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Riding to Turkey during lockdown…

Who, outside the world of Himalayan climbing, would ever use the word ‘Everesting’? The fact that my spellcheck underlines it suggests that it hasn’t yet been elevated from ‘urban dictionary’ status to the heady heights of an Oxford English Dictionary entry. Since you know this website is all about matters cycling, you will already suspect it figures in the world of bicycles.

The fact that you can ‘climb’ Everest on a bike without straying too far from your front door is testament to peoples’ ingenuity at adapting modern technology to create new and exciting challenges. So, step out of your door, ride to the nearest substantial hill, and climb it non-stop enough times until you have ‘Everested’, in other words climbed to at least 8,848 metres. That is what Tom Stephenson, a 20 year old Cumbrian, did recently on his local climb, the Kirkstone pass, and broke the UK record in just over 9 hours, climbing the pass 38 times.

If I were to do something similar on my nearest proper hill in West Cambridgeshire, with only a 26 metre elevation, I’d have to climb it 340 times, not something I aim to do this week, nor any week. But this has kept a lot of keen cyclists busy during lockdown, it would seem. I mean, what else is there to do during a pandemic? Just nip out and spend nine hours climbing Everest, and then brag about it to the rest of the world via Strava. Am I sounding a bit cynical? I do apologise.

In the meantime, if you have followed any of my Without Words series of posts, you will know I have been ‘lane-bashing’ in my local area during lockdown, never straying more than 25km (15 miles) from my front door. All my rides have been shortish rides of 40-50km, occasionally exceeding 60km, and always in the morning as a pre-lunch escape from the house. I have ridden just about every lane, passed through every village, stopped in many of them to find something out about the community, always started from home and finished at home, and learned a lot about what lies on my doorstep. It’s been a fascinating venture, and it’s come up with an equally fascinating statistic.

Today is the three month anniversary of the start of lockdown. In that time I have clocked up a fairly modest 2,416km, but stringing all the rides together I discover that I have ridden from Paris to Edirne, just inside the Turkish border. Having ridden from my home to Istanbul in the past, I know just about the whole of that route, and it’s a long way.

Which reminds me of a little anecdote from that journey. I stopped at a crossroad somewhere in Germany to consult my map, and two pretty young girls on bicycles stopped, and asked if they could help me. I was flattered, of course, but I had been waiting for a moment like this. I scratched my head, pretended I was really lost and a bit confused, and said: “Can you tell me the way to Istanbul?”. They were completely flummoxed by my question. I kept a straight face, waiting for them to find an answer. They looked at each other, then at me, and one of them eventually waved an arm vaguely in a south easterly direction and said: “Oh, that’s a long way from here, maybe 2000-3000km”. I did my best to look thoroughly crestfallen, and said to them: “Damn! I wish someone had told me that before I set off”.

View over the Cambridgeshire from a mere 40 metres.
View over the Cambridgeshire countryside from a mere 40 metres.