Typical cavalcade of numbers - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

Typical cavalcade of numbers

Well, it might have been hurriedly arranged; I might have had no real plan and took it quite a bit easier than I normally would on a tour; and I might have been rained on, and rained out, far more than on previous tours (and much more than I would've expected for August in Central Europe)...

...but in the end I loved every minute of it, and feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have been able to get away for (what has turned out to be) the short window in the summer when the virus was in abeyance, and travel was briefly possible. I cut a swathe right through the middle of the Austria and along the course of the Alps - it was fantastic to get out into some unfamiliar landscapes (as I mentioned at the top, I love mountains) - and a nice affirmation that I can actually cycle across this sort of terrain.

Particularly this year, where the emphasis has been very much on getting away from it all, I've been much less obsessed about how the numbers stack up. I'm always telling myself to take it easier on touring days anyway. Looks like this year I fulfilled my wish:

Total kilometres ridden: 1049km (652 miles)
Touring kilometres ridden (full days): 962km (598 miles)
Total hours in the saddle (all days): 68
Full touring days: 13
Mean kilometres/day: 74km (45 miles)
Mean kph: 15.4 (9.6 mph)
Mean hours/day: 4hr 46m

So get this - this was the longest of these short tours I've done over the last 4 years in terms of riding days - and simultaneously the shortest total distance. I barely cracked 1000km. There's a damn simple explanation for this: all my previous tours I've spent over 6 hours a day in the saddle; this time, I was averaging less than five! I covered an average of less than 80km a day - compare this to Sweden, where I averaged 122km!

I'd love to say this was always a deliberate choice - sometimes at least I did intentionally take short days for very big climbs or to make sure I stopped in the nicest places - but equally the just not being bothered to go further in bad weather definitely played its part. Some consolation is, despite the terrain, I did cover ground at almost exactly the same rate as in the last tours.

Talking of terrain, surely this is the most mountainous of the lot?

Meters climbed total: 11,403m
Meters climbed/day: 846m
Average climb/day (in Alps): 928m
Total descent: 11,742m
Biggest continuous climb: 935m over 24km (Gerlospass, "category 1")
Maximum gradient: 20.5% on the mountain bike route near Blaa-Alm

So this is a decent total - more than 10,000m climbed over the tour is a lot. As mentioned before, it beats Everest. But interestingly it's still less than in the Czech Republic last year - and more importantly, the average per day is less too, even for the stretches in the Alps. It really shows how the climbing can add up much more in rolling terrain than it can in real mountains.

The explanation for this seems straightforward: when I wasn't climbing up mountainsides, I was usually going along valley floors which were remarkably smooth. My non-climbing days therefore had remarkably little ascent (there were lots of <1000m days, of which I didn't get a single one in Czechia). I have a lot to thank glaciation for.

Where this tour did exceed, and where I can claim some kind of athletic victory, is the size and number of climbs. When I did have to climb, they were huge: the Gerloß pass ended up being a bigger climb than my all-time-bogeyman Shauinsland. Generally the grades on these were sensible, but still pretty pleased that I could lug the fully loaded Shift up 1000m climbs at <10% gradients, seemingly indefinitely. This makes be feel much better about my fitness!

And at individual points some of the grades encountered were the steepest I'd seen as well. I suspect it's impossible to ride the loaded Shift up gradients of more than 20%, so I suspect I've hit the limit here.

Days without cheese: zero
Calories eaten/burnt: Not as much weight loss this time around, but still managed to have a calorie crisis on my rest day
Best pizza: Bratislava, oddly
Emptiest restaurant: Kaprun Mediterranean
Most Covid-risky place: cramming onto Radfähre in Rust
Body fails: Surprisingly few! Low blood sugar around the Neusieldersee.

Health and body held up excellently this time - and a good thing too, as I had (i) had no intention of needing medical care during the time of Covid and (ii) discovered afterwards that I'd stupidly let my European health (EHIC) card expire, so it wouldn't have been any use anyway. (Very) fortunately I didn't even get close to needing it - I actually managed to get insurance including cycle touring, but it probably would have been void if my EHIC card was expired. Whoops.

[It's particularly sad as of course we'll lose the European health card - as well as all our other rights - next year. Though apparently a "global" GHIC card replacement is forthcoming. This is a massive relief, as otherwise you're dependent on insurance to cover potentially tens of thousands of euros of care if you, say, got hit by a car ... and we know how tricky travel insurance can be about cycle touring].

