Later this year I will be releasing a film about my 5,500km journey by bicycle and train from the Hook of Holland, along the Dutch and Belgian coasts, anticlockwise around France, into Switzerland beside the Rhone and finally along the Rhine to Rotterdam. Editing takes time but, in anticipation of the full film being finished by the end of 2022, here’s a 10-minute segment of the film that tells the story of my cycle along La Véloscénie from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel via Chartres, Nogent-le-Rotrou and Domfront. Wacth out for the Musée du Vélo! The music is from the skilled fingers of Rob Ainsley and the audio commentary is taken from episode 054 of The Cycling Europe Podcast.
Gareth Dent has a long-term relationship with small-wheeled bicycles. Growing up in Stevenage in the late 1960s he made the most of the town’s futuristic network of cycle routes on his 14” Moulton Mini. 40 years later he rekindled his love for small wheels during an organised folding bike challenge from London to Paris, in the process meeting a group of like-minded enthusiasts. It was with these new friends that , several years later, he started to cycle the route of the 1903 Tour de France, in stages, over 4 years. The interview was recorded in Halifax’s covered market where we also bumped into Tony, the West Yorkshire town’s own proponent of small-wheeled cycling. He had much to say…
Although during the trip I posted short daily videos recounting the tale of my cycle around Europe this summer, the main reason for filming what I did was to make a film about the cycle from the Hook of Holland to the Hook of Holland. It’s quite a daunting task editing 2,500 videos into one film of about an hour but over the next few weeks that’s the plan. To whet your appetite, I have started by creating an into. You can watch it below.
It’s now two weeks since I arrived back in the UK after the summer’s jaunt around Europe with Wanda (the bike…). It’s been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. On a personal level, I finally feel as though I’ve caught up with things. It was a rather sudden turnaround from being long-distance cyclist to secondary school teacher – about 18 hours to be precise – but after two weekends I’m finally in a position to say everything is ‘sorted’. Well, apart from that cupboard crammed full of my camping equipment but at least I can’t see it unless I make the effort to open the door.
So there it is. Finished. After 63 days, 55 cycling days, around 4,700km, 7 countries, 10 train journeys, lots of ferries (small and large), 45 nights in the tent, 11 nights in hotels, 4 with WarmShowers hosts, 1 with a friend and a night with a Vriendren op de Fiets host, 8 episodes of The Cycling Europe Podcast (the final part 8 episode should be published tomorrow morning upon arrival back in the UK), over 60 (almost) daily videos… and zero punctures, I arrived back at The Hook of Holland earlier today after the relatively short cycle from central Rotterdam and in doing so completed the ‘Grand Tour’ loop. It’s been fun.
The longest day of the trip but it needed to be.it’s now Saturday morning and I still have around 60km of cycling today: 30km from central Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland and then, back up and down the Rhine to the end of one of the other fingers of land to the ferry. Check-in closes at 7pm tonight so I have plenty of time to complete those 60km but if I had stopped yesterday east of Rotterdam that might not have been the case.
Today has been a real joy. Everything came together in a celestial meeting of cycle touring, travelling, people, places, weather… I loved it. Even the trains joined the party after an initial reluctance to play ball at Cologne station this morning. With only 48 hours of this continental odyssey remaining, I couldn’t wish to have spent a more enjoyable day in the saddle. Even that pesky wind which, for much of the past week, has been annoying me in a manner that usually only a tiresome Year 9 student can achieve came to the party and blew me along the banks of the Rhine willing me to get to Rotterdam on time. Fabulous. I only wish you could have been here.
It’s now day 61 and it’s turning out to be a ‘fun’ morning. I’m booked onto a train to Xanten from Cologne but in chaotic scenes very reminiscent of taking a train in the UK, there is some confusion regarding the train that arrived on platform 4 a few minutes ago, wouldn’t let passengers on and then scarpered. I need to change at Duisburg… I’m forcing myself into ‘zen’ mode. It might have been easier to keep cycling and take the train from a quieter station. The plan was to arrive in Xanten – famed for its Roman ruins I Iearnt last night – then cycle over the border into The Netherlands. Come back later today to find out if that ever happens or whether I’m still here in Germany. Or indeed Cologne…