All but a moment

I drift over lumpy tarmac on empty b-roads somewhere between Leeds and York, I feel fresh spring air fill my lungs with every breath and I realise it doesn’t matter where in the world I was.

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Duck parade, beautiful cottage

Breathe, pedal. This is all that is required. These simple autonomous tasks easily fall into rhythmic bliss as I follow the twists and turns presented to me. I choose to observe all around me as this ride is not to anyone’s time, my own the least of my worries as I watch life drift by. My journey is simple and this where the beauty lay.

My route is carefully chosen, not by time, distance or convenience, but by beauty, peace and comfort! Make no mistake I cycle with purpose however could an extra 15 minutes at home ever recompense the adventure of some 200 year old trail? Life should allow flexibility…

These roads have long served humankind, long before the ways of motor and they serve me well, now, as I float away with only the faint rumble of thin kevlar reinforced rubber and a well lubricated chain set. This engine is running well.

I talk of purpose, imagine one humans journey of discovery. This time the search was for organic vegetables at a local farm although each journey poses the same fundamental joys for me. The reasons or indeed life challenges either side of this ride were not present.

I was a lone.

A lone warrior, not at all “feeling alone”. I was a lone person blanketed by the joys which fill the small gaps in life. A lone person surrounded by a million wonders. Landscape in my view and I feel warm, I feel peace. I feel safe.

This is why I cycle. A thousand miles from home feels the same at that moment. When you’re at your happy rolling pace, when you think of nothing else but you, right here right now in the moment.

A feeling like the whole world has stopped to let you enjoy yours.

I like to take those moments with both arms.

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Open road germany backroads
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A biketourist’s accommodation

I needed to be ready for anything …and comfortable! Above all to be certain I was happy when resting and able to keep myself and my kit dry.
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Everything else was between me and the road!

I was a novice camper at best and only cycled short local journeys before. What would I need? How would I stay warm? ..and dry?

When planning my trip I wanted to explore all options and came across light weight tents, pop up tents and lots of different recommendations depending on who you ask!

My preference has, and always will be survivalist. I want to be ready, and adaptable to most situations…and I want to be comfy when I encounter them! I don’t mind an extra few kgs if I can ensure comfort and I certainly don’t mind some treats for my enjoyment.

And I was going to be wild camping a lot so I needed to be mobile and stealthy too.

Can you see me??!

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I’ve met many hardcore cyclists who are driven by weight, speed and distance. Each to their own but I add comfort, enjoyment and practicality to my endeavours 🙂 I mean what’s the rush, right?

The option i went with was a hammock which doubles as a bivvi along with a tarp measuring 3×3 for shelter. I took some spare tent poles with me for my custom mods and with some ropes, ties and pegs that was it.
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The Reasons
– Set up on rough ground
– Even with just one tree
– Adapt based on weather
– Multiple ground options
– Hammocks are relaxing after a long day
– Can see out at night instead of hearing noises and wondering what is lurking!

The list goes on!

I discovered an ability to build shelters quickly and confidently wherever I found myself. I didn’t have one occasion where I couldn’t make myself comfortable. This was through rain, wind and chilly nights with mosquitoes like you’ve never seen!!

Here are some of the set up options I used.

For the clear nights when you want to see the stars. You can use the bicycle instead of the tent pole in this example.
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When there is no tree – this happened a lot when I stayed at camp sites. Again, lots of options on the ground with a few variations for kit, company or cooking undercover…
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Wild camped in a clearing

Simple tree set up. Remember I’m new to this and was able to stay warm and dry with this….bye bye tent!
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One tree set up
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Tarp covering Delilah (bike) too
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Wild camping in North Yorkshire

If you’re thinking of going for a hammock instead of a tent, I say go for it. You’ll be stronger for the extra few kgs you’re carrying and happier when you rest for the night!

The future of a bike tourist

I’ve spent many hours and days in my saddle and loved it. Touring is a whole new cycling experience for me and a sense of real freedom. I was travelling in a straight line and not turning back at the end of the ride. I had everything I needed for the near future so I could just relax and roll through the towns and villages. I could camp wherever I could find a suitable spot and disappear by dawn – no trace!

This is freedom!

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If I think back to the day I left rainy Leeds with a slightly wobbly wheel to almost a year later, I can say a few things which I’m proud of and a few things which will have to wait for next time. I have a new adventure gaining fast and I want to try and share the transformation of a bike tourist into a responsible and devoted father 🙂 …and how I plan to stay on two wheels.

First things first, I am proud that I…

Made it to Switzerland by mostly bicycle with no real cycling experience.
Cooked for myself each evening with one pot. And I’m not talking soup or peanut butter sandwiches 😀 I learned to cook real food with fresh ingredients inspired by some people I met along the way.
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Wild camped a lot and loved it.
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Pedalled over 100k in a day loads of times.
Climbed up into the black forest with road tyres and didn’t die.
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Didn’t have one flat tyre.
Can put up a hammock in the dark.
Can make multiple shelters with a 3×3 tarp.

