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Cycling in Europe


You can write a whole website about cycling in Europe. The "Europe" part of the website is based on my own experiences.

Europe is pretty easy and interesting to cycle. Why? Europe has a lot to offer, a lot of culture, a lot of different terrains and you have almost always your bicycle shops nearby. That counts especially for Western Europe.

Cycling in Europe, Greece at the Katara Pass
At the Katara Pass in Northern Greece

On one of my first bike trips in France I met an American cyclist who told me he was cycling Amsterdam - Madrid, I would meet him several years later. He was still on the way to Madrid! That's how Europe can be.

Accommodation

Europe is for sure not cheap. You can reduce costs by camping or using youth hostels. Cooking yourself can reduce costs further. Camping however is only allowed on official camping grounds.

My total equipment, here on a campsite in Belgium
Camping in Belgium

Camping can be cheap for a few dollars a night though in some countries camping can be as expensive as staying in a hotel in other countries, depending where you are.

For example, around Genoa in Italy the camping grounds were very expensive (up to 30 euros!) with very little available. But a bit north on the way to Milan I could camp in the wild even with the help of the local authorities.

Camping is fun, but in winter it can be really cold. During my cycling years in Europe I have used of youth hostels. Contrary to the original ideas are no longer for young people. Many people use them these days and many of the more modern styled youth hostels even have special family rooms.

Typically you can cook yourself and stay in dorms. Nowadays many youth hotels have bicycle fascilities to store your bike safely.


England

Hotels under 50 Euros will be hard to find, especially in the main tourist cities like Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris or Rome.

So, camping is probably the cheapest way to get an overnight place. Many cyclist when going out bring their own camping gear, lightweight tents, lightweight cooking facilities and sleeping bag. I loved to do it this way.

Bicycle shops

One of the pleasant things in Europe is the availability of bicycle shops in almost every town or city. Maybe in the small villages you will not be able to find the very best material you need for that moment but in general the bike shops will be able to help you out.

There's no need to carry a lot of spare material unless you can buy it cheap in your own country.

Many shops have also good bicycle clothing available. Especially when it is getting colder it's advised to use cycling shirts and trousers to keep warm.

Shadow picture while cycling in Hungary
On the road in Hungary

The roads

In many countries, like Holland and the UK you will find bike lanes. They make traveling by bicycle a lot safer. In Holland and in the UK the bikelanes are very well designed. While I lived in Manchester UK I was frequent out of the city and exploring surroundings.

Axa bicycle lockCountries like the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and the UK see a lot of cyclists on the roads. In some countries it can be seriously congested with bicycles. When I cycled Italy, I found the weekends quite tough with large bike tour groups demanding space.

The ongoing roads are typically in good to excellent condition. In countries like the Netherlands, you will find special bicycle traffic lights on the bicycle lanes which makes cycling a lot safer.

Safety

Road safety is always an issue for cyclists. Although there are no laws in Europe for wearing helmets, many cyclists prefer to wear them. Outisde the main cities I found it generally easy and safe cycling.

Another aspect of safety is your bicycle. I have always used an AXA lock. You can get them adjusted to your bike or as a separate chain lock. Both are excellent and very reliable.

The disadvantage of Axa locks is that in case you loose the keys, you have to order from the factory. The lock displayed on the photo is the origianl I bought with the bicycle in 1999 and still works excellent. Only the keys need replacement.

The way I work in cities is to leave the bicycle at campings, hostels or hotels because 1. cycling in cities is never my favorite thing to do and bicycle theft is more likely to happen. Typically I try to use public transport in such places. It also gives me the possibility to stay long in museums, parks etc.

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Cycling in the Netherlands

The most bike friendly country in the world and (to an extend) paradise for the bicyclist: Holland

Cycling in the Netherlands


Manchester UK

I lived a year in north England, in Manchester. The winters were not inviting to get the bicycle but the summers were fine. Outside the city there are amazingly beautiful areas to visit

Cycling around Manchester


Cycling in Hungary

My first journey outside Western Europe. It was the start of a journey on bike, first in Europe, later in Asia


Holland to France

Cycling from Amsterdam to Paris is about 600 km. It doesn't look too much but in bad weather, which I had on the two days to Paris.. phew...

Canals of Amsterdam

Holland to Parisl