Cycling home, on and beyond EuroVelo - Part 2/3
In the previous article, Paul was introducing his cycling plans:
● Elberadweg ~ 800km from Hamburg to Prague (of which ~400 km EuroVelo 7 - Sun Route)
● Greenways ~ 400km Prague to Vienna
● EuroVelo 6 - Atlantic – Black Sea ~ 300km Vienna to Budapest
● EuroYolo ~ 800km Budapest to Hălăucești, Romania
As a quick reminder, he is referring to the first 3 sections as EuroVelo and to the last section as EuroYolo to better encompass his experience. In this part, Paul gives us his feedback and tips for cycling friendly services and road safety along the way.
Cycling on and beyond EuroVelo
At the beginning of April, it finally happened: I managed to overcome my planning anxiety and started off on my trip. On top of that, two friends decided to come along and I was extremely grateful to share those first days with them. They would finally get to see why I could not stop ranting about cycling on the Elberadweg - it was purely fantastic.
Cycling friendly services
Coffee places, campsites, repair shops, restaurants, and single-night accommodation providers. Name anything that you may need on your bike tour and you’re likely to find it within a few miles of pedaling. Cycling on EuroVelo can sometimes feel like an everlasting holiday, with opportunities for treats around each corner.
That is something I knew from previous trips on the German section of the Elberadweg and the EuroVelo 7 - I could find anything that I wanted or needed. I must admit that the first time it took me a while to get used to this luxurious feeling - everything was provided for me and I just needed to worry about myself and my bike.
That, however, is only true if you’re riding in the season. This time, at the beginning of April, it was still off-season. The coffee shops were closed, the restaurants along the Elbe were still asleep and we seemed to be the first cycling tourists of the year. It felt like we were riding through a sleepy land that was just slowly getting ready for the visitors of the summer.
Fun fact: the first open ice cream shop we could find was a mere 600km away from our departure. Not only was it the first ice cream of the year, but also the most anticipated.
On the EuroYolo, however, it's always off-season. That means you need to find the shops, the coffee places, or the restaurants by yourself. Use (online) travel guides, check with the locals, you name it - I've ended up using any of these solutions to find food and accommodation.
Regarding cyclist-friendly accommodation, I found both EuroVelo and EuroYolo to be equally easy to handle. On the EuroVelo it is quite normal for hosts to provide you with a garage or a special locking place for your bikes - so no headaches there whatsoever.
On the EuroYolo, it was nice to see how hosts react to such an unusual request. They would immediately understand the importance of the bike and the gear - and would do anything within their power to provide a safe place for the night. This worked 100% of the time, and I did not find it to be problematic at all. On the contrary, it was an improvised parking place that turned out to be the most memorable: one night we locked our bikes on the roof terrace of a 10-story building, after squeezing into a really tight elevator to get all the way up there. Knowing that our bikes were watching above the night lights of Bratislava was totally worth the effort.
Practical tip: You can still find accommodation within a day’s notice, as long as you call early enough in the morning to give your hosts enough time to prepare for your arrival. (Take this piece of advice with a grain of salt, it may have only worked for us since we were riding in the off-season.) Calling works exceptionally well in these situations, and hosts truly appreciate you keeping them up-to-date with eventual delays.
Needless to say what is already known, but here we go: cycling on the EuroVelo routes feels like one of the safest cycling experiences you can imagine. The only traffic you meet is on your occasional passing through a village or a detour for your accommodation for the night. Sometimes you can feel so careless and free, that you may even forget where you are headed. That did not happen to me, fortunately.
The lack of motorized traffic makes the EuroVelo routes safe to ride for cyclists of all ages. No intersections, no traffic lights, no oncoming traffic, and no headaches. No wonder so many families with kids choose to cycle along EuroVelo routes each year.
And it’s not just cycling tourists enjoying the safety of the segregated cycle routes. I often found myself almost envious of the locals that cycled on the EuroVelo 7 on their daily commute between villages.
"See? No cars! Just the wind and our bikes to worry about!" - EuroVelo 7 - Sun Route
One day of our trip, we met a gang of school kids wearing NAJU (Youth Association for the Protection of Nature) t-shirts, out in the fields to explore the countryside around their village - on two wheels, of course. I found it really heartwarming to see them enjoying the safety of the EuroVelo routes. This instantly reminded me of a favorite biketivist quote: “if it’s not safe enough for kids to be riding alone, then it’s not safe enough”.
I personally still can not think of a safer place to cycle than along an isolated EuroVelo route.
On the EuroYolo, however, I had a tough time wrapping my head around the dangers of riding in traffic. Before departure, road safety had become the main motive of many sleepless nights. I kept wondering if my panic was there because I already knew what traffic was like in my own country and if I had been better off not knowing anything about my destination.
However, when I got there, I quickly learned that the opposite is true, contrary to my expectations. Given that I’ve chosen to avoid major roads, I ended up finding myself many times in road bike paradise.
Whenever I did choose the bigger, heavy-traffic roads I found myself, to my surprise, still feeling decently safe. Drivers would be protective of me and even nod understandingly as if knowing the challenge that I am up against. I likely also felt safe since I took all precautions I could think of. I was wearing high-visibility clothing, taking up enough space on the road, and staying constantly aware of my surroundings. Despite not being able to listen to podcasts anymore, it was definitely not as wild as I’d imagined it.
However, a funny thing kept happening to me every time I’d stop for a quick break on the side of a circulated road. I’d watch the traffic, freak out, and think to myself “there’s no way I can make it out alive”. Then I’d get back in the saddle and realize that “hey, this is not as bad as it looks from the outside. Easy peasy!”
This reminded me, every time, how relative our perspective on life can be.
Find out in the next episode the conclusions of Paul on his trip!
Author: Paul Anton - @aipoll on Instagram