Our first cycle tour was in 1978, in Ireland, on old single speed bikes. West of Galway we spent a day cycling into hurricane force winds, thinking ‘proper’ cycle tourists would think us feeble for finding it so hard, before turning round and being blown back to Dublin. We still have one pair of panniers from that trip, old Karrimors, made of duck cotton, and we still use them.
The following year we bought Dawes Galaxys and a Trangia to cycle from Roscoff to Santander (we still tour with the same Trangia and one of the Dawes is hanging in the shed – the other was stolen in London). Toured Ireland again the next year, but then less as careers, house DIY, children, etc came along. But we still managed tours of Normandy, down the Dordogne from Limoges (and back), lovely trip but we were puzzled why my partner struggled on the 80 mile days (discovered she was some month’s pregnant several weeks after we got back ..), stuff in the south west, the south east, Chilterns, Scotland, quite a lot in France, bit all over really. Climbing took me over for a while, and then MTBs, but I drifted back to more road cycling again and touring. This has seen tours in the Dolomites, northern Spain, from mid-France to Tuscany and back, several tours in Brittany, along the Loire, a Pyrenean Raid, a MTB trip in the Caucasus, lots of riding / touring in UK, whether along routes like some of the Coast to Coasts, a LEJOG or two (and even a double), North Coast 500, trip round the south west coast (which I must write up, as a South West 600), whatever takes my fancy. I seem happier doing longer rides but am getting out less – so, the other week cycled back from London to York over 2 days. Somehow being retired hasn’t seen a reduction in other demands on my time, now including care for grandchild, but maybe we’ll get the balance right again!
Someone mentioned a campervan – get one (there are even campervan forums that have the same comfortingly familiar characters as the CTC forum). We’ve had one for 20 years now, first a VW T4 and now a VW T5, starting off as a people carrier for our family of 5, taking 5 bikes / surf boards / climbing gear, enough for a 3 week tour on the continent. Now there’s just 2 of us, and my partner has (mostly) retired, we can go off when we want. We keep it simple, a roll out bed, small cooker, swivel seats at the front, a small drawer fridge and a diesel heater to extend when we can go away. We sleep as often in the van as in a tent (for some reason, we take 3 tents with us), happy to stay off-grid or in a camp site, and carry 2 bikes on the back, although sometimes we take 2 MTBs as well, and they are as easy to stow in the back behind the front seats. If I’m doing a big ride or an event I can arrive, sleep in the van and be up and off early. If we go away with our family it is especially popular with our small grandchild, perhaps less so with us when the little one wants to come in at 5.30 in the morning...
Dawes Galaxy 1979; Mercian 531 1982; Peugeot 753 1987; Peugeot 531 Pro 1988; Peugeot 653 1990; Bob Jackson 731 OS 1992; Gazelle 731 OS Exception 1996; Dolan Dedacciai 2004; Trek 8000 MTB 2011; Focus Izalco Pro 2012