Friday, April 12, 2013

I am now blogging at

Read about how I cycled the length of the Rhine in 13 days.

Starting April 2013 I'm blogging at where you can find a new extended version of this blog as well as my other two wheeled trips.

In May 2013 I will be cycling from John O'Groats to Lands End.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Riding the Rhine - some more photos from the trip

I wasn't particularly good at taking photo's on the trip.

I started out with enthusiasm - but long days and distances often provided a powerful dis-incentive for stopping, unfurling dry bags to get at the camera - or anything much else that would have impeded progress.
If I do another trip like this I will definitely take some kind of bar bag to make access to essential items (phone, camera, wallet, haribo) a little easier.

The road through Decentis, looking back at the mountains where I had decended from the top of the Oberalp Pass.
More views heading down the valley from the Oberalp Pass.

Chur City Centre. Very Swiss.

Rorschach Harbour. I sat here outside a Thai restaurant watching fireworks on Swiss National / Yorkshire Day. 
At the time I did not realise I was in Konstanz in Germany.

On the way from Kreuzlingen and Konstanz down the top-most section of the Rhine to Shaffhausen. This was probably the prettiest section of the river.

Old building in Shaffhausen. Don't know what it was.

Basel old town

Mending a puncture on the road I should not have ridden in France.

Catching the ferry to the opposite bank, on the evening I ended up cycling through woodland to reach Goddelau.

Best lunch menu, in Mainz. Might be why I broke a spoke straight afterwards.

View accross the Rhine on the run up to Koblenz.

German Corner in Koblenz where the Mosel joins the Rhine.

Mel would have been amused by this.

Breakfast in Koln.

Koln Cathedral and the tower I climbed on my 'day off''.

The bridge over the Rhine between Kleve and Emmerich. Little did I know I would be coming back the same way within an hour.

The main square in Nijmegen, which was full of Saturday night revellers when I cycled through the first time just after midnight when I was desperate for a hotel room.

Day 12-13 Gronichem to Hoek van Holland and the end of the Rhine

Reaching the end of the Rhine, the strand at Hoek van Holland.
I set out from Gronichem at 1pm for the shortest days riding so far - just 47km.

At least it should have been, but for an incorrect signpost that gave me a 6km round trip into a dead-end road running along the wrong side of the motorway.

It looked there had once been access to an underpass, but I wasn't about to try scaling the 12ft fence with razorwire.

That sort of thing had got me into trouble before.

Arriving in Rotterdam I promptly jumped on a train to Amsterdam where I'd arranged to meet a friend from our round the world travels for dinner and a few beers.

I've been to Amsterdam a number of times, but never had the luxury of my own bike - and what a difference it really does make. Everywhere can be reached within just a few minutes, and the dutch transport system really does favour the cyclist above all other modes of transport.

When cycling is safe and convenient, it is without a doubt the best way of getting around.

I woke quite early the next morning, with only one thing on my mind. I could not go back to sleep without doing something about it.

Where on earth was my bike?

I'd ridden to meet Chrissy the evening before, and after having a few drinks sensibly started walking back with the bike. However part way home and needing an excuse to use the toilet facilities of a bar, I'd inadvertantly stopped for another drink.

The only problem was that when I left the bar went to retrieve my bike it wasn't quite where I thought I had left it, and despite a further 30 minutes of searching every available bike stand within a reasonable radius of where I thought it was, I just couldn't find it.

I'd decided to leave it until daylight, hoping that and a clearer head would improve my chances.

I didn't really think my bike had been stolen - it was secured with a very good lock - but in a city where millions of bicycles are chained up at any given moment not knowing where it is was was tantamount to pretty much the same thing.

I was so worried I even formulated an alternate strategy for completing the ride.

It involved buying the cheapest wackiest bike I could find and riding it to Hoek van Holland for the final 32km of the ride. For some reason I had a bright green tricycle in mind.

So, at 7.15am the next morning I set about looking for my missing bike.

I find it utterly amazing that what I could not find it 30 minutes of looking the previous evening, I was able to find so easily within 30 seconds of starting to look in the same location in daylight. It was still very early morning but I was so elated I did what anyone else would have done.

