From Cycle Touring Fest to the Arctic Circle

The Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, after a brilliant weekend. About 200 people attended, including a broad range of guest speakers and experts. It was fantastic to meet so many like-minded individuals, most of whom have completed one or more tour by bicycle, with several having been on more epic round the world or one continent rides, and a few just planning their first odyssey.

Closing moments at Cycle Touring Fest - great bunch of people

Closing moments at Cycle Touring Fest – great bunch of people

There were talks from individuals or couples on their rides, including touring South America and the Andes, Asia, Africa, USA and Alaska, Canada, the Middle East, Australia, as well as more locally in the UK and Europe. Some of the feats of endurance, as well as the commitment shown, and ability to survive and adapt to any environment or culture were frankly astounding, as well as hugely inspiring. I’m not sure I’d have the guts to pedal the length of Africa, or some of the high altitude routes n the Andes, but I guess it’s all about taking things one step at a time and building up your experience. Hats off to the likes of the Laura and Tim Moss, McNeils on Wheels, Tom Allen, Tom Bruce, Emily Chappell, Helen Lloyd, Anna Hughes, Kev Shannon, Stephen Lord; this list could go on for some time, however needless to say there were lots of very cool people there.

As well as hearing about so many amazing adventure by bike, I was able to pick up lots of useful advice and top tips for my forthcoming tour, and any future tours in Europe and beyond. There were talks on equipment, picking a touring bike and bike maintenance, surviving extreme environments, touring as a man or a women, preparing psychologically, communicating your trip and writing for magazines (thanks for the latter Ruth and Scot), to name but a few topics, all in a friendly and inclusive environment. Needless to say I have come away feeling a lot more confident and reassured about my forthcoming ride, as well as with the knowledge that if I need it there’s an amazing support group there I can get in touch with, if I get stuck and need more advice. I feel like I’ve made lots of new friends for life, as well as had the opportunity to meet up with folks like Anna Hughes, and Tony and Gill Pearson who I’ve only communicated with over the internet up until now. Anna has just published her book East, Sleep, Cycle, on her tour around the coast of Britain, well worth a read.

Eat, Sleep, Cycle - Anna Hughes

Eat, Sleep, Cycle – Anna Hughes

Available on Amazon:

I completed the same tour, albeit slightly different route as I decided to include a few islands, in 2013; rather than go for adventures in far flung lands it can be just as exciting and rewarding, and at times just as extreme, to explore what’s on your own doorstep. You can read about my own ride around the  coast of Britain, and check out the route I took, via my Bike around Britain website –

I could continue to wax lyrical about the event, however if you’re interested it’s probably best just to sign up for next year’s and go along yourself, certainly worthwhile if you’re thinking about cycle touring and want to learn stuff, meet people, and realise it’s not so strange a thing to want to do. Many thanks to Laura, Tim and the whole team for organising and running it. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be able to give a talk on my own experiences whilst cycling from Norway to Spain to Istanbul?

Oh, and they had a bar, always handy, Saturday night partying left me somewhat delicate first thing Sunday morning. Probably wasn’t the only one though…

The illustrious Kev Shannon - he punched a wolf you know

The illustrious Kev Shannon – he punched a wolf you know

Kev cycled around Europe a few years ago, down to Istanbul; you’ll have to ask him about the wolf punching incident, pretty terrifying.

Sidenote: I’m typing this up flying North over Norway, over stunning landscapes full of snow covered mountains, wooded valleys and lakes, can’t wait to get on the ground!

Flying to Tromso - stunning scenery

Flying to Tromso – stunning scenery

At the end of the festival they gave those of use departing on tour a bit of a send off, including cake which is always a win, so I’ve really started on a high, thanks again Laura! To round things off, and as I was staying over until Monday morning, Tony, Gill and several others including myself headed to a local pub in Waddington (Lower Buck Inn I think) for a few pints of ale and some grub; a fitting end to the festival celebrated with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, one of my favourites.

