One thing that we hoped this blog might do is give other people who do the Black to Black ride some tips on how to accomplish the fantastic trek. We know that we gave the blog address to other cyclists en route and that some had dreamed of the trip but were worried about path conditions, general safety, wild dogs, etc. Hopefully our blog encourages you all to get all the way to the Black Sea!
We definitely learned a lot and would be happy to give our advice and suggestions to anyone interested. Sometimes our lessons were through trial by fire like when Ezra fretted over whether his bike box would actually fit through the cargo doors of a very small plane between Brussels and Stuttgart.
If you do happen to be going on a cycling tour along the Danube (or anywhere else for that matter) and have come across this blog, please feel free to contact us (via comment) if you want to know anything about our trip. Need advise on how to disassemble and reassemble a bicycle? We learned decent techniques. Where do you get bike box once your done? It’s not an insurmountable task. How do you get the bike to Bucharest from Constanta and then to the airport? Maybe this photo will help give you an idea.
And for those of you worried about road conditions, they’re not all like this post-Budapest:
I’m down to my last few hours in Canada. Everything is packed and ready to go (I hope).
The last few weeks have served to rally worries. What if my bike doesn’t make it to Europe? What if something breaks? What if it’s as hot in Europe as it has been in Canada (sweltering in the 30s with humidexes making it feel like 40 in some places)? What if I am no where in shape to do 120 km per day, especially after being unable to do much exercise in the last three weeks? A little gut surely is forming and my arms have flabbed out I’m sure!
Despite the thoughts of what could go wrong, I’ve managed to do everything that I can think of to make sure things go right. I’ll breath easy when I arrive in Germany and happily put my bicycle together. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be seeing Tom and Woody in a short few days, and we’ll be riding on Monday. I imagine my good friendship with Tom will grow even closer, and I’ll definitely form a bond with Woody that has always had potential but never time to develop due to only hanging out a couple times in life.
This adventure is unlike anything I have ever attempted which stimulates both fear of the unknown and extreme excitement that has my brain bouncing like crazed electrons with thoughts of what I might see and accomplish. I have been extremely proud of the fundraiser that we are doing with this and cannot wait to make the push to reach both our riding and fundraising goals!
Well, my plane leaves in a few hours and I’m off to the airport! Wish me and the boys luck!
Since arriving in Berlin and procuring what was I assume a completely legally obtained bike from a friendly second hand dealer in a local flea market I’ve come to regard it as a proverbial pedalists paradise. Well, in contrast to previous glass strewn bike lanes of Scouseland anyway. No more must I be on the watch out for taxi drivers who consider the fact that the cycle lane does not contain a speed bump to be an open invitation to get thoroughly involved. Cycling routes snake across the city making it possible to navigate from A to B (or as the Germans would say A nach B) whilst avoiding unnecessary games of chicken with assorted BMW, Audi or Volkswagen. Given my penchant for accidental dissembarkments, bonnet surfing and my head’s seemingly uncontrollable gravitational force towards objects much harder than itself, this is nothing but a good thing. And everybody cycles here, only the other day I noticed what looked like an Octogenarian passing in the other direction and given she was rocking at a fair old pace the face tuck provided by the wind probably knocked 20 years off the old dear.
A few curious things have cropped whilst on pedal power around the German capital that I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in to the ring for. One thing that i genuinely can’t get my head around is that it is illegal here to cycle without a bloody dynamo light attached to your bike. As if my puny twiglet legs aren’t issue enough I’m supposed to attach a third break to my front wheel that sounds like an asthmatic donkey and has the illumination powers of a damp candle in a stiff breeze. I’ll take my chances with an LED light thanks all the same…and whilst the asthetics of legally requiring a working bell to your bike appeal more I’m yet to find one that doesn’t sound camper than Christmas to further tarnishing my already heavily damaged macho reputation.
One curious habit I’ve noticed of the old Deutschlanders is that waiting at a traffic light appears to offer up a chance to partake in some role playing, most people taking the guise of a famous native F1 driver and getting involved in some dodgy overtaking manoeuvres. Quite happily perched at a red light its apparently commonplace for some good old fashioned jostling for position prior to getting the nod from the jovial green man. This would be fine aside from the fact that it appears approach velocity to the lights is not considered for this starting grid line up and the old, infirm and obese will quite happily plonk themselves in front of you prior to the off. Thus ensues a slow moving pelaton away from the lights until this sort themselves out just in time for the next red man, and don’t consider jumping that light, a €130 fine awaits if you do. (On that note I find it curious Berliners continually float various laws such as the smoking ban yet rarely will you find someone who dares to cross the red man of justice at the lights.)
That said Berlin is great for cycling and providing a fruitful training area for the Eurotrip ahead
School’s out, summer is here, everything is booked and we’re under the three week countdown. I’ve been exploring the Vienna cycle paths with some frustration at the numerous one way streets and lethal tram ways and feel very ready and very fit and healthy. Whether or not the bikes will hold is another question. The Danube paths around Vienna are dotted with cobbles! The very word sends shivers down my spine. Cobbles brings to mind a very vivid image of the tandem rocking up and down and us being covered the a rain of silver spokes. I have a feeling cobbles could be one of our biggest enemies, second only to the almighty wind that Woody mentioned in a previous post. I’ve been praying. Every day I’ve cycled on the Danube I’ve had the wind at my back going east. Let’s hope it stays like that because going back really is like cycling through butter with a trailer of bricks dragging behind.
