Thursday, 15 June 2017

Circuit Rider returns!

Yes, after a hiatus of almost six years, I have at last carved out enough time to attempt to complete my perimeter ride of the Czech Republic.

In just over two weeks' time, barring disasters, I will embark on the long-planned Stage 7 of my Circuit Ride. I've booked time off work, I've bought my rail tickets and I've finalised my itinerary. On 1 July, I will catch the train to Břeclav in South Moravia, where I ended Stage 6 in September 2011. There, I will meet my great friend Ryan (who accompanied me on a highly entertaining section of Stage 3 back in September 2010) and together we will cycle to Hodonín. I'll then continue on my own for a few days through the White Carpathians and the Moravian-Silesian Beskids to the tripoint where the Czech Republic meets Slovakia meets Poland. From there, I'll turn north and head along the Czech-Polish border to Cieszyn, where my wife and her cousin and 10-year-old son will, I hope, be waiting for me. The next day – on 6 July – the four of us will cycle together to Bohumín, where my Circuit Ride adventure began (in the rain) in May 2010.


Setting-off selfie seven years ago

Stage 7 start point

Many things have happened in my life since I completed Stage 6.* As a result, my Circuit Ride has been on the back burner. Yet I've never given up on my plan to finish it. In the meantime I've been cycling regularly and I've been replying to many e-mails from – and meeting up with – fellow cyclists who have contacted me through this site with their questions about cycling in and around the Czech Republic.

I have a new bike for this final stage. It's a Kolos No. 4 assembled to my specification in British racing green (or, less glamorously, John Deere green, as Ted and Cosmic Ray – my new cycling buddies from the USA – kindly pointed out) by local firm Citybikes. Technology has, of course, moved on since I last rode under the guise of Circuit Rider; unlike last time, for example, I will be guided by satnav on my smartphone. The network of cycling trails in the Czech Republic has also expanded a great deal since I first planned Stage 7 and I've been fine-tuning my original route in recent months to make the most of this.

Me and Kolos No. 4 in Tuscany last October

The one thing (okay, two things) that won't be new are my legs, which are approaching 50 years of age all too quickly. I'm not at the peak of fitness either, due to various distractions in recent months, but pain and suffering are all part of the fun of circuit riding. I can't wait to get going!

Some of them, to be honest, would probably have made for a more interesting blog than this one. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Circuit Ride Recycled – Part 2

In which our intrepid protagonist enters Poland, where he finds the trails - and the food - not entirely to his liking...

Testing spells and spelling tests

Stage 2, day 3 (Sunday, 25 July 2010)
Trutnov to Szklarska Poręba (84 km)

Funny things, borders. As I cross into Poland, where I’ll be spending the next day and a half, I feel like I’m somewhere new, somewhere alien and exotic. But the birds and the bees above my head don’t see it that way; they just see more of the same. And the beetle scuttling across the path in front of me just sees more colossal pebbles and towering blades of grass to negotiate - although maybe he should be paying more attention to the bicycle tyres bearing down on him at speed. Oops, sorry Ringo!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Circuit Ride Recycled – Part 1

Given the complete lack of posts here since last July, you might be thinking that I’ve hung up my cycling shoes for good. But you’d be wrong. Yes, my mission to circumcycle the Czech Republic has been on hold for far too long now, but I’m looking forward to completing the job this summer.

I haven’t been entirely idle on the Circuit Rider front. I’ve been answering plenty of cycling-related queries, and I’ve even met up with a few people in Prague through the blog. If you do have any questions about cycling in this part of the world, I’d be very pleased to hear them. You can e-mail me via my profile.

To get the blog rolling again, I've decided to re-publish six of my favourite posts, one from each of the six previous stages of my ride along the Czech border. It’s a re-hash, I know, but I’m hoping it will get me back in the circuit-riding mood as well as sending out a message that this project is still a going concern.

I’m calling this series Circuit Ride Recycled, and it starts with a post from the rain-sodden Stage 1 on of my trip, which I rode three years ago almost to the day. It’s only the second day of my journey, and things are already going awry...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Stage 7 ticked off (for now)

A (very small) number of you must be wondering what is happening with my Circuit Ride given the absence of news on this blog over the last few months.

