Is cycling bad for my oral health?

cyclist showing his teeth

After a glorious summer on the pedals and with the temperature dropping ever so slightly I have found myself recently, nursing a dull ache coming from my chops.  Is cycling bad for my oral health? Is my bike to blame?

Sports drinks, gels and bars are bad for your teeth. This finding, from research just published in the British Dental Journal, is hardly surprising.  

Indeed, many cycling enthusiasts – even those that take the time to bake a home-made banana loaf or pilfer their wife’s carefully created energy balls – will likely take more interest in caring for their teeth than the population at large.

Sugary stuff is pretty hard to avoid. But we can sleep easy (once the lid is replaced on the tube), safe in the knowledge that those pre, during or post workout energy boosts have been safely brushed away.

Or not

“Elite athletes have high rates of oral disease despite brushing their teeth more frequently than most people,” the UCL scientists found.

Of the 352 Olympic and professional athletes in 11 sports, including cycling, 94% said they brushed their teeth at least twice a day, and 44% regularly cleaned between their teeth (flossing). This is far higher than the general population: 75% for twice-daily brushing and 21% for flossing.

I don’t know anyone who flosses, so maybe that’s a good place to start. But for those who are already doing that – as well as brushing, going to the dentist every 6 months, not smoking and eating healthily – the findings are a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Dr Julie Gallagher from the UCL Eastman Dental Institute Centre for Oral Health and Performance said it’s the gels, bars and drinks that are the issue.

“The sugar in these products increases the risk of tooth decay and the acidity of them increases the risk of erosion. This could be contributing to the high levels of tooth decay and acid erosion we saw during the dental check-ups.”

Now, these are ‘elite athletes’. As such, they may well be quaffing more sports drinks than your average Joe, or David. However, the fact they are seemingly doing all they can to protect their teeth and gums – and still have poor oral health must be hard to take.

Amongst those athletes, the researchers found:

  • nearly half (49.1%) had untreated tooth decay
  • the large majority showed early signs of gum inflammation
  • almost a third (32%) reported that their oral health had a negative impact on their training and performance.

So now they’re looking at introducing more hygiene habits – like additional fluoride use from mouthwash, more frequent dental visits and reducing their intake of sports drinks – to help the professional cyclists, runners, swimmers et al improve their gnashers. The results aren’t out yet, so what can you do?

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific advisor at the British Dental Association, had this advice for readers of The Draft:

“Competitive sport requires considerable energy to beat the competition – but quenching your thirst by sipping on energy drinks for long periods amounts to constantly bathing your teeth in sugar.  The sugar-free varieties are just as damaging, as these drinks are also acidic which over time can strip the enamel of your teeth. This erosion makes teeth vulnerable to tooth decay.

 “I’d advise people to steer clear of ‘energy drinks’. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and perhaps consider more complex carbohydrates to sustain energy levels.”

For us mere mortals:

Start with a decent bowl of porridge before that long Saturday ride, providing slow release energy (maybe go crazy and add peanut butter – though be warned, it’s claggy so you’ll want to brush before leaving the house).

Keep hydrated, with water, which will also stop you getting ‘dry mouth’ (saliva helps protect your teeth). Then think about balancing what you need. If you are doing a session after work, think about the fuel you’ll need in advance, so you can go for the complex carbs rather than the last minute gel.

On longer rides, there’s a fair chance you could be over-fuelling, especially at the coffee shop stop. I’m also not sure where the science for the recommended intakes for energy gels comes from. One every 25-45 minutes – really? On whose advice: the marketing team? Can anyone carry that many gels on an 8-hour ride?

And for the commuters: you don’t need an energy gel on the way from Tooting to Westminster – however hard you ride.

Yellow Jersey Cycle Insurance policies can cover you while you are training, travelling and racing and offers up to £500 emergency physio and dental treatment as standard – click here to get your free quote.

The post Is cycling bad for my oral health? appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Cycling in Peru: Jonas Deichmann races the Incadivide

Cycling in Peru - Adventure Bike Rider looks out on the Andes Mountain Range

Peru is not internationally renowned as a cycling destination but for a bikepacker it has all the elements. Steep, unforgiving mountains, untouched scenery, friendly locals and an unnerving  sense of the unknown. Not only does it have these in abundance, the countryside is also littered with an ancient road network used by the Incas…

With all of these ingredients it is of no surprise that an epic, ultra-distance, unsupported bike race was going to happen at some point…

This week in the Draft we report on Jonas Deichmann’s experience racing the Peru Incadivide in the BikingMan Ultra racing series.

Cycling in Peru - Glacial Valley

Fairly new to the scene, the BikingMan race series has made a big impact in the ultra distance cycling community and has attracted some of the best athletes in the world. The series consists of six races, set in Oman, Corsica, Laos, Peru, Portugal and Taiwan with each stage consisting of (on average) 1000km through extremely tough landscapes and high altitudes. The races are also open to amateurs and professionals alike with on average 80 entrants competing in one race.

Cycling in Peru - Jonas putting the hammer down

Jonas had been chosen by BikingMan as the 2019 race ambassador because of his incredible achievements in ultra cycling. These include an incredible 96 day ride from Alaska to Ushuaia setting the new Pan America Record and the Eurasia cycling record.

The previous stage in Laos saw Jonas’ bike suffer irreparable mechanical failure with a fair chunk of the race still to go. So instead of scratching (the cycling term for your race ending due to injury, bike failure or simply giving up) Jonas decided he was going to walk the remaining 200km.

Pushing his bike on foot along remote jungle passes, through tropical storms and up steep mountain roads to complete the race before the cut off time. A truly heroic effort. Hopefully we would not see a repeat of this in Peru…

Cycling in Peru - Morning view of the mountains

The race started and ended in the coastal town of Trujillo. Bursting with energy and character, the 50 riders gathered in the square of the town (which was still busy with folks enjoying the previous evenings activities) at 4.30am.

Excitement grew, nerves were amplified and with a long loud blast of the klaxon, the riders clipped into their pedals and pulled away into the night with a mind boggling 1600km and 32,000m of ascent ahead of them. Bike lights and coloured cycling outfits soon turned into blurry shapes and disappeared into the morning darkness away from the coast and into the unknown of the Andes mountains.

Cycling in Peru - Fruit Shack

Being an unsupported race series, the cyclist have to carry their own kit, source their food and find places to sleep along the route. Some choose to camp as well as stay in hotels depending on how remote they are during the course when night arrives. The more hardcore of the cyclists often choose to ride through the night to gain advantage and miles over their competition.

The Oman, Corsica and Laos stages were incredible adventures. But Peru was something truly hard to beat.

Thinking of taking on an ultra-cycling race? Click here for 10 vital tips which you should know! 

Cycling in Peru - the white road

We followed Jonas on the road and rugged tracks as he made his way up and across the Andes through sleepy mountain villages up into the high national parks. For the last 4 or 5 days of Jonas’ race we passed through Punta Olympica National Park and the Canyon Del Pato. Snow capped peaks and ancient glaciers flanked us as we traversed across the range in and out of deep canyons and green valleys. so far the trip had delivered the most incredible landscapes we’d ever seen.

Cycling in Peru - Snow capped mountains

The days ticked by as Jonas rode with a seemingly bottomless pit of energy, occasionally stopping to refuel. Unsurprisingly it was very difficult to find anything with enough of the protein, fat or carbohydrates needed for cycling such a long distance. This only added to the jeopardy and adventure of the race.

The people we met along the way were friendly and more than happy to help us, the women wore beautiful hand woven, colourful shawls and impressively high hats covering long dark pig tails. A traditional Peruvian way of dressing that is just so wonderful to see first hand.

Cycling in Peru - Local resident

By the time the halfway stage of the race came, a few cyclists had already finished. The winner, a French rider called Sofiane Sehili completed the 1600km race in staggeringly short amount of time of just 5 days 15 Hours. His first 600km was undertaken with no sleep at all. A truly super-human effort. Second place was taken by local cycling legend Rodney Soncco. A regular competitor and winner of the BikingMan series.

Cycling in Peru - puncture

Jonas had decided before the race that he was going to take the full ten days to finish. His reasons being that he wanted to save his legs for his big world record attempt in September of this year, where he will be cycling 18000km from Norway to South Africa.  

Interested to know what kit you need for next bikepacking adventure? Click here for more information. 

cycling in Peru - in front of the Tunel Punta Olimpica

Jonas finished the race with a final dash through the night, back along the busy but impressive Pan American Highway, with endless sand dunes to one side and the deep blue of the Pacific to the other. Eventually he rolled across the finish line at 4.40am. Just 20 minutes from the race cut off time. An exciting end to an unbelievable cycling race, and a hugely memorable adventure for both cyclists and everyone else involved.

If you are looking to go cycling in Peru Yellow Jersey bicycle insurance will provide travel and bike insurance for all forms of bike packing.

The post Cycling in Peru: Jonas Deichmann races the Incadivide appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Cycling the Monega Pass: Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 1

A few weeks ago I spent the long Easter weekend in Alyth, a small town on the foot of the Angus Glens, building my first Coracle. After three days of manual work, with my hands torn up and covered in plasters, I was waiting at the breakfast table for the coffee to brew and listened to Mark Knopfler playing in the background. YouTube did the choosing for me, and for the first time in my life I found myself listening to ‘Telegraph Road’ from the Dire Straits. I listened up. The song instantly caught my attention. I had to listen to it again. Over the smell of fresh coffee I looked up the lyrics.

 

‘A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
Made a home in the wilderness.

 He built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
And the other travellers came walking down the track
And they never went further, no, they never went back.

 Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their load
And the dirty old track was the Telegraph Road.’

 

A few hours later I found myself on the top of Monega Hill. This morning, while listening to Telegraph Road, I had picked the walk that intrigued me most in the Angus Glens. It was a clear, sunny day and the views from the top were mind-blowing. For almost ten years now I had lived in Scotland. I had spent most of my weekends travelling, either by bike or by foot. But what unfolded in front of my eyes on that sunny Easter Monday not only made me really happy, the happiest I had been for months, it also inspired me to take my bike up here. Walking here was great, but if I was able to cycle up here, this would not only be the highest I have been on two wheels, but also the mountain crossing with one of the most spectacular views I have seen so far in Scotland.

rapid_racers_852_by_122_animated_banner_ad

 

Almost three weeks later I found myself waiting for the 18.11 train from Glasgow to Pitlochry. It was a Sunday on a bank holiday weekend. I had just finished two days of guiding people and while waiting for a coffee decided to treat myself to a day off. I remembered that I had a return ticket from Dundee left to be used before the 12 May. The snow had returned to the hills, the temperatures dropped significantly. The forecast looked great for my plans. I knew I had one last stab at this before the snow was gone.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 2

I stocked up on supplies for the next day and for dinner when I got into the town and checked into the hostel in Pitlochry. Egg mayonnaise and mashed potatoes were washed down with a local ale. Loaded up with protein and carbs I enjoyed the conversations in the lounge. I didn’t sleep well, I was way too excited about the things to come.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 13

Not many people had heard of the Monega Pass when I talked to them. Even fewer had been there on a bike. The highest of the Mounth Roads that cross the Cairngorms, the Monega Pass reaches over 1,000m near the summit of Glas Maol. It crosses a high, exposed and featureless plateau which in winter is frequently swept by storms. It runs close to a much better known tarmac road, the Cairnwell Pass, connecting Braemar in the North and Spittal of Glenshee in the South. With Glenshee Ski Centre situated at the summit, at 670m the Cairnwell Pass is the highest main road in Britain. The much lesser known Monega Pass passes the top of Little Glas Maol at 973m, and my planned route also took me over Monega Hill at 908m and Cairn of Claise at 1,064m.

While I was excited and frightened at the prospect of cycling up there on a gravel bike with 42mm tyres and drop bars, the route to get to Braemar, from where the Monega Pass runs to Auchavan, was equally stunning. Part of the Cairngorms Loop bikepacking route, Glen Tilt is one of the most scenic routes to cross from Highland Perthshire into Royal Deeside, offering a delightful mixture of vistas ranging from woodland to open glens and hillsides. But there is more to this glen than just pretty views. It was also the site of a long drawn-out Victorian access battle through the Scottish courts when the 6th Duke of Atholl tried to eject a party of wandering botanists in 1847, access was later granted by the Scottish Rights of Way Society, Scotways.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 8

The ride though here was stunning. The sun broke through the clouds from time to time, while I enjoyed the views to the majestic snow-capped mountains around me. This was like cycling the northern part of Carretera Austral in Chile a few months back. The only difference was that this was so close to my front door, less than two hours on the train from Edinburgh. On a well graded gravel track I followed the River Tilt northbound, which after a while turned into singletrack. For the first time my skills on the drop bars were put to a proper test. With a few bits of pushing I joined another double track and cruised into Braemar around 13.30 in the afternoon, ready for a coffee and brownie and some rest at The Bothy.

rapid_racers_852_by_122_animated_banner_ad

 

After a few miles on the road I spotted the sign on my left, ‘Public Path to Clova’. There wasn’t any hint of the Monega Pass here, but another well-graded track took me to Loch Callater, where a nice bothy invited me to stop. While the weather in the morning was calm and dry, the clouds over the hills indicated that the conditions would soon turn. This was Scotland after all, and it only took a few more minutes for the first snow shower to start while I signed the bothy book.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 7

From here another well graded path climbed rapidly into the mountains. The gradient of up to 20% made cycling tough, at times impossible. With the bad weather looming all around me I could have been worried, but the higher I climbed, the more ease I felt. I had the right mind-set, enough food and good equipment, there was nothing to worry about. The sheer marvel at the landscape send my confidence to levels it hadn’t been for months. Every time I turned around I admired the views around me: The snow capped mountains looming in the background, while the path was twisting its way up the hill. It felt like I had left all my worries and anxieties of the past months deep down in the valley, and the higher I climbed, the closer I got to my happy place.

