From the Atlantic to the Black Sea
Before taking on this journey Mike had never been away from home for longer than two weeks. He had no touring bike, he had no mobile phone, he was "not good at roadside repairs." He was also 71 years old.
"The people who knew me best," Mike said, "were sceptical – generally speaking I’m a nervous traveller." It was only after he read an article in April this year about the routes across Europe that the idea of cycling one of them took root. "The idea wouldn’t go away. I just wondered if I could."
After only three weeks’ preparation, that initial idea turned into a 47-day long distance cycle ride cutting through the middle of Europe. The EuroVelo 6 takes in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Romania. The reason behind Mike’s choosing this route was very simple: "It was advertised as being relatively flat," he said, "because it follows the rivers – the Loire, the Rhine and finally the Danube to the Black Sea." The EuroVelo 6 is very popular for cycle tourism – there are plenty of people who cycle this route, perhaps due to the castles, vineyards and châteaus available to visit along the way.
Sign posts in Germany
"People are very informal. We would have a meal together, a beer together… I remember the people, the variety of people."
For Mike, though, tourism is best done "with someone to talk to." This trip was about doing something different – it was all about the challenge of reaching the Black Sea on his own steam. He especially enjoyed "Bumping into others on the way. People are very informal. We would have a meal together, a beer together… I remember the people, the variety of people." Mike’s focus on staying on the road extended to rest days, "I planned to have rest days, but unfortunately the first one was on a Sunday in France and everything was closed. It turned out to be the only depressing day. After that I decided against any more rest days."
Toasting the gift of a hat in Serbia
If you are planning a long distance ride, Mike advises two things before leaving. First, carry out a "Proper test ride with your bike fully loaded!" and second, always buy the guide book. Mike had bought the first of two guide books to the Danube and it was only on approaching Hungary that he realised how important the second volume would be. Fortunately, his wife Heather managed to track down an English copy in a bookshop in Budapest.
Most importantly Mike says to choose the path of least resistance. "Do it the way it suits you."
In the end, was it an adventure? "It was an adventure. Just not particularly dramatic – dipping your hands into the Black Sea after travelling miles to be there... was an achievement."
Mike is enjoying being at home after his time abroad and is planning to go back to his favourite stretches to cycle them again with Heather.