I know my bicycle only cost £30 and that I made panniers myself, but when it started to go wrong, I found it desperately frustrating. By the time we had crossed the first German national park and the large hills it involved, we were pretty happy with ourselves and other than tyre changes and a couple of punctures, nothing had gone wrong.
We thought, ‘Wow, if we can do this, we can do anything.’ Then the bad weather came.
During a rain storm, we took cover under the trees to cook dinner.
Being the only dry place around, a cat decided to join us.
Then the world dried up and we started to feel good again.
It was at this time, that we went skipping and found 3 kegs (15 litres) of discarded beer.
We were pretty happy and decided to celebrate, throwing our little keg party in a field.
Due to lack of alcohol consumption in previous weeks, we couldn’t drink much beer. Not wanting to be wasteful, we strapped the kegs to our bikes and continued climbing mountains.
At this point, everything was going brilliantly and cycling was pretty great.
Then things started to go wrong. First my seat became more uncomfortable than usual.
Then the aluminium crank was worn away by steel, causing me to cycle for nearly 30 km with only one pedal until I found a very unfriendly man in an expensive bike shop.
By pure chance, a very similar thing happened on the other side (except with the pedal only), the side where the chain is attached. I did a quick duct tape fix, managed another 15 km and then spent a few more hours repairing my bike and learning how to set up bike gears and realign spokes.
At this point, I thought my bike felt the best it had ever felt. Nothing could go wrong. Then my handlebars came off as we climbed to an 800 metre high pass.
Some Polish truckers help us reattach them.
It seemed that everything was going wrong all at once. Even my tent (which was soaked from a thunderstorm), blew into a pond while I was drying it in the sun.
Taking a step back (after kicking my bicycle a few times), we sat down for lunch and I decided not to be bothered by these insignificant inconveniences.
Then, as chance would have it, we took a wrong turn down a hiking path. My brakes (which weren’t working) didn’t stop me in time before I hit a huge concrete step and buckled my wheel. I pushed the bike from the forest, hitchhiked a lift with the first car that passed and got four spokes replaced and my wheel realigned in the nearest bike shop. Then the lovely lady gave me a lift back to my bicycle.
After this, the bike was great. It could climb the 19% inclines.
I could even cycle through a ski resort, I was on top of the world.
Despite all this, even the weather didn’t give us a break. We were ready for it.
And we cycled on.
Despite all of this and despite the people who told me it was impossible to cycle from the UK to Slovakia, we made it. We really did! Yes my bicycle needed the new pedals and cranks, but the other two bicycles were fine.
Difficult? A little. Impossible? Absolutely not.