One disappointment in Austria was the pizza, which considering the country shares a border with Italy, was almost always not excellent. Sort it out guys!

Punctures: Wait for it ... zero! Again!
Mechanical faults: Bit of fiddling required with the brakes
Accidentaly damage: Dented top tube. Dropped the bike on the Rotterdam metro like an idiot.
Losses: #@%#* spare brake pads (but see below!)
Gains: One sweet Austrian hat. I'm now four for four.

Again, I just take my hat off to the reliability of the Disc Trucker. No punctures, again! This is getting to be an incredible record for the Marathon tyres - that's four tours and ~5000km now with no punctures. The brake wear was expected, and in honesty they did incredibly well and stopped me without ever feeling unsafe even on long and hairy 15% descents.

I wasn't in any way surprised the pads needed changing by the time I got to Rust - though a bit annoyed with myself I managed to leave my spare pads by the side of the road. But stop press: when going through my panniers on return, somehow the missing pads turned up again! I'd distinctively cut out the cardboard packaging, so it was definitely the same pair. I just have no idea how I failed to find them when changing them in Rust.

Ironically, since returning to Bedfordshire I've had to replace the pads not once, but twice - something about the wet conditions has led to a couple of occasions where the butterfly clip inside the brakes has got mangled, and has worn right through the pads. Happened in the same place twice as well, a kilometre outside Sandy. Strange.

Falling off: None! And not really in any danger of it. I guess taking it slowly payed off.
Car trouble? Hardly any. Austrians were courteous to just the right amount. Someone did reverse into my path. Traffic was a bit feisty coming into Slovakia.
Bad roadsVirtually none. Cycleways almost uniquitous. Lots of motorbikes near Wildalpen but basically fine.
Navigation errors: Got this down to a fine art. I didn't even have to refer to the GPS too much - good signage on the cycleways (and obvious valleys) made it much harder to let lost.
Non-existent services: Considering the season of the virus, went better than expected. Good campsites nearly everywhere. Hainfeld was a bit of a black spot.

Just excellent cycleways and signage throughout Austria, the cycle infrastructure being pretty amazing. Austrian drivers were really good around cyclists, super courteous of course but also not apparently terrified of us, like in Sweden. Motorbikers were great, if a bit noisy. Generally it was difficult to get lost in the valleys - I'm still loving my paper maps, and avoiding staring at the GPS. It was a bit of a shock entering Slovakia and suddenly sharing the road with honking traffic, but nothing that bad really.

Number of nights camped: 10
Nights in hotels/guesthouses: 3
Wild/free camps: one
Rainy days: 5
Nights sheltering from weather in storerooms: 2

I think the weather has been a challenge on a every tour I've done, albeit in different ways. This time - there was just so much water falling from the sky. It didn't really impact my enjoyment of the riding - I nearly always got patches of good visibility during the day - and I had some beautiful sunny days in the middle to make up for it.  

But my word did it rain overnight. The gear stood up really well - I can't praise the Ortlieb panniers enough, they really are 100% waterproof, and actually my saddle cover kept the leather saddle totally dry even in an all-night downpour. And the new tent - well, it excelled itself, even after a total battering I never got wet-wet like I did in the Czech republic. Groundsheet + footprint seemed excellent at keeping the water out.

This didn't stop me bailing a couple of time to sleep in storerooms. No regret there at all!

Campsites were a bit more expensive, but once out of Tyrol it settled down a bit (€10 being the standard and reasonable rate). At €22+ you'd be better off just booking a guesthouse (can easily can rooms for €40-50).

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 4
Cathryn RamsdenHi, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this on a grey, blustery, wet day between Christmas and New Year!! So much to look forward to next summer (sunshine, Europe, cycling). Thanks for all your hard work putting it together.
Reply to this comment
2 years ago
Jon AylingTo Cathryn RamsdenThanks Cathryn, glad you enjoyed it! Fingers crossed for next year, certainly will hope to get some of all three of those in towards the summer. Cheers!
Reply to this comment
2 years ago
Mark BinghamJust finished reading your journal - very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing!
Reply to this comment
1 year ago
Jon AylingTo Mark BinghamThanks Mark!
Reply to this comment
1 year ago