So 2020… it will go down in history as the ‘interesting’ year. More infamous than famous. It does seem to have been a year that has passed very quickly. Perhaps it was the soap-opera nature of the whole COVID thing, waiting for the next bit of breaking news that might change our lives for the better but which, more often than not, delivered yet more bad news. However, in a year of many, many negatives it is worth reflecting upon the fact that the global pandemic did have knock-on positives. I don’t usually show it, but I consider myself to be an optimist and if ever there was a year when being an optimist – even a blind optimist – was more useful than ever, it has surely been 2020.
My year started in London on a Japan-themed visit to the capital…
…in preparation for a visit that, ultimately, never happened. I lost money on the flight that had to be cancelled but cycling from Cape Sōya 宗谷岬 to Cape Sata 佐多岬 is still on my agenda. I’d like to think that 2021 will be the year although I won’t be booking any flights until the pesky virus is confirmed to be on its way out of the door.
January also saw me ‘release’ (it sounds too grand a word but…) my first full-length cycling film. It was about my cycle in the summer of 2019 across northern Spain and through Portugal to Porto and was put together using shorter videos that I had previously posted to social media. Little did I know in January that COVID would afford me much more time later in the year to spend working on future film projects.
February saw me publish the 13th episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast. I drove down to Matlock in Derbyshire to interview Helen Moat about her new cycling book, A Time for Birds. In 2019 I had made only 5 episodes of the podcast. As with the films, little did I know that 2020 would, primarily because of the time I suddenly had available to me, become a vintage year for the podcast. With the publication of episode 26 yesterday, the year saw 14 episodes produced with some fascinating people appearing; Timmy Mallett (yes, that Timmy Mallett), Paul Gentle (who was one of the first ‘victims’ of COVID in that he was forced to abandon his Tarifa to Nordkapp cycle), Mark Beaumont (who, he told me later, manage to paint the floor of his garage while I was interviewing him), an enterprising group of Welsh cyclists (who have been cycling across Europe for years, one week at a time), the ‘Gears for Queers‘ duo Abigail Melton and Lilith Cooper (who must surely win an award for the best book title of the year), world cyclist Ian Finlay (who chucked in his job and sold his house to set off on his dream adventure), Ed Lancaster (of the European Cyclists’ Federation), Susan Doram (one of Cycling UK’s ‘100 Women in Cycling’), Rob Ainsley, David Haywood and James Briggs (who all contributed their thoughts on interesting premises for cycle tours), cycling doctor and author of Signs of Life, Stephen Fabes (who spent 5 years cycling around the world), YouTube cycling filmmaker Ryan Duzer (who wins the award for being the most enthusiastic person I spoke to all year) and, to round off 2020, the new chief executive of Cycling UK, Sarah Mitchell. Quite a roll call of cycling names! Perhaps, however, the stand-out podcast from 2020 was the one I made about the American cyclist Maximilian J. St. George. That was a very different podcast involving a significant amount of research and the contributions of quite a few people. One of the highlights of my year for sure…
…and a story that has yet to be finished. Listen to episode 26 of the podcast to find out why.
By March, the impacts of COVID were becoming apparent. It was the month when things started to get cancelled, most disappointingly the Cycle Touring Festival, but more of that in a moment.
Paul Gentle, the man who was forced to abandon his bottom to top ride of Europe from Tarifa to Nordkapp kept readers entertained in April with his tales from the road about his experiences cycling through Spain and France. Let’s hope he gets the chance to complete the journey at some point in the future.
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: Spain, Part 1
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: Spain, Part 2
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: Spain, Part 3
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: Spain, Part 4
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: France, Part 1
- Paul Gentle’s Tarifa to Nordkapp: France, Part 2
April was also the month when the cancelled Cycle Touring Festival was reborn, online. All credit to Tim and Laura Moss who put considerable time and effort into organising something that was almost as enjoyable as attending the real event in Clitheroe.
Let’s hope it returned to its non-virtual position in the cycling calendar in 2021 but if it doesn’t, a second ‘virtual’ event wouldn’t go amiss. As far as I’m aware, a decision about 2021 has yet to be made but keep an eye on the festival’s website for updates. The provisional dates are the 28th-31st May. Fingers are crossed.
The 31st of May was the deadline for entries into the Cycle Touring Photography Competition 2020 which was hosted by this website with prizes from Cicerone Press and the European Cyclists’ Federation. If you’ve forgotten what cycle touring can look like, here were the shortlisted entries…
and here were the winners. Should the competition be run again in 2021, would there be many entries?
Inspired by Maximilian J. St. George’s (inadvertent) tour of European capital cities of 1912 and 1913, I set off on my bicycle in July and August to visit the four capitals of the United Kingdom. Venturing further afield was simply not allowed. It was nice to get back into the habit of posting daily accounts of my travels as I had done on previous long trips but in the back of my mind was a film that I wanted to put together. It was finally released in December 2020 in a glitzy online ‘première’…
With the virus situation once again rearing its ugly head, the autumn was far less ‘enjoyable’ than the spring. At least in April and May we had some good weather in which to go outside and enjoy our ‘permitted daily exercise’. In October, however, after having seemingly chased around Britain on my capitals quest earlier in the year, I decided to spend three nights doing some more leisurely cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. Staying at the YHA hostel in Malham, I went out of my way not to cycle any great distances. Instead, I focussed on the filmmaking and, along with the Maximilian podcast, produced something of which I am genuinely proud:
One significant consequence of my cycling and filmmaking experiences of 2020 is that I don’t think I will ever embark upon a cycling trip in the future intent on just using the bicycle to get from A to B. In the case of 2021, this might be from Cape Sata to Cape Soya in Japan, but I’ve decided that if this does come to fruition, I won’t be averse to taking a few trains from time to time. The focus will be on the experience rather than the destination.
November brought with it the welcome news that the World’s idiot-in-chief had been booted out of office. Waiting for the definitive news to come through that the adults would be taking charge in 2021 was a little frustrating but it did, at least, give me time to reflect:
The final month of the year brought more welcome news; the discovery of not one but two viable vaccinations for the COVID virus. Perhaps there was a good chance that things might return to some kind of ‘normal’ in 2021. Would cycle touring be one of the normalities? I asked Twitter where people might like to go in 2021…
…before finally committing (if such a thing will ever be possible again with any quite of certainty) to rekindle thoughts of travelling to Japan in the summer of 2021. Time will tell if my confidence is hopelessly misplaced or not.
So it’s been a funny old year. I hope that all* visitors to CyclingEurpe.org have a healthy and enjoyable 2021. Happy New Year!
(*Well, apart from Nigel Farage and his friends / followers. Not that many of them visit CyclingEurope.org. The clue to what keeps them away is in the title I suppose…)