Finally I reached the top of Cairn of Claise, the highest point of the crossing at 1,064m. The snow showers came and went and in between the clouds broke. When the sun peeked through, sometimes just for seconds, it made the barren landscape look even more dramatic. Memories of Iceland shot through my head. The views were breath-taking, with steep corries covered with a dusting of snow and a small loch to my left. The conditions went from snow showers to more intense snow fall, but I kept pushing on.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 14

Once I had reached the top almost everything was rideable on a gravel bike. The path was clearly visible, navigation even in bad weather was ok. From time to time I stopped, left my bike on the track and wondered closer to the edge. I went as far as I could to the edges of the steep gullies, with corninces still lingering around. The views from here were amazing. At times the track was covered in snow, which was a welcome invitation to get off, push and enjoy the scenery.

At around 6pm I reached the summit of Monega Hill. The clouds were hanging much lower now, and I was happy that it was downhill all the way from here. Once again my bike handling skills were put though a proper test, descending steeply on skinny tyres into the valley. By now the showers had become permanent, and I was glad when I reached another well graded gravel road that took me to Auchavan, before it turned into tarmac all the way to Kirkton of Glenisla.

Cycling the Monega Pass - Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland 16

“I had spent a day in the wilderness, which made me the happiest I had been in a long time”

I reached into my pack, dug out my headphones and put on ‘Telegraph Road’. I didn’t need any music for distraction during the day. But the song made me think again. I had spent a day in the wilderness, which made me the happiest I had been in a long time. I experienced a Scotland I had not seen in this beauty before. Never before I had been that high and able to enjoy the world from above on two wheels for such a long time. And while the scenic tarmac road over the Cairnwell offers great views, the beauty I had just witnessed on the Monega Pass was only accessible by foot or by bike. In many ways I was thankful. Although I was most thankful that this was still a dirty old track, and not a Telegraph Road.

More information about the route can be found on Bikepacking Scotland’s website , and on their Facebook page

 

 

The post Cycling the Monega Pass: Bikepacking the highest road in Scotland appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Cycling to Japan to save lives

We love a challenge here at Yellow Jersey – the bigger and bolder the better – and we especially love a challenge with a good cause behind it. So when we heard about Patrick McIntosh’s latest undertaking, you can bet our ears pricked up.

This weekend, Patrick is setting off on an epic 7,500 mile journey by bike to Japan, to raise vital funds for cancer research. A tough challenge for anyone, but even more so for Patrick given that he himself is a triple cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with bowel, prostate and skin cancer in quick succession in 2012 and had to endure major surgery to remove the affected areas, plus gruelling rounds of follow-up treatment.

“Some people say I’m crazy to want to cycle around the world having survived three cancers,” Patrick says, “but I want to show what’s possible even after a horrible diagnosis and major surgery. Cancer is no longer a death sentence for everyone, and I want to highlight the importance of eating well, doing exercise, staying positive and getting any symptoms checked. But I’m also supporting my local hospice because I recognise that not everyone is as lucky as I have been.”

The route will take him across Europe through the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Finland. Once he reaches Russia, he’ll attempt to cross the vast swathe of land in just 90 days by following the route of the original Trans-Siberian railway all the way from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. He will be riding two bikes – an Orro Gold road bike, and a hybrid bike as a back-up or alternative ride for tough conditions such as the Ural Mountains.

7,500 miles is a long way to travel alone, so Patrick will be accompanied by his friend Glenn, who will be driving a support vehicle where Patrick will eat, sleep and do his laundry! As for finding somewhere to stay each night, the pair are hoping to camp, relying on official sites or getting permission from landowners.

This monster ride is just the beginning of a planned around-the-world trip on his bicycle, which he aims to complete by next year. So once he has arrived in Japan and cycled to Tokyo to cheer on England in September’s Rugby World Cup, Patrick will then carry on to cycle across North America and Iceland on his way back to the UK, visiting all four home nations for good measure before returning home to Surrey.

Having previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and trekked to the South Pole as fundraising challenges following his treatment, he’s not one to shy away from a challenge. Patrick explained that the polar explorer Conrad Dickinson, who accompanied him to the South Pole, has stood out as an inspiration for his upcoming ride.

“He’s not a star cyclist but I learnt an awful lot from him; he’s an ex-SAS soldier who emphasised the power of focus and mental resilience that you need for an effort like this. Very few people have ridden from one end of Russia to the other but my main goal is to use the experience to raise awareness, and having that thought in my head will keep me motivated.”

Despite the intimidating magnitude of the challenge, Patrick is taking a level-headed approach. “Cycling the world is like eating an imaginary elephant,” he told us. “You have to take it one chunk at a time. I’m 62, not getting any younger and have had major cancer surgery, so the main understanding is to ride within my body’s ability – not too fast or too slow. I expect cycling 7,500 miles to Tokyo will be just as hard both mentally and physically as walking to the South Pole, while a very different experience geographically. But I expect it will be easier taking toilet breaks when it’s not minus 50 degrees outside, as it can be in Antarctica!”

The Life Cycle in numbers:

  • May 3rd – 20th September: the dates of the challenge
  • That makes a journey of 139 days (4 months 16 days)
  • A distance of at least 7,192 miles (11,574km)
  • Climbing a total elevation of more than 52,455m
  • Averaging at least 84km per day

On Saturday morning at the start of this journey, friends and well-wishers will be joining Patrick on a group ride from Twickenham Stadium, the home of England Rugby, and there are still some spaces left if you would like to join in and show your support – you can register here. You can also support Patrick by donating via his fundraising page and keeping up with his progress on Twitter using the hashtag #LifeCycle. We will certainly be following his travels closely – good luck, Patrick!

 

 

The post Cycling to Japan to save lives appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Three signed copies Big Mile Cycling by Sean Conway up for grabs!

Longstanding friend and ambassador of Yellow Jersey, Sean Conway, is a man of many talents. From his original career as a photographer he’s since hung up his suit and tie for a life outdoors, running, swimming and cycling all over the world. Not content with just enjoying the great outdoors at a leisurely pace, Sean thrives on pushing himself to attempt incredible challenges and records.

From cycling around the world to swimming the entire length of the UK, Sean recounts his epic adventures in a number of books which have been inspiring readers of all ages to dream big and get outside.

Sean’s latest book, Big Mile Cycling, centres on his world record ride last spring in which he cycled from Portugal to Russia. In doing so, Sean became the fastest person to cycle across Europe unsupported and broke the existing world record. He also explores his previous failed attempts on this challenge and how they made him a better cyclist, as well as his ultra-cycling inspirations – both those who are still riding on and those in whose honour he rides.

To celebrate the release of Big Mile Cycling, we have THREE signed copies of this brand new book to give away. To enter all you need to do is answer the following question:

What nickname did Sean give to his bike on which he rode across Europe in 2018?

Competition closed

Entries close 9th May, you can view the full T&Cs here.

The post Three signed copies Big Mile Cycling by Sean Conway up for grabs! appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

A bike packing adventure in Chile: When the dust settles

Bike packing in Chile, cycling adventure in Chile, Markus crouches next to a lake

Chile. The smell of freshly baked empanadas, washed down with Sauvignon Blanc. The taste of red dust, rinsed down with a cold Cerveza Austral. Listening to Calexico’s ‘Carried to Dust’ in endless rotation, the perfect soundtrack for an adventure in a country that is not short of surprises.

The Atacama Desert and Pumalin National Park in Patagonia – two landscapes that couldn’t be more different. Worlds apart, yet both embedded in one very thin country. It is the dust that connects them in my memories. Dust is what I remember when I think back to the end of last year, buying a cheap 24-speed Trek Marlin 6 mountain bike in Santiago and exploring a previously unknown part of the world for a number of weeks.

Atacama desert cycling, cyclepacking in Chile

My journey takes me north of Santiago first, on a plane to Calama and then a short shuttle ride though the desert to San Pedro de Atacama. While Calama hosts the biggest copper mine in the world, San Pedro is the undisputed tourist hub of the Chilean Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. With cold nights, crystal clear skies and stunning sunrises and sunsets it is hard to beat. Mixed with loads of places to eat and cheap hire bikes available on every corner, this is a dream for every off-road enthusiast, either for a few days or, as in my case, for a number of weeks.

 

Before I arrived in Chile I hadn’t thought about taking my bike here, but for mountain biking I can only think of a handful places I have travelled to so far that can rival the small and cosy oasis in the middle of a fascinating lunar landscape. Imagine massive sand dunes, killer climbs, technical downhill trails and endless ridge rides. Almost everything here makes me stop with awe. And come back a second time. Sometimes a third and forth time.

Nearly every morning I get up early, wrap myself in my down jacket and follow my nose into another part of the desert. I am normally back for breakfast, as riding during the day is a serious challenge with temperatures in the upper twenties. Only in the late afternoon the conditions become bearable again. The best activity in between is to relax and read a book in a hammock in one of the many hostels in town, or to sit in the shade and sample the coffee, croissants and sandwiches at La Franchuteria, a French bakery in which I soon become a regular customer.

bicycle touring in Chile, Atacama desert

On most evenings I head out again, the experience of watching the sun setting over this surreal landscape is second to none. When the sun finally sinks it paints the rock formations into an array of warm colours while the sky changes from pink to purple and on to black. Stone and sand formations stick out like bizarre sculptures that appear from the massive valleys. Carved by wind and water, the landscape displays an impressive range of colour and texture, while the wind blows clouds of dust through this barren paradise.

Yet there’s more to San Pedro than the bizarre landscapes of the Valle de la Luna, Valle de Marte or the Qubrada del Diablo. All of them make for amazing mountain biking, but the salt lakes in the south of the small town give you a unique chance to get some serious gravel miles in those legs, go swimming and spot flamingos along the way. The best time to visit the lakes is in the morning, as most visitors flock to them in the afternoon.

Laguna Cejar invites me for a swim in the salty water. The water is so salty that I float on the surface without any problems. A few kilometres further south Laguna Tebinquinche is surprisingly tranquil, far off the tourist track, with only a handful of people around. As their Landrover leaves, I am by myself.

But the most amazing experience of all is strapping gear and food on the bike, taking enough water with me and spending a night under the stars in the open desert.

Atacama desert stars. Cycling in Chile

After a few weeks I leave the Atacama again and set my feet on a much wetter place on the Northern edge of Patagonia: Isla Grande de Chiloe. After a few night’s rest and 24 hours of non-stop rain in the capital Castro I set off. With my Apidura bags strapped on the frame and a massive roll of cookies to feed me I am on my way towards Quellon on the southern edge of the island.

Cheap touring bikes in Chile

Ruta 5 Sur, better known as the Pan-American Highway, terminates here. But my journey is just about to begin. A ferry takes me east across the Pacific Ocean. And as the sun sets the snow-capped top of Volcan Michinmahuida disappears slowly in the pink sky. Two hours later I set my feet (and wheels) onto the Chilean mainland again in Chaiten.

bicycle packing Chile

From here my adventure takes me northbound through Pumalin Park, a fascinating nature reserve with fjords, temperate rain forest and impressive volcanoes. The total opposite of the Atacama, but equally impressive. The park, opened by North Face founder and philanthropist Douglas Tompkins, hosts some of the most active volcanoes in the country, among them Chaiten.

Bicycle Packing Chile

I hide my bike in a bush and hike up to the crater, and I can only imagine the carnage when it last erupted in 2008. The landscape on the upper half of the trail is dominated by dead and fallen trees. From the top I can see the caldera floor with two wonderfully blue lakes on the north side of the lava dome. As the desert a few weeks earlier, this is a dream-like landscape.

Pumalin Park Chile bike packing

Not long days in the saddle, but a curious mixture of hiking, admiring and cycling dominate my ride on the northern Carretera Austral, Ruta 7. The road runs for 1,240 km from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins through rural Patagonia. Construction of the highway commenced in 1976 under the dictatorship of Pinochet, and it is often referred to as one of the best bikepacking journeys in the world. The areas it traverses are sparsely populated. Despite its length the highway only provides access to about 100,000 people, a paradise for cycling.

Carretera Austral, Ruta 7 cycling in Chile

The facilities for camping on Lago Negro, my stop for the first night in the park, are as stunning as the scenery I pass through. One of the campsites even has cold showers. The end of November is still low season, so I have most places for myself. In the early hours of day two I hike up to two impressive waterfalls, Cascada Baja and Cascada Alta. In the middle of the temperate rainforest the amazing beauty of the landscape unfolds in front of me, when the first rays of sun break through the dense forest. From here it is a short but demanding ride on rough gravel to Caleta Gonzalo, from where a seven-hour ferry and bus journey through an impressive fjord takes me to Hornopiren. Here the gravel shortly turns into tarmac again.

