Not all borders are open to tourists…

Climbing out of Risan above the bay of Kotor, Montenegro

I was up and out at sun rise, leaving the rented apartment in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and the relaxed holiday atmosphere for a slightly ambitious adventure. My wife had flow out to the start of my bike tour and rented an apartment, making this first day of cycling luggage free, before setting off for real (and fully loaded) tomorrow. We’d made dinner reservations for the evening to make the most of us both being in Croatia, all I had to do was make it back in time. Continue reading

The Dragon Ride – Dragon Devil Route – 305km

The Dragon Devil route is a long and hilly day in the saddle. And when I say day, I mean all day!

For me a cycling event is not a “challenge” unless I’m unsure if I can actually finish it, that’s the point of a challenge right? It has to be personally challenging. Many sportives pick a route of similar length to a cycling club’s Sunday ride and give you a medal at the end. Now to many that is a challenge (everybody is different, lets not get elitist here) but I have enough confidence in my abilities to know that I could finish an 80 or 100mile (160km) route even if it has a lot of climbing. The Dragon Ride offered something I found truly challenging, the longest single day route; the Dragon Devil offering  189 miles (305km) with something like 4000m of climbing. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounded pretty daunting. That would be one sportive medal I would be proud to earn.

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White Peak – Peak District – My New Favourite Cycling Route

Beautiful road descending into Glutten Bridge

This is probably my favourite ride, not just in the Peak District, but probably in England. I like to think of it as a ride through the quiet back roads of the White Peak, the mainly Limestone valleys of the South and West of the National Park. I love a single track road with grass growing out of the middle, I love the deserted lanes where Sheep and Ramblers are the main traffic problem. In one of the most visited National Parks in the UK it is still possible to feel in the middle of nowhere and do some pretty amazing riding too.  Continue reading

900 Miles With a Homemade Tent

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Camping beside Lake Como Italy. I’d crossed the Swiss Alps with a homemade tent

I had this preconceived idea of what bicycle based adventures would be like before I’d even done one. I dreamt of freedom, 100s of miles of beautiful winding back roads and setting up my wild camp as the sun started to set. Before setting off on my first adventure I channeled my enthusiasm into riding a lot, getting fitter; and spent many evenings making my own tent to spend the night in. I wanted to cycle Lands End (South West England) to John O’groats (North East Scotland), and I wanted to do 100 miles a day with wild camping  every night (wild camping is not technically legal in England where most of the journey would take place).

I was not adverse to buying a nice lightweight tent, I just couldn’t afford the ones I wanted. All I wanted was a small lightweight tent, something around 1kg. Less material should mean less money, but we all know that’s not how things work; less is often so much more! So whilst I wouldn’t be able to come up with something of professional quality, making it myself would keep it within my tiny budget and I also had a few ideas about saving excess weight, it all made perfect sense at the time. This is the story of the homemade tent, to act as a warning to many and inspiration to the brave – 900 miles with a homemade tent.   Continue reading

Ireland, The Highlights – Ireland Part 3

Cycling the majority of the Wild Atlantic Way, from Cork to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. Here are some of the highlights of the 1089 mile journey:

The Beer

You can’t visit Ireland and not drink a few pints of the black stuff. Apparently it’s for strength and it’s good for you. I drank a few of these along the way and I made it to the end, so it didn’t hinder my progress too much.

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Guinness Brewery, Dublin

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Cycling the wild places – Ireland Part 2 

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The Burren, wet and gale force winds but still stopping to take photos after camping in a storm in Doolin

The West Coast of Ireland (Wild Atlantic Way), a wild and rugged coastline, battered and eroded by huge waves and driving storms. Littered with islands, lighthouses and wildlife. There is certainly plenty to see here: whales, dolphins, puffins, 20,000 gannets, you can even go looking for Luke Skywalker (I didn’t manage see him on my boat trip to the Skelligs).

The landscape of this coastline has been shaped by its weather, and in my opinion the unpredictability of the weather actually adds something to the excitement of cycling here. Continue reading

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail! – Ireland Part 1

There were many things that I worried about in preparation for my 1000+mile cycling trip around Ireland. My trusty Tubus steel rack was looking a little worse for wear after five winters of commuting, so was promptly upgraded to a corrosion resistant titanium one. I had a last minute panic to replace the rear derailleur hours before I set off because it was a bit stiff and not changing properly, an issue that just days ago I thought would be fine with the help of some WD40. Continue reading

Castelli 24 Ore (Hour) Race – Feltre, Italy

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“Do you fancy doing a 24 hour race in Italy?” Just sounded like a better experience than “are you doing the crit on Tuesday night? looks like it might rain”. Not that I had to choose between one or the other, but I personally needed something a bit more exotic to inspire me to keep cycling/training through the depths of the British winter. The Castelli 24 Ore (hour) race in Feltre, Italy; on the edge of the Dolomites national park, is a criterium race run on a 1.9km circuit in the centre of the city. The race runs for 24 hours and can be ridden either solo or as part of a team (8 – 12 people).   Continue reading

The Best of The Peak District

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Mortimer Road, some of the best tarmac in the country?

If you had to show one of your oldest cycling friends one route to show off the best of your local National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, what would you include? It had better be good to make it worth them travelling over for, and there had better be some cake stops and a pub lunch! Hills bring stunning views and descents, and we’d want some tight twisting descents as well as epic fully tucked charges. This varied route through the North of the Peak District National Park is littered with reservoirs and takes in what could arguably be one of the best bits of tarmac in the whole country: Tarmac initially laid for the Tour De France Grand Depart (but with the entire 16km section of Mortimer road now being freshly laid and unbelievably smooth). Continue reading

You never forget your first Alp

38049_450370416647_7732161_nThere is something special about your first Alpine pass. The moment you experience the scale of the challenge, dwarfing all those local neighbourhood climbs you once feared. Climbing in dense cloud I was oblivious to the scale of the challenge throughout, as I couldn’t see the summit at any point, but that didn’t detract from the experience. This is the story of my first mountain pass, the Sustenpass in Switzerland, a Hors Catégorie climb (“beyond categorization” or incredibly difficult). I should point out that I knew nothing at all about the climb prior to attempting it, it was just in the way, and going around it didn’t look to be an option.  Continue reading

Planning the next adventure

Christmas is here and we’re supposed to put our feet up, eat a lot and have a drink or 2. This enforced break from work also gives plenty of time to reflect on your year, and plan for next. A few days of sitting around talking to friends and family and the relaxed mind starts to form new ideas and new challenges. A few drinks with old friends can turn into a sportive/race/challenge recruitment drive followed by a drunken bet and before you know it you’re looking at the cost of flights or ferries and checking out google maps. Welcome the excitement of planning adventures.  Continue reading

Sognefjellsvegen – Norway

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Glaciers on the summit of the Sognefjell

“Oh you’re heading North? Over the Sognefjellsvegen? Wow, Good luck!” the man said, as I borrowed some change for the showers at the camp site. I’m just over 540km into my journey (not yet half way), and tomorrow I’ll ride the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe. In 36 degree heat; carrying all my camping kit, cooking equipment, food and clothes more suited to typical Norwegian weather than the record breaking temperatures I’m sweltering in.  Continue reading