This isn’t all smiles and Huckleberry Finn. You have to make quite a few sacrifices when going on a lengthy bike tour, friends, family, clean clothes and a comfy bed are just a few. Why would somebody choose to make themselves homeless whilst exhausting themselves physically on a daily basis for months on end? For me its the simplicity and a truth that I get from traveling by bicycle, a return to basic needs. You appreciate the finer things in life, a cold drink or a clear sky become the most important items on the agenda, for now I’ll take a big road and a bike over a big house and a car.
Saying goodbyes is made all the more difficult when you are surrounded by such great people. Me and Eal have spent the past week bidding farewell to close friends and colleagues, consisting of full English fry ups, kick-abouts in the park and nights out in Middlesbrough frequenting many of the best local watering holes.
Training rides have been worked in where possible and a final ‘fully loaded’ gear check ride was made last Wednesday to work out any kinks. My front rack and mudguard situation causing a last minute headache eventually resolved by simply having the right tools! Something which I neglected on my previous big tour, this time I will be armed with lock-ring, chain whip and small adjustable wrench to combat my most dreaded of maintenance problems, broken spokes. The new rig however, a Dawes Ultra Galaxy Touring bike is a strong steed, no corners cut this time around which I’m hoping means a smoother journey ahead. I will also have front, back and handlebar bags this time around putting 60% of my weight in the front to compensate for the additional pressure I put on the back. This weight distribution should help even out the strain on the wheels from the torque generated by each pedal turn of my extremely heavy geared up bike.
The start will be a casual 2 day ride to Hull where we catch the Ferry across to Belgium on Monday evening. I have arranged to stay with my friend Wim from the USA tour on Wednesday in Mortsel, so we have split out the initial riding days on the continent to make sure we can pay him a visit. A good target average will be around 65 miles per day, but for the first week this will be more like 40. We have until July 5th to get to Lisbon for our flight to Boston. So I’m ready to hit the ground running but at a measured pace.