It was August, summer was running out and I felt a challenge creeping up on me. I’d played with the idea of biking through Europe before, but I didn’t actually think I’d go ahead with it. 6 weeks before setting off, I’d committed to bicycling from London Town to the island of Malta, a 2,000 mile distance, and as the fundraising started coming in, there was no turning back.
This left me very little time to train, plan or realise what I’d got myself into. The idea was to do it in 5 weeks and no later, which averaged out at about 60 miles per day. This did not take into account the sheer number of mountain ranges in my way, getting lost a lot, and the need for a day to rest, which I probably should have thought about beforehand. Sometimes it’s best not to think about what you’re doing and just do it.
My bike & bags weighed about 50 kgs, which took quite some getting used to, as well as the obvious lack of fitness which made the first two weeks exceptionally exhausting. My route went from London to Dover, Calais to Dunkirk, to follow the French side of the Eastern border all the way down via Lille, Nancy and Strasbourg to the brutal & stunning Alsace mountain range. By this point I was very stiff, and struggled to get back on the seat again. From there the Rhine took me down into Switzerland, along into the foothills of the Alps, with their towering peaks growing higher and higher. The Splügen pass took me over the top, which was a gruelling 60 km uphill battle, to finally reach the top at 2,117 metres high. The sheer joy of riding down the other side turned to fear as both brakes suddenly stopped working, but I did just about make it down.
Next was Lake Como, Milan and Genoa on the West coast of Italy and being overtaken by the many mad Italian drivers along the way. The coastline was incredible, with endless winding roads going past the CinqueTerre, Amalfi Coast, Calabria, Sicily and beyond. I’d initially promised (as an incentive to my friends) that if I’d raised over a certain amount of money, I’d bicycle nude for a short stretch of road (1km). As i’d gone well over this, I had to be a man of my word. I picked a quiet-ish road and jumped on the bike a la nude, only to be passed by several families and cars shouting with fists raised. I did my distance, got back into the lycra and was passed by two police cars about 30 seconds later. A very lucky escape.
I made it to the port of Pozzallo at the south of Sicily 1 day ahead of schedule, and then over the water to Malta, and that felt incredible. All in all, the trip was amazing. A great challenge, fun adventure and I was happy to do my part for CALM.
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