Kimbolton to Istanbul: a crusader’s route

If my annual cycling expeditions were to appear on a kind of restaurant menu, my recent trip to Florida would have been the starter, the appetiser. In ‘cycling-speak’, it was an opportunity to get in some winter miles in a place where the weather was not a major issue.

I am now building up to the main course. But like a detailed restaurant menu, when the selection is extensive, the choice is made more difficult. There are many tantalising routes out there, all vying for attention, but in the end you have to make a choice……just as you do in the restaurant. And my choice this year is to set off from my home in the UK (as I did for my recent rides to Rome and Santiago de Compostela) and ride the 2000 miles (some 3000kms) to Istanbul in Turkey, crossing some eight countries in the process.

Like the two previous pilgrimage routes, this route has been inspired by an urge to delve into a bit of medieval history, so it is my intention to pick up the route of the First Crusade (the People’s Crusade) of 1096, when 40,000 people assembled in Cologne, to begin the march to Constantinople (modern Istanbul), and then on to the ultimate prize of Jerusalem. My journey should be at least five times faster than theirs, so I hope to complete the route in about 4 weeks, adding another week as ‘cushioning time’ for wandering off the route and catching my pre-booked return flight at the end.

It’s an exciting cycling project (as all of them seem to be) and, like last year, I will be supporting a specially chosen charity called The Motivation Charitable Trust.

Motivation is an international development charity supporting people with mobility disabilities. It was founded in 1991 by three college friends, including Richard Frost and David Constantine, who is himself wheelchair bound. Their focus is on the development of high quality, low cost wheelchairs specifically designed for use in developing countries. Their wheelchairs transform lives, giving disabled people independence, confidence and hope for the future. Twenty two years on, they are producing some 12,500 wheelchairs per year which not only benefit the recipients, but also some 60,000 immediate family members as well.

As little as £140 can buy a complete wheelchair. Would you care to sponsor a wheelchair yourself? If not, any donation you make will be a valuable contribution to the hugely important work Motivation is doing in the developing world. Thank you for your support.

Further information about the charity can be found at

And an online donation can be made at Or simply click on the ‘Justgiving Sponsor me‘ button at the top of the right-hand menu.

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on March 21, 2014, in Kimbolton to Istanbul 4000kms: a crusader's route and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Alke-Brigitte

    Hi Frank,
    very wonderful ride. If you like, you can stay in my house close to Frankfurt/Main. I like to invite you with a warm welcome. Tell me the time in which you are in Gießen / Wetzlar ?
    Kindly greetings Alke-Brigitte


  2. Thank you Alke-Brigitte. When I know the details of my route, I will let you know. It is a kind offer.


  3. Hello, Mr Burns! Gosh, but 3S seems a long time ago now… nearly 30 years.

    What an exciting journey! I was going to recommend Paddy Leigh Fermor’s books to you, but I see a later post referring to “A Time of Gifts” already. If you have not already, I would recommend continuing with “Between the Woods and the Water” and then “The Broken Road” (which he never finished, but was edited into publishable form recently by Artemis Cooper). He essentially followed the Rhine and then the Danube, so generally somewhat to the south of you in Germany and to the north of you in the Balkans. He passed through a Europe that was about to disappear in the Second World War.

    Artemis Cooper’s biography of him is also excellent; no doubt you are aware of the famous episode involving the abduction of General Kreipe from Crete which formed the basis for “Ill Met by Moonlight” .

    Finally “Walking the Woods and the Water” published earlier this year is an account of a modern-day walker recreating Paddy’s trip nearly 80 years later. One pair of boots, 2,500 miles! Frankly, his book is somewhat less well polished than Paddy’s occasionally purple prose, but I found it interesting to read about what had changed since the 1930s (and what had remained the same). And he blogged about it too –

    ¡Hasta luego!


  4. Thanks Andrew! Good to have your reflections and, yes, I will continue with the trilogy…..sadly, his reminiscences of the adventure are those of a mature/old adult, influenced by a huge amount of hindsight. I have to say I would have preferred his spontaneous reactions as a young man, reacting not only to the ups and downs of the trek, but also to the social and political turmoil of central Europe.
    But still worth reading nevertheless.


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