1. Do not skimp one single penny on cycling padded/gel shorts. Spend as much as you can afford and then a bit more. You will not regret every pound that you have spent. I spent almost the entire trip wearing both pairs of my cheap(ish) shorts at the same time. Your arse is going to take a hammering – help it as much as you can!
2. It is possible to get callouses on your arse cheeks. I asked the question at the beginning of the blog and now have the answer.
3. Get as many hours in the saddle as you can before you leave. I did my best whilst working full time but somehow wish I’d done more – take the long route home instead of the short one – you won’t regret it.
4. Have a route plan (buy the maps in advance, you can’t get them in shops) and a vague itinerary (you don’t want to rush the beginning or, conversely, the end) but don’t be a martyr to it – things happen, plans change, your legs will get tired. We also used maps.me, which was superb in towns but a bit erratic out in the country. In Romania and Bulgaria there are no EV6 signs at all, they start in Serbia but even then they can be erratic and illogical – a 5 mile detour up and down hills to avoid 1 mile on what they deem to be a “main” road is ludicrous when the road is, in reality, very quiet.
5. It’s great to have friends meet up with you en route but be aware this will mean you do have to stick to your itinerary.
6. When your friends leave give yourselves a couple of days off – your liver will thank you (this obviously depends on the kind of friends you have – we only seem to have one kind!).
7. The dogs in Romania are a nightmare and just as bad as everyone tells you. They seem to have a “dog chasing” gene. We didn’t get bitten but we got chased – a lot. On the plus side – a) being chased increases your average mph dramatically (and male cyclists seem to like this) and b) if you start in Romania all other dogs you encounter will seem like tender little kittens.
8. Cycle with someone you know really, really well. You will fall out – probably daily. Our biggest fall outs occurred in towns/cities and
usually almost entirely due to navigation and/or my decision to get off Fred and use the pedestrian crossing(s) to cross the hideous junction, leaving Matt in the traffic on his own! If you know each other well you will still love each other after these little “moments”.
9. In an ideal world, if camping, spend every 4th night in a hotel.
10. 50 miles a day is enough. Unfortunately there are neither hotels or campsites conveniently placed at 50 mile intervals but make this your aim. Everyone we spoke to agreed that 50 miles/80 kilometres a day is enough.
11. Take time out to see things and places en route and also allow time for admin. However carefully you plan it, life at home will still need your attention and it’s good to keep in touch with friends and family – allow time for this.
12. Stop to take photographs – it may seem like a pain at the time but you won’t regret it.
13. If you don’t keep a blog then do keep a diary. You will quickly forget where you’ve been and stayed – you won’t think that you will but …. you will. After four weeks you won’t remember where you stayed the night before!
14. Wear your helmet at all times!! We lost count of the number of cyclists carrying their helmets on the back of their bikes. If you’re going to carry a helmet, why not carry it on your head?! Matt’s worst fall happened right at the end, on a cyclepath and his helmet was embedded with gravel which, otherwise, would have been embedded in his head.
Above all, try to enjoy it!! OK, some of this hills might feel like they’re going to kill you (they won’t) and you might want to kill your cycling partner at times (you won’t) but, almost universally, the scenery is amazing and the people wonderfully kind.
The one thing that has struck me most about our whole experience is the fact that you can cycle right across Europe almost entirely on green paths, cycle ways and quiet roads (it would be relatively easy to miss some of the big cities we went through) and the flora and fauna we saw was incredible – more snakes than I have ever seen in my life, birds (including birds of prey), tortoises and wild flower verges, hedges and woodlands that are simply extraordinary.
We both feel incredibly privileged to have cycled the whole of EV6 through 10 European countries and it’s been an unforgettable experience. Would we do it again? Well, actually, this has been discussed! BUT we would definitely do it from west to east next time – no head winds – just glorious tail winds to blow us along!! Just give me a couple of years to recover!