Thursday 30 December 2010

Circuit Rider’s review of the year

In line with this blog’s long tradition of breaking the mould, I’ve decided to end 2010 by doing exactly what every other blogger is doing at the moment, i.e. writing a review of the year.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Just a quick post at this hectic time of year to wish you all a Happy Christmas, whether you celebrate it with fried carp on Dec 24 (like the Czechs) or with roast turkey on Dec 25 (like the Brits) or both ways (like me!).

All the best,


Friday 17 December 2010

Stage 3 on

This, folks, is the route I followed this September on Stage 3 of my ride around the Czech Republic.

Bike route 776103 - powered by Bikemap 

Thursday 9 December 2010

Win city walk iPhone applications

Circuit Rider CZ has joined forces with, an iPhone software developer focusing on self-guided city walking tour apps, to bring you a special quiz about the Czech Republic. Everyone who sends the correct answers to the ten questions below to will be awarded three city walk iPhone applications to cities of their choice. With over 2,000 walking tours available - spanning over 180 cities worldwide - is the largest travel portal of its kind.

Good luck!

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Stage 2 on

I've now added my Stage 2 route to Stage 3 will follow soon.

I particularly dig the way the bicycle icon travels along the route when you run the mouse cursor over the elevation profile. Nice!

Bike route 771190 - powered by Bikemap 

Saturday 4 December 2010

Christmas present ideas for cyclists

Yes, the festive season is upon us. Snow is blanketing the country and I’m suffering from my first post-Christmas-party hangover. It’s time to squeeze this blog into its Santa suit and bring you a sackful of Christmas gift ideas for cyclists. Ho ho ho!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Migration to

I'm in the process of transferring the routes of the first three stages of my circumnavigation of the Czech Republic to, where they will be on display to the world and his bicycle.

Friday 26 November 2010

Five fave photos

Winter is upon us in Prague. This morning there was frost glistening on the rooftop outside my flat. A smattering of snow is forecast for the weekend. I’m planning to keep cycling as much as I can in and around Prague throughout the winter. However, I won’t be able to resume my ride around the Czech border until next spring, and that seems an awfully long way off at the moment. To console myself, I’ve been looking back at the photos of my travels earlier in the year. It occurred to me to put together some of my favourite snaps that hadn’t made into any previous posts. So here they are.

Trees cowering from the wind

Thursday 18 November 2010

Little Otik is one year old today

It’s exactly one year since this blog - an ongoing account of my cycling circumnavigation of the Czech Republic - stuttered into life. To celebrate its birthday I’ve baked a lovely virtual cake.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Prague Airport by bicycle

(This article was updated on 22 January 2016)

If you’re planning to start and/or end a cycling tour in the Czech Republic, you may be wondering how to get from and to Prague Airport with your bicycle. It’s not easy on the face of it; bikes are banned from the vast majority of the city’s buses, and the metro and tram lines don’t even run to the airport. Yet there are few options available. Read on for a guide.

Prague Airport

Saturday 6 November 2010

Cycling in Prague - My Top Ten Tips

Prague isn’t known for being cycle friendly. Quite the opposite - it’s a hilly city with lots of tramlines and narrow, cobbled streets. Worse still, the drivers are notoriously aggressive. But things are getting better. The city authority has invested heavily in cycling infrastructure in the past few years, and biking is booming. Here are my top ten tips for cycling in Prague. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

Prague - gorgeous, yes, but cycle friendly?

Sunday 31 October 2010

Job done for 2010

Stage 3, day 4 (Tuesday, 21 September 2010)
Kraslice to Aš (68 km)

It’s decision time. Do I keep going straight down the main road to the finish at Aš? Or do I have time for one last scenic detour through the forest? Stages 1 and 2 of my journey around the Czech border (ridden in May and July of this year respectively) both culminated in a mad dash to catch the train home to Prague. I don’t want to repeat that mistake this time. On the other hand, I don’t want this ride to end yet; I want to squeeze every last bit of goodness out of it before bottling it for the blog. I check the map and check my watch and I do the mental arithmetic. And then, with a big smile on my face, I turn right and disappear into the trees.

The road out of Kraslice

Friday 22 October 2010


Stage 3, day 3 (Monday, 20 September 2010)
Vejprty to Kraslice (72 km)

Almost every day of my ride around the Czech border so far has started with some sort of climb. It’s the last thing any cyclist wants first thing in the morning. And today’s is a real beast - ten miles almost continuously uphill to the summit of Klínovec, the highest peak in the Ore Mountains. It’s a long way above my starting point, Base Camp Vejprty - a full 1,670 feet in fact, making it one of the biggest ascents of the entire trip. Worse still, it’s a decidedly chilly out here and I’m cycling into a pretty hefty headwind.

My hotel in Vejprty - The Harlekin

Wednesday 13 October 2010

2 become 1

Stage 3, day 2 (Sunday, 19 September 2010)
Mikulov to Vejprty (85 km)

Our arrival in the breakfast room at Hotel Ice-Axe causes some merriment, especially when Ryan announces - in clear Donegal Czech - that his head hurts. I phone Mrs Circuit Rider to wish her a happy birthday. She knows immediately that we were partying the night before, as my voice is down by about an octave, probably from singing Ring of Fire too loud. With just five hours sleep behind us and residual alcohol still tainting our veins, we’re not in great shape for the strenuous day’s cycling ahead. We breakfast on bread, cheese and a couple of ibuprofen.

Ryan on the inevitable morning climb

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Be nice to yourself

Stage 3, day 1 (Saturday, 18 September 2010)
Děčín to Mikulov (63 km)

The two of us are taking a breather at a roadside picnic table half way up the 90-minute climb to Děčínský Sněžník on the Ore Mountains Cycle Trail. Ryan - who is accompanying me on the first two days of this stage - is texting our friend and partner-in-cycling Ciaran to let him know we’re on the road again together, this time in the northwest of the Czech Republic. Turns out Ciaran is in Greece and has just broken his arm - after falling off his bike! One of Ciaran’s mottos is “Be nice to yourself”. Where breaking a limb - or, indeed, riding over the Alps with bronchitis (as Ciaran did with us in June this year) - fits in with that I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, we send him a message recommending he take plenty of ouzo to aid his recovery, then we get back on our bikes and continue grinding up the hill.

