16 Jul Rotterdam to Regensburg: The first thousand kilometres
It seems like an age ago that we were saying our goodbyes at St Pancreas!
Our first mini challenge came at Brussels Station. We had to change stations, collect the bikes from the Eurostar luggage service, disassemble them, and make it onto the next train in 30 minutes. After a little bit of stress and some quick mechanical skills we made it on the train and to Rotterdam.
We were lucky to start in Holland, one of the world’s best cycling countries, a place were cyclists have the right of way on the road and a million miles away from London. Our short cycle from the station to our first bed for the night was along the beautiful canals, with windmills and beautiful houses lining the route.
On Tuesday morning, we woke up early and made our way to the Zuidplaspolder. It is situated in the middle of the suburbs and was a bit of a nightmare to find. After asking for a few directions, we found the large blue ruler which was our starting point.
We’ve covered our first thousand kilometres since then, and we’ve come to understand that the ‘challenge’ in Elevation Challenge may not quite be the rhetorical device that we originally intended it to be!
Its definitely been more challenging that we thought it would be, and the visions of gently gliding along the bike path taking in the scenery have all been dispelled.
The last two days in particular were quite hard; we made a slight mistake in our route plan which meant that we had to cover 150 kilometres for two days in a row over fairly hilly terrain to reach Regensburg on time. Setting off at about 8.30 am, we have been cycling all day until about 9pm to make the required distance. Our target speed is 20 kph, which may be a bit slow for road biking but becomes challenging when the bike weighs 30 kilos up and down hills for longer distances, so we were pleased to have a rest day in Regensburg.
I’ve also managed to fall of the bike and partially tear a ligament in my left knee, which makes cycling quite painful. Four days into a nine week challenge, I didn’t expect to be sitting in a hospital having an X-ray and ultrasound scan, and as the doctor collected the results I was a bit concerned. We had covered less than 500km, there was still 4500 left to make it to Russia, and a bad injury this early would be really tragic.
I asked the doctor if I could cycle and he said that whilst in an ideal world I would ice elevate and rest it for a week or so to make sure it recovered as quickly as possible, cycling would not further damage it.
So we stocked up on Ibuprofen in Cologne and pressed on. I didn’t want to see six months of planning and preparation and the chance to complete the adventure of a lifetime go to waste this early on because I couldn’t deal with the pain, and whilst its still a bit tender its definitely on the mend.
Its not all been challenges and injuries though, we’ve cycled some of Europe’s most fascinating routes: we followed the Rhine all the way to from Nijmegen in The Netherlands to Manheim in Germany, and we’ve now picked up the famous Danube Bike track, which we will follow into Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.
We’ve discovered the Eurovelo project, a network of pan-european cycle routes stretching from the UK to Sofia. But we’ve also discovered that the cycle routes aren’t always the direct routes, they love to give a helping hand to the local commerce by arbitrarily directing cyclists up hills and into villages to encourage them to buy tea and coffee from the little cafes, before carrying on with the main route. So we now add an extra 20-30 km onto the google maps distance shown to try and account for this in our planning.
We are about to set off for Passau, our next destination along the Danube Bike Track. Our mid-term goal being to reach Vienna in the next five days, so check out our live tracking twitter map which shows where we are with photos and updates 🙂
Thanks to our sponsors Mark Evision Foundation, Cosaraf Foundation, Halfords, Hubrick, Bounce Foods, Snow and Rock, High5 Nutrition, Power Traveller, LSE Annual Fund and Bergans.