Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Eurovelo 6: Conclusion

Wulf asked me once in an email whether I still liked this trip - and that was a good question that kept me thinking for a long time. When I had started the PCT I knew after 1 week that this is what I wanted. I have been cycling for over a month now but I still don't know whether I like it or not. There have been more complications than I had expected: I have had extremely bad luck with the weather or maybe I just started too early. Bad weather can really bring you down. And it is more difficult to protect yourself against the rain while biking than while hiking.

There were more technical difficulties than I had expected, too: I had a broken spoke that had to be repaired in a bike shop, had to change the brakes, discovered that I have a shitty brake system anyway and every day there was a new unknown noise coming from my bike that scared the shit out of me. Luckily the weird noises usually went away after a while...In hindsight I must say that a lot of these problems were caused because of an inappropriate bike set up. The spokes had been set in in the wrong direction - but I only learnt that when I had the first spoke repaired. Back in Berlin I took my bike back to where I had bought it and they acknowledged their mistake. I got new spokes for free. I also had the brake system changed from V brakes to hydraulic. The bike shop should have never advised me to get V brakes in the first place - and they should also have set me up with a different handle bar. These were costly mistakes as I had to pay for the new brakes and handle bar - and suffer from Karpal tunnel syndrome that could have been avoided with a suitably sized bike.

I also worried too much about my bike getting stolen. If I wanted to do some sightseeing, I always had to find a secure spot for my bike, lock it and take the bags with me (awfully heavy and uncomfortable) or leave them and worry they could be stolen. That somebody broke the tray of my map holder in an act of pure vandalism didn't help me to have a more positive outlook.But I guess this is the psychological price you have to pay with an expensive bike.

Camping turned out to be a big problem as it is much more difficult to tuck yourself away along a road or bike path than when hiking through a forest. Take the Danube for example: Right next to the river the mountains rise high up and if there is a flat spot next to the river, it is overgrown and wet - and very visible to anyone. I ended up staying in paid accommodation much more than I had expected - and that put a big strain on my budget. I spent a lot more than I had calculated. Another big mistake has probably been to cram too much sightseeing into this tour. This was not only very expensive but also very stressful. I was constantly rushing from one place to another trying not to miss anything. I should either have taken more time or skipped sights in order to more fully enjoy the rest. 

Danube wood carving
I must admit that this trip has not been the most successful introduction into long distance cycling: I have overspent my budget, had a lot of bike repairs and had to bail out early because of a bike related health issue that will accompany me for quite a while from now on. But still: I definitely do not regret this trip. You will only find out about the weak spots in your bike and set up if you test it on a trip. I cannot see how I could have found out about these things other than the hard way. And I have definitely seen some fantastic places and learnt a lot. This trip has been a crash course in European history and architecture. So would I recommend the Eurovelo 6 to a friend?: Yes, definitely! Try to avoid my mistakes and you will have a great trip. Even I would do it again - wiser next time.

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