Official start, Děčín town square

Monday 27 September 2010

Stage 3 slideshow

I'm afraid I've been far too busy recently with work, home improvements and imbibing wine in a Moravian wine cellar to write up stage 3 of my spin around the Czech border yet. However, I have found time to put together a slideshow of this latest leg of my journey. You'll find it in the left-hand column of the blog, or you can access the photos directly here. I've included some captions to explain what's going on.

Stage 3

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Stage 3 completed!

Pictured is the viewing tower (yes, another one) on Haj (pronounced "high"), which stands - ahem - high above the town of As in the northwestern corner of the Czech Republic. It marks the end of stage 3 of my jaunt around the Czech border. I'm now on the long slow train back to Prague for a well-earned rest. Stage 4 starts in spring 2011.

Monday 20 September 2010

Oh no, not another tower!

Yes, this time it's the one on Blatensky vrch Mountain. I've visited five observation towers so far this weekend, although sadly two were shut. I expect to clock up a couple more before I reach the end of stage 3 in the town of As tomorrow.

Greetings from crumbling Klinovec...

...highest peak in the Ore Mountains and highest point on stage 3 (1,244 m above sea level).

Sunday 19 September 2010

Goodbye Guest Rider CZ!

Thanks, Ryan, for keeping me entertained, amused and on the beers over the past two days. Your enthusiasm, good humour and tenacity on even the toughest climbs were, as ever, an inspiration. I felt a genuine pang of sadness as you disappeared into the trees. Can't wait for your return as Guest Rider on stage 4 in the spring.

In awe at the Ore Mountains

Today we passed through some of the wildest areas of the plateau. Wild mushrooms were growing in profusion all along the way. Ryan and I parted company in the late afternoon. He headed downhill to Chomutov to catch his train back to Prague while I continued to Vejprty, arriving at my hotel just as the sun was touching the horizon ahead of me.

Mikulov sing-song

I've woken up with a slightly sore head. Yesterday Ryan and I cycled up the long climb to Decinsky Sneznik (pictured). We spent the afternoon riding through the Ore Mountains before descending to our (very basic) hotel in Mikulov. In the evening we sang Irish songs with a party of Germans, gate-crashed a Czech school reunion and crashed out very late. Today is going to be a struggle.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Stage 3 coming right up!

Stage 3 of my cycling circumnavigation of the Czech Republic starts this coming Saturday. For the first two days I’ll be riding in the company of a very special guest - my great friend and partner-in-cycling Ryan. The two of us are veterans of several long-distance trips (Prague-Vienna-Bratislava, Prague-Munich, Prague-Berlin, Munich-Venice), and Ryan is now keen to get a taste of the Circuit Rider experience. Having cycled the first two stages alone I’ll be glad of his company.

Ryan (on the right) and I in Italy earlier this year

I was originally planning to do stage 3 on my road bike. However, Ryan only has a mountain bike and it doesn’t make sense for us to ride two completely different types of machine. Besides, I’ve since discovered some tempting off-road sections on the map, so it’s the MTB I’ll be loading up on Friday.

I've also changed the schedule. The original plan was to do this leg of the journey in three days. However, after ending both previous stages exhausted after a mad dash to catch the train back to Prague, I’ve decided to take it easier this time and spread the distance over four days. This should also allow more time to investigate places of interest along the way.

As on previous stages I’ll be blogging on the go from my mobile phone. This means you can track our progress by tuning into the blog periodically. For the most part we’ll be following the Ore Mountains Cycle Trail. The route is described in more detail here.

View Stage 3 in a larger map

The plan is to take the Saturday morning train up to Děčín (where I ended stage 2 in July). After exploring the town and grabbing some lunch we’ll head up into the Ore Mountains (Krušné hory). The first overnight stop will be in a small mountain resort called Mikulov. We’ll do a full day’s riding on Sunday then part company late in the afternoon; Ryan will coast down into Chomutov to get the evening train home while I will continue to Vejprty on the border with Germany. Over the following two days I’ll make my way southwest, stopping in Kraslice on Monday night and reaching the endpoint - Aš - on Tuesday afternoon. From there I’ll catch a slow train back to Prague.

And do you know what? The weather is set fair! Could this be the first rain-free stage of my trip?

Sunday 12 September 2010

New Czech road signs and road markings for cyclists

A few new road signs and road markings for cyclists come into force in the Czech Republic on 14 September this year. Read on for a quick guide to the changes.

Monday 6 September 2010

Germany-Switzerland-Czech Republic - in an afternoon!

Stage 2, day 5 (Tuesday, 27 July 2010)
Zittau to Děčín (120 km) - Part 2
(read Part 1 here)

Down, down, deeper and down. I’m on the long, winding descent through Saxon Switzerland National Park and I’m in a rush. I’m travelling over loose gravel and I'm having to concentrate hard to find a safe line through the tricky bends. The deeper I go, the darker it gets, as the low sun fails to penetrate the forested gorge. I’m entirely alone in this eerie, twilight world. Everyone else has escaped to the safety of civilisation before night falls. Now and then I pass a small sign indicating the direction of the cycle trail, but it doesn’t tell me which trail I’m on, or where it’s leading. If I get lost now in this rocky labyrinth, I can forget about catching the last train back to Prague this evening; I’ll be here all night.

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Goulash guzzler reaches furthest point north

Stage 2, day 5 (Tuesday, 27 July 2010)
Zittau to Děčín (120 km) - Part 1

I love German hotel breakfasts! Stuffing oneself with as much food as possible first thing in the morning can be a laborious process. But it has to be done, otherwise you can "bonk" (run out of energy) before lunchtime. Food equals fuel when you’re cycling long distances. Calories become your friend, not your enemy. And when the breakfast table is groaning under the weight of such an opulent selection as it is at Hotel Dresdner Hof this morning, tanking up is not a chore, it’s a pleasure.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Heaven and bagpipes

Stage 2, day 4 (Monday, 26 July 2010)
Szklarska Poręba to Zittau (119 km)

When Czechs want to compare and contrast two very different things, they describe them as being like “nebe a dudy” - heaven and bagpipes. Well, if yesterday, with its agonising ascents and tooth-rattling descents, was bagpipes, then today is pure heaven. I’m on the lofty Jizera plateau and there’s not a soul in sight. There are rainclouds all around, but the sky directly above me is clear. The landscape up here is gorgeous, so gorgeous it makes the hair on my arms stand up. Moments like this remind me why I’m doing this trip.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Flash floods in Frýdlant

Today I was intending to post a write-up of day four of the latest leg of my cycling trip around the entire Czech border. I have been overtaken by events - tragic events.

