27 Feb

Croatia to Istanbul: Do this Instead of LEJOG

We wanted to do a Gran-daddy ride in preparation for our almighty Gran-daddy ride and the iconic jaunt from Land’s End to John O’Groats seemed the obvious one to do.

I stared at a map of Europe looking for an alternative. We had never visited the Balkans before. I knew you could fly direct to Dubrovnik from London and then scanned across the map to Istanbul. Google said there’s roughly 1200km of road between those points so I pitched it to Shell.

She replied with her customary “eeep” of fear so I made up a little lie about the extent of climbing on the route and she said “yes!”

Researching the route mostly involved using Strava’s route search tool to see what was ridden before. I also scanned cycle touring blogs looking for anecdotes of which there were hardly any.

It soon become clear covering the whole distance was going to be a stretch and most of the bloggage I found were by touring cyclists saying the route from the Greek or Bulgarian border to Istanbul was a bit of a nightmare punctuated by massive six-lined highways with only narrow shoulders for riding so I tweaked our plan to ride to the Greek-Turkish border instead and then hope to get a bus the rest of the way.

This would see us riding around 1000km in two weeks. Doable but we had never previously ridden on fully laden tourers.

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08 Feb

Way of the Roses

Ponder this: rolling pasture, stone fences, wildflowers, virtually traffic free roads. You might think I’m describing the idyllic plasticene world of Postman Pat but I reckon that pretty much sums up the Way of the Roses cycling route.

Just freakin do this. You won’t regret it. It’s a no fuss, highly rewarding trip through the best Mother England has to offer.

In around three hours you can be on a train out of London on a Thursday night and pitching your tent at the recommended Venture Caravan Park in Morecambe on the Lancashire coast.

We were up early the next morning and soon on Morecambe’s faded beachfront promenade at the official Way of the Roses start point. Sometimes at the start of an adventure, you can feel daunted by the task ahead, especially when distracted by the 170 miles to go sign, but I just couldn’t wait to crack into it.

As soon as we started trundling along the cycle path out of town, I knew why I was so excited: I just love cycling on purpose-made paths. It’s so great, as a cyclist, to have space that doesn’t require your to share with a car. You can relax, look around more, say hi to the walkers and watch people live their lives.

Morning on the Lune

Morning on the Lune

It’s cycle path all the way to Lancaster where we stopped for some breakfast by the River Lune.

At the crook in the Lune you jump off the path and on to the quiet roads to climb for the first time. A local we met at a railway crossing recommended we keep following the river through to Hornby, saying the hill gradients would snap our chains but I was determined to stay faithful to the route and to Sustrans’ judgement and I wasn’t disappointed. The hills were steep but we have triple chainsets on our tourers so we made light work of the incline. The grind was worth it as the road opened out to some smashing views but it was only a taste of the majesty further up the road as we officially entered the Yorkshire Dales. Read More