Hunt Wheels brand ambassador Hamish Paine recently cycled across Europe with Hunt Wheels brand manager Josh Ibbett. See how he got on in his video of the trip and read his report below:
Have you ever made a deal, then walked away unsure about what on earth you’ve got yourself into? That was exactly how I felt when Josh locked in that I would join him to ride unsupported from Calais to Friedrichshafen in southern Germany for Eurobike, a journey of over 600miles.
Previous to setting out on this adventure I had only ever ridden over 100miles once, had never bicycle toured before, was using a borrowed bicycle I got four days before we departed and most importantly did not know what I was in for! These key ingredients made me realise that this was not going to be a typical tour. After sponging off Josh’s knowledge gained from his experiences during the Transcontinental race and cycle touring through Asia and New Zealand I stood a greater chance of arriving in Friedrichshafen without never wanting to ride a bicycle again. Despite all of this negative energy, I knew that I was stubborn and arrogant enough to complete the tour.
The feeling of rolling out through the ferry doors in Calais and knowing that all I had to worry about for the next four days was riding my bicycle was like no other sensation I'd experienced before. I would quite literally eat, sleep, ride, repeat for 4 days. Prior to this trip I realised that all of my riding revolved around returning home for dinner, work or whatever else there maybe, ultimately restricting my riding without me knowing. However, this felt like complete freedom, knowing that I could theoretically ride anywhere I wanted and not worry about a thing and perhaps that was why the first few miles felt so great.
I now have a love hate relationship with northern France. It is essentially a dead flat plain which is great for chewing away the miles but sports rather monotonous scenery and the French appear to never open stores after midday. However Josh and I made good ground, both taking turns on the front and rolling the cranks over in the cool of the late evening until we reached the Belgian border. After a quick celebratory beer and mars bar for supper (a great combo) it was time to look for a spot to bivvy. One thing I learnt quickly was that Josh loves to 1) find the most cheeky bivvi spot possible to settle in for the night and 2) find it quickly. A compromise was made to not sleep in a small roadside church but to rather sleep in a hedge beside an ultra busy road. I don't know what Josh was complaining about but I had a brilliant night sleep, he on the other hand spent all night wondering if the cars and trucks were going to run over us.
Waking early, we made a crazy dash to the nearest bakery, bought way too many croissants and then high tailed it into Roubaix with the goal to sneak in and do a few laps around the velodrome. Thinking it would require a fence jump or a bargain with a security guard we were both surprised to see that the gates to quite possibly the world’s most famous velodrome were wide open. Good times, now for the cobbles.
One thing is for certain; the cobbles look a lot smoother on the television than in real life. Taking on Le Carrefour de l’Arbre, Camphin-en-Pevele and the infamous Arenberg made me feel like my teeth had rattled out and I was almost certain to puncture, however my Hunt wheels stayed dead true and tyres inflated, happy days! From here we more or less skipped over the border between France and Belgium. The mercury was touching 35 degrees centigrade and Josh was struggling with the heat a little but I felt like I was back home in Australia so that changed things up for a while until we reached the shadow of Huy late that evening. Having ridden around 140 miles on and off cobbled roads all day the legs were not feeling too great, however, the Muur du Huy made certain that we were now well and truly broken. A quick beer stop and spin to the next bivvy just let everything sink in and allowed me to contemplate how tough the next day was going to be.
After our Duvel night cap we had to find a bivvy location. As previously mentioned, Josh likes to be a bit sly where he sleeps. Read between the lines here; make sure nobody is still in the house before you plan to sleep in their backyard. After a quick sprint out of the back yard and down a country road a quick scout around a soccer pitch revealed a dugout which would prove to be sufficient accommodation for the night.
Day three of the tour was emotionally mixed. If anybody tries to tell you that Belgium is flat they are wrong, very wrong. The morning started with a number of low gradient but lengthy climbs that found me shifting into granny gear more often than I wanted. On a normal spin, I would think nothing of it, perhaps even enjoy the rolling climbs, however, constantly in the back of my mind I could not stop thinking about how bloody far it was to Germany, or even the end of the day for that matter. I discovered that not getting mentally caught up with the distance proved to be a significant challenge for long distance cycling, the distance is the devil and I couldn't shake it no matter how I tried to distract myself. Not even the nosebleeds worked!
Josh worked out that if he fed me and made sure I was drinking coca cola I would be sweet for the next few hours as long as I didn’t forget to eat. This is why I think Josh is so good at races such as the Transcontinental, he is extremely methodical in his approach to refueling. Crossing over into Luxemburg we stopped for a good three quarters of an hour, the longest lunch break of the entire trip, for a massive burger. We had been battling a huge head wind for the past two days, I was hardly having any turns at the front anymore and quite frankly was in a place I didn't want to be. The combination of a full stomach, pockets full of Haribo and waffles as well as the marble smooth roads of Luxemburg made the morning slog disappear and turn into some of the best riding I have ever done. That was until the rain started when we hit the German border.
Being Australian I don't ride in the rain as often as the Europeans and Josh was now in his element. Nonetheless, still on my Haribo and burger high I found myself enjoying riding in the rain. However, spending five hours riding wet, knowing that there is a soggy sleeping bag to jump into isn’t the most inspiring situation. We found a Hotel that was a little out of budget and we certainly received a few stares as we ate dinner in our cycling kit. Once washed and dried we headed straight to a warm comfortable bed.
The rain had not stopped over night and continued to fall in the morning. Reaching Baden Baden at the foothills of the Black Forest was a small milestone for the trip and certainly made dealing with the rain a little easier. Up until this point Josh’s navigating had been essentially flawless only missing the occasional intersection by a few meters however, the next challenge ahead was an autobahn tunnel. Having less than a meter of footpath with a concrete wall to one side and cars travelling at light speed to the other is not the greatest place to be. After the autobahn tunnel incident it was smooth sailing through the Black Forest. With its challenging climbs and even more challenging descents it made for a great afternoons riding. We decided we would again stay in a hotel that evening. Our gear was a little too damp to have a good nights sleep in and the rain was not looking like it would pass anytime soon. An evening spent in a Baiersbronn Hotel, with quite possibly the least helpful staff ever, gave us a chance to dry everything out and look forward to the final stretch to Friedrichshafen.
A few route changes were made to avoid a couple of climbs that were certain to break our legs and at this point I was quite surprised at how good my legs were feeling. Yes, they were toast but it was as if they were getting use to the continual riding. Once we left the Black Forest, it was as if Friedrichshafen was around every corner. Despite this, Josh admitted that he had made a slight distance calculation error and we needed to cover an extra 30 miles. He said that he knew he made the stuff up on day two but was not game enough to tell me out of the fear of his own life; fair call.
Reaching Konstanz on the boarder of Germany and Switzerland was a huge relief and meant there was only 20 miles to go until we stopped in Romanshorn to catch the ferry over to Friedrichshafen. Simply enjoying the final few miles was a lovely way to end the trip. It finally meant that I would never have to hear Josh say “okay lets crack on” any more and rely on Haribo as a staple source of fuel.
Arriving in Friedrichshafen was a little absurd, simply not having to ride a bike any longer just felt a little unusual and being able to rest for as long as we wanted to was fantastic and warmly welcomed. The kebab and beer marked the finish line for Josh and myself and now it was on to the next challenge; surviving Eurobike!
Cheers for the support received from Hunt Bike Wheels for providing wheels and riding kit, Charge Bikes for allowing me to ride such a nice bike ideal for this style of riding, Fabric Cycling for components and mum for being a mum. You can follow my exploits on Instagram @hamishpaine