When we launched our Ultimate Trip 2018 competition we never imagined that we’d receive an entry that was 6,500km long. But receive it, we did! Ben Flanagan submitted a true European epic - the ‘long way round’ from Portsmouth to Porto - and, with so many kilometres under his belt, we felt that there would be no one better to share some insights into life on the road in parts of Europe less cycled.
Ben is going to be guest blogging for us for the next three weeks with his favourite segments of riding from Czechia, Hungary and Croatia. Before we publish his first blog we thought we’d do a little introduction to the man and his girlfriend Martha - the machines - who spent four months of last summer blasting around our fair continent.
A brief introduction
Meet Ben and Martha.
Ben and Martha have been cycling for a few years (Ben as a bike courier) but had only done a few UK touring rides when they set off from Martha’s hometown of Portsmouth in May last year. Riding to raise money for two charities in memory of their fathers they took on all of the challenges that Europe has to offer.
Choosing Porto as their destination purely because of the alliteration between the two cities, they tested their gear a couple of times and then got their wheels rolling. They took this spirit of adventure with them the whole way round; proving that all you need to become a cycle adventurer is a bike, a tent and a penchant for pedalling.
Their ride saw them cycle ‘the long way’; across the top of the cycling strongholds of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, down through Germany and Czechia into the Balkans and then cross the north of Italy, south of France and Spain to finish at the Portuguese coast.
It was full of ups and downs - both geographical and emotional - as the pair headed up and over several mountain ranges, had their bag stolen in Spain, dropped a mobile phone into a wishing well in Monaco, cycled through a heatwave in Croatia and dealt with a case of glandular fever in Germany. But they loved it! Ben is so happy that he did it he wants nothing more than for as many others to follow in their tracks as possible.
Both over 6ft tall, they spent all but 12 nights of their trip in a two man tent, and wild camped wherever they could. Some of their favourite memories included arriving at several tiny little villages, pitching their tent by the river, jumping in to cool off, and then relaxing on the riverbank over a beer with the locals.
Indeed, as incredible as the views were as they headed from coast to coast, mountain top to valley floor, the best thing about their trip was undoubtedly the encounters with local people along the way.