In 2017, novice long-distance cyclist Craig Fee set off on a continental odyssey to cycle from London to his friend’s wedding in Florence, Italy. But had he bitten off more than he could chew? In his new book, Cycling Into The Unknown, he tells the story of the journey and in this episode of the podcast, he reflects upon the experience of setting off on a make-it-up-as-you-go cycle across Europe…
If you are a member of Cycling UK and pay your £4 every month, you will hopefully have had the opportunity to read my account of last year’s Grand Tour that appeared in the June / July 2023 issue of Cycle Magazine. (If you are not a member, why not?? It’s a bargain and the magazine is one of the best cycling reads that you can get your hands on; real people, real cycling, real stories…)
Welcome to June… and to the summer of 2023. Well, if the first is your definition of summer. There are several from which to choose. My focus over the next few months will be continue to write the first draft of my new book about last year’s ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. I’m now heading south along the Vélodyssée in the west of France (day 25 of around 60) so I should have that draft ready by the end of the summer. However, earlier this year I was approached by Dan Joyce, the editor of Cycling UK’s Cycle magazine, asking if would be able to contribute an article about last year’s cycle. That article has now been published and if you are a member of Cycling UK, you should have received your copy of the magazine in the last few days. It’s the June / July issue.
“The academic year must have been a difficult one as when the summer holidays arrived, secondary school teacher Andrew Sykes was happy to do as little as possible. But while sitting on his sofa watching the exploits of the cyclists at the Great Wall of China at the Beijing Olympics, he realised the error of his ways and resolved to put a bit more adventure into his life. Two years later, accompanied by his faithful companion Reggie (his bike) but only a rudimentary plan, Andrew set off for a trans-continental cycling adventure that would take him along the route of the Via Francigena and the Eurovelo 5 all the way from his home in southern England to Brindisi in the south of Italy. There were highs and lows, rain and shine, joy and despair and they are all recounted here in a light-hearted, brisk style.”
On July 3rd 2022 I set off from The Hook of Holland in The Netherlands, turned right and pedalled off in the direction of France. It was an anti-clockwise tour of the continent; the EuroVelo 12 along the Belgian coast, the EuroVelo 4 to Dieppe, L’Avenue Verte to Paris, La Véloscénie to Mont St Michel before rejoining the EuroVelo 4 to Morlaix, the EuroVelo 1 / Vélodyssée to Royan, the Canal de la Garonne to Toulouse, the Canal du Midi to Sète, the EuroVelo 17 beside the Rhône to Andermatt in Switzerland and finally the EuroVelo 15 / Rhine Cycle Route back to The Hook of Holland and the return ferry to Hull on September 3rd.
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.