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Tarp and hammock combo with room for Delilah

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Can fend for myself! Ish…

I will be back on this tarmac ribbon fluttering through the fields of Europe soon but for now I’ll only ever be within a short radius of my beautiful girlfriend and baby boy.

For now I plan to stay in my saddle as long as possible. The sense of freedom I feel (even commuting to work) is unique and beautiful. Although it pails in comparison I cycle daily to and from work. My journey uses a national cycle route and has a mix of road, bridleway, and beck! With summer approaching this is easily the best part of my day!

I can carry 56l (2 x 28l) in my Altura panniers and take one with me every day. Shopping… no problem, i can easily fit our food shopping including heavy items on the back.
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I will be buying a car soon for our new arrival, however the bike will be my number one mode of transport.

And if I don’t cycle, I try to walk instead!

I live relatively close to work and can easily meander my way each morning. I have chosen to work part time and adjusted my living style to accommodate this lack of income. My goal is to find the perfect balance.

I don’t want it all, just what I need 🙂

to Bonn…bike rally and road block!

This was an easy day compared to the hills of days past. Although there were new dangers!

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Your guess is as good as mine!

The route from Kall passed through Euskirchen and I avoided the route 56 taking the scenic route through a few villages, fields and forest – Ollheim, Dunstekoven and Alfter.

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I had an incredibly happy feeling as I had a tail wind and no hills. I felt superpowered!!

I was staying with warmshowers hosts called Ludwig and Louise and aimed for the centre of Bonn to ask for directions. This I find is a great way to feel human again as talking to myself for 7-10 hours a day can become a little weird…

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I spoke to a few people who were very helpful and great to talk to. I started chatting to a lovely lady who had moved to Tenerife from Germany to create a life for herself 19 years ago and while talking a British man walked up to ask where I was from and it turned out he came for a 2 weeks holiday to visit his girlfriend 15+ years ago…and was still there!!!

Eventually two girls google mapped the route for me and I took a picture of their phone – yes I am a cheapskate but data cost £3 a day and this expense would quickly add up.

I’m home for the next two nights.

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I ate some amazing food – mostly grown by this wonderful couple and expertly prepared by Louise. I wish I had her talent 🙂

I explores the city and enjoyed the historical buildings although I later found our many had been destroyed in the war and rebuilt to their former glory. Im glad they didn’t let their heritage disappear in a pile of rubble.

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On Friday night we took part in the Critical Mass bike ride. This happens around the world im told and saw 70ish cyclists take to the streets to raise awareness of this form of transport.

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When there are 15+ people in one group we were able to travel as one – even if the lights changed during our procession.

Some cars, trams and buses were not amused!

We ended with a lovely meal and great conversation joined by Cory who is a friend of my hosts and an inspiration of someone following his dream and truly living in the moment.

I felt honoured to part of this whole experience – thanks so much.

Next stop Coblenz…

Monschau to Kall – high altitude

Some people said I should have chosen a different route to the Rhine as the hills would be tough… I was worried…

I asked a lovely couple who kindly made a list of the villages I would pass and I would follow the Rur-radweg.

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As I was already at the top of a mountain (it felt like that climbing it in the rain!) so the start of my journey was to descend back down to the river. Hurtling at 40kmh maybe more I realised how the weight of my belongings impacted my ability to slow down before a series of S bends… Scary but also very exciting 🙂  

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Now at the bottom I quickly found the route and the sun was shining.

The Rur led me through some beautiful parts of this area which most people probably never see and the houses were amazing. I want to live here!! 

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There were also small holiday homes/static caravans so everyone has the chance to enjoy this place.

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I followed the route and came to the Eiffel lake. This is the larger man-made lake in Germany and was a joy to cycle around – even though I went left when I should have gone right! An extra 5k and dirt tracks which can be annoying on a road bike as everything gets stuck in the guards. 

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Once I’d gently meandered around the lake I came to a junction where I was a little confused. I asked a hotel nearby and the reception advised me to go on the road… This was my second mistake although a great challenge looking back now 🙂  

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The cycle route take you around the hills whereas I was now going over the top. The added challenge was the bikers who wanted to zoom round and kiss the apex on the bends – sadly my slow ass was around the corner they didn’t want to kiss that. One biker ended up on the wrong side of the road .. Then on every time I heard someone screaming thought the hills I would pull over and let them pass and then continue.

Made it!! 

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After more hills I saw the end and a 7% drop into Kall 🙂 

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I was now ready to rest and decided to find a cap ground. I quickly found one and headed to it.

