San Sebastian, Spain, the final destination of our 583 mile cycle from London in 6 and a half days. It sounded like a great idea, in the planning stage we compared it with our previous cycle to Venice and were determined to make it an easier and more enjoyable ride.
How could it not be, this time we would have a shower and comfy bed every night to be fully rested for the day ahead and not have to set up a tent and sleep on the ground, we would dine in style trying the lovely food from the towns in which we stayed instead of having to cook basic pasta meals on a camping stove, we would have nice cool weather to ride in and not blistering heat in the peak of summer, we even had reduced weight to carry, only needing a few change of clothes, adding yet another factor making us believe we were going to have it easy! This line of thinking in our planning process allowed us to happily load on the daily mileage, taking our average daily target to over 90 miles as opposed to 70. What could go wrong? Speaking now, having completed the cycle, it might be easy to say, “oh, it wasn’t that bad”, but I remember forcing myself in the midst of a gruelling day of relentless cycling to make sure not to forget just how horrible and demanding it felt to have to reach this daily goal and even when your legs told you they could not possibly do any more, to just have to suck it up and keep going and going and going and going.
It’s so easy to think you will go faster than you end up actually achieving on the road, so many factors come in to play to slow you down when you have so many miles to do. Stocking up on food multiple times throughout the day is one, you won’t believe how big your appetite becomes, 2nd breakfast, 3rd lunch, countless snack times. Navigation is two, we relied solely on google maps to find us the way and although it must be said how great it is, it doesn’t always get it right and you can soon end up on near impossible terrain “roads” through farmer’s fields where especially on road bikes we are reduced to an absolute snails pace. Then there’s just needing a break for the toilet, a drink, a snack, all this adds up and before you know it, you’ve been cycling all day, it’s already getting dark and you still have 20 miles before you reach your hotel for the night.
Having said all this, it’s really not all bad and wouldn’t deter me doing something similar again (maybe just giving a bit more time to get there). There isn’t much to compare to the feeling you get successfully completing a challenge like this, and there are many moments on the bike, even at the hard parts where the amazing scenery and sense of freedom overcomes any pain and makes it all worth while. You explore places you would never usually end up being and can go hours without seeing anyone else. It’s a nice feeling being in a tourist destination without the help of a plane and knowing you got all the way there from home by the power of your legs (and a few ferries, but only where land didn’t exist).
Day 1: London (Greenwich) to Portsmouth: 92 miles
Overnight Ferry Crossing
Day 2: Saint Malo to Chateaubriant: 89 miles
Day 3: Chateaubriant to La Roche sur Yon: 85 Miles
Day 4: La Roche sur Yon to Royan: 105 Miles
Day 5: Royan to Cap Ferret: 77 Miles
Day 6: Cap Ferret to Lacotel 88 Miles
Day 7: Lacotel to San Sebastian: 50 Miles
See below my photography and video from the trip.