And So It Begins...

I'm riding from Cambridge to Warsaw on a bike I built from bits off the internet.  2,000km self-supported and solo.  This is almost certainly a Bad Idea™ but, having committed to it publicly (well, amongst my friends), there isn't really any escape.  

I had planned to do this in 2021 and I was going to go from Cambridge to Moscow.   However, a number of things conspired to make this a much harder enterprise than it might have been. Obviously the whole global pandemic thing made it pretty much impossible. There were times when one needed to self-isolate in a hotel for 10 days on entry to the Netherlands for example.  Given how quickly the pandemic rules changed, I had visions of being stuck for a week in some Soviet era hotel in Minsk living off potatoes.

The other issue which reared its head in 2022 was Vlad the Mad and Bad invaded Ukraine.  I was intending to ride there and get a flight back — I’m not such a complete idiot that I would do this trip both ways.  Banning flights from Russia within European airspace was another nail in the coffin of the big trip. I had also had a little dose of realism from Tim Moore’s book The Cyclist Who Went Out In The Cold. Tim’s books really inspired me to do a self supported long ride but this book opened my eyes to the trials and tribulations of cycling in the FSU.

So Cambridge to Warsaw it became.  Apart from the first bit from Cambridge to Harwich, I would be following the Eurovelo 2 route.  The Eurovelo organisation creates routes all over Europe which are, in some places, mapped and signed but in others are somewhat sketchy.  This is a very worthy cause and they do a good job at it.  However, their website is like something out of the 1990s and the map that you have to buy to get access to the GPS tracks is useless.  It's hard to overstate how clunky the whole thing is.  I suspect I will be doing some on-the-trip-mapping-and-route-finding...

So what do you need to do something like this apart from an irrational belief in your own immortality?  Surprisingly, some elements of the trip require much less planning than a typical group ride trip.  I know roughly which way I'm going but, beyond the first night on the ferry, I only have one hotel booked.  After that, I'm going to rely on stopping when I'm tired and finding a hotel room.  You just can't do that with 10 people.  It will also be nice to not have to do the, understandable, dance of negotiation and accommodation with other people.  If I feel good then I'll keep going longer, if I feel bad, I'll do a shorter day.  If I want to eat Chinese food or pizza five nights in a row, I'll do it.  

However much fun that will be, the much harder bit will be travelling for upwards of 14 days carrying everything I need.  During the day I'll be wearing my cycle gear and therefore all I'll need in the cycle bag is a pair of trousers, shoes, t-shirt to change into in the evening while I wash my cycling kit and dry it overnight.  Some very light toiletries and the cables and chargers I'll need for 

  • Bike power meter
  • Garmin
  • Phone
  • Watch
  • Headphones
  • iPad
  • Lights
Add in a really light bike lock, tools to fix the bike and a spare tube or two and the whole lot comes in at less than 4kgs.

Weight is everything on the bike especially on the hilly bits so I have spent as much time as possible trying to get the weight down.  The trousers I taking are horrid nylon monstrosities which weigh almost nothing but look like something a tramp would wear on a bad day.  There is a tiny nagging voice at the back of my mind reminding me that I could have eaten a bit less lard for a week and I could have taken much better trousers and still had the same "system weight".  

And, with that, I'm ready to go.  It's the day before I leave and I'm trying to work out what I am likely to have forgotten and wondering what the weather is going to be like.  I'm not very worried about anything but a little bit worried about everything.  Will the bike work properly for 2,000km, will my legs work for 2,000km, will I be able to find a place to stay each night, will I get crashingly bored and be forced to be one of those weird loners in hotels who strikes up conversations with strangers.  "Hi, I haven't spoken to anybody for four days, would you like to listen to a stream of gibberish about how sore my arse is?".  Not one of the classic conversational gambits.  

We will see how it goes.  Into the unknown...


  1. Hard to believe a wealthy, powerful international organization like Eurovelo has a sketchy website…. Good luck. Even money your frame gets stolen by gypsies for scrap before you exit Germany…


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