Around the Pond: 5000 km on the North Sea Cycle Route

A View Back

As I create these pages, translating the original travel blog (see links page), adding pictures, and viewing the tracks, I remember the good and bad parts of the journey. (Though you tend to forget the bad parts over time, so my travelogue may sound more positive than I felt at the time.)

Overall I really like being on the road, even under adverse conditions. In the months before my tour I read loads of travelogues, and was amazed how negative some of them were. Of course, there were some days when I was grumpy, and or felt I was treated unfriendly, but that was a rare exception. I was received very friendly nearly everywhere.

The highlights of the tour, as far as the scenery is concerned, was definitely Norway and Scotland. Though strenuous to ride - at least for me, living in a flat area, and being of mediocre fitness - the landscape is fantastic. The most boring parts were the northern part of the Netherlands and Germany: endless kilometers behind the dike, through sheep shit and innumerable gates. Most pleasant to ride were the southern part of the Netherlands, and Denmark: not too strenuous, lovely landscape, and - in the case of Holland - an excellent network of bike tracks.

What would I do different today? Not much. I'd try to reduce the amount of luggage, especially in the electronics department. I'd seek medical advice before the tour. I had expected my fitness to get better over time, and for a few weeks it did, but then it declined again, together with my motivation. I suspect some nutritional deficiency. (Magnesium?)

I had planned to make 100km a day, 5 days a week. That worked OK for the flatter parts of the tour (Germany, Denmark, Netherlands), but failed in the more hilly parts. Not only did my average go down, I also made more rest days. There are three main reasons for the rest days: bad weather, bad health, and just wanting some time to explore an interesting place.

I'm not sure whether taking a rest day because of bad weather is always a good idea. It's certainly tempting, when you wake up and hear the rain patter on your tent. But then again riding in the rain isn't that big a problem in most cases, and it leaves you with more time for rest days to explore.

As far as the equipment is concerned: I should have opted for a better tent from the start. The Wechsel tent I started with wasn't really bad, but for some reason the tent poles kept breaking. That might have been my own lack of skill, but I had no such problems with the Hilleberg. (As for the McKinley: in my opinion those tent poles were just rubbish.)

I have used nearly everything I took with me, and missed little that I didn't have. One exception was the contraption that converts a Therm-a-rest sleeping pad into a chair. I bought that three weeks into the journey, and wouldn't miss it when traveling with a tent.

What would I do again? Nearly everything. The recumbent bike was pleasant to ride, and had no more technical problems than a regular bike. Sleeping in a tent on camping sites gave me flexibility in my schedule, combined with a hot shower in the evening. I didn't do much planning, except that I wanted to follow the North Sea Cycle Route, and finish in 3 months. Traveling alone was no problem for me. I am used to travel alone, and it would be hard to find someone I'd want to live with on close quarters for 3 months who has a similar speed and stamina, and a compatible attitude towards problems and bad weather.

If anything, I'd try to take more time for the tour. I only made 5000 km in three months, mostly because of the many rest days I took. But traveling is not about arriving. I want to see things where I come through, and not run a race. Of course 6000 km can be done in 3 months, and I'll try to meet that goal if I ever try this tour again. I met some riders who made it in 2 months. But that's not my style of traveling.

© Thomas Stets