Pedal Challenge Europe – The highs and lows (so far)

Six miles. That’s the furthest distance Kellie had pedalled on a bicycle, before this European cycling trip (or honeymoon) we’ve embarked upon. I‘m not too far ahead, with 16 miles.

The aim is to get from Amsterdam to Florence, via The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Yesterday, on our seventh day of riding, we managed 45 miles, our biggest distance so far, riding from Antwerp to Gent.

pedal drempelsThere may be bumps ahead

It’s not a huge amount I know. But our burning thighs and heavy eyes, scream that it is. Sleep is not a problem each day, staying awake is.

The whole thing is ridiculous concept for two extremely unseasoned cyclists, the idea dreamt up by Kellie in a moment of madness. I think she regretted it the moment the words left her mouth, “let’s cycle Europe”. I immediately said, “YES”. Her face instantly replied OH SHIT!

The weight of it all

Without being too cruel to our much-loved Donkey (our bike), he is the cheapest tandem bicycle we could find. We could have quite easily called him Elephant due to his immense weight. But his wheels go round, and that’s all that matters.

Then there is at least at least 35-40kg of luggage, gear and food that we carry with us each day.

Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention we did no training for this. Zilch! We thought any amount of training would just scare us.

It’s a world away from the comfortable house sitting gigs we’ve had for the last 16 months. But sometimes it’s a necessity to escape your comfort zone.

We sped (not sure that’s the correct term for our snail pace) through the Netherlands in the matter of days, cracking a smile as we passed the België sign. The realisation finally hitting home that we are actually doing this, CYCLING EUROPE!!

pedal-Belgie

Pedal Challenge

When we hit Belgium, the wind formed a barrier. “You shall not pass!” seemed to be its message, but we creaked on ever so slowly for two days. Although the question of, “what the fridging hell are we doing?” was on both our lips.

Then we arrived at our accommodation each night, completely knackered, but happy. We did it! We made it through the day.

For us it is a big challenge, but one which we desperately need. Each day we wake up and have a goal, to get from A to B. On rest days we get the glorious pleasure of doing nothing, or taking in the city sights, or eating the delicious local pastries (Kel hates me a bit for this as her parasite recovery stops her from doing it, she has to watch me stuff my face).

pedal-street-antwerp pedal-antwerp-flagAntwerp is definitely one of our unexpected highlights so far

pedal-calories-cake

Not having a function each day was something I often struggled with when house sitting. I set targets, like learning to make websites, or attempting to learn a new language, but these came up short to this current physical challenge.

Maybe I’m weird, but there is nothing more satisfying than being physically exhausted at the end of the day rather than mentally drained.

Divorce Bike

The divorce bike, as tandems are often nicknamed, makes us work as a team. When we are tired mistakes are inevitable, and so are frustrated snaps. But those moments pass quickly, we pedal through them. Suddenly Kellie is excitedly shouting, “Look at the little lambies!” as we pedal through spring in the flat open countryside, past the fields and canals.

pedal-kid-goat

Spring in all its cuteness

This adventure is definitely one to share and a tandem suits us perfectly.

We have settled into nice little routines in the morning. Kel makes breakfast, organises lunch and the food bag. I pack the panniers and carry out essential bike maintenance (or EBM as we now call it). I have become geekily addicted to a spot of EBM, making sure our bike is roadworthy each day.

Our cycling day usual involves this: Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, collapse, stretch, shower, eat and finally bed.

Then there is the daily laundry to keep up with. Underpants and socks join us in the shower, getting a squirt of shower gel and good foot stomping. It’s important to keep them fresh with only 3 pairs of undies to choose from. I wouldn’t want to inflict my cheesy feet on anyone.

It’s an uncomplicated way of life. All you need is an average bike, an average level of fitness, and some cream to stop chafing and away you go! I wish we’d done it sooner.

We have ourselves a challenge, and despite our achy legs, all the moaning and groaning each day, we are hitting new highs in our travelling life.

Tomorrow we make haste to Bruges!

12 Replies to “Pedal Challenge Europe – The highs and lows (so far)”

  1. “Our cycling day usual involves this: Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, collapse, stretch, shower, eat and finally bed.”

    Substitute walking for cycling and we’re on the same journey! 😉

  2. Way to go, guys! I completely understand about the exhaustion that accompanies undertaking a massive physical task, as well as the liberation that comes from realizing your only goal for the day is to make it from point A to B. I remember that feeling so well when Tony & I set out to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal in 2013… even though we spent the first week SO TIRED, I eventually came to love this feeling of having no obligation other than to wake up in the morning, strap on my pack, and walk for as far as we could/wanted to. I’m no great hiker (and probably a worse cyclist) but I really how Tony & I have the opportunity to take on a big challenge in the spirit of your bike ride one day!

    1. Cheers Steph. I hope you do too. It is testing us to the max each day, more so than we’d imagined, but I wouldn’t change any of it… Well maybe less hills and gale force winds. But besides that it’s great 😉

  3. Awesome guys! So happy you are living your cycling dream. And on a tandem is even cooler! That lambie is sooo cute. Keep on peddlin’ 🙂

  4. Sounds like you guys are well underway! Having this daily target must indeed be satisfying and must also make the rest days feel especially glorious. Good luck and keep it up!

    1. Cheers Sam, it was great to finally meet you in Rotterdam, although it feels like months ago now. Each day is a rollercoaster currently. Tonight I am just happy to indulge with wifi (and cake obviously).

  5. What an exciting journey! It sounds like hard work but at least one of you can eat all the cake you like without feeling guilty 🙂

    1. Indeed cake is keeping me going, today was another epic test (the 3rd day in a row of epic tests). Sometimes I think we are crazy for doing this.

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