Things may have been a bit quiet since the failed attempt at a John O’Groats to Lands End earlier this year. Well, not may have been, they have been.
My back is better. I wouldn’t say fixed, but definitely better. Every now and then it bites me when I don’t expect it, but I have been back out both road and off-road cycling in a fairly leisurely manner since the summer. I’ve also been back to the gym and on the cycling machine at home. It’s the rowing machine that seems to be the most uncomfortable at the moment.
Anyway, earlier in 2016 I started planning a smaller, slower, flatter, group ride across part of Northern Europe. You can read about the initial plan here. The planning for that is back on, and I’m also factoring in the things I learned on the JOGLE. There is, after all, no point making mistakes if you’re not going to learn from them.
In 1667 the Dutch, under Michiel De Ruyter sailed an invasion fleet up the River Medway and attacked shore facilities and vessels in and around Chatham. Not a particularly well known part of our own history, presumably on the basis that we lost – so we don’t like to talk about it. The Dutch on the other hand still proudly display parts of the stern assembly of the captured Royal Navy Flagship, The Royal Charles in the Rjiksmuseum in Amsterdam.
It was a pretty big deal…
2017 is the 350th anniversary of the event and we’re planning a return trip. On bikes.
Because I can’t afford a ship.
The actual attack happened in June, but due to the nature of these things we’re planning to do the ride in May. The distance is far less than that proposed on the JOGLE (both daily and in total). It clocks in at just over 260 miles (or about 420 km if you’ve gone metric). The longest day is 67 miles, just over 100 km. Even that is about half the proposed average on the JOGLE.
Lesson 1 learnt. Make it manageable.
Lesson 2. Plan your route. I have. It’s flat.
Very. Very. Flat.
Ok, the first day has the odd bump. In total it’s just over 500 m of climbing, but that’s spread over nearly 50 miles. The rest of the days are about a tenth of the climbing, sometimes over greater distances. The two graphs below illustrate the point a bit more clearly.
First the climbing / descending…
And then the distances (in miles)…
If you’re wondering where Day 2 is on the climb/descend chart it’s so flat that the Google data actually lists the journey as just that “Mostly Flat” and doesn’t give any further information.
Now don’t get me wrong, flat can be horrible. No downhills to stop peddling and coast on. If there’s a headwind it feels like you’re going uphill anyway. So I’m not underestimating that “mostly flat” can still be “not much fun”, but I think Lesson 3 will help out there.
Lesson 3 for me was to have other people around.
Solo rides are as tough mentally as they are physically. Having someone (or a few someones) along means people can prop each other up, offer encouragement, take their turn at the front (particularly in the case of a headwind) and simply provide company and make the whole thing more enjoyable.
So also on point 3, with the distances being lower I’ve planned to visit some places on the way. The main start/finish points after leaving Chatham are: Dover, Nieuwpoort, Vlissingen (birthplace of the aforementioned Michiel de Ruyter), Rotterdam and Amsterdam – ending at the Rjiksmuseum. So we’ll be cycling through southern England, northern France, Belgium and then up the west coast of The Netherlands. On the way we’ll go through Canterbury, Dunkirk and Bruges, catch 2 ferries (which aren’t cheating before anyone says they are – the ferry trips are not included in the total distance) and generally have a bit more time to take things in as we go.
I don’t think we’ll be camping, but I guess cost will determine that more than anything, but if we do they’ll be more people to spread the weight. It should just be a nice time. And then I’m planning a day or two in Amsterdam before we return. On the train.