Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Europe Bike Tour: Summary

I've written this overly long series of entries to act as my personal diary of the trip. I sincerely believe it'll be tedious for anyone but me to read. Here are some of the photos with a catchy tune.

Yes, I stopped my trip before the end. I don't feel too guilty about it. I was on the road for almost exactly 2 months and, overall, I loved it. There were emotional ups and downs, but that's what makes cycle touring great. Over the months since I finished, I've had these flashes of places I visited. I've spent a lot of time trying to work out in my mind where various spots were in the geography of my ride.

I saw at least 4 snakes. In places, they basked on the road in the sun and would wriggle out of my way. The largest was in Croatia on the edge of the Danube. It was pretty long. I saw one in the Alps near Tarvisio, which I would've expected to be too cold for snakes. I'm less afraid of them now. I got a strong sense that they just want to be left alone by people.

In Croatia, I saw a lizard that was a vivid shiny blue and in Germany I cycled along a road that was covered in dozens of squashed frogs. In Croatia, I slept in a stork sanctuary. In France, I shared a freezing camping ground with a reindeer and in Germany tiny field mice scampered around near my feet.

Overall, I fell off my bike 4 times:

  • Twice in Italy around Udine, on cycle infrastructure that was unsuited to pouring rain
  • Once in Zagreb, riding up a dry river bed in the dark
  • One other time that I've forgotten - none caused injury
My body held up pretty well. I was extremely unfit and overweight when I started, and my daily distances were low. My distances improved after I climbed the Alps. I didn't suffer any injuries. Somehow in Germany I got a scratch on the tip of my nose that left a huge scab that made me look like a dog, but it healed.

Germany is probably my favourite place to cycle. There are good paths, the people respect cyclists, and there are camping grounds.

I completed a number of cycle paths, including the Neckar Radweg, Barbarossa Radweg, the Via Julia and the Alpe Adria. At the point where I stopped, I was cycling the eastern half of the mammoth Eurovelo 6 along the banks of the Danube. The Alpe Adria route was the nicest overall cycle path. Every country had its individual charms. Slovenia stood out for being remarkably green. I didn't love Serbia, but I hope to try it again some time.

The Trangia stove was great. The generator front hub was expensive junk, although its headlight was useful. I was disappointed with my Sealskin gloves, which were not warm or waterproof.

Equipment List (this is mostly just for my own use in future):


Re-purposed Fuji Sunfire, maybe 1995
2 x water bottle cages
1 x Topeak fuel bottle cage, attached with hose clamps
Mostly Deore parts
North Road handlebars
Ski jump bar ends (not useful)
Brooks saddle
Madison steel rear rack
Old Man Mountain front rack (too heavy, but can't find smaller that will fit)
Heavy Ortlieb tires
Shutter Precision USB hub

On bike:

2 x water bottle (ignore fancy, just buy water bottles from shop)
1 x 500ml meths bottle (1L, ideally, in future)
Sea to Summit dry bag containing:
   Old Macpac sleeping bag
Strip of elastic to attach dry bag
Black underseat bag (thrown away)
Ortlieb Back Roller panniers
Spare spokes in plastic bag, inside seat stem

Insulated Tesco food bag, generally containing:
   Small cordial
   Emergency meal (tuna, goulash, etc)
   Chocolate or biscuits
   Small bottle cooking oil
   Small bottle detergent
   Washing up cloth

Luggage strap (to attach food bag to rack)

Handlebar bag (old style strap attachment), containing:
   DSLR camera
   Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet
   CompactFlash cards
   Small pot moisturiser

Tool kit, containing:
   Allan keys
   Spare chain links
   Small adjustable spanner
   Puncture repair kit

(Next time, consider taking 2 x spare brake pads. Although they don't wear out instantly.)

Electronics bag, containing:
   Data card adaptor
   Various cables for USB hub /eWerk
   Cache battery
   Camera wall charger
   Tablet/phone wall charger

Left Ortlieb Back Roller pannier, containing:
   Macpac Microlight tent
   Thermarest bed roll
   Thermolite Reactor bag liner
   Silk bag liner
   Trangia 27 Hardanodized cookset
   Cooking tool roll:
      Vegetable peeler
      Can opener
      Sharp cooking knife
      Child-size knife, fork, teaspoon
      Wooden spatula
      Trangia handle
      Bottle opener

Right Ortlieb Back Roller pannier, containing:
   Sandals (In future, replace with jandals? outside compression sack)
   Lock and heavy cable
   Paper / notebook
   Sea-to-Summit fold-up washing bowl (average)
   Clothes bag (Snugpak compression sack):
      Sealskin gloves (useless in proper cold weather, not waterproof)
      Cycle gloves
      3 x undies (Icebreaker merino were best, double-layer are slow to dry when washed)
      2 x bib shorts
      Red cycle top
      Merino base top
      Merino (Icebreaker) heavy top
      Thermal leggings
      Thermal beanie
      Quick-dry travel shirt
      Quick-dry t-shirt
      Ground Effects trousers
      2 x Cycle socks
      Heavy merino socks
      Scarpa Mojito half-boots
      Neck buff

Next time, consider waterproof leggings

Ortlieb end pocket:
   Chain break
   Strong plastic shopping bags
   Inner tube

Medical supplies:
   Various sizes of band aids
   Gauze pads/wrap
   Medical tape
   Savlon cream
   Bite cream
   Baby wipes

Toilet kit (clear plastic bag for flying with liquids):
   Small toothpaste
   Razor (in holder)
   Shaving cream
   Chap stick

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