Last weekend, catastrophic flash floods swept through the German-Polish-Czech border area - the exact same area I had cycled through in late July. At least eight people were killed. Many, many others saw their homes damaged or destroyed. In the Czech region of Liberec alone, 57 towns and villages were affected. Among the worst hit communities were Višňová, Frýdlant, Heřmanice, Bogatynia and Hřensko, to list them in the order I passed through.

Monday 9 August 2010

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!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Broumov rocks!

Stage 2, day 2 (Saturday, 24 July 2010)
Náchod to Trutnov (85 km)

One of my goals on this trip is to sample as many local Czech beers as possible. I’ve not had much success so far. One reason is that Prazdroj and the other big producers seem to have bagged many of the best town centre locations. If the local stuff can be found at all, it’s usually in backstreet dives where a Lycra-clad lone ranger is not always made to feel welcome. But this evening I’m determined to succeed. I’m dressed to blend in, I’ve a pint of Guinness inside me already, and I’m on the hunt for Krakonoš, legendary lord of the Giant Mountains.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Cyclists Welcome - Náchod style

Stage 2, day 1 (Friday, 23 July 2010)
Starkoč to Náchod (9 km)

The hotel I stayed at in Náchod is part of the Cyclists Welcome scheme in the Czech Republic. As the scheme’s website explains:
“Cyclists Welcome is a nationwide certification scheme for evaluation and inspection of the tourist services and facilities of participating establishments. Certified establishments are labeled with a green and white logo depicting a smiling bicycle. The certification involves standards comparable with systems in other European countries (e.g. Bett & Bike in Germany and RADfreundliche Betriebe in Austria). Every tourist facility that wants to be awarded the Cyclists Welcome logo must meet certain requirements.” 
The site is available in Czech, English and German. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for cycle-friendly accommodation (including campsites), restaurants and/or tourist destinations in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

Friday 30 July 2010

Stage 2 slideshow

I've posted the photos of the latest leg of my trip around the Czech border in a slideshow at the bottom of the left-hand column of the blog. Click on the image to see the full-sized version complete with a commentary. Enjoy!

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Stage 2 completed!

I'm on the train home from Decin (pictured above) having completed stage 2 of my spin around CZ. I underestimated the distance today by at least 25 km. As a result I had to race like Alberto Contador through the Bohemian Switzerland National Park to avoid missing my train. Oh well, I should have more time to explore Decin when I return to start stage 3 later this year.

Monday 26 July 2010

So gorgeous it gives me goose bumps

The photo, shot this morning, shows the Izera River on the breathtakingly beautiful plateau of the same name. It's been a day of enormous contrasts, from chilly mountains down to warm sunny lowlands. I've been in and out of CZ and Poland several times, and I've ended the day in Zittau, Germany, after visiting the point where all three countries meet. I've covered a whopping 119 km today, so if you don't mind I'll sign off now and... zzzzzzz

Sunday 25 July 2010

All shook up - by Polish bike trails

I tried to take a nice photo of Szklarska Poreba, the Polish mountain resort where I'm spending the night, but frankly it's not very photogenic. Too many tacky tourist shops and pizza/kebab joints for my taste. At least you can see my hotel, which is classy enough. Today was tough. The steepest section of the trail over the mountains had been washed away by a recent flash flood and I had to push the bike uphill over fallen trees and rocks. Even the flatter sections were boneshakingly bumpy. Still, it's nothing that a plate of pierogi won't put right.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Circuit Rider and the blustery day

Pictured is the oldest wooden church in the Czech Republic. It's to be found in the town of Broumov, where I had lunch today. I managed to avoid getting seriously wet today, but it's been overcast and very windy. I'm now in Trutnov, where I'm staying in, of all places, an Irish B&B. Coming right up: one pint of Guinness and a plate of fish'n'chips. Cheers!

Friday 23 July 2010

Clouds over Nachod

I'm sitting enjoying a beer in Hotel Bonato on the outskirts of Nachod after an uneventful train ride up from Prague. So far it's quite a contrast from stage 1 of my trip - the hotel is busy and bustling, not empty, and the weather is hot and humid rather than cold and wet. The same old hard pedalling, however, awaits me tomorrow. And those clouds are looking ominous...

Thursday 22 July 2010

Why does it always rain on me?

It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m about to set off on another cycling trip - stage 2 of my jaunt around the Czech Republic - and yet again the forecast is for rainy and unseasonably cold weather.

The temperature touched 34 degrees in Prague today; on Saturday I’ll be lucky if it gets above 18 degrees in the Náchod area. On top of that I can expect a stiff headwind. I’m feeling demoralised and I haven’t even started yet.

Clearly my incantations to the Slavic weather gods were all in vain.

Not to worry. It’s not going to be as cold and wet as it was in Silesia in May or in the Alps in June, so I know I’ll cope. And Monday and Tuesday are looking brighter. Besides, I’m committed now. I’ve booked accommodation for all four overnight stops, and I’ve even reserved a space for my bike on the outward train.

Tomorrow I ride.

Monday 19 July 2010

Stage 2 looms

The Tour de France might be up to its 15th stage already, but I start stage 2 of my trip around the Czech Republic this weekend.

View Stage 2 in a larger map

I’ll take the train up to Starkoč on Friday evening to take up where I left off, and then ride to Náchod, where I’ll spend the night. Over the following four days I’ll be cycling very approximately west, in and out of the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, until I reach the town of Děčín on the Elbe on Tuesday evening. From there I plan to catch the train back to Prague. You can read about my planned route here.

As on the previous stage I’ll be reporting on my progress from my mobile phone. When I get back I’ll write an in-depth account of the whole stage day by day. The main difference this time is that I’ll be on my mountain bike rather than my road machine, because this stage contains quite a lot of off-road trails and has some pretty steep hills to boot.

I’ll be travelling through some touristy areas at the height of the summer season, so the next step is to book some accommodation in the towns I plan to stay in en route: Náchod, Trutnov, Szklarska Poręba (Poland) and Zittau (Germany).

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Boiling weather (and weathering boils)

This post began life as a straightforward - and probably rather dull - account of my recent ride up Mount Ještěd. Now, however, it’s going to be a torrid tale of my battle to cope with the extreme heat that day. What on earth possessed me to cycle up a mountain on the hottest 10 July on record?