This is where the dust settles. After four days on the road I finish my adventure the next day in Puerto Montt, and I can only imagine what the southern part of the route looks like. I will hopefully be back soon and find out. A country of stark contrasts and a paradise for cycling: There are very few countries in the world that have impressed me as much as Chile did.

Markus Stitz

Markus will talk about this and other adventures in South America on Thursday 2 May in the Green Jersey in Clitheroe, on Saturday 11 May at Oban Distillery (as part of the Oban Sportive) and on Thursday 8 June 2019 at Eastgate Arts in Peebles. More information and tickets are available on www.markusstitz.com/talks.

Yellow Jersey’s bicycle insurance will insure your bicycle for bike packing adventures worldwide, while cycle travel insurance will ensure that you have the appropriate cover should have an accident and require medical help while cycling overseas.

The post A bike packing adventure in Chile: When the dust settles appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Frozen Scotland – A lowland bikepacking adventure in winter

By the time we had reached Glasgow Queen Street it was dark. It was an ordinary Thursday evening at the end of January when we followed the Paisley Flyer westbound, a cycling route I had recently devised for the Glasgow Cycle Map. Christian had booked us a small hotel in Paisley and finally we were off on a mini adventure in the lowlands and on the south west coast, an often overlooked part of Scotland.

Bicycle touring Scotland 2019-from-paisley-to-newton-stewart_32130977807_o-1024x575

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was already bitterly cold. We left the bikes behind and after a quick change of clothes we were out again, exploring the city and looking for a nice meal. Both of us were pleasantly surprised. The icy pavements of Scotland’s ‘largest town’ were virtually empty and the buildings were beautifully lit up. We were both excited about what was to come and discussed clothing choices on the way back to the hotel, as the temperature was supposed to drop even further overnight to -7. We were out in the coldest night Scotland had experienced this winter.

In the morning it felt more like -20 when we got outside. Normally I use my down jacket only for the times off the bike and hardly ever when I ride, but it was cold enough to use it as the final layer this morning. My winter boots and knee-high socks kept my feet dry and cosy, and with two pairs of gloves my fingers warmed up after a while. The sun was just about to rise when we cycled through a beautiful winter wonderland on Sustrans National Cycle Route 7 out of town. Our first short detour was Elderslie, the birthplace of Scotland’s national icon, William Wallace. Other than the usual monument there was not much else to see here, and with the temperatures still well below zero, any minute standing around meant getting colder again, so we kept the visit brief.

Bicycle touring cycling in Scotland snowy-road-1024x576

As not many people braved the temperatures we had the cycle path for ourselves. As the sun gently warmed our backs, our tires crunched through the frozen snow on the path. Everything was coated in white crystals. At Castle Semple Loch we left the cycle route for a few miles and enjoyed the winter wonderland views from a gravel path along the shore.

rapid_racers_852_by_122_animated_banner_ad

A challenge when cycling in winter is finding an open café in rural, less touristy towns, and luck wasn’t on our side this morning, so Tesco filled the gap before we left Route 7 again for a while to discover Kelburn Castle. Christian took the safer option on the road, while I tried my bike skating skills on the snowy and at times solidly frozen paths on the grounds of the estate. The views over the sea to Arran and the rather eclectic castle were worth the effort. Kelburn Castle’s walls are covered in striking graffiti from four Brazilian artists, which makes it stand out on a route that brought us to many castles.

cycle touring in Scotland eclectic-castle-1024x576

The snow covered hills of Arran formed a beautiful backdrop for the rest of the day while we cycled along the coast, basking in beautiful winter sunshine along the way. A short off-road section brought us to Portencross Castle and on to Irvine. Another short detour from Route 7 took us to the ‘Bridge of Scottish Innovation’, behind which an abandoned Science Centre that only opened for three years hides. The bridge is permanently retracted as the centre on the Ardeer Peninsular is closed, and we could only imagine what lies on the other side. A visit to the sauna and a whirlpool in our hotel in Ayr ended our second day on the road in style.

Day three started with a mishap on my side. After a beautiful sunrise the wind had picked up, it was freezing again. One of the cleat bolts on my shoes had come undone, and I could no longer unclip the shoe from the pedal. I had no other choice than to take off my shoe and sit on a bench, trying to separate my shoe and the pedal. I felt sorry for Christian as he had to wait in the cold wind but eventually succeeded, and thankfully he had brought a spare bolt as well. The cycle on more scenic paths along the Ayrshire Coast made up for my frozen foot that was gradually warming up again.

Cycling in Scotland frozen lake icy-general-1024x576

Again we left Route 7 for a short detour further along the coast to Turnberry, passing a section of road called Electric Brae. The make up of the land around this short stretch of road makes you think you are going downhill but in reality you’re climbing. We only believed this when we actually stopped to see where the bike went without pedalling.

Turning eastbound again we found a lovely café in Maybole, strengthening ourselves with warm food for the last and most demanding leg of the ride over the Galloway Forest Park. Distracted by the beautiful views we went the wrong way and added a few kilometres to the daily count. Shortly after re-joining Route 7 we found a ‘Road Closed’ sign ahead of us. We ignored the sign and celebrated the fact that we had the road to ourselves and climbed steadily on to about 450m of altitude. The road was covered solidly in snow and the climbing was tough. At times we had to get off the bikes and push them over patches of ice. The going was very slow and we were pleased to join a busier road to Glentrool after about two hours in this winter wonderland.

Scotland cycling touring cycling winter 2019-from-paisley-to-newton-stewart_40107783333_o-1024x575

We rolled into Newton Stewart at about 6 and checked into our room. The Black Horse Inn was a proper rural pub, and soon we got to know the owner and a few others while enjoying a big meal. While I was reasonably tired and retreated to the room soon, Christian had a proper ‘night out’ in Newton Stewart.

Both of us didn’t look forward to what was to come the next day, as the forecast was for temperatures just below zero and rain. We had originally planned to head eastbound to Dumfries and on to Lockerbie, where trains to Edinburgh depart frequently, but the conditions outside were treacherous.

Cycle touring in Scotland railway-path

It took us a good two and a half hours for the 30km cycle to Barrhill. Heavy rain turned us into soggy looking and cold creatures and the roads into an ice rink, but somehow we made it to the station without a single fall. Drying up in the four different trains we had to take to make it back to Edinburgh this way, we looked back onto an amazing bike adventure, dreaming about more snowy roads, frozen lakes and warm hotel rooms to hide in the evening. While winter in Scotland might not be your first choice when you think about a bike adventure, our experience proved that it is the perfect time to enjoy the country.

Cycle touring in Scotland, mountain bike beside frozen-lake

Tips for cycling in winter:

  • Make sure your feet, hands and head are properly covered. Winter cycling boots and knee-high socks keep your feet comfy and dry, while several pairs of gloves of varying thickness give you the chance to layer them up. Plastic gloves from petrol stations are a good layer of insulation should your hands get really cold. Make sure your ears are covered in frosty temperatures.
  • Layer up and adapt your clothing choice during the day. Try not to get sweaty.
  • Take a down jacket for colder mornings and evenings or a visit to the pub.
  • The wider your tire choice, the more flexible you are.
  • Check the ‘feels like’ temperature instead of the actual temperature, as cold winds can have a significant impact.
  • Get good lights and head out before the sunrise on a clear day.

Markus Stitz is the founder of bikepackingscotland.com. He is speaking about his recent adventures on 2 May in the Green Jersey in Clitheroe. More information about the event can be found here.

Yellow Jersey bicycle insurance will cover your bike for all forms of bike packing, here in our beautiful UK countryside as well as the rest of the world.

The post Frozen Scotland – A lowland bikepacking adventure in winter appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Bikepacking in Scotland: A lowland, winter adventure

By the time we had reached Glasgow Queen Street it was dark. It was an ordinary Thursday evening at the end of January when we followed the Paisley Flyer westbound, a cycling route I had recently devised for the Glasgow Cycle Map. Christian had booked us a small hotel in Paisley and finally we were off on a mini adventure bikepacking in Scotland through the lowlands and on the south west coast, an often overlooked part of Scotland.

Bicycle touring Scotland 2019-from-paisley-to-newton-stewart_Bikepacking scotland

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was already bitterly cold. We left the bikes behind and after a quick change of clothes we were out again, exploring the city and looking for a nice meal. Both of us were pleasantly surprised. The icy pavements of Scotland’s ‘largest town’ were virtually empty and the buildings were beautifully lit up. We were both excited about what was to come and discussed clothing choices on the way back to the hotel, as the temperature was supposed to drop even further overnight to -7. We were out in the coldest night Scotland had experienced this winter.

In the morning it felt more like -20 when we got outside. Normally I use my down jacket only for the times off the bike and hardly ever when I ride, but it was cold enough to use it as the final layer this morning. My winter boots and knee-high socks kept my feet dry and cosy, and with two pairs of gloves my fingers warmed up after a while. The sun was just about to rise when we cycled through a beautiful winter wonderland on Sustrans National Cycle Route 7 out of town. Our first short detour was Elderslie, the birthplace of Scotland’s national icon, William Wallace. Other than the usual monument there was not much else to see here, and with the temperatures still well below zero, any minute standing around meant getting colder again, so we kept the visit brief.

Bicycle touring cycling in Scotland snowy-road-Bikepacking scotland

As not many people braved the temperatures we had the cycle path for ourselves. As the sun gently warmed our backs, our tires crunched through the frozen snow on the path. Everything was coated in white crystals. At Castle Semple Loch we left the cycle route for a few miles and enjoyed the winter wonderland views from a gravel path along the shore.

rapid_racers_852_by_122_animated_banner_ad

A challenge when cycling in winter is finding an open café in rural, less touristy towns, and luck wasn’t on our side this morning, so Tesco filled the gap before we left Route 7 again for a while to discover Kelburn Castle. Christian took the safer option on the road, while I tried my bike skating skills on the snowy and at times solidly frozen paths on the grounds of the estate. The views over the sea to Arran and the rather eclectic castle were worth the effort. Kelburn Castle’s walls are covered in striking graffiti from four Brazilian artists, which makes it stand out on a route that brought us to many castles.

cycle touring in Scotland eclectic-castle-Bikepacking scotland

The snow covered hills of Arran formed a beautiful backdrop for the rest of the day while we cycled along the coast, basking in beautiful winter sunshine along the way. A short off-road section brought us to Portencross Castle and on to Irvine. Another short detour from Route 7 took us to the ‘Bridge of Scottish Innovation’, behind which an abandoned Science Centre that only opened for three years hides. The bridge is permanently retracted as the centre on the Ardeer Peninsular is closed, and we could only imagine what lies on the other side. A visit to the sauna and a whirlpool in our hotel in Ayr ended our second day on the road in style.

Day three started with a mishap on my side. After a beautiful sunrise the wind had picked up, it was freezing again. One of the cleat bolts on my shoes had come undone, and I could no longer unclip the shoe from the pedal. I had no other choice than to take off my shoe and sit on a bench, trying to separate my shoe and the pedal. I felt sorry for Christian as he had to wait in the cold wind but eventually succeeded, and thankfully he had brought a spare bolt as well. The cycle on more scenic paths along the Ayrshire Coast made up for my frozen foot that was gradually warming up again.

Cycling in Scotland frozen lake icy-general- Bikepacking scotland

Again we left Route 7 for a short detour further along the coast to Turnberry, passing a section of road called Electric Brae. The make up of the land around this short stretch of road makes you think you are going downhill but in reality you’re climbing. We only believed this when we actually stopped to see where the bike went without pedalling.

Turning eastbound again we found a lovely café in Maybole, strengthening ourselves with warm food for the last and most demanding leg of the ride over the Galloway Forest Park. Distracted by the beautiful views we went the wrong way and added a few kilometres to the daily count. Shortly after re-joining Route 7 we found a ‘Road Closed’ sign ahead of us. We ignored the sign and celebrated the fact that we had the road to ourselves and climbed steadily on to about 450m of altitude. The road was covered solidly in snow and the climbing was tough. At times we had to get off the bikes and push them over patches of ice. The going was very slow and we were pleased to join a busier road to Glentrool after about two hours in this winter wonderland.

Scotland cycling touring cycling winter 2019-from-paisley-to-newton-stewart_- Bikepacking scotland

We rolled into Newton Stewart at about 6 and checked into our room. The Black Horse Inn was a proper rural pub, and soon we got to know the owner and a few others while enjoying a big meal. While I was reasonably tired and retreated to the room soon, Christian had a proper ‘night out’ in Newton Stewart.

Both of us didn’t look forward to what was to come the next day, as the forecast was for temperatures just below zero and rain. We had originally planned to head eastbound to Dumfries and on to Lockerbie, where trains to Edinburgh depart frequently, but the conditions outside were treacherous.

