When you read this, my round-the-world trip finished about 2 months ago. To be precise, on 26 July when I crashed on the bike and broke my leg in Saint Malo in northern France. A sad ending on a great adventure, but there was nothing special I wanted to do the last 2,000k except visiting friends, which I can always do another time. I’ve always said, I would stop when the bike was stolen/damaged (beyond repair) or I got seriously ill/injured, so it only took a minute to push my ego aside and accept my fate (dismiss the idea of, going back to bike the remaining stretch). Back in Denmark, I was on crutches for 4 weeks, and after 5 weeks, I began biking to recuperate. Currently, I’m biking around Denmark for some weeks - about 1,500k more to get back in shape than for the trip itself.
From Switzerland, I could have done a straight ride to Denmark finishing in a couple of weeks, but I wanted to bike around the western European countryside in the summertime and visit a couple of new countries. From Biel, I rode south over the French and Italian Alps to Monaco, inland west through numerous mountainous French national parks to Andorra in the Pyrenees and then along the French Atlantic coast to Guernsey and Jersey in the English Channel. In all 3,500k finishing my trip total at 63,500k and 88,500k with the 3 trial runs in Europe.
The nature was very diverse, from gorgeous coastlines and beautiful beaches to forests and endless cultivated countryside as well as countless mountains and valleys with rivers and lakes – the region I treasured most was the French Alps with its snow-capped peaks and blue lakes. Southern France is a mountainous region, so until I reached the Atlantic coast, I faced a lot of climbing - most days over 1,000 elevation metres, many days 1,500-1,700m and the day I climbed to Andorra 2,200m. The Atlantic coast is low-lying and though I had some flat stretches, it was predominantly rolling countryside most days requiring +1,000m climbing. It turned out, summer was not a good time to ride this region with the weather constantly changing between merciless sunny and overcast with lots of rain. Until I got half way up the Atlantic coast, it was almost always very hot (35-40C) and at lower altitudes incredibly humid. Further north, the weather kept changing but at least both temperature and humidity dropped. Most of the way I had strong headwinds, which pleasantly cooled me down but of course also made it tough riding and slowing my progress. With this kind of weather, I often wondered why people flock to France or their holidays.
The road quality was an unpredictable mix of good and bad, constantly changing seemingly unrelated to road type, size or location. Many roads had no shoulder, which stressed a lot of drivers honking and shouting at me because they had to wait shortly to overtake me. The same often happened with bike paths – I rode them when mandatory or decent quality, but more often they were bad and damaging the bike, so I had to ride the road. Why people got so stressed waiting for me I never understood, since many roads were “holiday cramped” so they couldn’t progress anyway. Some places, vehicles queued for kilometres to get in/out of towns and inside towns were countless traffic jams - at least I could still progress navigating between vehicles. I wondered why people come these places and expose themselves to these experiences - especially considering how stressful it is for most of them. Stressing on a holiday kind of contradicts the purpose so why not relax, take the time and enjoy the trip - or if you have to be somewhere at a certain time, start earlier.
I guess an explanation is that most French drivers love speeding whether highways, busy main roads or narrow, curvy streets with no overview. However, while people in southern France were generally cautions when overtaking me, I had several close calls on the Atlantic coast as many vehicles squeezed by without room. And while people in southern France were generally indifferent, many people at the Atlantic coast were unfriendly and uptight – except for the bicyclists, almost nobody greeted me (back) and besides the shouting and honking, a passenger spit at me and another flicked a cigarette butt at me. The great “people experiences” were Spain and Guernsey/Jersey where drivers were very cautious, and most people greeted me and many talked to me.
Whether mountains or countryside, camping was a challenge all the way. In the open farmland it was impossible and forests were far between, private/fenced, overgrown or rocky/stony as well as inaccessible because of steep slopes or deep ditches preventing me from pulling off the road. And when I finally got off the road, I either had to carry my stuff hundred metres up/down a steep slope or through thorn bushes being scratched and bleeding all over.
In Switzerland, I repaired the bike including two new wheels, so I expected few problems the rest of the trip. However, after only 265k a rear wheel spoke broke - I've had several bad wheels but this was by far the worst. I was concerned with ongoing problems but fortunately, less luggage and my repair experience minimised broken spokes to every 4-600k, which was acceptable considering the fragile wheel and bad roads. The spoke problem caused two broken tires (bulging) and a handful of flat tires, but it could have been much worse. The considerable rain entailed navigation challenges since my wet phone screen didn't work well with wet fingers as well as battery charging challenges when the dynamo cord soldering broke and the replacement tape didn’t stick well. My brand new camera caused problems from the Alps and until it stopped working in Guernsey after only 1,500 photos - embarrassing.
After this amazing adventure, the good question is “What now?” Biking has become everyday life, and though I still love it, I feel the need for new challenges. Short term, I plan to backpack around the world, take time off for reflections and hopefully find some interesting voluntary work. Longer term, I will likely still be travelling but with new means of transportation e.g. sailing around the world, a motorbike trip around Africa or kayaking down the west coast of Greenland – time will tell. Whatever I choose to do, I’m confident it implies new challenges, learnings and experiences. In the horizontal grey bar at the top of my homepage, I have added a section “Motivation” describing my reflections on this trip, what motivates me in life as well as societal norms and habitual thinking (conventional wisdom).
You can read much more and enjoy countless pictures and videos on my website:
Navigate down through my travel description “Europe 2016/17” at the top of the dark blue menu bar on the left. You're of course most welcome to write in my guestbook and/or send me a personal message as well as referring people you think might be interested to my website - see options at the bottom of this mail.
Thank you for following my trip and my life. Until I start a new adventure, I will take some time off from blogging, so until then I wish you and your family a great winter (or summer in the southern hemisphere) - may you be as happy and fortunate in life as I am.
Many greetings from Michael