at the end of Europe, at such a significant time…”

Paul Gentle

That’s just the first paragraph of an interesting read about his cycle through Spain. The full article will be published later this weekend. I’m also hoping to chat with Paul on the podcast at some point before he arrives in northern Norway. Stay tuned!

Photo credits: York Press, Paul Gentle

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