Cycle touring in Scotland railway-path - Bikepacking scotland

It took us a good two and a half hours for the 30km cycle to Barrhill. Heavy rain turned us into soggy looking and cold creatures and the roads into an ice rink, but somehow we made it to the station without a single fall. Drying up in the four different trains we had to take to make it back to Edinburgh this way, we looked back onto an amazing bike adventure, dreaming about more snowy roads, frozen lakes and warm hotel rooms to hide in the evening. While winter in Scotland might not be your first choice when you think about a bike adventure, our experience proved that it is the perfect time to enjoy the country.

Cycle touring in Scotland, mountain bike beside frozen-lake - Bikepacking scotland

Tips for cycling in winter:

  • Make sure your feet, hands and head are properly covered. Winter cycling boots and knee-high socks keep your feet comfy and dry, while several pairs of gloves of varying thickness give you the chance to layer them up. Plastic gloves from petrol stations are a good layer of insulation should your hands get really cold. Make sure your ears are covered in frosty temperatures.
  • Layer up and adapt your clothing choice during the day. Try not to get sweaty.
  • Take a down jacket for colder mornings and evenings or a visit to the pub.
  • The wider your tire choice, the more flexible you are.
  • Check the ‘feels like’ temperature instead of the actual temperature, as cold winds can have a significant impact.
  • Get good lights and head out before the sunrise on a clear day.

Markus Stitz is the founder of bikepackingscotland.com. He is speaking about his recent adventures on 2 May in the Green Jersey in Clitheroe. More information about the event can be found here.

Yellow Jersey bicycle insurance will cover your bike for all forms of bike packing, here in our beautiful UK countryside as well as the rest of the world.

The post Bikepacking in Scotland: A lowland, winter adventure appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Cycling home for Christmas: 710 kilometres from Edinburgh to Germany

Christmas is a time for celebration, but also a time for reflection. With the joy of being able to sit back and catch up with family and friends for a few days comes time to look back on the year that has passed and make plans for the year ahead.

We asked adventure rider, Markus Stitz, to share his thoughts on why he chose to cycle home for Christmas last year from Edinburgh to Schwobfeld in Germany and what he reflected on while spending 4 days on his bike.


2.15am. As my phone rings, I try to turn around, hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. I can’t. I have less than an hour to get dressed, get some coffee down my throat and leave. Ready to roll home for Christmas. Ready to embrace long distance cycling again. It is the biggest gift I can wish for this Christmas.

While the prospect of having to cycle from Edinburgh to the middle of Germany in less than four days might be a daunting thought for some, for me it isn’t any more. I have done this journey three times in winter. The first time in 2010, on a singlespeed bike with panniers, taking 14 days to crawl through one of the worst winters Europe has seen in recent times. In 2011 I cycled home again, this time after being struck down for weeks with a really bad cough, not being able to cycle for weeks before. And then in 2014, with the thought of cycling around the world in my mind, using the Christmas journey as the final straw to finally hand in my notice three months later and tackle a journey of a lifetime.

After two hours I dare to look down at my Garmin for the first time. As usual there were a few last-minute things that needed attention, so I had left the first pedal stroke a little later than intended. But standing on a pavement in Loanhead, I have to look again, and again. 27.2 km/h average for the first stretch, a number that terrifies and motivates me in equal measures. I am on a fully loaded steel gravel bike with 39 mm tires. Surely, I can’t be that fast.

Markus Stitz cycling home for Christmas woods

I didn’t announce this journey until the very last minute as I wasn’t sure if I’d find the right motivation to do it. A few things happened in the last two years that made cycling big distances very difficult, at times unbearable. While cycling around the world I had to say farewell to my father exactly three months into the trip. He died of serious head injuries after crashing his bike on an empty country road in Germany. On the last three trips home, he’d been there to welcome me, this time he wouldn’t.

The death of my father was the first time I had to face mortality. I was hit again earlier this year, shocked to the bones by the news of the death of Mike Hall at the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. Mike was and still is one of my biggest inspirations, and having cycled on a section of the very same highway he died on in Australia, I still find the news of his passing hard to comprehend. As long-distance cycling is not so much about physical strength as it is about being in the right head space, I simply hadn’t been in the right place for a long time. And despite trying hard and almost succeeding a few times recently, the ability to ‘fly’ down the roads simply hadn’t returned yet.

Not yet. As I approach the English-Scottish Border, the sun rises gently over the Reiver Country, one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. While I turn my head towards the Ale Water Valley and Melrose, most recognisable by the Eildon Hills towering above the beautiful countryside, my Garmin already shows 107 km as I climb to the top of the first big hill.

In the last few months I had been craving the lightness, ease and fun I had enjoyed so many times when being out on two wheels. But as with all things in life, the more desperate we get trying too hard, the more we are spoiling our chances. As I roll through the starry night, with Frankie Goes to Hollywood putting my mind to rest, gradually a feeling of ease returns. With glimpses of civilisation appearing and disappearing again into the night, my mind is fully focused on the road ahead, only a little distracted by the Christmas songs piped repetitively into my ears.

Markus Stitz cycling home for Christmas fog

It’s that feeling that will stay with me on the days to come. While cycling to the ferry in North Shields felt like a breeze, the second day turns out harder than I expected. Thick fog paired with long straight cycle paths are a challenging combination, but as I dive through the lit-up streets with their Christmas decorations through the Netherlands to the German border, I get the exact same feeling from the day before again. Day three ends on a high as I end up in a beautifully lit German town after 170 km and enjoy conversation and hospitality in a small local bar. And although day four turns out to be much harder than any of the days before, having to carry the bike over trees that block the gravel paths and pushing through deep mud at times, I finally choose the most challenging option to end the trip. I push and roll over parts of the former German Border, before the lights of Schwobfeld appear in the not too far distance to the sound of The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ playing in my ears.

Markus Stitz cycling home for Christmas with bicycle

For the last three days and 14 hours I have found the courage again to dream big and make the endless kilometres seem insignificant in comparison; to enjoy rolling down endless tarmac roads and gravel paths through starry nights; to find the courage to love and care about what I am doing best, and to commit to it again. And while it’s nice to get my teeth into a freshly baked piece of Stollen while I sit at the dining table with my mum and my brother, I finally begin to realise one thing. The biggest gift this Christmas was the ability to take the journey here.

0

The post Cycling home for Christmas: 710 kilometres from Edinburgh to Germany appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

Why you should take your kids on a cycling holiday

cycling with kids. Taking children on a cycling holiday

At first the idea sounds vaguely daunting, heading out to unknown lanes to spend a few days in the saddle with your kids, but the reality is so much better; a trip away is an opportunity for physical and mental growth for all involved – and once everyone is weaned off of their tech addiction the growth is exponential!

I took my eldest (10 at the time) son out to Holland and Belgium last summer, it was to be a 250km road trip from the ferry port of Rotterdam, down through Antwerp, Geraardsbergen (to ride the Muur), and then across into Mons near the French border.

It was to be a relaxed ride, with very few hills for us to worry about, but it would be a long first day in the saddle, the idea being to arrive in Antwerp for dinner and have a good rest before the slightly hillier Belgium.  And relaxed it was, the two of us gently meandering through the Dutch countryside, singing at the top of our lungs, and stopping whenever we could find interesting food!

Relaxation does affect speed it must be said, there were to be no KOM’s on this trip, with our average speed in the region of 12km/hr – instead we got to stop at sights, and sites, viewing the incredible engineering of the Dutch, and having our own mini-history tour across Flanders, where we could talk about the history of Europe and our place in time (gosh, that sounds dull in text, but it’s fascinating to discuss with a 10yr old!)

cycling with kids. Taking children on a cycling holiday

Upon our return to the UK, and school finding out about Christopher’s exploits, he got to have his head-teacher praise his efforts and give him a confidence boost at the start of the new year which was gratefully received. As a parent we look to ways to build up resilience in our children, providing them with positive anchors which can help them through school, and with his SATs starting this year it seemed like an ideal opportunity to build that resilience at this stage on his academic journey.

However, the most incredible sight didn’t come from the countryside, rather it came from witnessing Christopher grow in front of me, with each passing kilometre his confidence grew, and he stretched his own personal boundaries – aided by some pretty poor navigation from me we clocked in at 120km for the first day, and after a good sleep and LOTS of food, Christopher was able to appreciate the magnitude of the ride he had just done.

There were a great many nerves from us as parents as we set out on this summer adventure, not least of which centred around whether we would be able to ride the distance. To witness Christopher ride so far, and for so long each day, with a smile on his face and a song at his lips, was a parental joy!

If you are looking for reasons to take your kids out on a cycling holiday this year, the biggest I can give is the opportunity for growth that comes from them achieving such a goal, and the smile on their face as you spend family time talking about the trip and their experiences in the days and weeks that follow.

And his little brothers? Well, they looked-up at Christopher with absolute awe, and now they want their own adventure…..

cycling with kids. Taking children on a cycling holiday 09

You can read more of Martin’s blog at themartincox.co.uk 


Heading abroad for a cycling holiday? Have a look at how Yellow Jersey can protect you and your bikes with our Bicycle Insurance and Cycle Travel Insurance.

Looking for inspiration on where to take your next trip? Have a look at out new cycling holidays finder website. We are still in beta mode, be we have come far enough for you to start having a look around.

The post Why you should take your kids on a cycling holiday appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron

The Transcontinental is a self supported bicycle race across Europe. The sixth edition kicks off on Sunday 29th July 2018, and you can follow all the dotwatching action via the competitor’s live trackers.

Last year the race started in Belgium and finished in Greece, and the competitors had to make their way via 4 check points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Each competitor had to plan their own route and fend for themselves for food, water and mechanical mishaps. While some choose to stay indoors in hotels, others traveled with bivvy bags and slept on roadsides for a few hours a night to maximise time out on the road.

The Transcon really is a true cycling adventure, and in this repost from last year, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rory McCarron from Leigh Day Cycling. On his first attempt at the race in 2017, Rory completed the race in an impressive fifth place.

transcontinental bike race

How did it feel to cross that finish line?

I felt total relief to finish. I loved the race for the first 6-7 days but not long after entering Romania the heat and the roads became unbearable and I really started to struggle mentally and physically. It’s funny because the last few days you are so close to the end but I found that the hardest bit. I got so many messages when I was about 50km away from the finish congratulating me. I think it took about 4 hours from there. The slowest 50km of my life! I heard that someone scratched 200 or 300km from the finish, well within the time to make the finishers’ party because their head wasn’t in it anymore.

transcontinental bike race

What’s the first thing you did when you finished?

I kissed and hugged my (now!) fiancée, Lucy. Then had an orange Fanta, quickly followed by a beer… then a shower (but I couldn’t wash properly as I’d lost the sensation in my hands).

This was your first TCR and you came 5th overall. A phenomenal achievement for a rookie… does this mean you will be back next year?

I swore that I’ll never do it again. It’s now two weeks since I finished and the psychological and physical pain has started to drift away a bit. James Hayden (this year’s winner) was telling me I need to come back again and give it a proper shot. He couldn’t believe I was staying in hotels with 5/6 hours sleep and having slap up meals and that people who finished behind me were going to be really annoyed about that. I promised Lucy that I’ll never do it again and I need to remember this. I have a few other things that I’d like to do and I really want to get back to riding with friends again. The training was very lonely at times and hard on Lucy.

Did you have a strategy and did you stick to it?

Yes, I broke each day down and I had a route saved for each day. I planned for 12 days and had 12 routes on my Garmin which was conservative based on my training and what I knew I was capable of. I knew that slowly I would start chipping into each route as the days went by so I would eventually be looking at 11 days or 12 days if things didn’t work out as well as I planned. I had factored in time off the bike for food and drinks as well as sleeping at night. When I heard that Frank had died I promised Lucy and myself that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks, which included no riding at night. I stopped at 9/10pm every night, ate well and rested. My cycling club starts their club rides at 5:45am every morning and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, so I’m used to getting up and riding in the early hours of the morning when the roads are at their quietest. This all worked well until I couldn’t find a hotel in Romania after CP4 and I started to think irrationally and then the race kicked off with a few days to go and it all went out the window.

What was your average speed?

As far as I understand my average moving speed was about 24kph which was faster than some that finished higher than me. I knew I wouldn’t be riding for as long as most people in the race so I had to ride faster when I was on the bike. All the way along the race I would open a gap up on others during the day then stop at night. I would wake up in the morning to find out they had ridden for another 3/4 hours or so and overtaken me late at night. We bunny hopped each other for days.

And daily distance?

Approximately 350/360km per day. Some more, some less. I had a bad day to CP4 where I only covered 295km, but I did climb over 8,000 meters which was nearly the same ascent as Everest. That was a really tough day in the saddle.

How much sleep did you get each day? And where did you sleep?

I slept for about 5/6hours a night. Day one I rode through the night but then I hotelled nearly every night until they were all booked up in Romania after CP4. I ended up in a really dodgy town, sleeping in a shop front and making a bed out of chairs. I only slept for about two hours due to numerous people coming by and waking me up, dogs barking, cars wheel spinning  and Romanian music being played by people passing. It was really scary actually. On the last night I was in a race with 4 others to the finish so I slept on the side of the road up a mountain in Macedonia in a gravel gutter. It was awful, but I was so tired I would have slept anywhere. Ironically there was a picnic bench 20 yards away and a 24hour petrol station with lush grass outside half a mile up the road. I had no data roaming to find this out. I only slept for two hours for the last 36 hours which was really tough given the heat and pain killers I was taking.

