The idea of first going on a long distance cycle ride was first thought up a little over a year ago. Sitting in the changing rooms at our rowing club Tom, Charles and I were discussing summer plans. Then out of the blue,
“Why not cycle?” But where? The answer was anywhere. Anything is possible as long as you’ve got your mates and a bike. We settled on Paris.
We were all relatively fit guys but I myself had little cycling experience, unlike the monster thighs of Tom ‘hench’ Priestner. Charles also holds the record for the youngest person to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats. I was definitely the newbie of the group.
I was quietly nervous in the weeks leading up to it. I had not done much preparation and although was fit felt nervous on the bike and had never ridden with panniers, ever. We managed to easily make a route using the online tool ‘www.bikeroutetoaster.com‘ a website I highly recommend to anyone considering an expedition like this. Although the cycle was only 5 days; we didn’t sleep rough every night, it was enough to catch the bug of cycling and of adventure.
It is hard to put to words why putting yourself through physical pain day after day is so wonderful. I don’t think of it like that, think of the experience, the friendship, the problem solving and the self awareness you get from putting yourself through something like this.
Tom and I had previously trekked 300km across the desert with school, this was a similar experience, but by no means do you learn the same skills and aspects about your own character again. Cycling was a way to get away from our lives for 5 days; little contact with anyone we knew apart from ourselves meant that team work and self reliance were key.
Opposed to hiking and trekking, cycling provided the sense that you were moving towards a goal as you cover circa 80 miles a day. You do distance yet still there is something about the speed of a bike which is so special. You are accepted. Everyone smiles as you pedal past, some shout encouragement; if you need help you will find it. Even in the hard times of horizontal rain and puncture prone tyres, there is something therapeutic about moving your feet at 90rpm and knowing that nothing is propelling you but yourself, your mind (and what you had for dinner last night).
So all in all the main reason why we chose bicycles is that they offer a type of freedom and adventure that is not possible any other way.