Tag Archive: bikepacking

  1. Italy to Wales by Bike

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    A guest blog from one of our mechanics, Gwydion. He’s since been bike-packing around the world, read about how he got the bug for travelling the world by bike and how this one decision changed his life and he’s now travelling the world fixing bikes as well!

    The birth of an idea

    It was whilst working on a vineyard in northern Italy that the though first came to me. On the flight over I couldn’t help but think of all the places I was missing out on, the towns, the views but most importantly the people. I always had a curiosity for bike touring and as my season was drawing to a close I realized that the best time to attempt it was then, I had no out goings back home, I was about to get some money in the bank and I also had the greatest luxury of all, time. Something I was going to need in abundance. The thought stuck with daily, as my motivation to put grapes in buckets was now fuelled by a desire to buy a bike. Something that I had not done in my adult life. The idea was born, to cycle over 1000miles, with close to 70,000 ft of climbing back to my home in Wales. Sure I hadn’t been on a bike since I was twelve, but how hard could it be?


    It’s not the bike, it’s the legs.

    After spending a week in Venice, visiting bicycle shops between espresso stops, I realized a tight budget was the first difficulty of my trip. I had only just stepped into the bike world and I felt as though I didn’t have enough money to be a ‘cyclist’. That on top of my limited bicycle knowledge meant I wasn’t sure what I was getting for my money. The plus side of this though meant that I only really ever had one choice, being the cheapest bike I could find. An eight speed city bike designed to take people on their commutes. My doubts had grown over the week after seeing all the pricey bicicletta’s on display. Was this bike going to take me home? Was I able to ride it home? The decision was made when I asked the owner of a local shop if he thought that the city bike would make it to Wales. He looked at the bike, then back to me and said;

    ‘It’s not the bicycle, it’s the legs.’

    I bought it there and then. I had my camping gear, I picked up some panniers, put it all together and balanced it in such a way to stop me riding in circles. I was ready to go.

    Moving forward

    I was five miles outside of Venice when had my first puncture. Standing on the side of the road with an upturned bike, tube in one hand pump in the other. Not only did I lack a spanner to remove the wheel, I didn’t even have a clue how to change the tube! How could I be so foolish! Stubbornness and pride forced me to walk until I could find a bike shop. I had the tube changed, bought a spanner and was taught how to change it for future mishaps. Fortunately I only had a target of 40 miles for that day. I would meet back up with my friend’s family who I had been staying with for the past couple of months. When I arrived I spent the night losing weight off of my pack and watching YouTube videos of ‘bike maintenance for dummies’.

    With the first day of cycling under my belt and a lighter load, I had a growth in confidence for tackling the Alps, however ahead of me was my first night wild camping. I was equipped with a bivi and a blanket and for the first few days I had no fuel, I was dependant on fire to cook my food. Finding the right place wasn’t too hard. It needed to be off of the road and away from any visible trails, I’d lay my bike down, set a low sleeping set up and cook my food while there was still light. As the days went by I became more adept to not only selecting good spots but also the speed I could lay out my home from home. I continued on my bikes and over the following couple of weeks I would make my way to the Alps.

    What goes up…?

    When I first saw the Alps ahead of me I felt very overwhelmed and unprepared. Physically I was in no condition to ride the climbs. The only thing I could do was work within my comfort zone. In the first day on the mountains I would be walking alongside my bike rather than riding. It felt like I was cheating however it was the only thing I could do to move forward. Daily targets went out the window and the mentality became ‘as long as I end the day closer to home, then I’m doing okay’.

    The beauty of spending a couple of weeks cycling uphill not only meant that I had incredible views, but also meant my time in Austria was mostly downhill. This in turn meant I cleared most of the country within a day. As I progressed through my trip I was beginning to get notably stronger on the bike. My confidence had grown while riding and I had my camping and set up all figured out. The problem with this was my days were flashing by, the lack of climbs across central Europe meant I was covering much more distance in a day. I had discovered an incredible infrastructure of bicycle routes that took me right through the heart of the countries. I was in my element, this was my life now, I could keep going forever. But before I knew it I was in Calais awaiting my ferry. The trip was almost at an end.

    I almost begrudged the following days back home. I missed my coffee stops, I missed pretending to speak a different language. But strangely enough the thing I was going to miss most of all was cycling each day. I began my trip with the idea that a bicycle would be the perfect way to get to a destination, however as I progressed I realized that the destination was just an excuse to ride my bike. Either way the trip came to an end. I had cycled the whole distance, more than I had ever done in my life. But something wasn’t right, id reached my goal, but it felt far from the over

    Looking back at what I learnt during my trip, three things really stuck out. Firstly keep moving forward, you will only end the day closer to target. Secondly, always be open to learning from others, find what works for you and make it your own. And finally, that this was only the beginning of my trips by bicycle.