What were your eating habits like on the road?

I had steak and chips twice. Double pizza followed by ice cream in Italy. I actually tried to eat as healthily as possible other than that but the further east we got in Europe the more difficult that became. I managed to find a luxury breakfast in some town in Slovakia with great coffee. I ate a lot of fruit. Every hotel I stayed in didn’t have breakfast ready at 4am so I’d have to rely on 7 day croissants from the petrol stations. I got food poisoning 2 days before the end in Serbia. I took two Imodium and barely ate to the finish. I was really sick by the end and still haven’t recovered properly yet.

transcontinental bike race

What kept you going in the dark moments?

Knowing that Lucy was waiting for me at the end. Her parents were also there but they were leaving to go back home on day 11. I didn’t tell anyone but I bought a ring before I left, wore it round my neck for the race and planned to propose to her in Meteora, but I needed to speak to her father first. I was up against it time wise to be able to speak to him. Luckily I made it and all was good. I think he took pity on me. Lucy also made me a playlist on my iPod which I didn’t listen to until I started. It was quite funny listening to some of the songs she chose.

Oh and so many people, including friends and family who don’t even like cycling sending me amazing messages of support. That was really cool.

transcontinental bike race

What was the high point?

There were quite a few actually. I really enjoyed the start. I ended up being right at the back of the race up the Muur so that I could enjoy the whole atmosphere which was crazy. 2/3 people deep with lanterns and beers cheering you on was great. I also chatted to loads of other riders and wished them luck. I met loads of dot watchers on the road too, in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. One guy, Flavius, in Romania was so pleased that I was the first rider to pass through his town, Medias that came and met me with a sign he made saying Go Rory! (Attached). I met a really old cycling buddy of mine at the Grappa which was also really nice too. I haven’t seen him for years and we used to cycle together loads before he moved with his wife and kids to the Dolomites.

Double pizza in Italy. I love pizza and it was really good!

Also meeting Frank Simons’ son who came to the finishers party. It literally brought tears to my eyes as it was such a brave thing for him to do. I was really pleased to talk to him.

And any real low points?

I had really bad pressure sores from day 3. They were actually so bad I thought I was going to scratch by day 4. I even put my spare pair of bibs on my saddle for extra support. I ended up using compeed that you use for blisters on your feet and loads of pain killers which isn’t the best as these make you dozy. It seemed to work though.

Getting chased by packs of dogs in Romania. People joked about this happening but it really did. I nearly crashed into an oncoming car trying to sprint away from some.

transcontinental bike race

Photo taken by Camille McMillan

How did you train for something as big as TCR?

I’ve done a lot of miles for the last few years but nothing can really prepare you for riding for 10-14 days non-stop… unless you do the TCR previously. I did a few multidays of riding, which got me used to getting up and riding again after a big day before. I also did an Everest which was good prep.

What kit did you take with you? Is there anything you’d change next time?

2 pairs of bibs and one jersey. Lightweight Gilet, rain jacket and hardshell jacket. Waterproof arm and leg warmers. Two pairs of socks. I couldn’t exactly say I lucked out on the weather as it was so hot, it was like cycling in an oven at 45 degrees but when I got to Slovakia I looked ahead and realised I didn’t need all the kit I had. I ended up posting a box full of kit home. I ditched my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy too just leaving me with a silk liner, the kit I was in and a waterproof jacket which was enough. I had loads of other things too should something happen. I had literally planned for everything. I ended up ditching loads of stuff on that mountain in that garage in Macedonia. It’s funny because when I finished I heard stories of people snapping cables, running out of tubes or tyre boots and breaking cleats. If they’d have known, it was all up there next to a bin at that 24 hour garage.

transcontinental bike race

Were you happy with your route? Did it change along the way to what you had planned?

I had planned my route meticulously. I am constantly paranoid about getting lost when riding so I think my training versus route planning was 50/50. One issue was in Serbia/Macedonia where I was coming to a boarder crossing and the army stopped me on a smaller road and told me I couldn’t continue. They ushered me onto a really busy main road which I wasn’t comfortable with but they said this was the only way to cross the boarder. I don’t know if I’ll get a time penalty for that but if I do I’ll have hunt down that officer.

Based on your finish line photo, we are curious to know if you found some time to wash along the way?! 

Funnily enough I pretty much had a shower every night to treat my saddle sores. Wearing a light jersey was a good choice in principle because of the sun but I didn’t factor in how dirty it would get. I actually look a real mess at the end because I snapped my hanger on the very last climb and had to pull my rear mech out of the rear wheel and fix the whole bike. 4,000km of cycling without a cleaning your bike was always going to be messy.

Long distance cycle races are becoming ever more popular however this year the sport has been clouded by grief after the loss of Mike Hall (founder of TCR) and Frank Simons (tragically killed on day one the TCR05). Would you do a race like this again, and what advice would you give to those who are nervous about taking part in future events as a result?

Yes the loss of both and of Eric Fischbein in the Trans Am is an absolute tragedy. Mike was a pioneer of long-distance racing and this really shook the cycling world when he passed away as it makes it ever so real that this could happen to such an experienced cyclist. When I heard of Franks death I really considered scratching too because of what had already happened. I know Lucy was a nervous wreck about me doing the TCR in the first place and this really didn’t help her nerves at all. I had to keep telling myself that I cycle everyday in London and around the UK on some of the busiest roads in the world and I was just, if not more likely to be involved in a incident there than I was riding on the roads in Europe. I have to say that for most of the time I felt quite safe in Europe other than the odd busy road. I also refused to cycle in the dark at night.

I would say to anyone thinking of doing something like this is to families yourself with cycling in foreign countries, even if that’s for a few days. What really helped me was using google street view to plan my route. Look at the roads and see if they look cycle friendly or whether there are alternatives routes to take.

I don’t plan to do the TCR again. In an ideal world I would like to as I think I could definitely go faster and use the experience from this one, but it would be hard to beat 5th and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t. I really want to explore the UK and Ireland more so I think I’ll focus on that for next few years. I was actually looking at Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 ride in Scotland the other day on Strava. I won’t aim to beat his time as 36 hours is very punchy, but the route looks amazing.

Can you summarise the TCR in 5 words?

Transcontimental, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful.

Why should someone reading this do TCR?

It’s a life changing experience. You go through a whole range of emotions from feeling on top of the world to feeling totally drained. You learn life skills that you never knew you had and really understand what your body and mind is capable of. You pass some of the most beautiful places in the world. Funnily enough I went through some really hard and poverty stricken places which were also beautiful in their own special way. You’re on your own in the race but during that time everyone is creating their own stories at the same time. I only realised this post the race when you sit down and talk about it with other riders. They call it the TCR family which I’m slowly understanding.

What’s up next?

I suppose getting married, I’m pretty excited about that actually. I’m looking forward to spending time with Lucy as she’s been through a lot; before, during (she told me it was the worst 10 days of her life) and after the race. Getting back to riding regular club rides with mates again.


Rory took out Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance to cover this trip. We have special rates for our bicycle insurance and cycle travel insurance for TCR competitors, please get in touch if you would like more information.

The post The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron

The Transcontinental is a self supported bicycle race across Europe. The sixth edition kicks off on Sunday 29th July 2018, and you can follow all the dotwatching action via the competitor’s live trackers. (Update: Tracker will be restored in time for transcon 2019)

Last year the race started in Belgium and finished in Greece, and the competitors had to make their way via 4 check points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Each competitor had to plan their own route and fend for themselves for food, water and mechanical mishaps. While some choose to stay indoors in hotels, others traveled with bivvy bags and slept on roadsides for a few hours a night to maximise time out on the road.

The Transcon really is a true cycling adventure, and in this repost from last year, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rory McCarron from Leigh Day Cycling. On his first attempt at the race in 2017, Rory completed the race in an impressive fifth place.

transcontinental bike race

How did it feel to cross that finish line?

I felt total relief to finish. I loved the race for the first 6-7 days but not long after entering Romania the heat and the roads became unbearable and I really started to struggle mentally and physically. It’s funny because the last few days you are so close to the end but I found that the hardest bit. I got so many messages when I was about 50km away from the finish congratulating me. I think it took about 4 hours from there. The slowest 50km of my life! I heard that someone scratched 200 or 300km from the finish, well within the time to make the finishers’ party because their head wasn’t in it anymore.

transcontinental bike race

What’s the first thing you did when you finished?

I kissed and hugged my (now!) fiancée, Lucy. Then had an orange Fanta, quickly followed by a beer… then a shower (but I couldn’t wash properly as I’d lost the sensation in my hands).

This was your first TCR and you came 5th overall. A phenomenal achievement for a rookie… does this mean you will be back next year?

I swore that I’ll never do it again. It’s now two weeks since I finished and the psychological and physical pain has started to drift away a bit. James Hayden (this year’s winner) was telling me I need to come back again and give it a proper shot. He couldn’t believe I was staying in hotels with 5/6 hours sleep and having slap up meals and that people who finished behind me were going to be really annoyed about that. I promised Lucy that I’ll never do it again and I need to remember this. I have a few other things that I’d like to do and I really want to get back to riding with friends again. The training was very lonely at times and hard on Lucy.

Did you have a strategy and did you stick to it?

Yes, I broke each day down and I had a route saved for each day. I planned for 12 days and had 12 routes on my Garmin which was conservative based on my training and what I knew I was capable of. I knew that slowly I would start chipping into each route as the days went by so I would eventually be looking at 11 days or 12 days if things didn’t work out as well as I planned. I had factored in time off the bike for food and drinks as well as sleeping at night. When I heard that Frank had died I promised Lucy and myself that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks, which included no riding at night. I stopped at 9/10pm every night, ate well and rested. My cycling club starts their club rides at 5:45am every morning and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, so I’m used to getting up and riding in the early hours of the morning when the roads are at their quietest. This all worked well until I couldn’t find a hotel in Romania after CP4 and I started to think irrationally and then the race kicked off with a few days to go and it all went out the window.

What was your average speed?

As far as I understand my average moving speed was about 24kph which was faster than some that finished higher than me. I knew I wouldn’t be riding for as long as most people in the race so I had to ride faster when I was on the bike. All the way along the race I would open a gap up on others during the day then stop at night. I would wake up in the morning to find out they had ridden for another 3/4 hours or so and overtaken me late at night. We bunny hopped each other for days.

And daily distance?

Approximately 350/360km per day. Some more, some less. I had a bad day to CP4 where I only covered 295km, but I did climb over 8,000 meters which was nearly the same ascent as Everest. That was a really tough day in the saddle.

How much sleep did you get each day? And where did you sleep?

I slept for about 5/6hours a night. Day one I rode through the night but then I hotelled nearly every night until they were all booked up in Romania after CP4. I ended up in a really dodgy town, sleeping in a shop front and making a bed out of chairs. I only slept for about two hours due to numerous people coming by and waking me up, dogs barking, cars wheel spinning  and Romanian music being played by people passing. It was really scary actually. On the last night I was in a race with 4 others to the finish so I slept on the side of the road up a mountain in Macedonia in a gravel gutter. It was awful, but I was so tired I would have slept anywhere. Ironically there was a picnic bench 20 yards away and a 24hour petrol station with lush grass outside half a mile up the road. I had no data roaming to find this out. I only slept for two hours for the last 36 hours which was really tough given the heat and pain killers I was taking.

What were your eating habits like on the road?

I had steak and chips twice. Double pizza followed by ice cream in Italy. I actually tried to eat as healthily as possible other than that but the further east we got in Europe the more difficult that became. I managed to find a luxury breakfast in some town in Slovakia with great coffee. I ate a lot of fruit. Every hotel I stayed in didn’t have breakfast ready at 4am so I’d have to rely on 7 day croissants from the petrol stations. I got food poisoning 2 days before the end in Serbia. I took two Imodium and barely ate to the finish. I was really sick by the end and still haven’t recovered properly yet.

transcontinental bike race

What kept you going in the dark moments?

Knowing that Lucy was waiting for me at the end. Her parents were also there but they were leaving to go back home on day 11. I didn’t tell anyone but I bought a ring before I left, wore it round my neck for the race and planned to propose to her in Meteora, but I needed to speak to her father first. I was up against it time wise to be able to speak to him. Luckily I made it and all was good. I think he took pity on me. Lucy also made me a playlist on my iPod which I didn’t listen to until I started. It was quite funny listening to some of the songs she chose.

Oh and so many people, including friends and family who don’t even like cycling sending me amazing messages of support. That was really cool.

transcontinental bike race

What was the high point?

There were quite a few actually. I really enjoyed the start. I ended up being right at the back of the race up the Muur so that I could enjoy the whole atmosphere which was crazy. 2/3 people deep with lanterns and beers cheering you on was great. I also chatted to loads of other riders and wished them luck. I met loads of dot watchers on the road too, in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. One guy, Flavius, in Romania was so pleased that I was the first rider to pass through his town, Medias that came and met me with a sign he made saying Go Rory! (Attached). I met a really old cycling buddy of mine at the Grappa which was also really nice too. I haven’t seen him for years and we used to cycle together loads before he moved with his wife and kids to the Dolomites.