I decided to join in the morning commute for a bike ride around Amsterdam and Vondel Park.

It was the first time in ages that I had ridden any distance without the weight of panniers, and the cycling was easy, brisk and enjoyable. I ended up spending the entire morning cycling round Amsterdam, and really enjoyed it despite these not being kilometers I needed to complete.

Lunch, a quick tour of Chrissy's new offices and it was time to head back to Rotterdam to pick up the trail for the final leg of the journey.

On the way I recieved a message from another friend enquiring 'on an off chance' whether I would be in Rotterdam that evening as she would be there on business.

We planned to meet for a quick beer, but in the end an incident involving the zipper on a skirt (which I don't yet fully understand) prevented us from connecting. It sounds like it will be an interesting story when I get to hear it.

I headed out of Rotterdam at 6.30pm last night, with just 28km separating me from my goal.

This time I didn't get lost once, and I took the bike as far as I could reaching the strand (beach) just before 8.30pm.

It had been a fairly overcast day, but the sun was starting to make some interesting colours in the sky to provide one last photo opportunity for the trip.

It felt really good to have completed the distance, but just a little bit sad not to be carrying on.

Distances covered, 53km and 32km (85km total)
Time, 2hrs 20mins (all ride time)
Total distance covered, 1667km

The keen eyed amongst you will notice that the total distance means I have covered over 1,000 miles in a total of 15 days (of which 13 were ride days).

I would like to thank you all for your generous donations, which have taken the total to over £2,800 plus gift aid as I write this.

It just needs twelve more people to donate 1p for each kilometer cycled, and we will reach the £3,000 mark. If you haven't already donated and would like to, please click the link for the Just Giving page.

I had a few problems uploading images while on the road (entirely because of my own lack of planning), so I will post a round-up later today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 11 - Nijmegen to Gorinchem, clogging it along the dijks

I've no idea what time I would have eventually woken up on Sunday if the maid at the hotel hadn't knocked on the door to see if she could clean the room at 11am.

Still it gave me an hour to slowly surface before check out.

Yesterday's epic meant I was getting relatively close to the end now, so I could look forward to a couple of more relaxing days on the bike.

I set out after a late lunch for the relatively short ride to Gronichem.

Mission control had informed me that the driving distance was around 63km, so I could take it easy.

I decided to follow the dijk on the north bank of the Rhine, and the first 10km was very pleasant and relaxing until I reached a roadblock. As I got closer I realised that a longish section of pathway was closed because of an organised bike race, and a couple of minutes later around 50 riders whizzed past to complete a lap.

I now had a bit of a dilemma, as I could see people being directed to wheel their bikes down the steep grassy bank and then along a bumpy dirt/grass track at the bottom of the dijk to avoid the closed section. I wasn't desperately keen on that as the bike is quite heavy when fully loaded, and I was also trying to avoid any further off-road adventures in order to preserve the rear wheel.

I spotted another guy wheeling his bike along the side of the closed section, stepping back onto the gras verge each time the race came through. If it was good enough for him it was good enough for me.

I nipped through the barriers when the race steward was looking the other way, and started making my way along the course stepping back and pulling my bike onto the grass each time the race passed through.

It wasn't until I got the other end and spotted him talking to a steward that I realised I had been following the lead of the official race photographer. Oops.

The rest of the ride passed without incident, although it did take me rather longer than I'd expected due to the distance along the dijk being about 20k longer than the official road route.

I arrived into Gronichem with a bit more time to relax and enjoy the city than usual.

Distance, 83km (est)
Time, 4hrs, 50mins (4hrs 20mins ride time)
Total distance covered so far, 1582km

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 10 - Moving north from Cologne

I'd spent my rest day in Cologne doing a little shopping, and some sightseeing including the rather strenuous cathedral climb.

A mere 522 steps.

Perhaps not the bext way of relaxing my weary legs, but the views were amazing.

The evening before resuming the ride I went to Peter's Brauhaus to sample some of the local Kolsche (the local beer in Cologne).

