cycling adventures and beyond

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Cycling, Napoli style

Since winter has grasped Munich with its icy fingers already, confining me to cycling indoors which I hate, I flew south yesterday, following an invitation extended by Juliana Buhring. My bike survived the flight quite well even though I hadn’t put it in a box (thanks, Lufthansa!) and after a lovely evening with great food and wine we went for our first ride. 

Training here isn’t only about the weather, though I appreciate the sun and 15 degrees celsius quite a lot. It is just as much about learning to survive on the road. German roads have spoiled me, and while there are some fairly irresponsible drivers back home, nothing compares to Napoli. Traffic laws are more of a recommendation. Drivers will swerve in and out of lanes without so much as a glance. And the potholes are like deep sea trenches. 

But Juliana is the Queen of the Road. She waves and roundabouts come to a halt to let her pass. She yells and even the most annoying driver will stop. I’ve been told that it doesn’t always work, but generally, my best bet is to stay close to her and copy all of the waving and yelling like a crazy person. 

After cycling 75km, she announced that we’d return home via a 12km ascent, covering about 700m of altitude. Not exactly alpine conditions, but exhausting nonetheless. I’m proud to say that while she basically rode in circles around me, I did not have to stop and get off and it only took half of an energy shot to get me up there. The reward was, well, reaching the top of the hill, but also amazing ocean views, a hot shower and the couch. 

Check back tomorrow to find out what it means when Juliana says we will “do some hills”. 


I used to love just hanging out and watching movies. Or spending the whole day watching a season of a TV series I like. Or reading two books in one day (yes I can!). But ever since I’ve adopted a new, way more active lifestyle, sitting around being unable to do anything is mind-blowingly annoying.

I guess that’s what you call cabin fever. Obviously it isn’t helped by the fact that I’m home alone Monday to Thursday night, or that every time I have to get up it is a complicated shimmy off the couch. I would usually cook a ton of stuff but it sounds a bit dangerous to do chopping with my left hand, I might end up with a finger cut off on top of everything else 😉
At least I am getting a new cool book delivered this afternoon, plus of course I can just download stuff onto my Kindle. And enjoy the sunshine from my big comfortable chair. I just hope I can get back to training really, really soon!

A different kind of ride

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Bikes aren’t the only things I like to ride around on. Horses suit me well, too! Two to three times a week, I amble around in the forest, no matter what the weather is like. Today Lenni and I were lucky, despite very low temps (5 degrees celsius) the sun came out. The leaves are all turning yellow and red, all the fields are harvested and available for fast and fun riding. Lovely!

Foggy times

Didn’t I say that October tends to be foggy? Well, it definitely is around here. After a relaxing long weekend with my family, I drove back home yesterday morning and spent the rest of the day lounging around and washing clothes. Today, back on the bike for almost three hours. Things are going well. My weight is going down continuously (courtesy of all the training), it is still fun to be out and about and I find I have more and more energy after longer rides. Was a bit knackered today after switching out of my cycling clothes into jeans and fleece for a quick run to the supermarket and dry cleaners, but nothing a hot bath and food can’t fix. My right knee (the bad one) developed a niggle after two hours which, oddly enough, wasn’t at all noticeable on the bike but only when I got off it.

The search for a suitable bike goes on. In the running right now: Cannondale Synapse 105 Disc, BMC Granfondo GF02 Disc, Trek Domane and Giant Defy – so basically, an aluminium frame, carbon fork, disc brake preferred, endurance geometry, under 10kg. Would be great to find a 2013 Granfondo somewhere for under 1000 Euro, but it is looking more like a 1500 Euro-purchase… saving up, yo!

Why cycle the world?

As I was lying in bed restless last night, I thought about how to sum up why I’m doing this. Resonance to my announcement has been hesitant to say the least, no doubt because most people shrug and think “I’ll believe it when I see it”. I had been expecting this. So, why I am going to cycle around the world? When you ask people who’ve done it (or read their books), their answers range from “To raise money for charity” to “Because I can”. I find myself somewhere in between selfish and altruistic motives.

To prove a point. No matter how long you’ve been in a rut, no matter what people think of you, no matter how far away you see yourself from the ‘ideal you’ – you can still change. Surprise yourself. I live a straightforward, middle-class life and I guess many people find me fairly boring. Truth is, sometimes I find myself pretty boring, too! I find solace in other people’s adventures, but even though no one is expecting this of me (or believing it, for that matter), I still believe I can do it, and do it well. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter one bit what picture people have of you. What matters is whether you like yourself and whether you can live up to the picture YOU have of, well, you. So instead of dwelling on why I’m boring and why everyone else’s life seems to be more exciting, I’m living up to my own expectations.

To be a better Me. I can be much stronger and more persevering than I am right now. I’ve fought back from depression when my mother suddenly died and I was only 14, I’ve dealt with the breaking of my own family and found a way back to them, I have suffered heartache, major setbacks in University and most recently, failure at University. Somehow I used to go at these challenges with more panache. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this would be the one thing I cannot do. On the contrary. I’m very used to being by myself, and I feel most confident when I deal with catastrophes on my own. Teamwork has always confused me.
I want to get back to the way I used to be. Reckless and courageous, standing up for what I believe in and not letting anyone dampen my spirits. Nowadays, it is easy to place the seed of doubt in my mind. No more. When I return, I will be a better me.

