The summer of 2017, I set out on a cycling expedition from my home in Yorkshire, to the Norweigan-Russian border in the far North… here is the beginning of my journey, and the first installment of this series.
A week or so before I left my home, I packed my bags onto the bike, and cycled it 1 mile down the road to show off to some family. This was the longest test run I decided to do fully packed – I had about 50/60kg of ‘stuff’ compiled in bags around the bike (much more than necessary, in hindsight). The longest bicycle ride I decided to do before setting off was about 7 or 8 miles, once, without any luggage attached. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle regularly since I was maybe 14.
A couple of nights before I left, I dismantled the bed in my bedroom (it was broken) and set up my tent in the back yard. This was the first time I had set a tent up in several years.
Feeling that all possible training had been completed successfully, I began the 3900 mile journey to the Arctic circle.
My first sub-destinstion, and actually the only point in the entire trip where I had to be in a certain place at a certain time, was Newcastle, 2 days later, to catch my ferry across to Ymuldien in the Netherlands.
The first night after traversing the North Yorkshire Moors (very hilly), I stayed at a campsite ideally located on the side of a busy 2-lane dual carriage way – accessable only by dodgey manuvears across said road and down into oncoming traffic.
Exhilarating stuff, and I had only just begun!
In these first days, I don’t think was running on strength or technique, just sheer excitement and enthusiasm for the adventure ahead – or perhaps running from whatever was behind me, either way – it was working.
This source of power was extremely useful on the second day. I had thought it had been a joke that when cycling North, I would always be going uphill (and that I should go South, so as to be always going downhill). Apparently the southern route into Newcastle does not have a sense of humour. 19 out of the 20 miles to the ferry port were just slightly uphill. Not much of a problem on a bicycle? No, but add on some overbearing luggage, and even the slightest incline becomes a struggle.
I remember envying those on bikes going the opposite direction, how easy they had it! No bags, no slight hill, no ferry to catch. The pains my unseasoned legs went through to get me to the ferry… yet they proved able; arriving with 5 minutes to spare!
Alls well that ends well – England was conquered, onto the next. A nice shower on the ferry and jump off onto flat-as-a-pancake Holland. Perfect.
Or so it would have been except for an unscheduled meeting with the cyclists other nememis – headwinds. Hills are a challenge, but once completed, that challenge provides a grand sense of accomplishment (varying levels of satisfaction given proportional to the size of hill). However, headwinds are another beast completely. Unrelenting. Unbeatable. Invisible. Particularly the northerly winds coming from the North Sea. There is nothing stream line about a well-packed touring bicycle.
As I turned east around the coast the headwinds did not let out at all. I remember being so worn near the end of the country; each bridge crossing the small streams seemed an Olympic effort. The physical manifestation of ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’. Nevertheless, I made it. The winds stopped as I left the North Sea behind and entered Germany. Peace at last. And rest. And beer.
There are many more stories to tell. Many a strange things happens on the road. I hope you gain something from these moments that I remember fondly.
Feedback is very appreciated. Stay tuned for the next tale.