That’s it, tour done, a weird feeling after being away for nearly 6 months. It’s still quite hard to take it all in, having pedalled from Nordkapp, Norway, in the Arctic Circle, the Northernmost point of Europe accessible by road, all the way to Tarifa in Spain, the Southernmost point, then across to Istanbul and Eastern Europe before pedalling back to the UK alongside the Danube. Today was my first day back at work, which mentally drove home that this adventure has come to an end, however I’m sure there will be plenty more in the future.
Overall I’m very happy with how it all went, having encountered no insurmountable obstacles, and visited lots of great countries and places. It’s all about adding brilliant memories to the bank, by filling the time I have on this planet with new, exciting and varied experiences whilst I have the chance. To choose but a few; I’ve swum in the sea and rivers, lazed in the sun, climbed mountains, whizzed down valleys and gorges, slept in forests and under the stars, tried lots of new food…and drink, stayed with old friends in France and made lots of new ones across Europe, met my parents in Spain on the Camino de Santiago route for my birthday, and challenged myself to see just how far I can pedal, in all sorts of conditions, and on a variety of road and trail! As with my tour around the UK coastline in 2013 I was reminded of how friendly, generous and welcoming most people are, something the media have an unfortunate tendency of distorting at times. Even the weather was mostly kind to me, although I won’t miss cycling in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius in Spain, or the headwinds and rain of Denmark.
Here’s my final route map:
And a link to this in Strava, where you can zoom in:
One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘What was your favourite bit?’. I find this almost impossible to answer as it was a journey of such contrasts; Scandinavia with its wonderful wilderness and nature, snow and ice abounding whilst I was in the Arctic Circle, the Camino de Santiago, the dizzying heat of Spain with its ancient towns and cites, France that I just love anyway, the fantastic Croatian coastline, crazy Istanbul, friendly Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, and cycling alongside the Danube through picturesque forests and gorges in Germany and Austria – very good food and again friendly people in the latter two too. The more I think about it the more I remember great experiences, with any bad points or anxieties I felt at the time slowly fading into the background. I still think one of the best ‘bits’ is all the people I met along the way, especially those with whom I pedalled for a bit. Finishing the tour with a stop off at the Yestival festival, with more great people, buckets of inspiration and motivation, topped it all off; it also added a certain symmetry to the tour, having started at the Cycle Tour Festival in May, which along with Yestival is going in the calendar for 2016.
Here are some updated tour statistics and facts you might find interesting, or not, depending on how much you like numbers.
- Start point: Honningsvåg (Norway)
- End point: Norwich (UK)
- Number of countries visited: 23
- Distance pedalled: circa 10,230 miles or 16,460 km
- Longest day: 120 miles (193km)
- Number of days on tour: 175
- Number of rest days: around 31
- Average distance per day including rest days: approx 58 miles or 94km
- Average distance per day excluding rest days: approx 71 miles or 114km
- Number of punctures: 8
- Number of new tyres: 4 – back on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus now
- Number of new spokes: 6 (all at once due to chain slippage spoke mangling incident in Sweden)
- Number of new chains and rear cassettes: 2 of each
- Number of new chain sets: 1
- Number of new brake pads: 6
- Number of new cables: changed them all once
- Number of new saddles: 1 – the Brooks saddle has been a wonderful replacement
- Min temperature: -2 degrees Celsius
- Max temperature: About 42 degrees Celsius in Spain
- Windiest conditions: Denmark – about 5 hellish days of headwind mixed with rain
- Favourite stop: With friends in France (Ardeche, Provence, Marseille), followed closely by Tarifa and Istanbul.
- Most useful gadget: SP Dynamo Hub, for recharging my phone and Garmin
- Friendliest country: Not had an unfriendly one, however Albania or Serbia probably win – Eastern Europe in general; can’t count France as was with good friends there anyway!
- Scariest encounter: the dogs in Greece, and specifically when I was surrounded by a feral pack when cycling up the hill out of Thessaloniki
- Weight lost: about 2 stone (13kg), although I’ve about a half stone on since I’ve been back due to still having a huge appetite but not cycling 100km each day; gonna have to fast soon.
If there are any other stats you’re interested in let me know, and likewise shout if you’ve any questions.
I’m also very happy to have raised £1,600 for charity, which equates to nearly £2,000 with gift aid, which I know the Big C will really appreciate. Thank you all for your sponsorship; definitely helped keep me motivated at times. If you haven’t already and would like to make a donation you can do so via the link below:
Another common question, which people ask me nearly straight away, is what’s next? I’m starting to respond by asking them what adventure they have planned instead! I have lots of ideas, but I doubt they’ll be anything quite as long for a while; need to save up some money if I want to go on a long tour to Canada, South America, Morocco, or South East Asia, which are all on the list.
I’ll be attempting to write a book about this latest tour, mainly to see if I can write a book rather than earning lots of money off it, and I hope to continue filling life with great memories by going away on shorter adventures. Things on the list so far include mountain biking around bothies in Scotland and perhaps Wales, hiking the Coast to Coast route along Hadrian’s Wall, kayaking and camping on the Norfolk Broads, starting to rock climb again and visiting the Peak District, learning how to kite surf, taking my Kendo 1st Dan grading, and lots of local micro adventures in Norfolk; just sleeping out under the stars whenever possible, after cooking over a campfire or stove, and waking up as the sun rises. Always up for company on trips if you fancy getting outside and enjoying life.
I’m going to pick out some of my favourite photos from the tour over the next couple of weeks, to help prepare for book writing, but I’ll also post them here for folks to enjoy, and to hopefully give you ideas for places to visit. To kick things off here’s where it all began, in Nordkapp Norway, after flying out form the Cycle Touring festival in Clitheroe, UK:
Thanks again for reading and support along the way; as with the sponsorship it’s really appreciated and helped keep me going. And Travelling Lobster says hi; he still needs a wash!