The hyperboloid hotel, restaurant and TV tower atop Ještěd

But first a few words about Ještěd and my love affair with it. Ještěd is an elegant 1,012 metre peak just to the southwest of the North Bohemian city of Liberec. It is crowned by Ještěd Tower, a wonderfully wacky futuristic building described by my fellow Czech-based blogger Captain Oddsocks as “a giant Tin-man’s hat on a huge earthen head”. I’ve ridden up this hill at least once a year for at least the last six years, so it’s become an annual cycling pilgrimage for me. I’ve climbed it from various different directions, at various times of the year and in all sorts of weather, but never before on a day as hot as this.

The Elbe River at Brandýs nad Labem

This year, inspired by the Tour de France, I decided to give my road bike an outing and cycle there direct from my home in Prague. It’s a trip of about 125 km (77 miles) in all, not including the train ride home from Liberec in the evening. I’m not daft enough to embark on a jaunt like this without checking the weather forecast first, so I knew it was going to be warm. But really, how bad could it be?

I should point out here that I am not a hot weather person. My body can’t stand the heat, and my skin can’t stand the sun. I’m under strict instructions from my dermatologist to slap on the factor 50 on days like this. She’s already excised one iffy freckle from my right thigh, and I don’t want to add to her workload any further, so I set off early that morning dutifully greased up in sun cream, feeling more like a cross-channel swimmer than a leisure cyclist. On the outskirts of Prague I spotted a thermometer already reading 25 degrees C.

12th century Romanesque church in Mohelnice nad Jizerou

I was fine for most of the morning. The roads are mostly flat for the first 100 km, and I was cycling well within my comfort zone. But as the day progressed I began to develop a throbbing headache, a sure sign that my brain was starting to overheat. Despite drinking lots of fluids I was getting dehydrated. Things were starting to go awry.

The sun cream doesn’t help. Yes, it blocks the incoming UV rays, but it also clogs up the sweat glands. And that, of course, means the body can’t cool itself effectively. So, while I might not have been frying on the outside, I was certainly steaming on the inside.

Then there’s the flies (readers of a delicate disposition may wish to stop here). Evolution is a wonderful thing, but nature has yet to come up with a better way of catching flies than a pair of hairy legs coated in sticky sun lotion. Worse still, if I’m out in the sun all day I have to reapply the cream at regular intervals, and that means smearing all the hapless accumulated insects into my skin along with it. That’s exactly what I had to do after stopping for lunch just north of Mladá Boleslav (where they make Skoda cars). Cue nausea to go with that headache.

Maybe I should shave my legs. I’m sure there’d be less insect entrapment if I did. But where do you stop shaving? At the point where your thighs disappear into your shorts? At the top of your legs? Or do you continue into the undergrowth higher up? I’ve no idea. It’s a major gap in my cycling knowledge. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me.

Ještěd looming on the skyline

The climb proper starts in the little town of Český Dub (“Czech Oak”). After ramping up to the village of Světlá pod Ještěd the road flattens out for a while before entering a forest and twisting upwards to Tetřeví sedlo (“Capercaillie Gap”). Here you turn right off the main road and start the last, most difficult section. The views of Liberec below and the Jizera Mountains on the other side are breathtaking (that is, if you have any breath left to take). As the road rises above the tree line and corkscrews steeply around the mountain’s conical peak up to the summit station, you can almost fool yourself that you’re on one of the classic Tour-de-France ascents.

Nearly there

As I rounded the final bend, what little breeze there was dropped to nothing. The afternoon air was so hot, thick and heavy it was hard to inhale. On reaching the top I sat down in the shade of a rock and didn’t move for at least 15 minutes. After exploring the summit area and admiring the views of Bohemia, Germany and Poland I got back on the bike and descended carefully to Liberec railway station. Today, however, even the descent didn’t cool me down significantly. On the sweltering train home I read that the temperature in Liberec had reached 32.1 degrees C (almost 90 degrees F), beating the previous record of 31.5 measured in 1959. In Prague it broke through 35 degrees.

Summit scene

Liberec and the Jizera Mountains

Plaque on the ground at the summit

I awoke the next morning from uneasy dreams (as Kafka might have said) to find that a boil had erupted into pustulent life on a certain part of my anatomy, no doubt as a result of the heat. You could call it a sting in the tail.

Where was my boil? This well-rubbed statue might give you a clue

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Cycling the Via Claudia Augusta - with bronchitis

It is surely the dream of every cyclist to ride downhill uninterrupted the whole day long. Well, it’s a dream that came true for me on my recent trip from Munich to Venice.

Friday 18 June 2010

Circuit Rider is going on holiday

I'm off for a week today - on a cycling holiday! I'll be travelling with two very good friends of mine - Ryan and Ciaran - from Munich to Venice, mostly on the Via Claudia Augusta. Needless to say, heavy rain is forecast for the weekend, but we'll try not to let that dampen our spirits. I won't be blogging on the go this time, but I intend to post a slideshow here when I get back. Our planned route is shown on the map below.

View Munich-Venice in a larger map

Tuesday 15 June 2010

The forty-nine steps and other thrilling tales

Stage 1, day 4 (Monday, 17 May 2010)  
Králíky to Náchod (98 km)

I peek nervously out of the window first thing on Monday morning. The rain has stopped. My clothes and boots have (almost) dried out overnight. So far, so good. The weather forecast on breakfast TV is not too bad, although they’re showing footage of catastrophic flooding in areas I’ve been cycling through over the past couple of days. I’m feeling much refreshed after a good night’s sleep. At breakfast a fine cup of tea with fresh milk cements my decision. The owner of the hotel is just going into a monologue on the bleak future of “the whites” in Europe when my wife rings from Prague. I tell her I’ve decided to keep going. She doesn’t sound overly impressed.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

From Golden Mountains, through the Golden Mountains to the Golden Swan

Stage 1, day 3 (Sunday, 16 May 2010)
Zlaté hory to Králíky (111 km)

I'm up and over another climb. This should be the easy bit: the descent into the Polish town of Lądek-Zdrój. But it's not. The driving rain obscures my vision. There's a hairpin ahead. I squeeze the brake levers, but nothing happens; I'm still hurtling into the turn. I squeeze harder, and harder still. When the rain-sodden brakes do finally bite I'm already into the bend and my rear wheel skates outwards across the wet and potholed surface. I control the skid and keep going. A driver overtakes me. Couldn't he wait for a wider section? Can't he see how the wind is blowing me all over the road? My wind-chilled hands begin to sting. My boots slowly fill up with water. Wasn't this trip supposed to be fun?

