Following on from the successful trip in 2007 a second Bike Europe was run in 2011. This time visiting five Olympic cities around Europe: Amsterdam; Antwerp; Munich; Paris; and London; in celebration of the London Olympics in 2012.
Unforeseen circumstances and some last minute drop outs meant there were not as many young people as we had originally planned. That didn’t matter too much though, as those still involved were young people and raring to go. After cycling to Harwich and catching a ferry the first stop was Amsterdam.
The team went from there to the site of the Antwerp Olympics, which is now a football club nobody had heard of.
Despite several months of training before the trip started, one member of the team struggled with the most basic aspects of cycling.
Everyone who cycled needed to know how to carry out basic maintenance on their bikes. The picture below demonstrates this, with Clive and Paul reattaching the rear wheel to two of our bikes while Naomi, we guess, is counting the wheels to make sure we haven’t lost any.
While passing near Strasbourg the youngest member of the team, Daniel, left the trip because of family commitments, and Simon joined because he couldn’t be bothered to do the first bit. It was obviously a bad move as the first day following that the team took a wrong turn in the forest, however with good old fashioned stubbornness they refused to turn back and ended up hiking up a steep hill.
Bad weather hit as we hit Munich, which ruined the photo of us by the stadium a bit. After this photo we were hungry, and all went for a good meal at a local restaurant. Everyone enjoyed it, especially Paul who got a free maggot with his food, and then used his impressive German to negotiate the food to be free with his maggot.
After a puncture and a change of inner tube in a small town in the South of Germany (we can’t remember exactly which, but think it might have been Dietmannsried), Simon decided, having run out of correctly sized inner tubes, that any would do. After inflating the tyre to nearly an acceptable pressure the inner tube exploded with a spectacular bang heard streets away, causing small children to cry, shop keepers to peer out there shops, and Simon to look surprised.
Although not the most direct route back to Paris the group decided to cycle back via the bottom of Lake Constance, allowing us to add two more countries to our trip tally (Austria and Switzerland), and having the bonus for Paul of being able to stop at the location of his university year abroad. The evening of arrival we witnessed an impressive electrical storm over the lake from our camp site on the shore, although the mosquitos took some of the enjoyment away. The following day we helped Paul look for somewhere to stay, however with all the youth hostels full we left him in his tent with his bike and went on our way.
Cycling from Constance down the Rhine towards Strasbourg was flat and pleasant and uneventful, and with the exception of one or two dodgy road surfaces we made good time and soon crossed back into France.
The hardest bit of the trip came cycling out of Strasbourg towards Paris, with hours of constant climbing towards Dabo (where we stopped for an ice cream), with countless false summits, we were massively relieved to see the downhill spread out in front of us.
Tim joined the team in Paris to provide moral support for the final stint. The fine Paris cuisine did not agree with one member of the group who on the day of arrival was promptly poisoned by a poulet. That put Rhys out of action for the day of sight seeing and continental lager, preferring instead to stay cooped up in his tent with a bucket. Here is a picture of what he missed to cheer him up.
After, during the trip, treating several red lights as advisory, pulling over for a catnap, and spending a short period of time driving on the correct side of the road, Clive spotted a flat tyre while on a trip test our bikes on a muddy half pipe somewhere between Paris and Calais in France. With no spare the opportunity was presented for everyone to work on their upper body strength by pumping it up with a bike pump.
After a stop over near Calais it was a ferry ride, then a short cycle to our destination, the London Olympic stadium! Or at least as close as we could get…
Who was involved?
(In reading order: Daniel Acott; Tim Bateman; Naomi Clewett; Paul Clewett; Simon Clewett; Matthew Crisp; Rhys Ford-Jones; Clive Furness; Gemma Plumb; plus lots of others who helped with and joined in with the training and Bike Europe’s sister project; Bike Newham)
Thanks to Gemma, Matt, and Simon for the photos.