Turned out there is no campground and the number I had called kept calling me a speaking in German…erm plan B required.

After asking a number of people who didn’t have any alternative apart from heading the opposite direction, I spotted a group on young lads sat smoking on the edge of a subway and asked them for help!

One of the lads said “are you British?” And he had a strong American accent!! He was German/American and offered a simple solution.. Cycle 3km more and there are woods galore! 

So this is where I slept.

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I was facing west so watched the sunset and nestled in for a nice sleep 🙂 

Thanks American boy!! Haha

Next stop was Bonn which was a flat route and the sun was shining…. Stay tuned 🙂 

Monschau….or should I say monsoon :-(

So after having a long rest and enjoying some sleep, meditation and food I was ready for my next mission… I mentioned in my last post that I had decided to amend my route to miss out cologne and head to Monschau…

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However I was worried about heading to a valley, in that part of Germany carrying the equivalent of a teenager on my bike! The picture above looks like I actually have someone bundled on the back!

I mentioned this to the campsite manager who disappeared off and came back with a map of the fennbahn – a gentle route to Monschau. What a guy and I’m so glad I chatted with him 🙂

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The fennbahn has been around for maybe 2 years and uses the old railroad built by the Germans during the war.

So armed with this map I had to find the start…

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I asked a young girl who wasn’t sure and out of nowhere came Lucian. This guy was amazing and had been to Monschau the day before! He turned his bike around and said he would escort me to the start of the route!! We chatted about all sorts and went past his house. He offered some food but I had to set off so gratefully declined. Thank you Lucian, you are a legend!! 🙂

Off I went to Monschau and an hour in the rain started 😦 

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And more rain which is why my camera stayed in my bag and I just plodded on… I only took pictures where I hid from the rain!

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The route was amazing and had it have been a nicer day I would have lots of pictures.

I would recommend this to anyone and of course the beautiful town of Monschau…

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I pushed my bike from the bottom of the valley up to the castle to stay at a youth hostel. This took all my strength – wet cobbles and steep hills…

Sorry fully booked!!! Arrrrgh

Back down to the bottom, I decided I wouldn’t pay €60-100 for a hotel and went searching for some woods…

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This was my camp. Half packed up as there was too much rain to take a picture before.

Next day would be even wetter and I got absolutely drenched. I mean even my bergen waterproof rucksack turned out not to be waterproof!

I decided to find the other youth hostel in Hagard and spend the day drying my kit and listening to around 40 10-14 year olds running around the hostel!

Next day was epic….Monschau to Euskirchen in glorious weather. Stay tuned! 🙂

Rain, wonderful people, beautiful routes…and more rain

Eindoven is a lovely place with plenty to explore. The wonderful Matthew Harris allowed me to stay with him for an extra day so i could replenish my strength and feel like a normal person for a change instead of a spandex bound, sweaty, rain soaked cyclist!wpid-wp-1409209153927.jpeg

after resting and chatting to Matthew about everything, I had my next destination in sight – Maastricht

Matthew joined me for the first few km as part of his morning run which was really nice and then set me on the cycle route armed with a list of the various numbered paths… Although i may have lost my way after 30 minutes or so and went back to my trusted compass!

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my navigation skills are limited at best…

Breakfast consisted of a baguette filled with an americano pate(?) and a took two pasty type things for snacks.

the route was lovely, very serene and relaxed although i was fighting a headwind all the way and, you guessed it more rain! 

i found a fruit shop with the tastiest fruit ive had for a while. I didn’t realise i had to ask for the fruit so was told not to go behind the counter! Oops again… A customer explained as the owner couldn’t speak English. This customer also said I needed wind up my behind… I’m guessing she meant the head/tail wind situation…hopefully 🙂

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Interestingly you could notice the difference in people once I crossed into Belgium…

110k later and just under 11 hours, I arrived at the location for the helpex farm i had seen.  

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my expectation was that i could turn up and help out, but this may have been a little naive on my part! Lesson – always plan ahead, which i don’t do so well as i don’t know when I will get somewhere…

it turned out the map location is not the farm so people like me don’t just turn up! Oops… I found a random guy who was an absolute legend. He and his Mexican wife invited me in for coffee and Mexican chocolate before trying to locate the actual address of the farm. They also said to come back of there were any problems and spoke to the farm…and printed a map of the route!! We chatted for ages.

Some people are so kind and generous – thank you! 

I stayed the night and had dinner which was really nice and much of it from the garden which made it extra special 🙂

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in the morning i joined the host for some tao yoga which felt amazing and took all aches and stress away. We then painted some of the room i stayed in and i helped move some furniture. I really wish i couldve stayed and learnt from this family – living the future I hope to have one day… I then set off for my next journey to Cologne…but after 110k the day before even Tao Yoga couldn’t give me the strength…plan B required!!!