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Spain to Norway on a Bike called Reggie

He did it again! Over the past few years, Andrew Sykes has already got to know large parts of the EuroVelo network, cycling first the EuroVelo 5- Via Romea Francigena and then EuroVelo 8- Mediterranean Route both on his trusty bike Reggie. In his latest cycling trip, he embarked on a new adventure, combining several EuroVelo routes together and cycling from the southernmost tip of continental Europe to its northernmost point. In this exclusive interview he shares some of his impressions of this challenging new adventure with us.

EuroVelo: Hi Andrew, the last time we interviewed you, you had just successfully finished the Eurovelo 8- Mediterranean Route, and published a book about it. During your latest cycling trip, you embarked on a completely new adventure by combining several EuroVelo Routes together. How did that go? What made you decide to cycle such an unusual route?  Was the planning more challenging than usual?

 

Andrew Sykes: I’ve never found the planning challenging because I’ve never done much of it. To a certain extent, that’s the beauty of the EuroVelo network. I know that someone, somewhere has put time and thought into where each of the EuroVelo routes goes and although we are not yet at a point where you can always be guaranteed a quality, segregated cycling path on the ground, I do have the confidence that the route is a feasible one. It’s much better to leave the detailed planning to the night before or even the morning of your cycle as being on the ground faced with the prospect of having to cycle 60, 70, 80 or more kilometres in one day focuses the mind somewhat. A trip to the local tourist office might be useful, a search online to see if there is a regional cycle route (which often form part of the EuroVelo network) to hook up with and I’m off!

The most recent trip from the southernmost point of Europe at Tarifa in Spain to the northernmost point at Nordkapp in Norway isn’t covered by just one of the EuroVelo routes but several so it was a case of just piecing together a path that got me from one to the other, albeit via 7,776 km of cycling. I’m not sure if the route was unusual. I suppose it’s not one that has been completed by many people simply because of the distance but perhaps, after reading the new book, others will be inspired to also embark upon a similar journey.

 

As for my own trip, yes, it went well. There were no major disasters along the way, just lots of interesting people and places, beautiful landscapes and fascinating chunks of history. Despite a chronic clicking from the bike (which was, mercifully, finally eradicated in Hamburg), I suffered only one puncture and only managed to run into one person; a Japanese tourist in Paris who was just far too eager to cross the road!

 

EuroVelo: This time your itinerary took you to some Extreme Points of the European Union, cycling from Europe’s most southerly point to its most northerly point. Were the road conditions just as opposite as the starting and finishing point of your itinerary are from each other?

 

Andrew Sykes: I think if you embark upon any journey of several thousand kilometres, it’s almost guaranteed that you are going to come across a wide spectrum of cycling conditions. Unsurprisingly, cycling in northern Belgium and The Netherlands was a dream. I grew to love the ‘knooppunten’ system of navigation and the civilised attitude of the car drivers was a cyclist’s dream. For the first time in my life I really did feel as though I was being treated as an equal to the motorist and it was wonderful.

 

There were other pockets of cycling serenity; the urban areas of Spain are increasingly cycle-friendly as is the seemingly endless forest track that makes up much of the Vélodyssée in France. In Norway, the ever-more-isolated coastal route north of Trondheim may not have been built specifically for cyclists but cars were often few and far between and, despite some very long tunnels, cycling was almost always a pleasure, except when it was raining heavily!


My only slightly negative experiences were, surprisingly, in Germany. I’m a great fan of the country and have always enjoyed visiting and meeting up with friends who live there, but many German motorists do expect you to use the cycle paths if they are available. In urban areas, the cycle paths are often on the pavement and in the countryside I found the segregated cycle paths were sometimes in a poor state of repair, ravaged by the roots of trees for example. With four panniers and a tent on the bike, it was often better to opt to stay on the road but then the motorists would start peeping their horns…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EuroVelo: Did you find any Eurovelo signposts?

 

Andrew Sykes: It’s always nice to see the EuroVelo signs and I usually stop, smile and sometimes even take a photograph to celebrate! They tend to be found on the national or regional routes upon which the EuroVelos piggyback so although I didn’t see many in Spain, the EuroVelos 1 and 6 were regularly signposted along with the Vélodyssée and the Loire à Vélo respectively in France and occasionally further north en route to Nordkapp. I was, however, also able to follow cycle routes such as the Ochsenweg in Schleswig Holstein in Germany and the wonderful Kattegatteleden in Sweden which had only just opened a few weeks before my arrival. In Denmark, the extensive network of cycle routes was easy to follow and then in northern Norway, with few roads to choose from, route planning was effortless.

 

EuroVelo: What were the highlights of your trip? What was your favorite place along the itinerary?

 

Andrew Sykes: There were, unsurprisingly, many highlights from wonderful cities such as Salamanca, Pamplona, Copenhagen and Oslo to the mountains of Spain and southern Norway to the little out-of-the-way places that I just happened to stumble upon en route from one campsite to another. Perhaps my favourite such place was the German town of Syke where, due to its similarity with my own name, I spent a little time exploring, wondering if it could have been my ancestral home. I didn’t find much but I did have a good conversation with a couple of police officers who were rather bemused by my questions. I did find a connection with Great Britain and if you read the book, you’ll discover what it was.

In terms of cycling, if I were to recommend just one segment of the journey to another touring cyclist, it would have to be northern Norway. It had everything; sea, mountains, great cycling conditions, friendly people, jaw-dropping scenery and, at the end of the journey, the magical midnight sun. Difficult to beat that.

 

EuroVelo: I hope Reggie is still alive and did not suffer too much from your recent cycling trip?

 

Andrew Sykes: He is still in good shape although I have recently invested in a new bike that is helping me tackle the steep hills of the Calder Valley of Yorkshire a little more easily. I looked after him as we were cycling to Nordkapp and he survived in pretty good shape. Aside from the puncture and the annoying clicking (it turned out to be the rear hub), the only other work needed to keep him going was a new set of tyres in Denmark in preparation for the more challenging environment of Norway. I occasionally had him checked out in bike shops along the way but he’s now survived three long European trips and you never know, he might have another one in him.

 

EuroVelo: Do you already have plans to cycle another EuroVelo Route in the future?

 

Andrew Sykes: I suspect that my next long-distance cycle will be either much further away (New Zealand? Japan?) or much nearer home (Yorkshire?) but I will certainly return to the EuroVelos in the future. Ireland to Russia along the EuroVelo 2? Or perhaps even back to Nordkapp to head south on the other side of Scandinavia and Europe along the EuroVelo 7 as far as Malta. Typing this makes me envious that I’m not out there doing the cycling right now! Perhaps I should be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curious about Andrew’s and Reggie’s latest adventure? You can buy his latest book “Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie” here. If you want to find out more information about Andrew's adventures you can read his blog here. Andrew’s books on his past EuroVelo trips – Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie –Along the Med on a Bike Called Reggie-, are available here. Furthermore, Andrew is happy to come and share his experiences at related events. Contact him through his blog for further information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Andrew Sykes