Double pizza in Italy. I love pizza and it was really good!

Also meeting Frank Simons’ son who came to the finishers party. It literally brought tears to my eyes as it was such a brave thing for him to do. I was really pleased to talk to him.

And any real low points?

I had really bad pressure sores from day 3. They were actually so bad I thought I was going to scratch by day 4. I even put my spare pair of bibs on my saddle for extra support. I ended up using compeed that you use for blisters on your feet and loads of pain killers which isn’t the best as these make you dozy. It seemed to work though.

Getting chased by packs of dogs in Romania. People joked about this happening but it really did. I nearly crashed into an oncoming car trying to sprint away from some.

transcontinental bike race

Photo taken by Camille McMillan

How did you train for something as big as TCR?

I’ve done a lot of miles for the last few years but nothing can really prepare you for riding for 10-14 days non-stop… unless you do the TCR previously. I did a few multidays of riding, which got me used to getting up and riding again after a big day before. I also did an Everest which was good prep.

What kit did you take with you? Is there anything you’d change next time?

2 pairs of bibs and one jersey. Lightweight Gilet, rain jacket and hardshell jacket. Waterproof arm and leg warmers. Two pairs of socks. I couldn’t exactly say I lucked out on the weather as it was so hot, it was like cycling in an oven at 45 degrees but when I got to Slovakia I looked ahead and realised I didn’t need all the kit I had. I ended up posting a box full of kit home. I ditched my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy too just leaving me with a silk liner, the kit I was in and a waterproof jacket which was enough. I had loads of other things too should something happen. I had literally planned for everything. I ended up ditching loads of stuff on that mountain in that garage in Macedonia. It’s funny because when I finished I heard stories of people snapping cables, running out of tubes or tyre boots and breaking cleats. If they’d have known, it was all up there next to a bin at that 24 hour garage.

transcontinental bike race

Were you happy with your route? Did it change along the way to what you had planned?

I had planned my route meticulously. I am constantly paranoid about getting lost when riding so I think my training versus route planning was 50/50. One issue was in Serbia/Macedonia where I was coming to a boarder crossing and the army stopped me on a smaller road and told me I couldn’t continue. They ushered me onto a really busy main road which I wasn’t comfortable with but they said this was the only way to cross the boarder. I don’t know if I’ll get a time penalty for that but if I do I’ll have hunt down that officer.

Based on your finish line photo, we are curious to know if you found some time to wash along the way?! 

Funnily enough I pretty much had a shower every night to treat my saddle sores. Wearing a light jersey was a good choice in principle because of the sun but I didn’t factor in how dirty it would get. I actually look a real mess at the end because I snapped my hanger on the very last climb and had to pull my rear mech out of the rear wheel and fix the whole bike. 4,000km of cycling without a cleaning your bike was always going to be messy.

Long distance cycle races are becoming ever more popular however this year the sport has been clouded by grief after the loss of Mike Hall (founder of TCR) and Frank Simons (tragically killed on day one the TCR05). Would you do a race like this again, and what advice would you give to those who are nervous about taking part in future events as a result?

Yes the loss of both and of Eric Fischbein in the Trans Am is an absolute tragedy. Mike was a pioneer of long-distance racing and this really shook the cycling world when he passed away as it makes it ever so real that this could happen to such an experienced cyclist. When I heard of Franks death I really considered scratching too because of what had already happened. I know Lucy was a nervous wreck about me doing the TCR in the first place and this really didn’t help her nerves at all. I had to keep telling myself that I cycle everyday in London and around the UK on some of the busiest roads in the world and I was just, if not more likely to be involved in a incident there than I was riding on the roads in Europe. I have to say that for most of the time I felt quite safe in Europe other than the odd busy road. I also refused to cycle in the dark at night.

I would say to anyone thinking of doing something like this is to families yourself with cycling in foreign countries, even if that’s for a few days. What really helped me was using google street view to plan my route. Look at the roads and see if they look cycle friendly or whether there are alternatives routes to take.

I don’t plan to do the TCR again. In an ideal world I would like to as I think I could definitely go faster and use the experience from this one, but it would be hard to beat 5th and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t. I really want to explore the UK and Ireland more so I think I’ll focus on that for next few years. I was actually looking at Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 ride in Scotland the other day on Strava. I won’t aim to beat his time as 36 hours is very punchy, but the route looks amazing.

Can you summarise the TCR in 5 words?

Transcontimental, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful.

Why should someone reading this do TCR?

It’s a life changing experience. You go through a whole range of emotions from feeling on top of the world to feeling totally drained. You learn life skills that you never knew you had and really understand what your body and mind is capable of. You pass some of the most beautiful places in the world. Funnily enough I went through some really hard and poverty stricken places which were also beautiful in their own special way. You’re on your own in the race but during that time everyone is creating their own stories at the same time. I only realised this post the race when you sit down and talk about it with other riders. They call it the TCR family which I’m slowly understanding.

What’s up next?

I suppose getting married, I’m pretty excited about that actually. I’m looking forward to spending time with Lucy as she’s been through a lot; before, during (she told me it was the worst 10 days of her life) and after the race. Getting back to riding regular club rides with mates again.


Rory took out Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance to cover this trip. We have special rates for our bicycle insurance and cycle travel insurance for TCR competitors, please get in touch if you would like more information.

The post The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron

The Transcontinental is a self supported bicycle race across Europe. The sixth edition kicks off on Sunday 29th July 2018, and you can follow all the dotwatching action via the competitor’s live trackers. (Update: Tracker will be restored in time for transcon 2019)

Last year the race started in Belgium and finished in Greece, and the competitors had to make their way via 4 check points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Each competitor had to plan their own route and fend for themselves for food, water and mechanical mishaps. While some choose to stay indoors in hotels, others traveled with bivvy bags and slept on roadsides for a few hours a night to maximise time out on the road.

The Transcon really is a true cycling adventure, and in this repost from last year, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rory McCarron from Leigh Day Cycling. On his first attempt at the race in 2017, Rory completed the race in an impressive fifth place.

transcontinental bike race

How did it feel to cross that finish line?

I felt total relief to finish. I loved the race for the first 6-7 days but not long after entering Romania the heat and the roads became unbearable and I really started to struggle mentally and physically. It’s funny because the last few days you are so close to the end but I found that the hardest bit. I got so many messages when I was about 50km away from the finish congratulating me. I think it took about 4 hours from there. The slowest 50km of my life! I heard that someone scratched 200 or 300km from the finish, well within the time to make the finishers’ party because their head wasn’t in it anymore.

transcontinental bike race

What’s the first thing you did when you finished?

I kissed and hugged my (now!) fiancée, Lucy. Then had an orange Fanta, quickly followed by a beer… then a shower (but I couldn’t wash properly as I’d lost the sensation in my hands).

This was your first TCR and you came 5th overall. A phenomenal achievement for a rookie… does this mean you will be back next year?

I swore that I’ll never do it again. It’s now two weeks since I finished and the psychological and physical pain has started to drift away a bit. James Hayden (this year’s winner) was telling me I need to come back again and give it a proper shot. He couldn’t believe I was staying in hotels with 5/6 hours sleep and having slap up meals and that people who finished behind me were going to be really annoyed about that. I promised Lucy that I’ll never do it again and I need to remember this. I have a few other things that I’d like to do and I really want to get back to riding with friends again. The training was very lonely at times and hard on Lucy.

Did you have a strategy and did you stick to it?

Yes, I broke each day down and I had a route saved for each day. I planned for 12 days and had 12 routes on my Garmin which was conservative based on my training and what I knew I was capable of. I knew that slowly I would start chipping into each route as the days went by so I would eventually be looking at 11 days or 12 days if things didn’t work out as well as I planned. I had factored in time off the bike for food and drinks as well as sleeping at night. When I heard that Frank had died I promised Lucy and myself that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks, which included no riding at night. I stopped at 9/10pm every night, ate well and rested. My cycling club starts their club rides at 5:45am every morning and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, so I’m used to getting up and riding in the early hours of the morning when the roads are at their quietest. This all worked well until I couldn’t find a hotel in Romania after CP4 and I started to think irrationally and then the race kicked off with a few days to go and it all went out the window.

What was your average speed?

As far as I understand my average moving speed was about 24kph which was faster than some that finished higher than me. I knew I wouldn’t be riding for as long as most people in the race so I had to ride faster when I was on the bike. All the way along the race I would open a gap up on others during the day then stop at night. I would wake up in the morning to find out they had ridden for another 3/4 hours or so and overtaken me late at night. We bunny hopped each other for days.

And daily distance?

Approximately 350/360km per day. Some more, some less. I had a bad day to CP4 where I only covered 295km, but I did climb over 8,000 meters which was nearly the same ascent as Everest. That was a really tough day in the saddle.

How much sleep did you get each day? And where did you sleep?

I slept for about 5/6hours a night. Day one I rode through the night but then I hotelled nearly every night until they were all booked up in Romania after CP4. I ended up in a really dodgy town, sleeping in a shop front and making a bed out of chairs. I only slept for about two hours due to numerous people coming by and waking me up, dogs barking, cars wheel spinning  and Romanian music being played by people passing. It was really scary actually. On the last night I was in a race with 4 others to the finish so I slept on the side of the road up a mountain in Macedonia in a gravel gutter. It was awful, but I was so tired I would have slept anywhere. Ironically there was a picnic bench 20 yards away and a 24hour petrol station with lush grass outside half a mile up the road. I had no data roaming to find this out. I only slept for two hours for the last 36 hours which was really tough given the heat and pain killers I was taking.

What were your eating habits like on the road?

I had steak and chips twice. Double pizza followed by ice cream in Italy. I actually tried to eat as healthily as possible other than that but the further east we got in Europe the more difficult that became. I managed to find a luxury breakfast in some town in Slovakia with great coffee. I ate a lot of fruit. Every hotel I stayed in didn’t have breakfast ready at 4am so I’d have to rely on 7 day croissants from the petrol stations. I got food poisoning 2 days before the end in Serbia. I took two Imodium and barely ate to the finish. I was really sick by the end and still haven’t recovered properly yet.

transcontinental bike race

What kept you going in the dark moments?

Knowing that Lucy was waiting for me at the end. Her parents were also there but they were leaving to go back home on day 11. I didn’t tell anyone but I bought a ring before I left, wore it round my neck for the race and planned to propose to her in Meteora, but I needed to speak to her father first. I was up against it time wise to be able to speak to him. Luckily I made it and all was good. I think he took pity on me. Lucy also made me a playlist on my iPod which I didn’t listen to until I started. It was quite funny listening to some of the songs she chose.

Oh and so many people, including friends and family who don’t even like cycling sending me amazing messages of support. That was really cool.

transcontinental bike race

What was the high point?

There were quite a few actually. I really enjoyed the start. I ended up being right at the back of the race up the Muur so that I could enjoy the whole atmosphere which was crazy. 2/3 people deep with lanterns and beers cheering you on was great. I also chatted to loads of other riders and wished them luck. I met loads of dot watchers on the road too, in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. One guy, Flavius, in Romania was so pleased that I was the first rider to pass through his town, Medias that came and met me with a sign he made saying Go Rory! (Attached). I met a really old cycling buddy of mine at the Grappa which was also really nice too. I haven’t seen him for years and we used to cycle together loads before he moved with his wife and kids to the Dolomites.

Double pizza in Italy. I love pizza and it was really good!

Also meeting Frank Simons’ son who came to the finishers party. It literally brought tears to my eyes as it was such a brave thing for him to do. I was really pleased to talk to him.

And any real low points?

I had really bad pressure sores from day 3. They were actually so bad I thought I was going to scratch by day 4. I even put my spare pair of bibs on my saddle for extra support. I ended up using compeed that you use for blisters on your feet and loads of pain killers which isn’t the best as these make you dozy. It seemed to work though.

Getting chased by packs of dogs in Romania. People joked about this happening but it really did. I nearly crashed into an oncoming car trying to sprint away from some.

transcontinental bike race

Photo taken by Camille McMillan

How did you train for something as big as TCR?

I’ve done a lot of miles for the last few years but nothing can really prepare you for riding for 10-14 days non-stop… unless you do the TCR previously. I did a few multidays of riding, which got me used to getting up and riding again after a big day before. I also did an Everest which was good prep.

What kit did you take with you? Is there anything you’d change next time?

2 pairs of bibs and one jersey. Lightweight Gilet, rain jacket and hardshell jacket. Waterproof arm and leg warmers. Two pairs of socks. I couldn’t exactly say I lucked out on the weather as it was so hot, it was like cycling in an oven at 45 degrees but when I got to Slovakia I looked ahead and realised I didn’t need all the kit I had. I ended up posting a box full of kit home. I ditched my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy too just leaving me with a silk liner, the kit I was in and a waterproof jacket which was enough. I had loads of other things too should something happen. I had literally planned for everything. I ended up ditching loads of stuff on that mountain in that garage in Macedonia. It’s funny because when I finished I heard stories of people snapping cables, running out of tubes or tyre boots and breaking cleats. If they’d have known, it was all up there next to a bin at that 24 hour garage.

transcontinental bike race

Were you happy with your route? Did it change along the way to what you had planned?