I had 8 beers.

That might seem like a bit much for someone needing to be hydrated for a long cycle ride the next morning, but the thing about Kolsche is that it is served in 200ml glasses, so it was only 3 pints really. The waiters continually walk around with large roundels filled with fresh glasses of beer, so despite sounding like an inconvenient quantity, the refills usually arrived immediately, and the score is kept by marking your beermat.

The traditional accompaniment of Kolsche Kaviar was not as fishy as it sounded.

It was black pudding, but poached rather than fried and served cold with raw onions. Interesting, but not as good as the English, French and Spanish versions.

I had a big ride planned for Saturday, so made sure I was properly hydrated before leaving the hotel at 8am.

I was making very good progress for the first 90 minutes, before the cycle track turned to dirt, then dirt tracks and finally just a grass field.

I must have missed a turning, and even worse than that I was in another nature reserve, my traditional means of getting lost. I didn't get lost this time, but instead found a route out to the road and slowly rode my bike along it in fear of my delicate spokes.

I was half way back to the road when the wheel suddenly buckled again.

I'd broken another spoke.

This time the bike was at least a little more rideable, and I made it to the 35km point without any further issues before stopping for breakfast. Chatting to some locals it became clear there was no bike shop in town so I was forced to push on, eventually arriving 12km later in Neusse where I set about finding a bike shop.

It was just before midday, so I used the downtime to good effect grabbing an early lunch while they worked on my bike, and at 1pm I was ready to roll again.

I took a route slightly inland through Krefeld, and then using the sun for direction up through a large area of nature reserve arriving early evening in Xanten having covered another 89km.

The final 37km to Kleve was completed in double quick time, and I arrived at 7.30pm hardly feeling tired at all - despite having covered 173km.

I wasn't very impressed by Kleve.

Despite being a staurday night in a fairly large town the place was completely dead, and very uninspiring. So, after a 20 minute cycle around I decided I would be better placed heading to Emmerich on the east bank, and felt confident I had another 11km in my legs.

Arriving in Emmerich I stumbled a huge event going on that involved a 150 strong brass band playing in the main square, carrying flaming torches and a bustling promenade along the Rhine.

In short I had discovered life.

Unfortunately life came at a cost, and despite my best efforts over the course of an hour I could not find a single empty hotel room in town for the evening.

I reluctantly headed back to Kleve, looking forward to a hot shower, food and a cold beer wherever it was.

Every single hotel room in Kleve (which has very few hotels) was full as well. I couldn't believe it, and in all my travels round the world this has never happened before.

By now it was 10pm and I had no choice but to head out into the night and continue the journey.

At 11pm I reached the first small town just over the dutch border where I found a small takeaway mopping the floors and getting ready to shut for the evening. I had no idea how long I was going to be riding for, so I needed some food.

They say everyone in Holland speaks good English, but not here.

They were however happy enough to give me some chips and engage in a game of charades, during the course of which I managed to learn that there was a hotel 1.5km down the road in the town centre proper.

I was feeling more positive when I set off down the road at 11.20pm, only to have my hopes dashed yet again by the owner of the hotel. No room at the inn.

Could this really be happening?

She advised me to head for the City of Nijmegen, some 18km away. She obviously thought it was a long way at that time of night, but compared to the distance I'd already put in I was happy to do it if it meant getting a bed for the evening.

Another hour of riding and I arrived to a bustling Saturday night out, with hundreds of people sat in cafes lining the main square - the kind of life I had not seen in the whole journey so far - the Swiss and Germans being a much more reserved bunch.

This was more like a Saturday night out in Camden.

My hotel search didn't start particularly well, with the first couple of hotels also full, but I sought the advice of a taxi driver who pointed me in the direction of the Mercure at the train station.

I checked in at 12.25am, showered and went out for a pint.

I really needed it.

Distance, 223kms (not including hotel searching)
Time, 16hrs 25mins (14hrs 30mins ride time)
Total distance so far, 1499km's
Pints needed, 4

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 9 - Koblenz to Cologne, the day I hit the wall

Would a straighforward day be too much to hope for?