Our choice of route has become particularly apt to me in the last few weeks. It turns out that Austria (my home at the moment) is busy with numerous projects and cooperatives betweens the areas affected financially and environmentally by Europe’s second biggest river. At the end of this post I’ve put a link to a description of the current initiatives. It makes interesting reading and I hope to use this blog to mix in some stories of life along the Danube, the people we meet and how the river affects their lives.
One particular comment made me laugh (and shiver with fearful premonition). Unfortunately it’s not on the newspaper’s website but the gist went like this – through future projects and cooperation with the countries linked to the Danube river, they hope to make it possible in the future to cycle all the way to the Black Sea from Vienna! Personally, I’m hoping it’s already possible. The route certainly veers away from Central Europeans well signed and well maintained cycle paths but I guess we won’t be able to judge the state of our route (or the amount of cobbles) until we’re truddling along it with the vague hope of proving that comment wrong and making it all the way to the Black Sea.
My approach to training has always been keep it as simple as possible, so I started with three goals (1) build strength, (2) maintain weight and (3) increase endurance.
One of the lasting benefits from the Olympics being in Vancouver is the handful of venues that have been transformed into community recreation centres. The Hillcrest Recreation Centre served as the curling rink during the 2010 Winter Games and has recently been transformed into an aquatic facility, ice rink and community gym. With the city providing a more reasonable membership rate than private gyms, it has become my own little training facility in the months leading up to Black to Black.
Not much of a muscle head or protein packer, I’ve always fumbled my way around a weight room unsure of what to do exactly. I decided to get some help for this trip and have used the book Training Plans for Cyclists by Gale Bernhardt to develop a weight lifting and riding routine. I spend about two to three hours in the gym four days a week working on leg presses, squats, chest presses, lateral rows, bicep and tricep curls, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, dips and more to strengthen my body before the trip.
Bernhardt’s book has taught me the importance of having a well-balanced nutritional diet during training more than anything. With all the strength training, I have to make sure my muscles get their nutrients and don’t break down on me crying and whining. An unexpected and much welcomed side-effect of preparing for this trip is that I have honed my cooking skills over the last few months working on cooking meals from unprocessed whole foods that include healthy helpings of carbohydrates, fats and of course protein. My favorite discovery: a spicy chipotle lasagna with European cottage cheese, zucchini and organic beef and Italian sausage.
With muscles honed and food in the belly, the only other thing to do has been ride, ride and ride some more. Let’s just say I know the bicycle paths in the Lower Mainland very, very well by this point. I have even left the province to travel down to Bellingham in Washington state one weekend to get an extra long ride of 100 km. I have fun with the rides working on pedaling as fast as I can in low gears, powering hard in the high gears, sprinting for one minute bursts, increasing my heart rate for three minute bursts, riding as far as I can for as long as I can and more. Rather than bore you with words, let me share some photos from my rides!
A lot of time and work goes into planning, preparing and training for a trip like Black to Black before the tires even touch the German roads for the first time. This post explains some of what I have done to prepare for the trip since agreeing to ride the length of the Danube.
I remember a pang of jealousy when I learned that Tom and Woody were tandem cycling across England and Scotland. It was a bit foolish to feel as such seeing as at the time I was traveling across Mexico and Central America. Yet, I was quickly discovering that backpacking from town to town via bus, the type of traveling that so many friends raved about, was not really that appealing to me. I wanted to either be living in an exotic locale and fully immersing myself in the culture or challenging myself in some other way. The idea of seeing foreign places while pushing your physical capacities to their utmost extremes appealed to me greatly, and, often, I envisioned what it would be like cycling with Tom and Woody.
A couple years later I found myself with the two in a Liverpool restaurant eating one of the best hamburgers I have ever bitten into with caramelized onions and a Portobello mushroom that rivaled the size of the meat patty. Sometime between lunch and afternoon beers at the Liverpool Philharmonic Pub we got to talking about Tom and Woody’s idea to up the ante and cycle from the Black Forest to the Black Sea along the winds of the Danube. I immediately liked the sound of it and told them I’d love to join if they’d have me. We decided to keep the lines of communication open.
In the ensuing two years, the idea has kept simmering and slowly turned into a full blown reality. The exact details of it have gone through some mutations along the way but the general gist has stayed the same. We must ride the length of the Danube from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, enjoying the culture, sites, restaurants and people along the way. For a long time it was going to be a duo tandem ride, but that idea came unraveled due to logistics. Call me stubborn, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I’ll be pedaling solo on Joni Mitchell, my shades of blue Norco VFR Disc 2 hybrid bicycle, on this journey that excites me more than any trip I’ve ever embarked upon!