in briefwhy cycling ?the cyclists | 
nature |accomodation |the future

In brief

We intend to cross Europe from North to South by bicycle, i.e. from the North Cape to Gibraltar in 6 months, from June to November 2001. We will explore 10 countries in the course of these 8,000 km - countries which are very close to us geographically and yet very diverse in terms of cultural, human and natural environment. We also wish to support two great charity actions: Free wheel showing solidarity, in Belgium, and Aprobenir, in Nicaragua.

Why cycling ?

We will live by bike for 6 months, like European nomads, along pleasant cycling itineraries, avoiding large and busy roads as much as possible. We want to take this opportunity to promote cycling as an ideal means of active holidays in Europe. Cycling is:

  • healthy: there is no need to be very fit at the pace at which we will be
    riding our bikes and what counts more is being in good physical condition
  • economic: basic equipment is less costly than for other types of holidays
    (at least for shorter periods than our 6 months...); furthermore, no petrol
    needed!
  • ecological: silent, non polluting, at gentle speeds, cycling respects nature
  • human: cycling also allows much warmer and more direct contacts with the
    people you meet along the road.

The cyclists

We are a young married couple (October 14th, 2000!), strongly motivated by this project which is full of potential enrichment: as well as the sport, the contacts, nature, the Internet site, it is above all a very promising project for both of us, for the team we are building together. Besides that, it also presents an opportunity for us to take a constructive 6 months' sabbatical after quite a few years of work.

Gaëtane, 30 years old, has been working in the preservation and restoration of paintings for seven years. She works freelance in her own workshop, where she brings new youth to paintings on canvas and wood, dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Relying on the loyalty of her customers, both private and professional, she will start work up again in December 2001. Gaëtane is an enthusiastic young woman, and is charming and dynamic. She is fond of sports and regularly plays tennis, enjoys swimming, skiing and... riding a bike, of course.


Benoit, 35 years old, has been working for 10 years in a company which is one of the main producers, distributors and traders of ethanol. After being head of the logistics department, he is now Financial Director and believes that this 6 months' sabbatical will be a definite plus in terms of career orientation. Benoit is an enthusiastic organiser, a keen traveller, and a passionate and experienced birdwatcher too. He likes jogging, swimming, mountaineering and... cycling of course. His bicycle has already carried him all around Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Netherlands, Castilla in Spain...).

In November 1999, we cycled around Andalucia for one week, through the hills and the vales. We have fantastic memories of this time, and we are eager to repeat the experience, (25 times longer), even though you can never recreate it completely. We cycle regularly with a group of friends for a day or a week-end at a time. We have named our small group "Bicycle Race", in memory of the famous song by Queen, rather than in reference to any type of race. On a daily basis also, we do our shopping by bike in the neighbourhood, we go to the movies in downtown Brussels by bike, etc.

Nature

Passing mainly along the West coast of Europe, we will often cycle through coastal and moor landscapes which offer excellent opportunities for nature observation. During the first month of our journey, we will live 24 hours a day with the sun, or at least in daylight. Midnight sun is supposed to be an unforgettable experience. Birdwatching observations may be particularly interesting, since we will be in the Far North during the breeding period of some birds like waders (small water birds like stints, sandpipers, and others), who will later follow us in their migration trip, to spend fall and winter in Belgium or further South. Another great moment will be watching the cranes arriving from migration in Extremadura (Spain).

Accomodation

For optimum flexibility, we will carry tent and sleeping bags. They will be particularly useful in the Far North, where towns or villages offering accommodation can be at great distances from each other. From time to time, we will also sleep in youth hostels, guests houses and B&Bs, if possible during the week-end.

We would also be extremely grateful to anyone (not only friends and relatives...) who would welcome us for one night along our route, or close by. It will be a real joy for us to meet as many people as possible during those 6 months, and we are counting very much on the hospitality offered to non-motorised travellers.

The Future

We wish to encourage other young European people to try the same experience in the coming years. We will test the formula in 2001, then why not send a different couple of cyclists out along the small roads of Europe for 6 months every year, along different routes or through different countries, with the same aims of exploration, making contact with people and promoting the bicycle as a means of transport. We would have to set out the aims of these yearly expeditions precisely, provide adequate support to the participants, and yet allow them significant autonomy. Of course, this will require close partnership with a large or influential organisation, and a European network of support.