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Ups and downs

Stage 1, day 2 (Saturday, 15 May 2010):
Opava to Zlaté hory (104 km)

I'm wrecked. I'm still only half way up this climb, but there's steam rising off my back, snot streaming out of my nose and I'm gasping for air. It's been gloomy all day, but it's even darker now as I enter the misty forest and dusk starts to fall. I round the last of three hairpins and grind to a halt. Serves me right for blogging on about loving the hills. Idiot. And then a thought occurs to me. That camera of mine has a video function. Maybe if I film myself it will take my mind off the pain. Perhaps some of the visitors to my blog will even enjoy watching me suffering like this. It's time for Circuit Rider CZ to go multimedia.

Monday 24 May 2010

Days like this

Stage 1, day 1 (Friday, 14 May 2010): 
Bohumín to Opava (50 km)

Bohumín railway station, 3.25 pm, Friday. Here at last, after months of planning and blogging about planning. The rain is pelting down - not quite what I'd envisaged. A guy in a white vest is leaning out of a window in the building opposite and staring down at me. I feel self-conscious dressed in my wet-weather cycling gear and taking an arm's length photo of myself with the station sign behind me. Still, I've got to have a record of the official start. Line it up, smile, click.

Official start, Bohumín railway station

Friday 21 May 2010

Circuit Rider CZ is up for an award!

Many thanks to those whose nominated this blog for a Crank award. The upshot is that it has made the shortlist of five nominees for best Commuter/Travel Biking blog (out of 44 contenders by my calculations). I must say I'm delighted and more than a little surprised by this. Please support me one more time by going to the Crank website and voting again for Circuit Rider CZ in the final round of voting (which closes on Saturday 6 June). You'll find my blog right at the end of the list of nominees.

I'd also encourage you to check out all the other blogs and vote in all the categories. People put a lot of effort into these things and deserve all the support they can get. As the Crank team say themselves, the awards are just a bit of fun. The main aim is to create the Crank Directory - a complete source of listings for our cycling blog community. I'm convinced it will be a very useful resource both for us bloggers and for anyone interested in reading our stuff.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Crank Rankings - last chance to nominate my blog

Today - 20 May - is the last chance to nominate my blog for the Crank World Cycling Blog Rankings. All you have to do is open the Crank nomination form, add the blog name (Circuit Rider CZ), the URL ( and your e-mail address, and choose the blog category (Commuter/Travel).

If you've enjoyed reading this blog I'd be very grateful to receive a nomination from you.



Tuesday 18 May 2010

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This is my 50th post. It's also my most important one so far, as I'm using it to pay several debts of gratitude.

Monday 17 May 2010

I'm coming home

Looks like my attempt at audio blogging on the go failed. Never mind, I'll try again when I get home - in about 3 hours! Yes, I'm on the train back to Prague after a hypothermia-inducing, white-knuckle ride down from the Eagle Mountains in the pouring rain. Stage 1 completed! Am feeling drained but ever so slightly elated. Pictured: possibly the wettest pair of boots in the Czech Republic.

Audio postcard from Eagle Mountains.

Hope this gets through to the blog ok. I've never tried audio blogging before, so apologies for any roughness at the edges.

The show goes on

I've decided to continue. The rain has stopped, the forecast is not too bad, and I feel refreshed after a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast. The photo shows Kraliky, where Hitler gave a speech to the then majority German population in 1938. Today I head north to Nachod along the border with Poland. On the way I'll be visiting several WWII fortifications. In the evening I plan to get the train home to Prague, with stage 1 of my journey completed.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Full teeth

This is going to be short, as I'm exhausted. When Czechs have had enough of something, they say, "I have full teeth". Well, my teeth are full of the relentless wind and driving rain I had to endure this afternoon. One motorist felt so sorry for me, he offered me a lift. I declined, but was sorely tempted to accept. If it's like this again tomorrow, I will curtail stage 1 and complete it later. There's no point continuing in such foul weather. No decision yet though; now it's time to meditate quietly over a pint of the excellent local brew.

Shelter from the storm

It's lunchtime and I'm in a restaurant in Javornik. As I look up at its impressive castle (pictured) I can see the rain coming down at 45 degrees outside. This morning I had a cold NW wind to battle against. This afternoon I head into the hills, turning south through Poland for a while. There's a long climb back into CZ, then it's downhill and downwind all the way to my overnight stop: Kraliky

Saturday 15 May 2010

Bon appetit from Zlate hory

A day of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. Two punctures in the morning, flooded trails in the afternoon, all rounded off by a killer climb after 100 km on the road. No rain today, but deluge forecast for tomorrow. Ho hum. Big feed on chicken in beer batter well deserved!

Day 2 dawns...

...and it's still overcast, but not raining. Thanks to Keith (see comment under last post) and my wife Jitka (love u) for much needed encouragement. Today looks interesting - Osoblaha salient and on to Zlate hory.

Friday 14 May 2010


Made it to Opava as planned. In the end the cycling gods smiled on me and called off the rain shortly after I left Bohumin. Let's hope they are feeling equally magnanimous tomorrow.

Official start!

Bohumin in the rain.

Rain, rain, go away

And so it did come to pass, on the eve of my trip, that a rain cloud did descend upon the whole country. I knew that dress rehearsal went too smoothly. I'm getting nostalgic flashbacks to soggy holidays in Wales when I was a youngster.

Never mind, it's only water. At least I'll get a chance to test out my kinky rainlegs.

Final preparations now in progress. The bike is loaded up with luggage and I'm loaded up with porridge. I've double-wrapped everything (except the porridge) in plastic bags in an effort to keep out the water. In a couple of hours I'll head off for the railway station. Hopefully my next post will be from my mobile at the official start in Bohumín.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Stage 1 here I come!

At long last - after months of blathering on about my trip - I'm about to set off. It's time to kick aside the keyboard and get riding.

My bike and I are booked on the 11.26 a.m. Pendolino train from Prague to Ostrava this Friday. From there I'll cycle to the official start point of stage 1 in Bohumín and continue to my first overnight stop in Opava. If all goes to plan, I'll reach Náchod by Monday evening and catch a train home from there.

I'll be blogging "on the go" from my mobile phone, so you'll be able to track my progress by tuning in to the blog over the weekend. After I get back I'll be writing up the trip on a day-by-day basis.

Roll on Friday!