I had planned my route meticulously. I am constantly paranoid about getting lost when riding so I think my training versus route planning was 50/50. One issue was in Serbia/Macedonia where I was coming to a boarder crossing and the army stopped me on a smaller road and told me I couldn’t continue. They ushered me onto a really busy main road which I wasn’t comfortable with but they said this was the only way to cross the boarder. I don’t know if I’ll get a time penalty for that but if I do I’ll have hunt down that officer.

Based on your finish line photo, we are curious to know if you found some time to wash along the way?! 

Funnily enough I pretty much had a shower every night to treat my saddle sores. Wearing a light jersey was a good choice in principle because of the sun but I didn’t factor in how dirty it would get. I actually look a real mess at the end because I snapped my hanger on the very last climb and had to pull my rear mech out of the rear wheel and fix the whole bike. 4,000km of cycling without a cleaning your bike was always going to be messy.

Long distance cycle races are becoming ever more popular however this year the sport has been clouded by grief after the loss of Mike Hall (founder of TCR) and Frank Simons (tragically killed on day one the TCR05). Would you do a race like this again, and what advice would you give to those who are nervous about taking part in future events as a result?

Yes the loss of both and of Eric Fischbein in the Trans Am is an absolute tragedy. Mike was a pioneer of long-distance racing and this really shook the cycling world when he passed away as it makes it ever so real that this could happen to such an experienced cyclist. When I heard of Franks death I really considered scratching too because of what had already happened. I know Lucy was a nervous wreck about me doing the TCR in the first place and this really didn’t help her nerves at all. I had to keep telling myself that I cycle everyday in London and around the UK on some of the busiest roads in the world and I was just, if not more likely to be involved in a incident there than I was riding on the roads in Europe. I have to say that for most of the time I felt quite safe in Europe other than the odd busy road. I also refused to cycle in the dark at night.

I would say to anyone thinking of doing something like this is to families yourself with cycling in foreign countries, even if that’s for a few days. What really helped me was using google street view to plan my route. Look at the roads and see if they look cycle friendly or whether there are alternatives routes to take.

I don’t plan to do the TCR again. In an ideal world I would like to as I think I could definitely go faster and use the experience from this one, but it would be hard to beat 5th and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t. I really want to explore the UK and Ireland more so I think I’ll focus on that for next few years. I was actually looking at Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 ride in Scotland the other day on Strava. I won’t aim to beat his time as 36 hours is very punchy, but the route looks amazing.

Can you summarise the TCR in 5 words?

Transcontimental, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful.

Why should someone reading this do TCR?

It’s a life changing experience. You go through a whole range of emotions from feeling on top of the world to feeling totally drained. You learn life skills that you never knew you had and really understand what your body and mind is capable of. You pass some of the most beautiful places in the world. Funnily enough I went through some really hard and poverty stricken places which were also beautiful in their own special way. You’re on your own in the race but during that time everyone is creating their own stories at the same time. I only realised this post the race when you sit down and talk about it with other riders. They call it the TCR family which I’m slowly understanding.

What’s up next?

I suppose getting married, I’m pretty excited about that actually. I’m looking forward to spending time with Lucy as she’s been through a lot; before, during (she told me it was the worst 10 days of her life) and after the race. Getting back to riding regular club rides with mates again.


Rory took out Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance to cover this trip. We have special rates for our bicycle insurance and cycle travel insurance for TCR competitors, please get in touch if you would like more information.

The post The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron

The Transcontinental is a self supported bicycle race across Europe. The sixth edition kicks off on Sunday 29th July 2018, and you can follow all the dotwatching action via the competitor’s live trackers. (Update: Tracker will be restored in time for transcon 2019)

Last year the race started in Belgium and finished in Greece, and the competitors had to make their way via 4 check points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Each competitor had to plan their own route and fend for themselves for food, water and mechanical mishaps. While some choose to stay indoors in hotels, others traveled with bivvy bags and slept on roadsides for a few hours a night to maximise time out on the road.

The Transcon really is a true cycling adventure, and in this repost from last year, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rory McCarron from Leigh Day Cycling. On his first attempt at the race in 2017, Rory completed the race in an impressive fifth place.

transcontinental bike race

How did it feel to cross that finish line?

I felt total relief to finish. I loved the race for the first 6-7 days but not long after entering Romania the heat and the roads became unbearable and I really started to struggle mentally and physically. It’s funny because the last few days you are so close to the end but I found that the hardest bit. I got so many messages when I was about 50km away from the finish congratulating me. I think it took about 4 hours from there. The slowest 50km of my life! I heard that someone scratched 200 or 300km from the finish, well within the time to make the finishers’ party because their head wasn’t in it anymore.

transcontinental bike race

What’s the first thing you did when you finished?

I kissed and hugged my (now!) fiancée, Lucy. Then had an orange Fanta, quickly followed by a beer… then a shower (but I couldn’t wash properly as I’d lost the sensation in my hands).

This was your first TCR and you came 5th overall. A phenomenal achievement for a rookie… does this mean you will be back next year?

I swore that I’ll never do it again. It’s now two weeks since I finished and the psychological and physical pain has started to drift away a bit. James Hayden (this year’s winner) was telling me I need to come back again and give it a proper shot. He couldn’t believe I was staying in hotels with 5/6 hours sleep and having slap up meals and that people who finished behind me were going to be really annoyed about that. I promised Lucy that I’ll never do it again and I need to remember this. I have a few other things that I’d like to do and I really want to get back to riding with friends again. The training was very lonely at times and hard on Lucy.

Did you have a strategy and did you stick to it?

Yes, I broke each day down and I had a route saved for each day. I planned for 12 days and had 12 routes on my Garmin which was conservative based on my training and what I knew I was capable of. I knew that slowly I would start chipping into each route as the days went by so I would eventually be looking at 11 days or 12 days if things didn’t work out as well as I planned. I had factored in time off the bike for food and drinks as well as sleeping at night. When I heard that Frank had died I promised Lucy and myself that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks, which included no riding at night. I stopped at 9/10pm every night, ate well and rested. My cycling club starts their club rides at 5:45am every morning and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, so I’m used to getting up and riding in the early hours of the morning when the roads are at their quietest. This all worked well until I couldn’t find a hotel in Romania after CP4 and I started to think irrationally and then the race kicked off with a few days to go and it all went out the window.

What was your average speed?

As far as I understand my average moving speed was about 24kph which was faster than some that finished higher than me. I knew I wouldn’t be riding for as long as most people in the race so I had to ride faster when I was on the bike. All the way along the race I would open a gap up on others during the day then stop at night. I would wake up in the morning to find out they had ridden for another 3/4 hours or so and overtaken me late at night. We bunny hopped each other for days.

And daily distance?

Approximately 350/360km per day. Some more, some less. I had a bad day to CP4 where I only covered 295km, but I did climb over 8,000 meters which was nearly the same ascent as Everest. That was a really tough day in the saddle.

How much sleep did you get each day? And where did you sleep?

I slept for about 5/6hours a night. Day one I rode through the night but then I hotelled nearly every night until they were all booked up in Romania after CP4. I ended up in a really dodgy town, sleeping in a shop front and making a bed out of chairs. I only slept for about two hours due to numerous people coming by and waking me up, dogs barking, cars wheel spinning  and Romanian music being played by people passing. It was really scary actually. On the last night I was in a race with 4 others to the finish so I slept on the side of the road up a mountain in Macedonia in a gravel gutter. It was awful, but I was so tired I would have slept anywhere. Ironically there was a picnic bench 20 yards away and a 24hour petrol station with lush grass outside half a mile up the road. I had no data roaming to find this out. I only slept for two hours for the last 36 hours which was really tough given the heat and pain killers I was taking.

What were your eating habits like on the road?

I had steak and chips twice. Double pizza followed by ice cream in Italy. I actually tried to eat as healthily as possible other than that but the further east we got in Europe the more difficult that became. I managed to find a luxury breakfast in some town in Slovakia with great coffee. I ate a lot of fruit. Every hotel I stayed in didn’t have breakfast ready at 4am so I’d have to rely on 7 day croissants from the petrol stations. I got food poisoning 2 days before the end in Serbia. I took two Imodium and barely ate to the finish. I was really sick by the end and still haven’t recovered properly yet.

transcontinental bike race

What kept you going in the dark moments?

Knowing that Lucy was waiting for me at the end. Her parents were also there but they were leaving to go back home on day 11. I didn’t tell anyone but I bought a ring before I left, wore it round my neck for the race and planned to propose to her in Meteora, but I needed to speak to her father first. I was up against it time wise to be able to speak to him. Luckily I made it and all was good. I think he took pity on me. Lucy also made me a playlist on my iPod which I didn’t listen to until I started. It was quite funny listening to some of the songs she chose.

Oh and so many people, including friends and family who don’t even like cycling sending me amazing messages of support. That was really cool.

transcontinental bike race

What was the high point?

There were quite a few actually. I really enjoyed the start. I ended up being right at the back of the race up the Muur so that I could enjoy the whole atmosphere which was crazy. 2/3 people deep with lanterns and beers cheering you on was great. I also chatted to loads of other riders and wished them luck. I met loads of dot watchers on the road too, in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. One guy, Flavius, in Romania was so pleased that I was the first rider to pass through his town, Medias that came and met me with a sign he made saying Go Rory! (Attached). I met a really old cycling buddy of mine at the Grappa which was also really nice too. I haven’t seen him for years and we used to cycle together loads before he moved with his wife and kids to the Dolomites.

Double pizza in Italy. I love pizza and it was really good!

Also meeting Frank Simons’ son who came to the finishers party. It literally brought tears to my eyes as it was such a brave thing for him to do. I was really pleased to talk to him.

And any real low points?

I had really bad pressure sores from day 3. They were actually so bad I thought I was going to scratch by day 4. I even put my spare pair of bibs on my saddle for extra support. I ended up using compeed that you use for blisters on your feet and loads of pain killers which isn’t the best as these make you dozy. It seemed to work though.

Getting chased by packs of dogs in Romania. People joked about this happening but it really did. I nearly crashed into an oncoming car trying to sprint away from some.

transcontinental bike race

Photo taken by Camille McMillan

How did you train for something as big as TCR?

I’ve done a lot of miles for the last few years but nothing can really prepare you for riding for 10-14 days non-stop… unless you do the TCR previously. I did a few multidays of riding, which got me used to getting up and riding again after a big day before. I also did an Everest which was good prep.

What kit did you take with you? Is there anything you’d change next time?

2 pairs of bibs and one jersey. Lightweight Gilet, rain jacket and hardshell jacket. Waterproof arm and leg warmers. Two pairs of socks. I couldn’t exactly say I lucked out on the weather as it was so hot, it was like cycling in an oven at 45 degrees but when I got to Slovakia I looked ahead and realised I didn’t need all the kit I had. I ended up posting a box full of kit home. I ditched my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy too just leaving me with a silk liner, the kit I was in and a waterproof jacket which was enough. I had loads of other things too should something happen. I had literally planned for everything. I ended up ditching loads of stuff on that mountain in that garage in Macedonia. It’s funny because when I finished I heard stories of people snapping cables, running out of tubes or tyre boots and breaking cleats. If they’d have known, it was all up there next to a bin at that 24 hour garage.

transcontinental bike race

Were you happy with your route? Did it change along the way to what you had planned?

I had planned my route meticulously. I am constantly paranoid about getting lost when riding so I think my training versus route planning was 50/50. One issue was in Serbia/Macedonia where I was coming to a boarder crossing and the army stopped me on a smaller road and told me I couldn’t continue. They ushered me onto a really busy main road which I wasn’t comfortable with but they said this was the only way to cross the boarder. I don’t know if I’ll get a time penalty for that but if I do I’ll have hunt down that officer.

Based on your finish line photo, we are curious to know if you found some time to wash along the way?! 

Funnily enough I pretty much had a shower every night to treat my saddle sores. Wearing a light jersey was a good choice in principle because of the sun but I didn’t factor in how dirty it would get. I actually look a real mess at the end because I snapped my hanger on the very last climb and had to pull my rear mech out of the rear wheel and fix the whole bike. 4,000km of cycling without a cleaning your bike was always going to be messy.

Long distance cycle races are becoming ever more popular however this year the sport has been clouded by grief after the loss of Mike Hall (founder of TCR) and Frank Simons (tragically killed on day one the TCR05). Would you do a race like this again, and what advice would you give to those who are nervous about taking part in future events as a result?

Yes the loss of both and of Eric Fischbein in the Trans Am is an absolute tragedy. Mike was a pioneer of long-distance racing and this really shook the cycling world when he passed away as it makes it ever so real that this could happen to such an experienced cyclist. When I heard of Franks death I really considered scratching too because of what had already happened. I know Lucy was a nervous wreck about me doing the TCR in the first place and this really didn’t help her nerves at all. I had to keep telling myself that I cycle everyday in London and around the UK on some of the busiest roads in the world and I was just, if not more likely to be involved in a incident there than I was riding on the roads in Europe. I have to say that for most of the time I felt quite safe in Europe other than the odd busy road. I also refused to cycle in the dark at night.

