Day 14: Łowicz to Warsaw

  • Distance: 89km 😄
  • Average Speed: 21.2km.h ☹️ — blame the Warsaw traffic
  • Legs: 🙂
  • Undercarriage: 🙂
  • Bike: ☹️
Because I only had 90k to go today, I was hoping to sleep in and start later than usual.  Unknown to me, today was a very big religious holiday in Poland and the two churches in Łowicz decided to have a bell ringing contest at 6:30am.  For quite a long time.

I hauled myself out of bed and, for the last time, applied SudoCrem to my “soft tissues”, stuffed my things into the desolation-bean and pulled on some slightly damp Lycra.  I had hoped that I might be able to do something better with the bean today but there weren’t a lot of options with only one remaining strap.  Ho hum, it’s only 90k…
More of the same

The morning was a reprise of all of the greatest hits of the previous days on the bike.  After the (now traditional) pull uphill out of town I was back on the flat plains of Poland pedalling against the headwind that had plagued me since the German border.  I once again stopped at a petrol station for morning coffee, drank bad coffee and ate a Twix.

By now, my natural habitat

One thing I’d noticed over the entire trip but never had a chance to mention is to do with listening to music on the bike.  Music and/or podcasts are essential on trips like this to help you grind out the kilometres and stop you going mad with all the straight farm roads.  AirPods are fantastic for this since they have a transparent mode which helps you hear the thundering truck barrelling up behind.  However, the wind noise makes the music harder to hear and often when a song starts your brain doesn’t quite latch onto the key of the song for the first 30 seconds or so.  Because you think that the tonal centre is somewhere else in the song you listen to a lot of music in the wrong “mode”. Thin Lizzy in the Phrygian mode sounds very odd until, suddenly, the correct tonal centre resolves.  It’s very similar to when your brain resolves an optical illusion.  Ok, I’ve got that out of my system.  Sorry.

More long straight roads and the distance to Warsaw gradually ticked down

🎶Woah oh we’re half way there🎶

Although it doesn’t really add much to the narrative at this point, I think it’s definitely worth including another picture of some geodesic-straight Polish farm roads.

You can tell this sort of thing made an impression on me.

“Geodesic” = shortest distance between two points on a manifold with a metric and, while we’re on the maths for the last time, I did have a question about the sunflower thing from yesterday.  There’s a fantastic Numberphile video which explains why flowers have the golden ratio in them and why its the most irrational of irrational numbers.  Highly recommended and well worth 11 minutes of your time.  Mathematics is beautiful sometimes.

Gradually the roads got busier, the villages became towns and the towns merged together into one long suburb.  Bikes turned back into objects of sport — Lycra clad fit looking men and women whizzed past me on high end bikes — rather than being objects of transport — me whizzing past farmers on ratty old mountain bikes with chickens and vegetables tied on the back.  For the final time, imaginary Sean Kelly mumbled “Kirk’s been pushing one hundert per cent for the last number of kilometres and oi think the day is over for the chasing group of 75 year old farmers”.

The cycling infrastructure of paths and cycleways got better although stopping at the never ending traffic lights lowers your average speed a lot.

It’s a long way from Cambridge to here

Now I was 5km from the centre of Warsaw and, of course, the kidney-bean of frustration had one final trick up its sleeve.  The last functional strap gave way and the bean was rubbing on the back tyre.
You bastard

I tied the broken ends of what was left of the straps together and rooted around in my bag for my — hitherto unused — front light.  I attached it to the seat post just under the bag and it supported the bean a scant 5mm above the wheel.  It would do.

4km and the bean was holding if I ignored a small amount of tyre scraping when I bumped up and down kerbs.  3km, 2km, 1km…and then I ran into the back of the Polish Army.
An unexpected blockage on the road

In the distance on the right, you can see the Hotel Bristol which was my finish point.  I wasn’t going to walk the final 500m so I cycled down the pavement — something which irritates the hell out of me when people do it in Cambridge and then…I was there and my friend Ewa was waiting to take this photograph.

And then I burst into tears.  Which was unexpected.

The Hotel Bristol was fantastically good.  The room I’d booked wasn’t ready so they put me in the suite which is, I think, the largest hotel room I’ve ever been in.  I paced it out and it was 18m by 10m.  I could have almost cycled my bike round it.

Ewa had arranged for my bike bag to be shipped to the Hotel Bristol and inside I had stashed some fresh new clothes and shoes.  After a shower and an inspection of my impressive tan lines I was good to go out not wearing my Angela Merkel trousers and a ratty old t-shirt which hadn’t been washed in 6 days.
Velominati Rule #7.

Ewa had very kindly arranged for us to drive out to her house just outside Warsaw and have dinner with her Mum and her extended family.  Fabulous home made potato dumplings, meat, the best gherkins I had ever tasted — which Ewa’s Mum makes herself.  Toasts of whisky, Ewa’s mum crying, me crying, Ewa doing simultaneous translation…it was wonderful and overwhelming.  

In a final little coda to the trip, it turns out that the Polish national velodrome is in Ewa’s home town.  On the way back to Warsaw we stopped and — for the first time in my life — I walked on a velodrome track.
I wanted to have a go

No brakes, no gears, no freewheel.

I got back to the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.  Now I have a day sightseeing in Warsaw with Ewa before returning to Cambridge and then to Mallorca.  I’ll have to learn all over again how to make conversation, not eat like a teenager, not smear my soft tissues with SudoCrem every morning, not to get coffee from petro-stations.  It’s going to be a challenge.

So the trip is done but this isn’t quite the last blog I’ll do on this trip.  I think one more as an overview of the countries, the route, the kit I took, and the kit I wish I hadn’t taken.

Overall, I had done 1,725km.  To put that in perspective, it’s like cycling round Dwayne Johnson’s biceps over 3 million times.  I had expended just under 36 megajoules of energy which, if I ignore air resistance and mechanical inefficiency is enough energy to accelerate me and the bike to about 4,000 km/h or enough potential energy to get me to the top of Everest.  I had turned my legs round 412 thousand times.

It’s time to stop cycling for a bit.


  1. Congratulations. What an epic journey.

  2. "Because you think that the tonal centre is somewhere else in the song you listen to a lot of music in the wrong “mode”. Thin Lizzy in the Phrygian mode sounds very odd until, suddenly, the correct tonal centre resolves. It’s very similar to when your brain resolves an optical illusion. Ok, I’ve got that out of my system." I'm so glad that's not just me.

  3. Belated congratulations Ewan. An epic, amazing trip, so well described. Enjoy your well-earned break! Paul.


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