Sunday 9 May 2010

Full dress rehearsal

What is it they say in the theatre? Bad dress rehearsal, good opening night? Well, if the opposite holds for a good dress rehearsal, I might be heading for a catastrophe.

I realised the other day that I’d yet to try out my Giant Defy road bike in credit-card touring configuration. As this is the bike I’m intending to use to tackle stages 1 and 3 of my cycling lap of the Czech Republic, I decided a test run around Prague would be a good idea. So, I loaded it up with the gear I’ll be taking (more on that in a later post), dragged it down the ten flights of stairs that lead from my flat to street level, and headed off for the river.

I must confess I went pretty gingerly at first, especially over the cobblestones and tramlines that are the cyclist’s lot in Prague. But the further I went, the more my confidence grew.

My road-bike-cum-tourer: Overall impression...

...and rear end

My first worry had been that my heels would catch on the bags as I pedalled along. They didn’t.

I’d also been concerned about the handling with that luggage on the back. But the bike wasn’t frisky at all. Very well-tempered, in fact.

Then I became convinced that something was going to work loose. Sure enough, a few miles into the ride a rattle developed. I stopped and checked all the bolts, but they were all rock solid. I set off again, and the rattling continued. The mystery was solved about an hour later when I remembered that the handle of my frame-mounted pump has a habit of unlocking itself. A quick twist soon sorted that out.

Another minor rattle was coming from the map holder, but a bit of ad-hoc padding easily got rid of that as well. I’m very pleased with this bit of kit. I’d originally planned to use my handlebar bag, which has a map compartment on the top, but when I tried to install it on the road bike I found that the gear cables got in the way. The KLICKfix Sunny Handlebar Map Holder is the answer - it’s very lightweight, it allows me to navigate without having to stop and dig out the map, and it uses the same handlebar adapter as my handlebar bag. I couldn’t get hold of one in Prague, but Dotbike supplied one from the UK with the minimum of fuss.

What about the gearing? The gears on a road bike don’t go as low as those on an MTB or a tourer, which means hills can be harder work. I deliberately tested myself and the bike on the long climb from Vrané nad Vltavou to Zvole on the outskirts of Prague. Again, no problem. I didn’t even have to resort to bottom gear, which means I should be OK on all but the very steepest slopes. And if the inclines get too unkind, I can always get off and walk (oh, the humiliation!).

So, a surprisingly successful dry run. And to hell with all that superstition of the stage. I’m going on a bike ride, not putting on the Scottish Play.

Here's hoping I break a leg!

Wednesday 5 May 2010

The booming bicycle business - part 2

Part 2 of the BBC World Service's two-part Global Business report on the bicycle business - "Life Cycle" - is now out. Click here to listen to it.
"Peter Day returns to a subject close to his heart: pedal power. From two far-flung corners of New York City, here’s his second look at bikes ... and trikes."
Part 1 is available here.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

City cycling Spanish-style

I've just returned from a (non-cycling) trip to Barcelona and Valencia. I was so impressed with the cycling infrastructure in these beautiful Spanish cities that I thought I'd post a few photos I took while I was there.

Saturday 24 April 2010

The booming bicycle business

The BBC World Service has just broadcast episode 1 of an interesting two-part Global Business report on the bicycle business. It's called Life Cycle and you can listen to it here.
"Britain is experiencing a two-wheeled revolution. Folding bikes, e-bikes, tricycles, recumbents, fixies, cargo bikes, bamboo bikes – the bicycle is being reinvented and demand is so great that many manufacturers are struggling to keep up. Amid burgeoning sales of bicycles and accessories, are we witnessing a genuine cultural shift towards two wheels or will this turn out to be just another fad? Peter Day meets some of the businesses and innovators hoping pedal power is here to stay."

Friday 23 April 2010

Long-distance cycle routes in the Czech Republic

Here’s my guide to the principal named long-distance cycle routes in the Czech Republic (with links to more information in English where available).

Lucie Hniková’s Czech-language guide is a mine of useful information on this subject.

Almost all these trails are marked on the Cykloserver on-line cycle atlas. Zoom into the relevant location and the routes will appear as purple lines on the map. For more information on how to use the Cykloserver atlas, click here.

Click here for a guide to cycling maps of the Czech Republic and here for information on cycle route signposting.

International routes

Three major international cycle routes pass through the Czech Republic.

Prague-Vienna Greenways (Greenways Praha-Vídeň)
Prague – Týnec n. Sázavou – Tábor – Jindřichův Hradec – Slavonice – Vranov n. Dyjí – Znojmo – Mikulov – Vídeň
Distance: 470 km (292 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 11, 32 and 48 in the Czech Republic
Probably the best-known long-distance route in this part of the world, connecting the Czech and Austrian capitals. The section along the Czech-Austrian border is particularly beautiful.
Krakow-Moravia-Vienna Greenways (Krakov-Morava-Vídeň Greenways)
Krakow – Bukovec – Hukvaldy – Nový Jičín – Olomouc – Prostějov – Brno – Mikulov – Hevlín – Vídeň
Distance: 780 km (485 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
Connects nature reserves, historical sites and local communities in Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Iron Curtain Trail (ICG)
Distance: 6,800 km (4,200 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
Runs from the Barents Sea down to the Black Sea along the entire length of the former Iron Curtain. The Czech section starts near Hranice in the north-western tip of the country then follows the border all the way to South Moravia.

Border routes

These routes run along the Czech frontier, so I’ll be making considerable use of them on my cycling circumnavigation of the country. Here they are in clockwise order, starting in the north.

Sandstone Landscape Trail (Krajem pískovcových skal)
Děčín – Česká Kamenice – Hrádek nad Nisou
Distance: 100 km (62 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 2, 21, 22
Passes through a region known for its rock formations, mostly notably those in Bohemian Switzerland National Park.

Jizera-Krkonoše Trail (Jizersko-krkonošská magistrála)
Hrádek nad Nisou – Trutnov – Náchod
Distance: 185 km (115 miles)
Route number: 22
A route through the Jizera Mountains and Krkonoše (Giant) Mountains (the highest range in the Czech Republic).

Jeseníky-Orlické Mountains Trail (Jesenicko-orlická magistrála)
Náchod – Králíky – Jeseník
Distance: 130 km (80 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 22, 52, 53
Another upland route, this time linking the Orlické (Eagle) and Jeseníky mountain ranges in the northeast of the country.

