London to Rome

Trip Stats:

Total Distance – 1620 miles (2607km)

No. of Days – 25 (23 cycling, 2 rest days)

Distance per day avg. – 70.4 (113.3km)

Average  speed – 12.82mph (20.6kph)

Overview

Two brothers from Surrey, England, wanted to get out on an adventure and go touring around Western Europe on our bikes. Myself, David, having already cycled from London to Paris three years prior to the summer of 2014, set the goal of Rome as the next destination. After route planning and a lot of kit purchasing we set off on our 25 day, 1600 mile journey from our home in Surrey to the Colosseum in Rome. Our trip had twenty-three days of cycling with an average mileage of 70.4 per day, with two rest days; one in Lucerne, Switzerland (day 10), the other in Venice, Italy (Day 18).

We took our Trek 1.2 (2011) and Trek 1.1 (2013) road bikes with us, using rear pannier bags and racks to carry our things and a Garmin Edge Touring Plus for navigation. To counterbalance the increased weight (12-15kg each) of the back of the bike we took handlebar bags containing items we could regularly need access to (i.e. phones, money, tools). Although it is widely recommended that weight it split 50/50 or 60/40 back to front we had no issues with 80%+ over the back wheels.

Our daily schedule varied considerably depending on location, number of miles we planned to cover, fatigue and the accommodation we were in. We planned to camp a majority of the time whilst stay in hostels/hotels in cities with multiple attractions in. However due to poor weather conditions and the occasional late arrival at the destination we were forced into doing less camping. Camping in France and Belgium was very cheap but Italy was more expensive; still cheap compared to the hotel alternative. We woke around 7am most mornings and set off about two hours after. We hoped to arrive at the daily destination during the late afternoon so there would be enough time for a few quick tourist activities. This did not often come to fruition so we instead looked around towns in the evening or the following morning.

We ate food every couple of hours whilst cycling to keep energy levels high and stopped for an hour for lunch each day. We often ate at the conveniently located McDonald’s or cheaper restaurants. However, on certain days we pulled over at supermarkets for sandwiches and a sugary drink to keep us going. Similarly, water was not hard to find. Most restaurants, hotels and hostels would fill up our water bottles and camp-sites all had drinking water taps. We did not carry any cooking equipment

2 excited Formula 1 fans! - Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy

2 excited Formula 1 fans! - Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy

Our top three highlights are:

  • Cycling around the velodrome in Roubaix – The velodrome was well signposted and relatively easy to find. Being able to feel part of one the most famous bike races in the world was incredible and the adrenaline of tearing it up around the steep banked outdoor velodrome shouldn’t be missed. Surprisingly empty for an area that seemed to be open for public use at no charge, the velodrome was great fun.
  • Cycling around the Autodromo Nazionale Monza (Monza Racetrack) – Just north of Milan, Monza was a little out of our way but well worth going to. Situated in a large park area we had to pay 5euros to enter the track grounds. Once onsite we looked around and found an open gate and wandered out onto the track. As a few other fellow tourists followed us we set out for our flying lap of the track. About 10 minutes later we got back round to the start/finish straight and explored the empty pit-lane. Was great fun to cycle round such a historic place almost privately, with few tourists venturing outside Milan’s many fashion outlets.
  • Verzasca Dam Bungee Jump, Ticino Valley, Switzerland – Recreating the opening scene to the James Bond movie ‘GoldenEye’, the 220m jump from the top of the Verzasca Dam was the most exhilarating part of the trip. The beautiful views of the Swiss peaks and Lake Maggiore with the soundtrack of adrenaline junkies’ screams radiating down the valley was a truly amazing experience. Completing the 3rd highest bungee jump in the world was damn scary but good fun. I would recommend purchasing the GoPro video they offer to get clear, surprisingly good footage of this picturesque jump. 