Post Cycle Tour Meal at the Lower Buck Inn

Post Cycle Tour Meal at the Lower Buck Inn

Gammon Steak with all the trimmings, awesome

Gammon Steak with all the trimmings, awesome

Lobster on a hat plus pint of Landlord

Lobster on a hat plus pint of Landlord

On Monday I packed up my tent, which had stayed nice and dry despite some pretty persistent rain, said my goodbyes and pedalled off to Manchester. A pleasant ride over a few hills, but nowhere near as many as on the inbound ride, and the rain held off. I even met up with Graham from the festival in Manchester, completely by chance. He’d just got off the train on his Brompton and was pedalling home; we crossed paths 4 miles from my hotel.

After 37 miles in about 4 hours I reached my hotel, a cheap and slightly shabby affair that completely did the job for one night, and checked in. I had to nip out to find a large bag to put all my panniers into, airlines not being particularly sympathetic if you turn up with 4 or 5 different pannier bags needing to go on a flight. I had a few ideas about what might suit, but as I was short of time and it being a bank holiday Monday I opted for buying a large canvas rubble type bag from Wickes, which has loops at the top, in which I could fit all my panniers then tie it up with bungees. I have to report this tactic worked very well, and the bag only cost a fiver so not precious about discarding it at the other end of the flight.

Panniers packed in a Wickes rubble bag, worked a treat

Panniers packed in a Wickes rubble bag, worked a treat

I managed to sneak my bike into the hotel room and spent the evening packing that into the large CTC plastic bag, then unpacking and repacking my panniers several times in a state of slight paranoia. I chose the large CTC plastic bag option for transporting my bike as it’s cheap at £10, you can fit the whole bike in by just turning the handlebars, lowering the saddle, and putting some padding in; for example I used a plastic bottle to cover up the derailer, another top tip from the festival. Baggage handers can also see what it is so there less likely to throw it about, in theory anyway.

Bike wrapped and ready to fly

Bike wrapped and ready to fly

All packed up I tried to get some sleep, after all the TV didn’t work, and Wifi didn’t reach the room, however it was slow coming due to high excitement levels. I think I eventually nodded off about 00.30 and awoke with a start what seemed like 5 minutes later, but was in fact 06.30. I’ll skip over the journey to the airport other than to say when the shuttle vehicle first turned up it was a taxi, in which my bike wouldn’t fit, d’oh; one minibus later I arrived.

Wheeling my bike and baggage through the airport precariously perched on a trolley proved challenging, as did checking in, but I got there eventually. I had to go back to check-in after security as they don’t like bike tools in hand luggage, and there was no way I could do without them. Not sure what damage I’d do with a small wheel wrench and a few allen keys! Everyone was helpful, however it was a great relief to finally get on the plane and start my journey North.

The flight involved three planes, one to Olso, then a connection to Tromso, followed by the final plane to Honnningsvag with a stop off in Hammerfest to drop a few people off; Hammerfest sounds like a cool place. The planes got gradually smaller the further North I journeyed, flying over some beautiful vistas. Needless to say I eventually arrived in Honnningsvag, as did all my luggage, thankfully. I screwed my pedals back on, remembered to pump my tyres up again, twisted a few things that had had some abuse back into the right place, and pedalled to the hostel through the wind and sleet; only a couple of kilometres to a safe haven.

I’ll leave you with a few photos from the journey

My next post will cover today’s ride to Nordkapp and back, and probably the next few days, depending on when I next get online. I might be offline for a few days as I journey South.

4 thoughts on “From Cycle Touring Fest to the Arctic Circle

  1. Tony Staples

    Good luck James and take care, this will be an amazing journey and I look forward to reading all about it.


  2. becauseitisthere

    Firstly, i can’t believe you posted that photo! But secondly, well done on starting your journey and I will watch from afar as you have an awesome time. Watch out for them wolves. Wishing you tailwinds!


    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      I wondered if you’d see it…love the hat! Thanks and yes, will keep an eye out for wolves, and velociraptors, the latter being an ever present threat, cover girls!



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