Silesian Trail (Slezská magistrála)
Jeseník– Opava – Bohumín
Distance: 100 km (62 miles)
Cycle route numbers: mostly on route 55
Explore the quiet charms of Silesia on the Czech-Polish frontier.

Cieszyn Silesia Euroregion Cycle Circuit (Cyklistický okruh Euroregionem Těšínské Slezsko)
Bohumín – Havířov – Jablunkov
Distance: 85 km (53 miles)
Cycle route number: 56
A loop through the Czech and Polish parts of this “Euroregion”.

Beskydy-Carpathian Mountain Trail/Czech-Slovakian Border Trail (Beskydsko-karpatská magistrála/Česko-slovenská příhraniční trasa)
Český Těšín – Vsetín – Hodonín – Břeclav
Distance: 276 km (172 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 46/47, 45, 43/44
A tough route along the Czech border with Slovakia.

Czech-Austrian Border Trail (Česko-rakouská příhraniční trasa)
Břeclav – Znojmo – Nová Bystřice – Nové Hrady – Horní Dvořiště
Distance: 270 km (171 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
A charming route along the border with Austria.

Šumava Trail (Šumavská magistrála)
Horní Dvořiště – Železná Ruda – Domažlice
Distance: 240 km (149 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 34, 33, 36
A very popular cycling trail through Šumava National Park.

Upper Palatinate Forest Trail (Magistrála Český les)
Domažlice – Tachov – Cheb
Distance: 140 km (87 miles)
Cycle route number: 36
A less-frequented route in the far west of the Czech Republic, along the border with Germany.

Ore Mountains Trail (Krušnohorská magistrála)
Cheb – Děčín
Distance: 255 km (158 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 36, 23
Follows the border with Germany in the northwest of the Czech Republic.

Riverside routes

The Czech Republic boasts some great riverside bike-riding.

Elbe Trail (Labská trasa)
Špindlerův Mlýn – Hradec Králové – Pardubice – Kolín – Nymburk – Mělník – Litoměřice – Ústí nad Labem – Děčín
Distance: 294 km (183 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 24, 2
A U-shaped route running from ski resort Špindlerův Mlýn to Děčín. From there you can continue along the river into Germany.

Sázava Trail (Posázavská trasa)
Lísek – Žďár nad Sázavou – Havlíčkův Brod – Zruč nad Sázavou – Sázava – Týnec nad Vltavou – Davle
Distance: 243 km (151 miles)
Cycle route number: 19
Some steep climbs on this route, but they are rewarded with great views.

Amber Trail (Jantarová stezka)
Ostrava – Olomouc – Brno – Hevlín
Distance: 303 km (188 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 5, 4
Follows an old amber trading route running from the Baltic Sea to southern Europe.

Moravian Trail (Moravská stezka)
Jeseník – Olomouc – Břeclav
Distance: 293 km (182 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 51, 47, 45, 43
Passes north to south through the heart of Moravia along the River Morava.

Some other routes

Prague Trail (Pražská trasa)
Prague – Kutná Hora – Hlinsko – Brno
Distance: 250 km (155 miles)
Cycle route number: 1
Links the two biggest cities in the Czech Republic.

Bohemia-Moravia Trail (Českomoravská trasa)
(Mikulovice) – Jeseník – Hlinsko – Jihlava – Telč – Slavonice – Třeboň – České Budějovice
Distance: 365 km (227 miles)
Cycle route numbers: 53, 52, 18, 16, 32
Runs north to south, winding in and out of the ancient lands of Bohemia and Moravia.

Jeseník-Znojmo Trail (Trasa Jeseník-Znojmo)
Jeseník – Litovel – Nové Město na Moravě – Třebíč – Znojmo
Distance: 320 km (227 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
A meandering north-south route passing through various interesting locations.

Hradec Králové-Břeclav Trail (Trasa Hradec Králové-Břeclav)
Hradec Králové – Litomyšl – Hodonín – Břeclav
Distance: 281 km (175 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
A diverse trail that takes in Litomyšl, a UNESCO heritage site.

Jihlava-Český Těšín Trail (Trasa Jihlava-Český Těšín)
Jihlava – Třebíč – Brno – Zlín – Vsetín – Nový Jičín – Frýdek Místek – Český Těšín
Distance: 349 km (217 miles)
Cycle route numbers: various
A west-east route through Moravia.

Moravia Wine Trails (Moravské vinařské stezky)
Almost 1250 km (780 miles) of popular cycling and hiking trails through the orchards, vineyards and wine cellars of South Moravia.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Prague spring: Ten more views from my bike

A cloud has descended on Prague - a volcanic ash cloud to be precise. But that hasn't stopped me from getting out on my bike, heading up the steepest hills and taking some more photos of the city. My last set - Prague spring: Ten views (from my bike) - was quite a hit by the modest standards of this blog. I hope this collection proves just as popular.

Friday 16 April 2010

We would like to apologise for the delay...

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I was originally planning to ride stage 1 of my circumnavigation of the Czech Republic in April 2010, i.e. this month. Unfortunately, work, weather and other issues have conspired against me, so I'm postponing the start to next month. However, I'll still be blogging in the meantime. Coming up soon there'll be more views of Prague from my bike, as well as posts on my final preparations for departure. Stay tuned!

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Empty Nest Expat

Fellow blogger Karen has very kindly given my blog a "shout out" on her site Empty Nest Expat ("A Man With a Biking Plan"), so I thought I'd return the favour and recommend her blog to anyone interested in expat life in the Czech Republic.

Thanks, Karen!

Sunday 11 April 2010

Bicycle hire from Czech Railways

In my recent post on cycling trip tips I mentioned that Czech Railways operate a bicycle hire service. The scheme runs from 1 April to 31 October every year. Read on for more details about how it works.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Learning to love hills (but not headwinds)

When I tell people of my plan to ride around the Czech border, the first question I’m often asked is, “Aren’t there a lot of hills?”

Sunday 4 April 2010

Follow me!

If you like my blog and want to follow my progress in my bid to cycle around the Czech border, you can become an official follower by using the widget at the bottom of the page. Your support is very welcome.



I am @

I was contacted a while ago by fellow blogger Darryl from, who said some very nice things about my blog and kindly asked me to contribute a cycling memory to his regular monthly feature Look Who’s Loving the Bike. You can read my piece here. Darryl’s blog will be of interest to anyone who, like me, has a passion for cycling.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Greetings from Karlstejn...

