Cycling Europe – Self Guided style

A few random thoughts. The cycle tracks are without doubt superb. Excellent signage. As well at the main tourist offices, free detailed cycle maps often in English are readily offered.

Moreover there are excellent books, again in English which can be purchased at book shops and often the major tourist offices, suitable for the map pouches that one can attach to the handle bars.

Given my navigational skills, or deficiency thereof, I did find that deviating off the beaten track, especially to wander aimlessly in the locals towns, was challenging. The more so if the village covered an area of more than a block.

Travelling solo and in September, presented no issues with finding accommodation. Using Trip Advisor or the web site, made it straightforward and on the occasional time I cycled into a town, unlike Joseph (or Mary), I managed to easily find an inn. Some were basic, but given my nature, I gained a certain sense of sanctimonious deprivation.

For a group, especially the groupies I cycle with, the issue of finding adequate and acceptable bedding arrangements, may provoke a degree of grumpiness.


For a predominately flat ride – which was not all that challenging, I don’t think I would miss not having cleats, unless there is a shoe, about which I am not aware, that permits one to cycle and then walk in noiseless, aimless comfort. Hence my packing one pair of cleat cycling shoes proved stupid! It’s just not done, to mimic Fred Astaire tap dancing a time-step around the cloisters of a gothic cathedral.
I would wear cycle nics both for riding and as underwear. A couple of pairs is sufficient. The chamois is easily washed and mostly dry next morning. If still moist, it’s not an altogether unpleasant feeling and after an hour of two of hard peddling, bodily secretions take over. A pre ride dab or two of one’s duty free after-shave is suggested if the between wash interval exceeds three days. I am reliably informed by a colleague that this can be disconcerting for the sensitive female. Surprisingly this from a male, who claims to be more straight than Tony Abbott.

I wear cargo shorts over the nics for maximum pockets.

For the upper body. I would take nothing but merino tops as in Icebreaker. A mix of long and short sleeve.

There are occasional cheaper brands at the various outdoor shops but so long as they are pure wool that is perhaps better value. They wick better when sweating and are much cooler than a jersey. The best bit is that despite the blood, sweat and tears, they don’t smell or as far as I am concerned, I don’t smell. One can wear them for at least three days or more.

Of course one must pack at least minimum clothing on the assumption that at least three days will be wind and rain that portends the imminent onset of the ice age, forget global warming.

For a long holiday, pack worn out clothes on the verge of disintegration and discard on the last day in a plastic bag in the Emirates Club Lounge. I am returning substantially lighter!

I found the track along the Elbe overall slightly more challenging and variable in terms of the ride, the geography and the towns and villages. The numerous rides around the lakes of upper Austria were also memorable. The Danube was great, don’t get me wrong, but lacked the variety of the previous three weeks. The path itself a beautiful smooth tarmac.

Essential electronics

An iPhone – that’s it! Given the camera specs, it must be the iPhone 5S –

This is combined with

Google Maps

and the best travel diary

“Day One”.

Everything else is superfluous. A Garmin cycle computer as a fashion accessory is allowed.

Vital additional advice, purchase a SIM card in your European destination and ensure it has an adequate data allowance. This is mandatory if you are to use any real time GPS mapping on the road, secondly take sufficient back up battery to allow 2 full recharges in 24 hours. Suggest

If I were to devise an itinerary in retrospect, (for Graham’s Grumpy Tour in 2014), I would fly to Salzburg, then bike around the Salzkammergut area for a week, then cycle across to Linz and then up to Prague and into Germany. Happy to negotiate.

A final word of warning – if I were to lead any sort of group cycle self guided holiday, I adhere firmly to the Armstrong principle, that it be absolutely drug free. This is not negotiable.




A few shots on the last night in Vienna

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