    Gwyd is now one of the best mechanics we’ve ever worked with and all round great guy, check out his website at goodgearcycles.co.uk 



  2. Eurovelo 6 – What’s it Really Like?

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    Did you know that there’s a cycle route that links the whole of Europe from East to West? It goes through 10 countries, follows, 6 different rivers and even passes by 4 Unesco World Heritage sites.


    This is a well-ridden route and one that’s popular with independent bike-packers with their heavy hybrids laden with pannier bags and the obligatory baguette sticking out of the bag. At almost 4000km long, it’s a cycle tourist’s dream: for the most part it’s pretty flat, well-surfaced and visits rivers, castles, lakes and two very different coastlines.

    We’ve been so excited by the completion and continued improvement of the Eurovelo 6 that we recently incorporated it into our Danube Cycle. So here’s what we thought of it first-hand on a recce of a route from Prague to Budapest.

    We joined the route about 20 miles north of Vienna in the satellite town of Stockerau. We followed commuters, in-line skaters and people out for an evening jog down a fairly non-descript concrete path until all of a sudden, boom! We rolled down a little ramp and there it was – the beautiful blue Danube.

    First sighting of the Danube, Vienna

    With the skyscrapers of Vienna getting closer and closer, we turned onto a bridge and cycled along the Donau Insel, an island in the middle of the Danube. After a slightly confusing system of cycle paths through the city – thanks Strava for routing us out the other side – we once again found ourselves cycling beside the Danube away from Vienna and following the well-marked signs for ‘Euro6’ and ‘Bratislava’.

    Unfortunately, about 18 miles out of Vienna, the cycle path is being regenerated to create, what looks like, large bayous to prevent flooding of the local villages that line the Danube. This seemed like a good time to stop and cool down with a traditional Austrian drink – an Almdudler Spritz. There are plenty of cafes at regular intervals along the route, so you can stop for a coffee, a cheeky beer, and stock up on some snacks.

    The diversion from the path took us through some beautifully wide and almost traffic-free roads through Austrian farmland. We popped back out at a bridge over the Danube and switched sides of the river. It wasn’t long before we were in Slovakia. Initially, the cycle path was shared with the road and we went on a few twists and turns through a little town, but soon we were back on our own dedicated path all the way to Bratislava. The 18th-century hilltop town is the capital of Slovakia and a great place to stop for lunch. Don’t worry, you don’t need Slovakian money as most places are happy to accept euros.

    Bratislava castle


    If you stick to the Eurovelo in Bratislava, you will find yourself running parallel with roads but always on your own separate cycle path – we felt very safe. Bratislava was much smaller than we thought and after 10-15 minutes of cycling we were back in the countryside, using the Danube as our compass and far removed from the road and any traffic once again.

    The route took us onto another island, where you can try your hand at a slalom canoe course or even visit a museum about the Danube river. Top tip: the route along this island goes on for at least 20 miles and there isn’t much in the way of amenities – so stock up on water and snacks in Bratislava! It was a beautiful day and we followed the ‘Euro6’ on top of a high bank, with the road below us and the river right next to us. It was so peaceful and scenic, however, I can imagine in wet and windy weather it could be gruelling – so be prepared with a waterproof and a windbreaker!

    Following the Danube in a very straight line


    After leaving the island, we cycled through Slovakian countryside and the path stretched ahead of us as far as the eye could see. Finally, we took a right turn up to the road and began to cross a bridge. Like crossing many other borders in the Schengen zone, there was not much to distinguish that we had left Slovakia and entered Hungary, but we never miss an opportunity to take a selfie with a border sign.

    Made it to Hungary!

    For a short while we cycled on the road, past the old border check, and for the most part it was pretty quiet, but there were the occasional lorries hooning past. Rather helpfully, the Hungarians have a sign to tell you when a road isn’t suitable for cycling, and we followed the subtle green cycling signs away from the road and used our pre-planned route into the town of Györ – our home for the night.

    No bikes, tractors, or horse and carriage


    The Eurovelo 6 in this part of Hungary wasn’t as great as before – we were often on the road, albeit quiet country roads, and some of the ‘official’ Euro 6 routes were definitely not suitable for our bikes, so we had to use our initiative to find a nicer, or better, way.

    The route is not 100 percent there yet


    We went through the stunning and picturesque towns of Eszertgom, Szentendre and Visegrad before once again joining the dedicated cycle lanes of the Eurovelo 6, and we were glad to see those big green signs. With the Danube on our left we rolled right into the centre of Budapest, crossing over the Ujpesti Vasuti bridge and finishing our adventure in front of the Houses of Parliament.

    Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary



    In summary:

    Topography – mainly flat.

    Terrain – mostly smooth tarmac or concrete paths, however, there were a few loose patches, cobbles and the odd bit of unsurfaced road. We’d recommend 25mm reinforced tyres such as Gatorskins or Armadillos.

    Ability – suitable for most riders as there are plenty of places to stop along the way and the ride is mostly flat, smooth and traffic free.