To inspire others to break free. When my boyfriend and I decided to go on a trip around the world after grad school, many people said they wished they could do that, too. I firmly believe that travel is one of those few things that anyone can have a go at… if they really want to. During college, I had little spending money, but I still managed to break free on a regular basis and do ridiculous things. I once drove 12 hours to the South of France.. just because Carcassonne was a place I’d read about in a novel and I really wanted to go. So I did. Then I really wanted to do a trip across the USA. Greyhound passes were super cheap at the time (and so were flights, the good old days..). I ate spaghetti and yoghurt for the better part of two months, but I did it. I went and had a fabulous time. Now I feel stuck and don’t know what purpose my life has. I desperately need to spend time with myself, see more, meet more people, and dream bigger. So I will.
Stop dreaming about what you could do if only you had the money, the time, the willpower,… figure it out. If you really want it, you’re going to do it.

Alf and I

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We look silly together. I especially love how the helmet makes me look like Toad, the Mario Kart character.

If you wait…

…for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done. October is here. In Germany, this can mean one of two things: either golden, beautiful, warm weather with falling leaves and sunshine. Or foggy, cold, damp weather that will motivate you to stay indoors, drink copious amounts of tea and wrap up in a snuggly blanket.

Unfortunately, October starts with the latter, the kind of weather we’ve had in Munich for a while now. It is the kind of cold that creeps into your skin. The fog tends to lift a bit by mid-day, but it doesn’t really get any nicer. This is fine weather for watching a new episode of Bones.

Instead, of course, I put on multiple layers of clothing and get on my bike to get a long-ish training ride in. I’ll be horseback riding tomorrow morning and afterwards driving to my family’s house for the long weekend (Alf, the bike, is coming with me of course), so no biking tomorrow. I’m currently looking for a nice 100km route around my hometown. Luckily, it isn’t far from where the Ironman Frankfurt bike takes place, so I can use part of that route, too.

Yesterday, I got all signed up by The Adventurists and they’re working on my profile. So exiting! I still haven’t figured out when to break the news to my family who have NO IDEA though. I’m curious what they will say!

Roll, roll, roll

Training is improving. A few weeks ago, 60km nonstop were still quite exhausting, now I have enough energy to go for a hilly 60k ride and go horseback riding in the same day. By March I need to be able to do 200k a day, but I’ve still got quite a way to go until then… You gotta start somewhere. I’m hoping that winter won’t be too harsh this year, keeping me on the roads as long as possible.

Along the same lines, I’ll be upping the amount of strength training. Cleaning the stable and horseback riding is already good for my core and arms, but it is not enough. There is still a lot to figure out – mainly the funding, but also the exact route, gear and the flights. Luckily I do have tons of time to think about these things and still train every day.

Will my friends believe it? Probably not. In the past, I haven’t been the most disciplined person and I’ve always been on the “chubby” side. Not really chubby, but quite womanly, and you could definitely tell how much I love cooking and eating. I still do. But I came to realize that instead of being jealous of other people realizing their dreams and living a live they are proud of, I need to figure out what my life is for and do things I can be proud of. I live vicariously through the accounts of other people’s adventures  – but there is no reason why I can’t be as adventurous! Time to go out and DO stuff!

By the way, this is my trusty steel steed, which used to belong to my Dad actually!

That’s a Staiger Cavallo III with a Shimano 105 groupset, standard 700x23c road tires and a cheap replacement saddle (the original one was white to match the bar tape but it felt like sitting on a sharp rock). I also added SPD pedals instead of the original cage ones.

The first rain ride

Yesterday, I went for a ride. Just 20km, to get my muscles used to pedaling even after a hard ride (which it was on Sunday). It was nice and smooth, maybe even a bit boring, but I was lucky with the weather all the same. When I got home, I knew I could have done at least double the distance.

So today, I did. To make it simple I like to do out and back trips, that way, I can’t even get lost. Easy-peasy! The weather forecast was not promising: heavy rain. Nevertheless, I put on my long bike pants and the new softshell jacket and went out. For the first 35km, no rain, minimal wind, and it was fun, too. Actually, it felt light and easy, which could be because I took it easy from the start. The last few km were done in pretty heavy rain and I got soaked – but it was still so much fun, which makes me so happy.
Down in the garage, I managed to fall over with my bike again (second time in three days!), and this time it really hurt. I hit my head pretty hard and was happy to be wearing a helmet… I don’t know why this keeps happening, it hasn’t ever happened before. I need to be more careful.

What I’m thinking of doing is beyond crazy. It is ridiculous and I’ve done nothing like this ever before. But maybe that is why I have to do it. People will think I’m crazy, but I know deep down that I can do this, and that I could be good at it! Maybe it’ll help me find out what exactly I want to do with the rest of my life..


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