It’s been several days since we made it back home. After a (rather foreseeable) collision with a big sledge hammer that had “back to reality” written all over it, I find it is time to give everyone a quick rundown of the randonnée. So get ready for some juicy statistics and some cheesy afterthoughts…
Itinerary: Manchester – Doncaster – Hull – Rotterdam Europoort – Den Haag – Driel – Münster – Eilshausen – Obershagen – Stendal – Berlin
Total distance covered: 1140 km
Duration: 9 days. Or, 222 hours and 36 minutes, to be precise.
As most of you will be aware of, that’s roughly 126,7 km per day. For me, that means 197332 crank revolutions over the entire course of the randonnée. And before anybody complains, I have taken the liberty to add a hundred revolutions for that very frightening moment on our journey to Münster when I was zipping downhill with 59 km/h and lost contact with the left pedal. Which brings us to my favourite section:
Top 5 mishaps and accidents:
I like this part of the final overview since I doubt I will be able to recall much more than five instances of misfortune. Let’s see:
1. That very frightening moment on our journey to Münster when I was zipping downhill with 59 km/h and lost contact with the left pedal. Don’t wanna imagine what could have happened then and there.
2. Ben running into me when I did an emergency stop at some crossing just before Doesburg.
3. Two punctures, one at the very end of our first day and one while riding along the Mittellandkanal.
4. One broken spoke.
5. One broken front rack. It was instantly repaired (and enhanced, I daresay) with some duct tape and a bungee cord. It now features full suspension and makes an excellent MacBook Air™ carrier.
And that’s all! See what I mean? Really, we were very lucky. None of the minor defects and nuisances we had to deal with on our tour led to any serious accident, and when Ben crashed into me he was able to control his fall perfectly thanks to years of martial arts training. There were some near death experiences though, mostly when (probably mentally challenged) drivers overtook us at an arm’s length or honked at us just because they are haters. But what can you do … I’d rather continue with another section I like:
What we learned on the way:
The finding I am most impressed with is that almost everybody likes touring cyclists and will try to help them whenever they can. I am overwhelmed with the hospitality of the people that offered us a place to stay overnight, but as a general rule, we could expect people to be very supportive and helpful – be it by giving us a special discount or by doing their very best to help us when we were lost. Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity!
In a technical sense, I learned that one can travel in Western Europe with minimal gear and equipment. I could have easily left half of what I carried back home, and I think we were already travelling very lightly. Also, with just a little ingenuity, a few drybags and some bungee cords, one can turn any bike into a tourer, as was demonstrated by Ben and his infinite configurations of strapping his luggage to his bike. Although it deserves mention that when following this minimalist approach, it is vital to carry high quality equipment. I was utterly impressed with the jacket Ben let me use for the tour. Not only was it as waterproof as a hardshell, but also breathable and comfy as a softshell. I could have left the latter at home without ever missing it, really.
Speaking of high quality equipment, we managed to finish our journey without cycling maps (the one we had for the UK was nigh useless so I’m not counting it) but I wouldn’t do it again. I cannot count the times we had to stop and try to figure out the next few steps using our phones. We lost so much time looking for cyclable roads or getting lost searching for that next sign indicating the cycling route to our next destination. It is safe to say that the constant stops were our major (and almost sole) source for frustration throughout the trip. So I learned my lesson and vow to never disembark on a similar trip without proper maps or even a GPS system again!
Last but not least, shorter and more flexible stages would have made the whole trip even more relaxing. With most stages being longer than 130 km, I was not able to update this journal en route, as our avid followers will have noticed with disappointment. That is one thing that I hope will work a lot better on future trips. À propos…
Plans for the future:
After spending almost two weeks of splendid companionship and camaradie, I think it is clear that this randonnée has not been the last. There are no precise plans as of yet, but ideas include a trip through Eastern Europe, surely with bicycles more suited to rough and harsh surfaces, and maybe a lot more self-sustained than this trip.
In any case, I will keep this site as a sort of cycling diary so there will be more information as I keep pedaling.