Kit List:

(Prices correct as of 2014)

Bikes

  • £650            Trek 1.2 (2011) Road Bike / £550 Trek 1.1 (2013) Road Bike
  • £41.98         2 x Continental GatorSkin Road Wire Bead Tyre 700 x 23mm Black – Slick tyres had no issues in rain. Had same number of punctures (4) as other bike’s normal tyres
  • Shimano SPD pedals
  • £10.59         1 x Shimano SPD SL Cleats Floating – SH11 Yellow
  • Both bikes fitted with new cassettes with a wider gear range – 12/26 became 11/32 allowing for a much lower gear for mountain climbing. Very useful for the alpine passes

Bags and Mounts

  • £7                 1x Handlebar strap-on bag (from Decathlon)
  • £19.16          4 x LifeLine Essential One-Piece Gloss Plastic Bottle Cage  Blue
  • £15.68         1 x Ortlieb Dry Bag – 22 Litres
  • £51.28         2 x TorTec Ultralite Rear Rack Black
  • £96.88         1 x Altura Orkney 56 Rear Panniers Pair Grey/Black
  • £20.29         1 x IZONE Prism and Curve 2 Light Set
  • £5.29            1x  Silverline  Bungee Cords 6-pack 400mm
  •                       4x (2 each) Stainless steel bottles – Much better (non-plastic taste and durability) than plastic bottles over a long period with limited washing capabilities.

Tent

  • £104.50        1x Vango Banshee 300 Tent

Clothes

  • £35                1x Giro Transfer Helmet
  • £10                1x   Sunglasses
  •                        4x Cycle jerseys (1 L/sleeve)
  •                         3x Padded lycra bike shorts
  • Waterproof Hi-Vis jacket (from Decathlon) – VERY IMPORTANT – good waterproofing allows you to relax in wet conditions as you aren’t worried about all your things getting wet
  • Windproof Hi-Vis gloves
  • Hi-vis jacket (French law on night-time riding)
  • Wooly hat
  • Zip jacket/Hoody
  • Tracksuit trousers/jogging bottoms
  • 2x t-shirt for evenings
  • 5x underwear
  • 3x cycle socks
  • 3x evening socks
  • Trainers
  • Travel microfiber towel
  • Belt

Tools/Spares

  • £11.90         2 x Shimano Ultegra Pair Of Brake Blocks
  • £34.93         10 x Continental Quality Road Inner Tubes 700×20-25 Race 28 Presta 42mm
  • £6.50          1 x Muc-Off Dry Lube
  • £22.49         1 x Crank Brothers 19 Function Multi Tool  Grey
  • £10.96         1 x Lezyne Alloy Tyre Levers

First Aid

  • Waterproof plasters
  • Antiseptic Cream
  • Bite/Sting cream
  • Paracetamol
  • Suncream
  • Aftersun moisturiser
  • Imodium
  • Antibacterial hand gel
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Deodorant

Navigation

  • £179.99         1x Garmin Edge Touring Plus Touchscreen GPS Bike Computer with Preloaded Specific Maps and Points of Interest
  • Michelin Maps 1:200,000-400,000 of Northern France, Belgium and Luxembourg, Switzerland (Swiss Velo-route map), North West Italy, North East Italy and Central Region of Italy

Security

  • £35.99     1 x Abus Sinus Plus D-Lock and Cable Set Black 23cm / 120cm (Heavy but necessary for insurance)
  • £10.94      1 x Kryptonite KryptoFlex 7 Foot Cable Bike Lock
  •                   2x thin steel cables (for locking all easily detachable items e.g. saddle and pedals)
  •                   2x Small padlock

Extras

  • iPhone (no travel SIM)
  • EHIC card
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Wallet with ID
  • Nixon Coolpix camera
  • GoPro Hero 3+ Black (with head strap and handlebar/seat-post mount)
  • Phone charger
  • £71.98          2x EC TECHNOLOGY® New 22400mAh Portable Ultra-high Density External Battery Charger
  • Travel Soap
  • STA travel card
  • Euro plug adapter
  • List of tourist sites on route with information
  • Notepad and pen
  • Drawstring bag for carrying valuables around cities