Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Just before his 13th birthday Michael and I rode the Coast to Coast route together from Seascale to Gateshead. We did this over four days averaging 65km a day. I thought it was a brilliant achievement for a 12 year old and he got up every climb except one. Over those four days, we made up our own rules of cycling which I was reminded of today. 1. What goes down must go up 2. The wind is always against you 3. The hill is never over 4. Traffic lights only change when you unclip 5. Never overtake unless you can make it stick 6. If someone overtakes you but looks back you must re-take them And 7. People riding road bikes with full kit on, but wearing trainers must be overtaken. Full stop. This last one may sound harsh to you. Or you may agree with me that this is an affront to cycling. Unless you have a very good reason like you are recovering from injury or someone stole your bike shoes or you are 10 years old. Anyway, it was rule 2 that stood out today because we rode into a headwind the entire day. The fact that this part of Germany is so flat doesn’t help. We rode a through a procession of identikit low-rise German towns, each separated only by long straight roads through forests and fields of corn. It looked like German planners had been playing a massive version of SimCity, repeating the same town over and over again. These places were almost completely free of any sign of life. Any shop was closed. There were no people on the streets to be seen. It was all a little bit “28 Days Later”. There was a distinct lack of places to stop and drink. I guess in rural Germany there's little need for cool cafes to serve flat whites to hipster cyclists. Today we alternated between well kept cycle paths separated from the road and riding single file on all kinds of roads big and small. It's illegal to ride two abreast in Germany apparently. What is clear is that German drivers are exceptionally courteous with cyclists on every occasion except one - they absolutely hate you riding on the roads if there is a cycle path available. The trouble is, these paths switch from one side of the road to the other at regular intervals and it's often hard to see the entrances. There is very little I can share about the ride other than we were both bored out of our minds. 8 hours in the saddle to cover 138km. Roads with long straights with an occasional bend just to relieve the monotony and ensure that drivers don't fall asleep at the wheel. The most amusing moment of the day was Michael complaining about German cobbled streets in town centres. Honestly, he has no idea what's coming. In truth, he was an absolute star today pulling long turns on the front into the wind. Sitting at number 2 on days like today is a godsend when you know there's much worse to come. This would have been an exceptionally tough day on my own so I'm grateful for his wheel and company. Michael's Bit. Flushed with the success of yesterday ( it was one compliment so get a grip) Michael is back with more wisdom.
Before we came, I thought my Dad could speak German. He says he speaks German, everyone at home says he speaks German, he must do. Bollocks. He says he knows 200 words, but I'm convinced 190 of those are names of German footballers.
I had to have a go, how hard can it be?
I sauntered into a shop, cash in hand, a smirk on my face and my flawless German cocked and ready. I strolled over to the counter and say to the girl,
"Kan ich zwei stillen wasser bitte haben?"(I hate sparkling water). She smiled, turned to me and my face is greeted to rapid-fire German. No sooner had the word "umm" left my lips, I was treated to another shower of angry sounding European vocabulary. "Ja?" I hopefully replied. To my delight, the girl grabbed two bottles and placed them on our table. "Dankeshön", I smugly replied. "See, how hard can it be?" I said to my Dad.
I drank my shitty sparkling water in moody silence.
Since I'm no good with language, I'll stick to what I do best; numbers. Today's stats:
Number of motivational words from Dad: 0
Number of Warwickshire-copycat bears on place signs: 2
Number of broken promises to visit MacDonalds: 3
Number of dogs in bike baskets: 1