... a well-known tacky tourist trap outside Prague overlooked by a lovely castle. This is an experiment - my first attempt at blogging from my mobile.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Prague spring: Ten views (from a bike)

The weather in Prague was so beautiful on Friday that I took the afternoon off work and went for a bike ride. This time I set myself a specific goal - to photograph ten of my favourite panoramas of the city and post them here on the blog.

Saturday 27 March 2010

New-look blog

Regular visitors will have noticed that I've revamped the blog. Besides migrating to a new template I've added a couple of nifty new features at the bottom of the left-hand column - a three-day weather forecast for the Czech Republic (courtesy of In-počasí) and a slideshow gadget currently showing snaps of my latest ride around Prague (more on that in my next post). I hope you like the new look.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Cycling trip tips

Spring has sprung at last and it occurred to me that I could share a few tips on organising a bicycle outing in the Czech Republic.

Monday 22 March 2010

Stage 3 route summary

Stage 3 can be summed up simply: the Ore Mountains (Cze: Krušné hory, Ger: Erzgebirge). This narrow plateau rises impressively steeply on its southern side and slopes down more gently into Germany in the north. I’ll start at the eastern end with a long climb out of the town of Děčín then stay high up in the hills almost until the finish in the Hook of Aš. For the most part I’ll be following route 23, aka the Ore Mountains Cycle Trail. The mountain range is aptly named, as tin, silver and other metals were mined here for centuries, although as far as I know there are no active mines left these days. The high points (literally) of stage 3 will be the observation towers situated on various peaks along the way. In particular, I’ll be visiting the tower atop Klínovec, at 1,244 metres (4,081 ft) the highest mountain in the range and probably the highest point on my entire journey around the Czech border.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

How to buy Czech rail tickets

This is a follow-up to my post on taking your bike by train in the Czech Republic. Here I explain how to buy Czech rail tickets.

Taking your bike by train in the Czech Republic

You can transport bikes on most trains in the Czech Republic. However, the options available are pretty complicated. Read on for a guide to the system.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Cycle route signposting in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has a nationwide system for numbering and signposting its official cycle routes. These routes form an ever-expanding network covering the entire country. They run mostly along quiet roads and off-road trails, often in very picturesque locations. You don’t have to stick to the marked routes, of course, but they do make route-finding much easier in the field.

So how does the system work?

Thursday 4 March 2010

Cycling maps of the Czech Republic

My name is Simon and I’m a mapaholic. Can’t get enough of the things. One look at my blog posts should convince you of that. But I haven’t yet talked about the maps I use. Here’s my lowdown on cycling maps of the Czech Republic.

Sunday 28 February 2010

Stage 2 route summary

At 410 km (at least), stage 2 is one of the longest of the entire trip. It is also possibly the most diverse, featuring overnight stops in three different countries as well as five national parks, two mountain ranges and three “hooks”. At either end are several areas of weird and wonderful rock formations – the Polish Table Mountains, the Broumov Walls and the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks to the east, and Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland to the west. The central section is dominated by the Krkonoše and Jizera mountains, which I will be traversing mostly on the Polish side of the border. Highlights along the way include the highest mountain in the Czech Republic (Sněžka), the most northerly point of the entire journey, the northernmost town (Šluknov) and railway line in the Czech Republic, the point where the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany all meet, and the first German town on my route (Zittau). It’s going to be a long weekend in more ways than one.

Friday 19 February 2010

Cycling on the shoulders of the Giants

I’ve been scratching my head for some time now about how to traverse the Giant Mountains (Krkonoše in Czech, Karkonosze in Polish) during stage 2 of my trip around the perimeter of the Czech Republic. Now I think I’ve found the answer.

Sunday 7 February 2010

First ride of 2010

I went out on my bike for the first time this year today. Yet I so nearly wimped out of it.

In my last blog entry I pledged to go riding this weekend whatever the weather. At that time, though, my enthusiasm was based - if I must be honest - on a forecast promising sunshine and temperatures above zero.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Spinning out the winter

I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Cycling withdrawal symptoms.

I haven’t been out on the bike since mid-December, mainly because of the heavy snowfall we’ve had in Prague recently. Before anyone calls me a wuss, I should like to point out that I am, in fact, quite a hardy soul and normally ride pretty regularly throughout the winter. But the last couple of months have been just too cold and slippery to tempt me out.

So, as in previous years, I’ve been doing a bit of spinning at the gym to try to keep in condition until the weather relents.

Friday 29 January 2010

The Man Who Cycled the World, by Mark Beaumont

(reviewed by the bloke who intends to cycle the Czech Republic)

On Sunday 5 August 2007, Mark Beaumont, a Scotsman, set out from Paris to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle in a world record time. I've just finished reading his account of the journey, which my parents kindly gave me for Christmas. I read it partly in the hope of picking up some tips for my travels.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Stage 1 route summary

I'm ready at last to unveil stage 1 of my route around the Czech Republic, which starts in the northern Moravian town of Bohumín. The first section is fairly flat and gentle, passing through Opava and around the Osoblaha salient. It then goes around the back of the Jeseníky Mountains and ramps up steeply through the Rychlebské (Golden) Mountains into Poland. Once back on the Czech side of the border, I'll turn north into the Orlické (Eagle) Mountains before dropping into the finish town of Náchod. World War II is a recurring feature of this stage. The eastern section takes in a number of towns that were badly damaged during the German retreat in 1945, and the western part features a series of border defences that failed to stop Germany invading Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Friday 15 January 2010

On the hooks

Recently I wrote about the history of the Czech border region. Now it's time for a geography lesson. Specifically, I want to draw attention to the hook-shaped areas of land that thrust out into Poland and Germany along the Czech Republic's northern frontier. They're called výbežky (projections) in Czech, and there are five of them. I find them fascinating.

Monday 11 January 2010

Gearing up

Santa kindly brought some new cycling gear for me to take on my travels. The arctic conditions in Prague at the moment mean I haven't been able to road test any of it yet, but I plan to do so as soon as possible.

First up is my new Brooks B17 saddle - the saddle for touring if all the rave reviews are to be believed.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Two wrongs

If I wanted to raise the hackles of my Czech friends and family, I could rename my lap of the Czech perimeter the "Tour of the Sudetenland". Certainly if I was doing this trip before 1945, stages 1-6 of my route would pass almost entirely through German-speaking regions. Only stage 7 would be on ethnic Czech territory.

Map of German-speaking territories in today's Czech Republic before 1945

Today, however, all these border areas are inhabited almost solely by Czechs. So why this historical discontinuity?