Day 3 & 4 – Exodus Prague to Budapest bicycle ride

Posted: July 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Day 3 – More Hills

We started the day with a 5km climb of around 100m of elevation, a slow, painful climb first thing on setting out, it was quite the warm-up. We were all given the option of taking the van up to the top and waiting for the group, only one person took up the offer but I’m pretty sure a few wished they had by around 2.5km. It was brutal, especially for me as I’m really not in condition. From there on in we were up and down hills until lunch at around the 30km mark.

As I have never really done the distance cycling thing (riding from downtown to exhibition place in Toronto being my previous idea of a long ride) I’m managing to keep up ok, I’m solidly in the middle of the pack. Except on good long down-hill stretches, then I’m able to use my body weight + physics to sometimes even get out in front of everyone. I think my motorcycle experience is helping me on the downhill stretches, as I’m more comfortable judging the curves at speed than others. Of course my body weight + physics makes the up hill stretches killer, but thankfully the up and down parts are roughly even.

The weather today was overcast and high teens/low twenties, which I guess is ideal cycling weather, but it does feel weird that July is ending and I still haven’t really had warm weather, people in Europe are telling me it’s the summer without a summer, so it’s not normal weather. I’m just happy it didn’t rain on us while cycling, it held off until approximately 30 minutes after we were done.

As for the trip/group I think that some people probably should have paid a little more attention to the definition of “Moderate” in the exodus literature, there are a few people for whom this is a really challenging ride. To be fair to them the Exodus literature needs to be read pretty closely to understand that you need to be not only in good physical shape but also comfortable on a touring bike and know how to use it properly, plus understand what doing a 5km uphill climb might be like. We’ve got a running joke in the group that these aren’t hills but rather what Exodus calls “Undulating” landscape.

We’ve been having frequent stops to keep the group together, this helps the stragglers keep up but also aids in the navigation, there are lots of turn offs in little, poorly signed, villages in the South Bohemia region of Czech. It’s somewhat frustrating though, especially when we have to stop at the bottom of a hill and lose all that precious momentum. But it’s for a reason, Matt our tour leader let us go through a village on our own after some of us complained (ok, I complained about the constant stopping) and unsurprisingly someone got lost and we all had to stand around for 30 or so minutes waiting for it to get sorted.

All in all I’m enjoying myself, it’s a huge challenge for me but achievable and a welcome change from staying in hostels and walking around european city centres visting museums. We’re seeing lots of interesting Czech countryside that doesn’t really get lots of tourists and generally having a good time. I’m pretty tired by the end of the night though, so I’m not really doing lots of sight seeing in the town we’re stopping at.

Supposedly tomorrow is the hardest day of the whole trip – it’s hard to imagine it being harder than today but we’ll see.

Day 4 – Hills on top of hills

It’s a bad sign when the tour leader, a svelt, fit 24 year old university student who loves cycling, elects to take the van for a portion of the route. I thought yesterday was hilly, it was really just training for today.

We started with hills, ended with hills, and had some hills thrown in into the middle just for fun. I used every single gear on my 24 speed bicycle, something I never thought possible. I would ride up a long hill struggling in the lowest gears, barely moving but pedaling like mad, get to the top, and be greeted with a slight decline for about 500 meters and then another huge hill behind it. I tried my best to gain momentum on the frustratingly rare downhill stretches, but unfortunately we were plagued by a wicked momentum stealing headwind for most of the day so I wasn’t able to capitalize on my downhill speed to help me up the hills. Oh, and it was wicked cold, like top temperature of 15C but for most of the day we were at maybe 10C if we were lucky.

Despite (or because of) the cold and wind we made pretty good time, finishing 60km in less time than we did 50km the day before. I think the group members who were having serious difficulty using their bicycles are learning the tricks, and those of us (myself included) who are out of condition are gaining stamina. I think the group is split 50/50 between those that think Day 3 was harder vs those that think Day 4 was harder, I’m in the Day 4 was harder camp. The hills were steeper on Day 3, but today there were more of them and there was no corresponding downhill for most of the hills, the reward for finishing a hill was simply to climb another hill.

Tomorrow is supposed to be flatlands and wine tasting, I can tell you we’re all very excited by the prospect of a day without mega-hills… also the wine 🙂

I’m hoping we’re going to get a little bit of sun, and I’ll try to take some pictures, including one of me and my bicycle. I’ll post that, and perhaps a little something about the gear next post.