I decided many years ago that one day I would cycle home for Christmas.
This was drawn from inspiration when Alastair Humpreys walked home for Christmas, and then when my friend Patrick cycled home this further set it stone that one day I would mimic their adventure.
So when my family decided to have Christmas in Germany I thought was a great opportunity for a mini tour of Europe.
A quick check on Komoot and from Dieppe to where the Johnson Clan had set up base in Treis Karden was roughly 600km. I foolishly commited at this time to try and do it one go – with no overnight stops.
Less foolishly I also decided I would use this event to raise the profile of a great charity Naomi House and Jacksplace. A children’s hospice in Wessex who offer respite, community, emergency, end of life and post bereavement care on good days, difficult days and last days
I made a rule for the donations that the maximum amount could only be £2. I did this so that more people would be able to donate, and then I would increase the supporters of the cause and therefore increase the awareness of the charity.
My training leading up to this went pretty well with a couple of 200km days completed with relative ease I was pretty confident on the night before departure.
Kit packed onto my Marin Gestalt using a frame bag and adapted Thule handlebar bag and I was all ready.
Leg 1 saw me cycle 127km from Winchester to Brighton with roughly 800m of climbing. A relatively average day and something I was not overly concerned on. The headwind and rain had other ideas from me however. I arrived into the ferry port much more fatigued than I had expected. I also managed to get a puncture in the last 200m of the day which added further insult.
The ferry over didn’t provide as much rest as I had wished.
2 hours of unbroken sleep was all I was given after sorting out kit and getting up early enough for some breakfast.
After leaving the enclosed port in Dieppe at 0500 and the standard steady climb out of the city I was presented with the most unappealing cycling conditions one could hope for.
Headwind, rain, cold, dark and no cycle lane.
Thankfully I was lit up like a Christmas tree and in France they are very accommodating to cyclists.
The first 90km of the ride was absolutely miserable. Non-stop headwind and rain.
I waited patiently for the sunrise to hopefully warm me up and boost morale, but thanks to heavy cloud cover and rain it was not the feel good factor I had hoped after 3 hours of head down pedalling.
I waited until I was warm, it was light and I had eaten my breakfast before making the claim to my wife that it was the hardest 100km I had every ridden. Compared to any event or tour I had done in the past, the first 100km was very very tough.
As I passed through France thankfully the rest of the country was a lot more enjoyable on quiet roads and even had some sun for company.
I entered Belgium in the night with temperatures just hovering about zero. My planned stop in Arlon at 0400 was a pain with no kebab shops or vending machines for a refuel - morale took a dent.
Thankfully passing into Luxembourg for sunrise helped put a smile back on my face, which was made even wider when I entered Germany.
I could finally speak to the locals, the sun was beaming and I was closing in on my final refuel stop of the trip – Bitburg.
Germany decided to throw a final hurdle with the road I was meant to cycle on giving me a big red no-entry sign. A slight detour to reach my well-deserved Bitburger Pils in Bitburg I was now on the home straight.
The final leg was beautiful. Quiet country roads, on steep climbs leading to epic Mosel river views made any aches and pains almost forgettable.
I meandered along the river for the final 50km until I arrived at the home where my family waited.
37 hours after leaving Dieppe, cycling 600km on only 2 hours sleep was certainly a tough stint in the saddle.
I manage to get 123 supporters aware of the great work that is done at Naomi House and Jacksplace which I am incredibly proud of. I really do encourage you to check out the awesome work the whole team do there, it truly is inspiring stuff.
I would certainly recommend the challenge of cycling home for Christmas – but perhaps ensure there is a tailwind and only do this if you live in the Southern Hemisphere!