This will be be first ride taken from my travel diary and published on CycleFar, it’s both the most recent and one of my favourite tours to date. The plan was simple; I was going to begin where my last ride ended, near the Italian/Slovenian border close to Koper and follow the Dalmatian coast south to Albania. I would, as always, invite nearly everyone I knew in the knowledge that of the people that said yes perhaps half would actually make it past the hurdles of acquiring a bike, camping gear, time off work and the will to spend weeks of their life cycling in a Mediterranean summer. I imagined I would end up with perhaps five of my more athletic and experienced friends and we’d zoom along the coast with practiced ease. Of course it didn’t really happen like that, it happened like this instead…
I’ve been doing long distance cycling for a few years now and I know that friends on Facebook have been seeing pictures of previous tours and have become increasingly interested in trying it out for themselves, which is great, but I didn’t expect so many people to actually ask to join the ride. I’m actually pleased friends feel comfortable in just asking openly to join, I’ve always said plainly that everyone is welcome but never really expected or received a huge turn out. However, perhaps down to Facebook photos and stories from previous rides, this time will be different, I have what lookes like a very definite group of nine people including myself.
In a nutshell the convoy consists of two guys, one that I’ve rode with before and another new to touring that will meet us at the airport in Trieste and accompanying me on the flight from the UK are three girls and two guys all new to touring. I’m always pleased to have a mixed sex group so we’re off to a good start.
Nine cyclists has instantly put me into new territory, the largest group previously was five and that tour didn’t involve any flights. The greatest concern I have at the moment is getting the bikes packaged and onto the plane – I always get a little nervous when trying to get loaded touring bikes onto a low-cost flight, a few extra kg here and poor baggage handling there and problems start occurring. Seven bikes (rather than nine because Joe and Chris will meet us out there), that’s going to irritate some poor underpaid airport staff and when it does I’ll be expecting tears.
31st Aug – Departure day
I have no doubt that looking back at this tour today will stand out as the single most stresful point of the whole journey, partly because cycle-touring is inherently stress free but mostly because today is the day we tackled the airport. The first stage was a bright and early start for Ellie and I as we cycled from Leicester to Birmingham Airport where we would meet the rest of the gang, I had planned the route in detail and we had bike boxes waiting for us on arrival, courtesy of Rachel who had opted for the entirely more sensible option of taking a car. My seamless and diligent planning lasted the whole of 10 minutes; first a road that I have used for the better part of my life was inexplicably being destroyed to make way for a quarry, then the carefully selected path led us over a ‘strictly private’ estate sporting ‘no entrance’ signs and warnings of some very fancy CCTV setup – there really was no alternative way if we wanted to make our flight so I’m afraid it was just a case of heads down and ride hard. Besides, I’m uncertain whether I believe people should have the right to claim huge swaths of private land for themselves, I think anyone should be able to enjoy it equally so long as they treat it respectfully.
So with only a touch of mania and one last mishap as we took a grand tour of the NEC’s interior road network we were finally at the airport frantically and excitedly packing away our two bikes.