The day started humbly – on a flat cycle path between a lagoon and the sea, with Bastia-Poretta airport as the backdrop. There was no sense then of the grandeur and the glory that awaited us. There was not even a hint of the beauty of Corsica – a level of pulchritude that I have seldom experienced in a single day on a bicycle. Nor, in the cool air of the young day was there any suggestion of the cauldron of heat we would encounter in the canyons ahead.
The other day, I was idly window-shopping for secondhand bikes on the web. All of a sudden transported to a moment more than twenty years ago, on a dusty country road in the middle of Transylvania. A friend and I were cycle-camping around Romania and we’d stopped to greet the one and only other foreign cyclist we encountered on our entire trip. We began swapping stories about roads and campsites and soon learned that he was on a six month journey across the European continent, from Portugal to Istanbul. I was impressed but what made an even greater impression was his bike.
This summer sees the launch of a new festival aimed at cycle travellers. Part of the Adventure Awards event, it will offer talks, workshops, and a chance to be inspired by other travellers. The Inaugural European Bicycle Adventure Meeting, also known as BAM, takes place 31st July through to 1st August in Livigno, Italy. We caught up with the organiser Andrea Benesso to find out more.
Long before the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Ramadan or Thanksgiving came along human kind measured its progress through the year by observing the sun and the stars. The solstices are the pair of celestial bookends that mark the longest day of summer and the deepest depths of winter. Unlike religious and cultural festivals, which are ultimately products of the human imagination, the solstices are firmly rooted in the reality of our cosmic situation. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that we live on a spherical rock hurtling around a gigantic nuclear explosion, spinning as it goes.
I love to explore and the pace of cycling makes it ideal for those seeking pleasure from their region. As I see it, walking is too slow, running doesn’t take you far enough and cars are too fast and too far removed.
At 3:41am on Thursday 7th May 2015, the rear wheel of our tandem passed over the drain that marked the end point at John O’Groats 45 hours and 11 minutes and 842 miles after leaving Lands End. In so doing, we had broken the 49 year old End to End record that had stood since Swinden and Withers rode the route in 1966 in a time of 50 hours 14 minutes and 25 seconds.
There are all sorts of reasons to go for a ride. Sometimes you want to explore, and to mark the world with your tires like your bike is a cat and the road is someone’s pant leg. Sometimes you want to challenge yourself on that big climb–or, even more pathetically, to challenge complete strangers via some social networking app like Strava. And sometimes you just wanna get naked.
The centennial commemorations of the First World War remind us of the origins of the phrase ‘over the top’, now widely used to describe anything extreme or outrageous. The stuttering newsreel shots show young men clambering out of their trenches (‘over the top’) and walking briskly into machine gun fire, barbed wire and almost certain death. With the war not yet a year over, using such a charged phrase ‘over the top’ to describe a bike ride must have been a very deliberate act and that is exactly what Walter MacGregor Robinson did in his celebrated account of a ride across the Berwyn range in north Wales, published in Cycling in May 1919.