Shall I compare it to a……..

Amongst the myriad trivia that filter into a long-distance cyclist’s empty brain are comparisons. They range from: comparing the steepness and elevation of a climb to already familiar climbs at home or in other parts of the world; the distance to the next way-point compared to a similar route at home…….and many more.

As I day-dreamed on the plane back from Istanbul, my mind played on some very interesting speed comparisons between different modes of transport. These have been so consistently correct, that they have become almost infallible guides to my potential progress when I am planning a new venture.

When I cycled from my home to Santiago de Compostela, in NW Spain, I met hundreds of walkers going in the same direction. Camino walkersCompared to an averagely fit walker, I would easily cover in 1 day what he/she covered in 4/5 days. So when I said goodbye to a walker, I was confident I wouldn’t meet him/her again……unless they cheated and used public transport (and that did happen!).

When I compare my speed with that of a car, barring the 80 mph done by many along motorways, what a car generally covers in 2 hours, would take me a whole day in the saddle. So the differential is much the same as between a cyclist and walker.

However, when I compare my meagre progress on the bike with that of a passenger jet, the differential takes on a different complexion.british-airways Had I gone directly to Istanbul, without any city stops, the journey would have been a comfortable 4 weeks. My flight back to London was 4 hours…….ergo……?  Yes, you’ve got it. In the time it takes you to have an aperitif and eat your airline meal, I will take a full week to cover that same distance.

So, the next time you are flying to a holiday destination, staring aimlessly out of the cabin window, look beneath you to the land below (difficult, of course, if you are flying over water!) and try to imagine yourself on a bicycle 10,000 feet below, spinning away trying to keep pace with that jet airline above you.


One cyclist I met, riding from Germany to the Black Sea, was hoping to hitch a lift on one of these back to Germany…how cool is that?

However, there was one motorised form of transport I could outpace. The days I spent riding along the banks of the Danube, I encountered dozens of river cruisers and cargo boats plying their routes up and down the river. If I edged my speed up above 25 kms per hour, I found myself gradually overtaking these enormously long vessels……..nothing better for lending further power to those pedals!


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on June 24, 2014, in Kimbolton to Istanbul 4000kms: a crusader's route and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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