There was something missing recently in my life. Not that it has been anyhow boring, I seem to always find something to do. Work had me right in its claws, as had everyday life, and I even managed to squeeze in a new passion – cycling at night. And here exactly lies the problem. Life went back to normal after the LEJOG adventure and an amazing trip through Orkney and the Hebrides. But so far I can’t do normal, and I am yet still to decide whether that’s good or bad for me. Maybe there will never be such a decision. For the moment I need the excitement of kicking off yet another plan, yet another challenge as soon as one is finished.
It was the 24 October last year when I made my plans official to cycle down to Germany. Back then I knew I had to commit to the trip at an early stage, otherwise I would bail out, as the whole thing was looking quite hard back then. I never bailed, and I knew from the day I committed to the trip I would not bail, as there were many eyes watching. The biggest pair of eyes watching were mine though, and they watched carefully.
As I am still in the progress of writing an article about commitment, here is one of my favourite quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, most possibly one of the best things that happened to Germany. ‘Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.’
Looking back I have still tears running down my cheeks thinking about how much that trip has meant to me. It was the first step back into my life as it is now. In the beginning of 2010 my self confidence had been at an all time low, and I was trapped in self doubt. I had taken the first steps ahead with some long-distance rides in the summer, but I needed something unique to get me back on track. The winter trip last year was unique, but it also marked the beginning of many other things to follow. Most importantly it marked the beginning of my love for one gear, and the love for challenging conditions to cycle in. May it be cold, wet, frosty or in any other way miserable, from the days cycling to Germany I had no fear no more.
There are many things that have shaped my life till now. One of them, and possibly the most important one, is music. I connect my biggest and lowest moments with songs. I can listen to the same song for ages if one grips me, although that does not happen that often (my flatmates will appreciate that). The emotional power of a good songs, orchestras etc. is second to none, and I frankly could not imagine a life without good music. When it comes to bike trips, there has always been a very special song associated with it, songs that will forever stick in my mind. My longest bike trip so far started off with ‘Can’t take my eyes off you’ ringing in my head. Later Thievery Cooperation’s ‘It takes a thief ‘ became the sound of the South Island. I still remember that one moment cycling up Lindis Pass and thinking how lucky I am to experience all this. Later trips were associated with more tunes, among them The Phoenix Foundation’s ‘Hitchcock’, Genesis’ ‘Driving the last spike’ and Shapeshifter’s ‘When I return’, which was the perfect song for riding those endless remote tracks in New Zealand. Shall I ever go back to New Zealand, this song will be in my ears once I set my first foot on its soil. Band of Horses ‘Waiting for the funeral’ was used by Edinburgh-based Danny MacAskill for his first video outing, and has ever since been one of my favourites for riding rough stuff on two wheels. Crowded House’s ‘Private universe’ accompanied me for many trips, but it was the right sound for my adventures in Scotland last autumn. Nina Simone‘s ‘Sinnerman’ will always remind me on those epic two months I spent mountain biking before I left New Zealand in 2009, and I can clearly see the rough west coast waves in front of me while smelling the sweet note of a good Sauvingnon Blanc. And then there was Amy McDonald’s ‘The road to home’, which has an even more special place in my memory than any other song. However epic trips from here will be, rolling through my parent’s front gate on 24 December last year was out of this world. Slow Train’s ‘Naturally’ was exactly the right song for those amazing sunsets to cycle in, up until now there have been a few of those. Adele’s ‘Someone like you’ somehow gripped me over the summer and became the soundtrack to LEJOG, without any apparent reason though. I didn’t even carry an ipod on that trip, so I had to try to get the lyrics together on those lonely country roads. And now there is Tori Amos‘ ‘Horses’, which has truly inspired me for the new adventure. Tori’s songs have been the underlying soundtrack to many rides, but this song has had me in its ban for almost a week now, and I cannot get it out of my head, neither do I want to. Some of the songs I have mentioned connect directly in their lyrics with my trips, some of them just happened to be there at the right time. It’s the voice and melody of ‘Horses’ that was the soundtrack to my latest micro-adventures riding home at night. The song totally matched the beauty and tranquillity of night riding, and at the same time riding home for a few hours gave me the chance to totally shrug off the hectic and stress of a busy day job. But there is also a deeper meaning to it, possibly too much to dash out here on a public blog. Both horses and bikes give you the freedom to escape the everyday routine and to keep your inner demons where they belong. As long as you ride, your inner army keeps perfectly still, a good thing from time to time.
So after listening to ‘Horses’ on and on (my computer must be fed up by now) I had the deep desire to connect a trip with this amazing song. And as Christmas is only a bit more than two months away, I needed a plan. Something to train for, something to look forward to. Physically and mentally I am in the best shape I have ever been; there is no time to waste. I was a bit tired of dashing one trip out after another after cycling home to Germany in May, that’s why I kept my LEJOG adventure relatively quiet. No press, no sponsors, no talks, just me and a bike. I had a jolly good time, at the same time the trip was a tough undertaking physically. But I also feel there is more to add, as all those trips have not yet managed to push me to the edge what I can do, so that space might be filled a week before Xmas, even though I still have to sort out many things before I can finally commit. But in my head I am there already.
In a nutshell, the next trip will be short and very intense. Deep in myself I am hoping for less snow, otherwise the plan could be a series of 24hr rides. As I am planning on doing Strathpeffer on 8 January this might be right training for a 24hr solo race in the middle of winter. The rough plan is to leave Edinburgh on 17 Dec for Cairnryan, to take the ferry to North Ireland to Belfast. I have recently been to Ireland and decided that it is the perfect place for cycling. From Belfast there will be a detour north to the Giant’s Causeway, before heading down to Dublin that and the next day. From Dublin the plan is to visit Wales by taking the ferry to Holyhead, before crossing England to Hull, that should take another two days. From Hull there are two options: either Rotterdam or Zeebrugge, and I am not too sure which one to take, although Rotterdam seems the more likely option. I would have three days left to get home from there, which seems a suitable goal, but might involve a lot of riding at night. The way back to Scotland could be on two wheels or not, I haven’t really decided on that.
So far from here, I will dig myself into some guidebooks now and get as many rides in as possible, as the trip will mean an average of 200k a day, a rather scary prospect in those conditions, but a manageable one. If there are sponsors out there for bike, lights and equipment, please get in touch with me, as I need to up my gear for a trip like this. And if you have any ideas, recommendations, places to eat, sleep and warm up on the way, I would love to hear from you. For now I will tidy up my room and brain to make space for new adventures.