The signs were good as I set out.

I made a quick stop at German Corner where the Mosel meets the Rhine, being extra careful to take the right waterway on this occassion.

I wearing totally clean clothes having managed to get my laundry done, it was a nice cool morning and I was rested and relaxed. What could go wrong?

On paper nothing, but as I approached the end of the first two hours ride I suddenly started to feel very weak. 10 minutes later I had to pull up as all my energy had gone.

I was slightly aware of only having had a light evening meal and a roll for breakfast while washing my clothes (rather than the usual plate of bread and cheeses) so deployed a tactical portion of emergency Haribo Gold Bears.

They didn't work.

The lift only lasted 5 minutes, before I had to pull over again at a Gasthouse for a much longer than usual lunch break and a large lunch with a couple of half litre cokes (purely for medicinal purposes). I was still feeling a bit shaky, but managed to push on for another hour after lunch before I had to stop again.

At this stage I was fearing a case of food poisoning.

It was time to look for another solution and I focused on getting as much water inside me as possible.

The effect was almost immediate, and whereas I had laboured through the first 40km in 3hrs, back on form I was able to complete the remaining 64km to Cologne in the same time.

I'd struggled a bit with hydration for the first couple of days, and I think I'd got a bit complacent after having no problems for the last few days and it had just caught up with me.

I arrived in Cologne to find half the city out enjoying the sunshine along the banks of the Rhine, lying on the grass, eating and drinking in cafe's with street performers and skateboarders providing the entertainment.

I was looking forward to my rest day, and keen to get out and explore what looks like a great city.

Distance, 104km
Time, 7hrs 20mins (6hrs ride time)
Total distance so far, 1276km

If I look at the original intended distance, I should almost be done by now. However there is still another 380km of 'official' route to go, which I hope to complete in 3-4 days once I recommence. 

The main gremlin is the extra kms caused by route errors, but I also think that the official distance is mis-stated on the website. It should probably be pointed out that EV15 isn't an official end-to-end route until 2013, so I imagine there will be some revisions when it goes live.

Where I can I am using stated distances on official signed cycle routes which invariably add up to more than the official EV15 distance for a leg. I'm adding in distances from mission control, and estimates based on ride time where I need to.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 8 - Goddelau to Koblenz on a spoke and a prayer

I started mid-morning and in the first two hours made 40km of good progress along fast smooth cycle tracks to the city of Mainz.

I stopped for an amazing 15 euro set lunch at a yacht club on the bank of the Rhine. It was incredible value and one of the best meals of the trip so far.

I was making giood progress, free from the directional issues that had plagued me the previous morning, and set off again at 1.45pm.

However today the issues would all be mechanical.

I couldn't have been more than 10 mins into the afternoon's ride when I heard a sickeningly familiar clanking from the rear wheel.

I'd broken another spoke.

At least this time it hadn't wedged itself in the derailleur, and I was in a city full of bikes and bike shops. The only problem was finding one that could fit me in for an unscheduled repair. It took four attempts, but eventually I found one and got work underway.

It seems there is an underlying radial problem with the wheel, but they hoped that by replacing the spokes immediately either side of the broken one that the repair would hold this time.

We shall see.

So it wasn't until 3.30pm that the mission for the day could resume, and I set out to complete the further 100km to Koblenz.

The section of the Rhine just beyond Mainz was pretty industrial, but after 15km or so it gave way to open countryside and then beyond  Bingen (the end of stage 4) the valley sides steepened and I was into a long section of picture postcard perfect town's overlooked by castles as the Rhine flowed beneath.

The riding was also pretty good, with smooth surfaces and long sections in shade that enabled me to put in a steady 25kmph average.

With the unscheduled repairs I hadn't been sure whether I could make it to Koblenz, but arrive I did just before 9pm and checked into my hotel.

I wasn't sure how I felt about being assigned room 101, but let's hope it's not an omen for the rest of the journey.

Distance, 140km
Time 10hrs 20mins (8hrs 20mins ride time)
Total distance so far, 1172kms