Cycle Tour Europe: The End…But Not The End

05.August 2014

Cycle Touring, Our Journey

Our triumphant, if soaking wet, arrival into Munich; 78 days and 2440 KM after we started in London.

It was bittersweet to reach the end. On the one hand it was a lot of work to be constantly on the move but, on the other hand, we really loved cycling through the countryside seeing parts of countries that we would never normally get to see. We would miss it whenever we stopped for a few days and always had such big grins on our faces at the end of each riding day.

Every day I would be amazed that I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere pedalling my way through a foreign country without a care in the world. Just the wind in my face, the feeling of the bike underneath me, and the whir of my tires on the pavement. I love, love, loved it. There isn’t a single day that I didn’t enjoy. Not even the very first day when I barely made it up the hill to our bed and breakfast, or the day with 3 flats, a broken rack, and a malfunctioning GPS unit, or the day(s) that it rained incessantly and we were soaked. They were all good. Really.

And that’s what I’m going to miss. The riding. The being outside on my bike every day. Wheeling through the tiniest of villages. Wrestling traffic in the big cities. Heading down unmarked tracks. Rolling through farmers fields (we seem to have ridden through an inordinate number of farmer fields). Stopping for a well earned beer. Cresting the hills. And screaming down the other side. Seeing the look on peoples faces when we tell them we rode our bikes here…from London. Knowing that I did ride my bike here…from London. Almost 2500 kilometres. I’ll miss the riding. Every. Single. Day.

*****

My body held up for the most part.

My butt hurt like hell for the first week. Not when actually in the saddle but when I would lift off the seat; the blood would rush back in, the numbing would cease all at once and all the feeling I was missing would return in one fell swoop. YOUCH!! That was the worst of it and it eased after that first week. Thankfully, I never suffered any chaffing thanks to the boy-short undies I wore (no inseams) and the…um…application of vaseline to delicate parts. Messy but way more comfortable. Yep, you can file that in the things-you-didn’t-want-to-know-but-might-find-useful-later bin. You’re welcome. :) 

I had feared my lower back might ache from being hunched over the handle bars all day but it didn’t bother me even once. I guess all those core exercises I did over the winter proved useful after all. I have two rebuilt knees (the result of long ago mountain bike accidents), and I wondered how they would take the constant revolution and pressure but they did amazingly well and only required Advil on the longer days.

Interestingly it was my hands and feet which suffered the most. They became numb from the hours of pressure – we would have to stop every few hours to let the feeling return. Unfortunately it was cumulative and they got worse as the trip went on requiring breaks more and more often. We’ve been off the bikes for more than three weeks now and my hands still hurt when I put pressure on them. Bummer.

It really is amazing what you can ask your body to do and it will just do it. Day after day after day after day. In fact, we’re now in the position of undoing what the biking has done to our bodies. Our quadricep (thigh) and back muscles are very strong but our hamstring (back of the leg) and stomach muscles definitely took the summer off. We’re getting back to running and working out very slowly as we try to build up those parts without pulling something in the process.

*****

As the end drew near, and we were pedalling our last days, we started the ‘last official’ countdown; the last official big bridge crossing, the last official hotel to book, the last official flat tire, the last official picnic lunch, oh nope that’s the last official flat tire, the last official packing of the panniers, and finally, the last official day of riding.

And we officially realized that we weren’t done.

I loved it so much that I can’t imagine travelling through Europe in any other way. Hopping from city to city to city on trains just feels jarring and un-natural. Cycling allows an evolution from countryside to village to town to suburbs to city that just feels right.

Luckily, we don’t have to be done. Well, we have to be done for now (visa rules, and our wallets, say we’re done for now) but we’ve managed to store our bikes and gear in Munich (Jason’s sister just moved there and had room – thank you Tracy and Brian!!) and plan to return as soon as we can to continue on.

Who knows what that will look like, or where we’ll go (although there is talk of riding from Munich to Crete in Greece – how cool would that be?), but it feels good to have the option open and to know that, one day, I’ll be riding again with the wind in my face,  feeling the bike underneath me, and listening to the whir of my tires on the pavement.

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7 Responses to “Cycle Tour Europe: The End…But Not The End”

  1. Ali Says:

    I’m so happy this trip turned out so well for you guys! The physical pains sound a bit rough for someone as out of shape as I am, but it makes sense that if you just push a little, your body will catch up. I hope our paths cross again soon, especially if you come back to Europe for another cycling trip!
    Ali recently posted..The Real Cost of an Overnight Train

  2. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) Says:

    Hurrah! I’m so glad you had a wonderful adventure and that for all the ups and downs you enjoyed yourself so much. I”m not sure this is something I would do, but it has still be so interesting and inspiring to follow your journey and feel as though I got to experience a bit of it (minus the numb bum and sore hands!).

    I know you’re in Ireland right now, but where are you heading after this? I so hope we can meet up when you’re back on this side of the Atlantic! :D
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..O Leopard, Where Art Thou?

  3. Kim Says:

    What an adventure. You guys are total badasses and I loved following your trip (and your beers) through Europe. Excited to see and read about what comes next.
    Kim recently posted..Birthday book SALE! Life On Fire is only $3.99!

  4. Carmel Says:

    How cool. You guys are amazing. I’m so happy this journey turned out to be just as challenging, exciting, and life-changing as you hoped. Probably even more so. That’s awesome you have a place to store your bikes! On to the next adventure!
    Carmel recently posted..WELCOME HOME

  5. Oliver Says:

    “I’ll miss the riding. Every. Single. Day.” Excellent Gillian! :) I really like how cycling became part of your days or even part of you. Following part struck a chord with me as well: “Cycling allows an evolution from countryside to village to town to suburbs to city that just feels right.” I couldn’t agree more and consider cycling probably the most enjoyable pace of travelling. Maybe only rivalled by the sow trains of Sri Lanka… :)
    Really happy for you guys and it was a pleasure to follow along indeed! Take it easy for now, but I already look forward to your next (cycling) adventures! ;)
    Oliver recently posted..Made by Hand ~ [No. 5] The Bike Maker

  6. Sarah Somewhere Says:

    Congratulations guys, what an awesome description of a wonderful journey, it looked and sounded amazing and I loved your smiling faces popping up in my facebook newsfeed every day. Keep rocking!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..The ride of my life

  7. Scott Says:

    Glad we could meet up and glad you guys loved it so much!
    Scott recently posted..Great Stays: Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald