Instead of writing about everything that was great in Transcontinental race 2013 I focus on what went wrong and how I intend to address it in 2014.
1st leg London to somewhere near Bastogne, 485 km, 33 hours
Garmin wtf?! I was using Garmin edge 810 for navigation with routes planned at gpsies.com (see all my plans including ones I used). The device is called a navigator, but absolutely unsuitable for that. It tries to navigate random routes even with direct routing enabled. Best answer was to ride 200 meters off route and wait a minute for ”route calculation error”. After that it would work as expected and just show the planned route. Another problem was that it would eventually crash completely after ”off course” warning. Very frustrating. I did about 20 hard resets during the ride. Finally I was able to do the entire reset without stopping. Press lap+start when powering and click through menus, change views, fix navigation preferences, fix course preferences and finally continue business as usual. Very frustrating. And in the end I didn’t have any gpx files of my trip to London, London-Edinburgh-London or Transcontinental race when I got back home. Very annoying. Finally the edge 810 has a warning message ”External power lost” when you slow down and dynamo charging stops. So I had to click the error away whenever I slowed down. For example to navigate. Not as frustrating as – see below.
Some of the problems have been addressed with firmware upgrades and I noticed I can save the activities directly to memory card. That should save them from inevitable hard resets. I try to keep route files below 300 km. That should make the device usable even when riding off course. As a bonus the old ”External power lost” message has been replaced with auto power off. So now the device will power off if you don’t click within 15 seconds of slowing down. I might slow down to for example see the map… Seriously. Who would like to auto power off the device when exercise is active? I’ll just have to deal with it.
Finding food and water was a bit tricky sunday morning. Belgium had plenty of bakeries, but no shops open at the time when I was riding. Luckily I found a local MTB event service area to refuel.
For opening hours the France is probably the worst. I’ll just have to stockpile early enough. Even gas stations and most fast food joints are likely to be closed.
2nd leg from near Bastogne to Freiburg, 370 km, 26 hours
I had used walking/cycling instructions most of the time when planning route after Luxemburg. I was riding in farm roads and paths, that sometimes didn’t exist at all. It was mostly fast and short, but I would have preferred a road over this.
With extensive use of Google street view, satellite imagery and other photo sources I will actually check to roads. Opencyclemaps has some excellent renderings including the contour lines.
3rd leg from Freiburg to near Fuorn pass 315 km, 41 hours
At Titisee the road (31) turned to Autobahn. The detour was roughly same distance, but with about 800 meters climbing. Making big changes to route when tired and annoyed wasn’t really entertaining.
Like with farm roads in France I will be more careful when planning the route.
One thing cyclists hate the most. Cycle paths. In the few places, Netherlands and Switzerland, where cycle paths actually exist they are very hard to navigate. I didn’t realize how strict Switzerland actually is about using cycle paths. Luckily I was riding at night most of the time so I didn’t really have to care. As a bonus the cycle paths rarely have any street signs to follow. I got very lost on the way to Davos with hunders of meters extra climbing and returning back to where I started.
Again. Heavily use the opencyclemap renderings and stay as far as possible from roads with nearby cycle paths.
I slept at a nice hotel few kilometers before Fuorn pass. I might have continued, but I was again out of food. Should have stockpiled a pizza in previous city. There are few shops in Alps. Just restaurants where it takes forever to get any food at all. Atleast I got to charge all my devices and wash all my clothes. However I had planned to start early, but my wake up was call from reception that it is noon and I have to leave. Great. I had slept through 3 hours of alarms from 2 phones. Luckily I did get 12 hours of sleep for the next stage. Having slept through breakfast I was still out of food. I asked for big loaf of bread from the kitchen and ate it on the way up to Fuorn pass.
No idea how to wake up for sure. One thing that has worked is changing the alarm sound every time. I can sleep through alarms I usually use even if they are ringing 10 cm from my ear.
4th leg Fuorn pass to Po valley, 280 km, 33 hours
The mountain stage, 7 km climbing, was great. After Stelvio before Mortirolo I was again running out of food. I stopped to restaurant to eat day’s 2nd pizza and stuff the 3rd to my backpack. I was sure I’d find breakfast at some mountain hotel, but it was another 9-10 hours to that. The main problem was that my light batteries were running out during the uphills. Dynamo is useful at 10+ km/h, but I was climing more like 6-8 km/h most of the time. I used Petzl Tikka 2 with core battery and Lezyne Super drive XL as battery lights. Lezyne wastes battery quite fast and Tikka is unsuitable main light because it will point to where you look instead of where your bike is going. The lights were definitely enough for slow climbing, but still nice to see around when riding on unknown roads.
I got spare battery set for SPOT and the Tikka 2 eats the same batteries while I charge the core. Also I have a new light that in low power mode is good for climbing and lasts 20 hours.
I noticed my SPOT had ran out of batteries. I thought finding lithium aaa:s would be quite easy. But then I realized I have absolutely no idea what shop in Italy would sell them. Took me about 2 hours, that I had rather been sleeping, and about 10 discussions, usually with sign language and pointing at the batteries, until I finally found the batteries.
I now have 12 lithium aaa:s in my bag at start.
I check in to hotel and ate a dinner and ordered another for 9pm. I asked receptionist to call me, to wake me up, at 9. Lesson learned from Fuorn. After some 6 hours of sleep I was ready to continue. Of course the shops were already closed. I bought about 800 grams of buns from the restaurant to survive the night. Again restaurants would be open for water and other refreshments, but no places to find food.
Nothing new here. Just be more aware of shop closing times.
5th leg from near Garda to near Pesaro, 360 km, 22 hours
Autostrade. Damnit. After 12 hours of carefree riding in tailwind to Adriatic sea there was another autostrade on the planned route. Maybe I was just tired and maybe the route really was confusing, but I spent 3 hours and rode 55 km to find way around less than ten km strip of highway. I was completely devastated mentally of the problem and basically forgot to eat and drink for those 3 hours until I got back on route.
Focus. Focus. Focus. When making a detour make sure there actually is road. Also spend more time on details when planning the route.
I had planned to sleep and eat in Riccione famous for it’s cycling hotels. Well bs. Best I could find was, in 5th hotel, 120 euros for room that I was planning to use for max. 5 hours. What a waste of time. I ended up sleeping in road side for few hours.
Luckily the EU roaming prices are tolerable now so I will extensively use online booking services for those few times I need a hotel. Going door to door is just waste of time in august in tourist areas.
Another note, that even main roads can be very slow to ride in places where they go through cities.
6th leg near Pesaro to near Fermo, 140 km, 18 hours
Sleeping just a few hours and been hungry and thirsty earlier wasn’t a good start for the night. The scenery was great and riding itself was ok, but I was just getting ”asleep at the wheel”. Then my rear derailleur cable broke and it took another hour to get back on the road. Even more tired. I finally found a hotel at 5 am. And slept until noon when reception called and said I have to get out. Luckily they still had breakfast available. I just didn’t have to care about schedule now as I would make it to sunday evening ferry to Albania even if I had to run.
Focus. Drink. Eat. Sleep. Being able to operate when frustrated is a key. All kinds of things will happen and I just have ride through them. Don’t waste time and don’t find excuses to take extra breaks.
7th leg near Fermo to Bari, 430 km, 29 hours
Finding food in Italy is a lot harder than it sounds. Gas stations sold only gas, something that looked like a grocery store would sell shovels, kiosks would sell only post cards, etc. Very few shops looked like the good old metal boxes of Germany and Finland. Spotting something like this kind of reminds me of the supermarkets and 24h cafes of rural Russia.
Just buy food whenever you can. You might not see another shop for hours. Water is available everywhere in most of Italy.
Riding through southern Italy on saturday night was great. Big parties, crowded cities and nice atmosphere. Have fun riding there if you decide to go Bari. Also recommended facing a few extra hills and riding through Serracapriola. Lovely scenery in the area.
8th leg from Durres to northern Greece, 280 km, 24 hours
I didn’t have any Albanian or Macedonian currency when I arrived. I was a bit suspicious about road side money changers so I tried to find a bankomat. 1st 3 or so were rebooting them selves and next showed Windows error screen. I decided to just use euros if possible. I eventually found a supermarket, but it was about the only I saw. Shop that would accept credit card was actually easy to spot. It was the one with only brand new cars on the parking area. In Macedonia the bankomats were working fine and I could do normal shopping. Btw. even the ferry to Albania had to be paid with cash as they didn’t have a card reader in terminal.
Have enough cash on for shopping. Even in Albania I was able to pay in euros with unknown rate that still made shopping cheap.
My GoPro fell off in Macedonia and I lost the screw used to tighten it to mount.
I should have both tethered the camera and the screw to handlebars. Lesson learned here. Even so I’ll have a spare screw.
I still don’t know how to deal with dogs. Night riding is very stressful because you’ll have no idea when a pack of dogs will wake up and start chasing you. Riding on big roads helps a bit, but won’t really fix the problem. In daytime the dogs are smarter than cyclists and just sleep in the shadows.
Yelling at them was definitely the best. I’m just worried what will happen when that is not enough.
9th leg from northern Greece to near Kavala, 340km, 30 hours
I slept on road side for the hottest hours, but cycling in day time is pain because of heat and night because of the damn dogs. Finding food was again a bit of a problem, but there were some little restaurants open so I just bought some food to go and ate it over night. Again in Kavala region all the hotels were booked full or ridiculously expensive. More time wasted. Finally found one. Bought next nights food from market before going to bed. And asked the reception to wake me up at 9 pm. Maybe I’ve finally learned. 🙂
This was just riding. Nothing unusual really happened. Some flats. Some dogs. Naps at bus stops. Plenty of kiosks that sell chocolate, ice cream and chips, but still hard to find markets I’ve grown used to.
10th leg from Kavala to near Istanbul, 380 km, 34 hours
Story is about to end, but still some pedal pushing left. Night to Alexandroupolis was just the usual nice riding and being haunted by dogs. More dogs than I can imagine. Missing turns riding away from chasing dogs. Just to have them start camping at the crossing where I’m supposed to ride through.
Enough of dogs. The constant stress caused by dog packs is just intolerable. Cars are definitely more dangerous than dogs, but slightly more predictable.
Headwinds started at Turkey’s border. Again I didn’t have any local currency and it took forever to find a bankomat. Also my both mobile plans were ridiculously expensive at Turkey so I had to get a Turkcell prepaid. Actually I didn’t find one until almost a day later. Luckily good restaurants and shops were available basically everywhere on side of the main road D110.
Headwinds make the route a lot longer. I was expecting to be at Istanbul early friday morning, but I had to just stay motivated and ride downhills at less 20 km/h speed. Everything that doesn’t go as planned is mentally challenging, but really the only thing you can do is push the pedals. And I should have used the bankomat at the border and checked availability of mobile plans beforehand.
I slept on the road side as soon as I was off the D110 road.
11th leg to Istanbul, 110 km, 7 hours
Well. This was embarassing. I had pinpointed ”Rumeli Kavagi” as the finish line instead of Rumeli Hisari that was the correct one. Google maps had pointed Kavagi in search and I had been happy with that.
Now I know.
The after math
I was awarded a ”spirit of the race” award of Transcontinental race 2013. It was nice especially as I didn’t know there would be such a award. Don’t know if anyone else knew. Though I think it was a bit unfair that my participation of London-Edinburgh-London was one the ”points”. Though my route was very entertaining atleast for me.
Anyways. Starting 9th of august the modern alchemists turning pizzas into kilometers will be at it again. And it is going to be fun for both riders and spectators.