First of all, let me apologise for the dearth of new posts here recently. Since the start of this year I have been extraordinarily busy in the non-cycling, non-blogging department of my life. I simply have not had the time to blog or bike as much as I would like.

But that does not mean I have given up on my attempt to circumcycle the Czech Republic. On the contrary, I had pencilled in the final (5-day) stage for this weekend, as tomorrow and Friday are both national holidays here in the Czech Republic (Saints Cyril and Methodius Day and Jan Hus Day respectively). In fact, if all had gone according to plan, I would now be on a train bound for Břeclav.

But my big plans have been thwarted by a tiny tick. A couple of weeks ago I went for a routine freckle check. The dermatologist spotted a circular rash on my back, immediately diagnosed me with Lyme disease and put me on a three-week course of antibiotics. When I mentioned I’d been planning to do a spot of cycling (actually 250 miles over some pretty mountainous terrain), she told me to forget it and take lots of rest.

To be honest I feel a bit of a fraud, as I’m not suffering from any discernible symptoms at all. But for the time being the closest I can get to cycling is watching the Tour de France on television.

As it turns out, the steamy, stormy weather currently sweeping across the country might have forced me to reconsider anyway, as might the twinging pain that I’ve been experiencing in my right hip recently.

All in all I’m feeling pretty ticked off.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lednice-Valtice: chateaux, follies and fakes

Stage 6, day 5 (Wednesday, 28 September 2011)
Mikulov to Břeclav (46 km)


As I climb out of the village of Úvaly the crack of shotgun fire around me seems alarmingly close. It’s a sound I’ve been hearing throughout this stage of my trip, yet I've only laid eyes on one single hunter. I wonder just how much slivovice (a plum brandy very popular hereabouts) a hunter would have to consume before becoming incapable of distinguishing a bike rider from a roe deer. I also wonder whether it is true – as my old physics teacher used to claim – that you would be hit by the buckshot before hearing the gunshot (on account of the former travelling faster than the speed of sound). I decide it’s a theory I’d rather not test.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Arachnophobia on a bike

Stage 6, day 4 (Tuesday, 27 September 2011)
Znojmo to Mikulov (91 km)


The slithery sandy track I’m on disappears into a thick, dark wood. It looks ominous, but I press on. I can’t see much with my sunglasses on, but straight away I feel the thick, sticky pull of cobwebs across my skin. And where there’s webs, there’s... SPIDERS! Big, plump ones suspended one after the other across the overgrown trail. The horror! As an arachnophobe, I couldn’t continue along here even if it was the last available route out of hell. All I can do is turn around and retrace my tracks. Unfortunately, that means taking with me the remaining webs and spiders I didn’t pick up on my way in. Back in the field, I descend into panic. I try to flick the beasts off me, my body convulsing and my arms and legs flailing (imagine, if you will, Ian Curtis attempting the cancan on two wheels). Just as I’m beginning to recover a mite of composure, I spot a whopping specimen with a bloated grey abdomen hitching a ride on my handlebars. Worse still, he’s crawling towards my right hand. What has, up to now, been a mere panic attack turns into a fully fledged physical and psychological meltdown. I blow the bugger off his perch just as he’s reaching my thumb, but he immediately starts scrabbling back up his thread. The bike lurches to one side as I momentarily lose control, and in the process the angry arthropod gets a dose of my spokes and is knocked to the ground. That, I’m glad to say, is the last I see of him.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Meandering down the Dyje

Stage 6, day 3 (Monday, 26 September 2011)
Slavonice to Znojmo (86 km)


I know I tend to bang on about breakfasts in these write-ups, but they are vital when you have a full day’s cycling ahead of you. If I don't eat properly first thing in the morning, I grind to a halt well before lunchtime. Quality varies enormously from one guesthouse to the next. Yesterday's offering was almost up to German standards, with, among other things, fresh fruit, unlimited sausage and a wide range of teas to choose from. Today's, however, is feeble - bread rolls with sachets of jam and cheese spread, a single teabag floating forlornly in a large pot of underheated water, and, for a 50-crown surcharge, two greasy sausages. And if I hear Europe's “The Final Countdown” one more time on breakfast-room radio on this trip, I swear I'll put my foot through the speakers. Or more likely, being English, I'll just keep suffering in silence.