To answer the most frequently asked questions about my bike journey to Strasbourg: The way towards Strasbourg, around 630 kilometers took me 8 days. Back, around 610 kilometers took me 7 days. My bike was a 15-year old Koga, which I bought second hand for 290 euros. I had my tent and a backpack with me which weighed 13 kg. My set of tires survived through sand roads. I had to change my brakes in Luxembourg after the hills in the Ardennes. I only slept in my tent twice, a hotel once and outside under the stars once. All other nights I slept at friends’ places or hosts I met through www.warmshowers.org.
So you can go on now with what you were doing, or read on and learn more about how I got inspired, the many kind people I met on my way, learn some biker’s wisdom and lots of things that struck me during the journey.
Inspiration to take the bike
Within the You(th) for Climate Ambition delegation, we challenged one another to take the most sustainable ways of transport, since transport could potentially increase the carbon footprint of this trip drastically. Cycling 1km by bike saves 250g of CO2 compared to 1km in a car (European Cyclist Federation). Thus, after inspiring talks with other long-distance bikers at Suderbyn Ecovillage, in particular, Maarten, who has biked from the Netherlands to Singapore, I decided to take a bike to the European Youth Event.
The first kind people I met were members of my own delegation. I met with Rachel, Zanna, and Julie in Brussels after the first 70 kilometers for a lovely dinner at Rachel’s place. Next up was Perwez, where I met André and Lucienne who were willing to host me spontaneously. This was also my first test in speaking French at the dinner table, something I can say I managed pas très mal, en effet. They helped me with to choose a nice route along the RAVeL-network. After some serious ups and downs(hills) in Durbuy, Roche en Ardenne and Martelange my brakes were quite worn out. Consequently, at my first warmshowers host Duarte, my bike got new brakes and I got a lovely dinner with the family.
“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” This wisdom was shared with me at my second warmshowers host in Luxembourg. Paul and Vanessa, the proud parents of a contestant in the world championship cycling for youngsters, helped me prepare my route for the next day to Saarbrücken. Along the river Saar, the road was all flat and free from holes. A long but smooth ride and honestly, I kind of missed the excitement of going up and downhill. After arriving in Saarbrücken I still had two days left to get to Strasbourg so planned to take it easy in order to be well rested for the European Youth Event to represent Ecolise and NextGEN-Europe.
During my journey I wrote down some notes of things that struck me, here are four of my observations:
- There is too much plastic and other rubbish on the sides of the roads. Although more and more people are beginning to embrace the concept of zero waste, the side of the roads really is proof that there is still a lot to be done.
- Too many die too young in road accidents. Every bunch of flowers or picture of a young man or woman along the roads was one too many.
- In all the five countries I passed, Jesus has a place of honor in every corner of every little village. It reminds me of the great deeds one person can do and the tribute of this 2000 years later.
- There are at least one or two households in each village that understand putting solar panels on your roof is a sustainable way of generating electricity. And more and more wind turbines are popping up.
From Hulst to Brussels 70 km, Brussels to Perwez 55 km, Perwez over Namur and Huy to Durbuy: 94 km, Durbuy to Bertogne 45 km, Bertogne to Ell 53 km, Ell to Waldbredimus 60 km, Waldbredimus over Saarburg to Saarbrücken 111 km, Saarbrücken to Rimsdorf: 52 km, Rimsdorf to Saverne: 38 km, Saverne to Strasbourg: 49 km. Strasbourg to Rimsdorf: 86 km, Rimsdorf to Waldbredimus: 130 km, Waldbredimus to St. Vith: 110 km, St. Vith to Liege: 90 km, Liege to Perwez: 70 km, Perwez to Brussels: 55 km, Brussels to Hulst: 65 km.
In total: 1233 km biked = 308,25 kilogram CO2 saved, compared with going by car.
Description with pictures: With a 15 years old second hand bike, an outdoor basic survival kit and no clear plan, I set off for Strasbourg. In Brussels, I conquered the rain with this awesome red poncho. Being a lonely activist in the streets of Brussels: Make #ParisAgreement into REALITY. With my lovely hosts André and Lucienne in their beautiful garden in Perwez. My night under the stars in the Ardennes. The famous one-day classic race La Doyenne, “The Old Lady” Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I met with my sister in Durbuy. Together with Duarte and Annique, my first warmshowers hosts before my departure on a Sunday morning. Selfie with Paul and lovely dog Mabel. In Saarbrücken with Herbert, a retired physics professor, and my ws-host. Another ws-host couple and former teachers Marc and Hélène. My tent in their garden. Freshly arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
My bike with luggage in Strasbourg center. Being a tourist in the Cathedral, a nice view during a break. Biker wisdom in Luxembourg. Hanging out with Doudou, the cat of Marc and Helene. Street Art. Hanging out with one of the four cats of Elisabeth. Fun with the statue Mannenken Pis in Brussels. Peeking at the “open window” with Bruegel, a symbol for the Renaissance Humanists’ open view of the world.