I would say to anyone thinking of doing something like this is to families yourself with cycling in foreign countries, even if that’s for a few days. What really helped me was using google street view to plan my route. Look at the roads and see if they look cycle friendly or whether there are alternatives routes to take.

I don’t plan to do the TCR again. In an ideal world I would like to as I think I could definitely go faster and use the experience from this one, but it would be hard to beat 5th and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t. I really want to explore the UK and Ireland more so I think I’ll focus on that for next few years. I was actually looking at Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 ride in Scotland the other day on Strava. I won’t aim to beat his time as 36 hours is very punchy, but the route looks amazing.

Can you summarise the TCR in 5 words?

Transcontimental, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful.

Why should someone reading this do TCR?

It’s a life changing experience. You go through a whole range of emotions from feeling on top of the world to feeling totally drained. You learn life skills that you never knew you had and really understand what your body and mind is capable of. You pass some of the most beautiful places in the world. Funnily enough I went through some really hard and poverty stricken places which were also beautiful in their own special way. You’re on your own in the race but during that time everyone is creating their own stories at the same time. I only realised this post the race when you sit down and talk about it with other riders. They call it the TCR family which I’m slowly understanding.

What’s up next?

I suppose getting married, I’m pretty excited about that actually. I’m looking forward to spending time with Lucy as she’s been through a lot; before, during (she told me it was the worst 10 days of her life) and after the race. Getting back to riding regular club rides with mates again.


Rory took out Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance to cover this trip. We have special rates for our bicycle insurance and cycle travel insurance for TCR competitors, please get in touch if you would like more information.

The post The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage

The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron

The Transcontinental is a self supported bicycle race across Europe. The sixth edition kicks off on Sunday 29th July 2018, and you can follow all the dotwatching action via the competitor’s live trackers.

Last year the race started in Belgium and finished in Greece, and the competitors had to make their way via 4 check points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Each competitor had to plan their own route and fend for themselves for food, water and mechanical mishaps. While some choose to stay indoors in hotels, others traveled with bivvy bags and slept on roadsides for a few hours a night to maximise time out on the road.

The Transcon really is a true cycling adventure, and in this repost from last year, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rory McCarron from Leigh Day Cycling. On his first attempt at the race in 2017, Rory completed the race in an impressive fifth place.

transcontinental bike race

How did it feel to cross that finish line?

I felt total relief to finish. I loved the race for the first 6-7 days but not long after entering Romania the heat and the roads became unbearable and I really started to struggle mentally and physically. It’s funny because the last few days you are so close to the end but I found that the hardest bit. I got so many messages when I was about 50km away from the finish congratulating me. I think it took about 4 hours from there. The slowest 50km of my life! I heard that someone scratched 200 or 300km from the finish, well within the time to make the finishers’ party because their head wasn’t in it anymore.

transcontinental bike race

What’s the first thing you did when you finished?

I kissed and hugged my (now!) fiancée, Lucy. Then had an orange Fanta, quickly followed by a beer… then a shower (but I couldn’t wash properly as I’d lost the sensation in my hands).

This was your first TCR and you came 5th overall. A phenomenal achievement for a rookie… does this mean you will be back next year?

I swore that I’ll never do it again. It’s now two weeks since I finished and the psychological and physical pain has started to drift away a bit. James Hayden (this year’s winner) was telling me I need to come back again and give it a proper shot. He couldn’t believe I was staying in hotels with 5/6 hours sleep and having slap up meals and that people who finished behind me were going to be really annoyed about that. I promised Lucy that I’ll never do it again and I need to remember this. I have a few other things that I’d like to do and I really want to get back to riding with friends again. The training was very lonely at times and hard on Lucy.

Did you have a strategy and did you stick to it?

Yes, I broke each day down and I had a route saved for each day. I planned for 12 days and had 12 routes on my Garmin which was conservative based on my training and what I knew I was capable of. I knew that slowly I would start chipping into each route as the days went by so I would eventually be looking at 11 days or 12 days if things didn’t work out as well as I planned. I had factored in time off the bike for food and drinks as well as sleeping at night. When I heard that Frank had died I promised Lucy and myself that I wouldn’t take any stupid risks, which included no riding at night. I stopped at 9/10pm every night, ate well and rested. My cycling club starts their club rides at 5:45am every morning and it takes me about 45 minutes to get there, so I’m used to getting up and riding in the early hours of the morning when the roads are at their quietest. This all worked well until I couldn’t find a hotel in Romania after CP4 and I started to think irrationally and then the race kicked off with a few days to go and it all went out the window.

What was your average speed?

As far as I understand my average moving speed was about 24kph which was faster than some that finished higher than me. I knew I wouldn’t be riding for as long as most people in the race so I had to ride faster when I was on the bike. All the way along the race I would open a gap up on others during the day then stop at night. I would wake up in the morning to find out they had ridden for another 3/4 hours or so and overtaken me late at night. We bunny hopped each other for days.

And daily distance?

Approximately 350/360km per day. Some more, some less. I had a bad day to CP4 where I only covered 295km, but I did climb over 8,000 meters which was nearly the same ascent as Everest. That was a really tough day in the saddle.

How much sleep did you get each day? And where did you sleep?

I slept for about 5/6hours a night. Day one I rode through the night but then I hotelled nearly every night until they were all booked up in Romania after CP4. I ended up in a really dodgy town, sleeping in a shop front and making a bed out of chairs. I only slept for about two hours due to numerous people coming by and waking me up, dogs barking, cars wheel spinning  and Romanian music being played by people passing. It was really scary actually. On the last night I was in a race with 4 others to the finish so I slept on the side of the road up a mountain in Macedonia in a gravel gutter. It was awful, but I was so tired I would have slept anywhere. Ironically there was a picnic bench 20 yards away and a 24hour petrol station with lush grass outside half a mile up the road. I had no data roaming to find this out. I only slept for two hours for the last 36 hours which was really tough given the heat and pain killers I was taking.

What were your eating habits like on the road?

I had steak and chips twice. Double pizza followed by ice cream in Italy. I actually tried to eat as healthily as possible other than that but the further east we got in Europe the more difficult that became. I managed to find a luxury breakfast in some town in Slovakia with great coffee. I ate a lot of fruit. Every hotel I stayed in didn’t have breakfast ready at 4am so I’d have to rely on 7 day croissants from the petrol stations. I got food poisoning 2 days before the end in Serbia. I took two Imodium and barely ate to the finish. I was really sick by the end and still haven’t recovered properly yet.

transcontinental bike race

What kept you going in the dark moments?

Knowing that Lucy was waiting for me at the end. Her parents were also there but they were leaving to go back home on day 11. I didn’t tell anyone but I bought a ring before I left, wore it round my neck for the race and planned to propose to her in Meteora, but I needed to speak to her father first. I was up against it time wise to be able to speak to him. Luckily I made it and all was good. I think he took pity on me. Lucy also made me a playlist on my iPod which I didn’t listen to until I started. It was quite funny listening to some of the songs she chose.

Oh and so many people, including friends and family who don’t even like cycling sending me amazing messages of support. That was really cool.

transcontinental bike race

What was the high point?

There were quite a few actually. I really enjoyed the start. I ended up being right at the back of the race up the Muur so that I could enjoy the whole atmosphere which was crazy. 2/3 people deep with lanterns and beers cheering you on was great. I also chatted to loads of other riders and wished them luck. I met loads of dot watchers on the road too, in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. One guy, Flavius, in Romania was so pleased that I was the first rider to pass through his town, Medias that came and met me with a sign he made saying Go Rory! (Attached). I met a really old cycling buddy of mine at the Grappa which was also really nice too. I haven’t seen him for years and we used to cycle together loads before he moved with his wife and kids to the Dolomites.

Double pizza in Italy. I love pizza and it was really good!

Also meeting Frank Simons’ son who came to the finishers party. It literally brought tears to my eyes as it was such a brave thing for him to do. I was really pleased to talk to him.

And any real low points?

I had really bad pressure sores from day 3. They were actually so bad I thought I was going to scratch by day 4. I even put my spare pair of bibs on my saddle for extra support. I ended up using compeed that you use for blisters on your feet and loads of pain killers which isn’t the best as these make you dozy. It seemed to work though.

Getting chased by packs of dogs in Romania. People joked about this happening but it really did. I nearly crashed into an oncoming car trying to sprint away from some.

transcontinental bike race

Photo taken by Camille McMillan

How did you train for something as big as TCR?

I’ve done a lot of miles for the last few years but nothing can really prepare you for riding for 10-14 days non-stop… unless you do the TCR previously. I did a few multidays of riding, which got me used to getting up and riding again after a big day before. I also did an Everest which was good prep.

What kit did you take with you? Is there anything you’d change next time?

2 pairs of bibs and one jersey. Lightweight Gilet, rain jacket and hardshell jacket. Waterproof arm and leg warmers. Two pairs of socks. I couldn’t exactly say I lucked out on the weather as it was so hot, it was like cycling in an oven at 45 degrees but when I got to Slovakia I looked ahead and realised I didn’t need all the kit I had. I ended up posting a box full of kit home. I ditched my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy too just leaving me with a silk liner, the kit I was in and a waterproof jacket which was enough. I had loads of other things too should something happen. I had literally planned for everything. I ended up ditching loads of stuff on that mountain in that garage in Macedonia. It’s funny because when I finished I heard stories of people snapping cables, running out of tubes or tyre boots and breaking cleats. If they’d have known, it was all up there next to a bin at that 24 hour garage.

transcontinental bike race

Were you happy with your route? Did it change along the way to what you had planned?

I had planned my route meticulously. I am constantly paranoid about getting lost when riding so I think my training versus route planning was 50/50. One issue was in Serbia/Macedonia where I was coming to a boarder crossing and the army stopped me on a smaller road and told me I couldn’t continue. They ushered me onto a really busy main road which I wasn’t comfortable with but they said this was the only way to cross the boarder. I don’t know if I’ll get a time penalty for that but if I do I’ll have hunt down that officer.

Based on your finish line photo, we are curious to know if you found some time to wash along the way?! 

Funnily enough I pretty much had a shower every night to treat my saddle sores. Wearing a light jersey was a good choice in principle because of the sun but I didn’t factor in how dirty it would get. I actually look a real mess at the end because I snapped my hanger on the very last climb and had to pull my rear mech out of the rear wheel and fix the whole bike. 4,000km of cycling without a cleaning your bike was always going to be messy.

Long distance cycle races are becoming ever more popular however this year the sport has been clouded by grief after the loss of Mike Hall (founder of TCR) and Frank Simons (tragically killed on day one the TCR05). Would you do a race like this again, and what advice would you give to those who are nervous about taking part in future events as a result?

Yes the loss of both and of Eric Fischbein in the Trans Am is an absolute tragedy. Mike was a pioneer of long-distance racing and this really shook the cycling world when he passed away as it makes it ever so real that this could happen to such an experienced cyclist. When I heard of Franks death I really considered scratching too because of what had already happened. I know Lucy was a nervous wreck about me doing the TCR in the first place and this really didn’t help her nerves at all. I had to keep telling myself that I cycle everyday in London and around the UK on some of the busiest roads in the world and I was just, if not more likely to be involved in a incident there than I was riding on the roads in Europe. I have to say that for most of the time I felt quite safe in Europe other than the odd busy road. I also refused to cycle in the dark at night.

I would say to anyone thinking of doing something like this is to families yourself with cycling in foreign countries, even if that’s for a few days. What really helped me was using google street view to plan my route. Look at the roads and see if they look cycle friendly or whether there are alternatives routes to take.

I don’t plan to do the TCR again. In an ideal world I would like to as I think I could definitely go faster and use the experience from this one, but it would be hard to beat 5th and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t. I really want to explore the UK and Ireland more so I think I’ll focus on that for next few years. I was actually looking at Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 ride in Scotland the other day on Strava. I won’t aim to beat his time as 36 hours is very punchy, but the route looks amazing.

Can you summarise the TCR in 5 words?

Transcontimental, brutal, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful.

Why should someone reading this do TCR?

It’s a life changing experience. You go through a whole range of emotions from feeling on top of the world to feeling totally drained. You learn life skills that you never knew you had and really understand what your body and mind is capable of. You pass some of the most beautiful places in the world. Funnily enough I went through some really hard and poverty stricken places which were also beautiful in their own special way. You’re on your own in the race but during that time everyone is creating their own stories at the same time. I only realised this post the race when you sit down and talk about it with other riders. They call it the TCR family which I’m slowly understanding.

What’s up next?

I suppose getting married, I’m pretty excited about that actually. I’m looking forward to spending time with Lucy as she’s been through a lot; before, during (she told me it was the worst 10 days of her life) and after the race. Getting back to riding regular club rides with mates again.


Rory took out Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance to cover this trip. We have special rates for our bicycle insurance and cycle travel insurance for TCR competitors, please get in touch if you would like more information.

The post The Transcontinental Bike Race: Q&A with Rory McCarron appeared first on Yellow Jersey.

Go to Homepage
[xyz-ips snippet="backlinks"]