Kris Goodbody explains just how to travel from Blackrock to Greece by sheer pedal power alone
Last Summer I was lucky enough to be among four good men on a cycling excursion across Europe. Beginning with a shaky break through a makeshift toilet paper starting line in Blackrock, and finishing six weeks later as we tumbled off a car ferry onto the Greek island of Antiparos. Here’s a vague list of everything I can think of that might make this sort of trip possible for anyone who fancies the challenge.
I believe the main ingredients to be 90 per cent reckless optimism, mixed with a light smattering of general know-how and sensible preparation. It’s the smattering I’ll attempt to document.
By far the most important thing to consider on a trip like this is your company. Preferably you want the kind of serious people that you would gladly follow into battle – but failing this, just bring some friends. Four is a good number; three can be claustrophobic, and with more than that it starts to get messy. Look for people who are easy-going, as long days can grind on anyone, and much of your time will be spent on lonesome stretches of beach or forest, with only your comrades and the darkness of the night for company.
A route to suit everyone’s needs will make or break your trip. We chose a coastal route for immediate jumping-into-the-sea purposes, but any route through Europe will hold its own slices of brilliance, as long as mountain ranges are avoided (the Alps being a prime culprit). Mountains are not nearly as much fun as they sound, and they don’t even sound that fun to begin with.
As far as equipment goes, try to bring a bike with as many gears as you can. All of them will definitely be used, as will a sexy little pair of black cycling shorts for the dual purposes of avoiding constant agony and a general fancy appearance. For the truly rugged adventurer this may suffice, but for the rest of us mere mortals we need a few luxuries such as water (best stored in camel packs or platypuses), for the rainy sort waterproof coverings for everything are a necessity – there is nothing more grisly than attempting to get to sleep in rain soaked gear. Also, your tent will be home for the duration of the trip, so a light but comfortable model is important.
Nothing constructive is going to happen without at least a vague idea of where you’re going. Maps are very handy for this. Petrol stations are a great source of maps for large areas of the country in question, but when you’re entering a city, a more close-up view of the area might save you from being run over by a truck: therefore, keep an eye on Google Maps, and remember that GPS is officially considered cheating.
All your gear can be held in two large panniers strapped over the back wheel of the bike, as well as a few extra treats such as knives, cooking stoves, headbands, reading material, a mascot, suntan lotion, lots of stickers, beards and passports.
What makes a cycling trip worthwhile is simply the fact that a bike allows an experience of your surroundings that no other form of transport can match. The feeling of constantly moving in one direction towards a goal is something I had never experienced before this trip, and the way every night the sun set just behind my right shoulder – whether I was in Athlone or Athens – was a something to write home about. So really, all that’s really needed is a borderline dangerous drive to succeed in a task and some sense of adventure, that and a few quid; roughly €1,500 should cover it.