Record Curator + Marketing at at LUNA Music. 10+ yrs experience as Design Strategist + Project Manager for web, brand, strategic planning. Play music, eat toast, ride bikes, walk fast.

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1. Eat regularly, snack often.

Not only did we leave close to lunch hour and have a coffee-heavy, protein-free breakfast of rolls, butter, and jam...but the first day's ride neared 50 miles in cold and wind, and we mainly had prepackaged grocery sandwiches and fruit, along with a couple small candy bars. We learned our lesson as we were all pretty hunger-weak by the end of the day.

That long of a bike ride, plus pulling weight, plus fighting elements = major calorie burn. After Day One, we learned our lesson and packed plenty of snacks in addition to lunch every day. (Not to mention the dumpling-and-pork-heavy dinners that were housed each night. We might not have been the fastest riders, but dammit, we made the Clean Plate Club every night.)

(For Ben, a 1.5L glowing jug of Dew provided essential mid-day calories as well as
expressed the trail message: Don't 'F' With Us.)

2. Continuing your trip after you get off the bike?
Send your luggage ahead.

Carrying an extra 10-15 lbs of travel gear was a fool's errand. Actually, it wasn't terrible for the first few days beyond my inability to figure out a way to keep my 35L backpack from randomly splaying itself on one side or other of my pannier, precipitously throwing off my balance, not to mention making me look like some amateur on my first bike tour (which...was completely accurate).

Next time, I'd either send my luggage ahead (which Pedal Power in Vienna does provide, but you must reserve in advance) or store it long-term via NannyBag or some similar service. Probably because I'm not 23 anymore (which is crushingly depressing) I haven't met anyone who has used one, though...have you?

My last options would be biking in a single weather season (impossible due to this spring's fuck-you-weather) OR taking a modest trip that...doesn't last for a month! I've also heard tell of folks buying powdered detergent, then using water and a non-leaky pannier as a basin in which to wash their clothes.

3. Fitness is great, but it's the consecutive days that'll get you.

I would describe my current level of fitness as pretty high: I generally workout 4 to 5 days a week and have been somewhat of a cardio junkie for almost 10 years, in addition to biking 4 miles roundtrip to work daily. For the trip, I maxed at 30 contiguous miles, and had a week where I biked 90 in addition to my 20 miles of work riding.

That said, three consecutive 35+ mile days was enough to leave me falling asleep before dinner – and besides dinner being the highlight of every day... I never nap. Had we had a fourth consecutive day, I can only imagine it would've been even more rough, as the temperature had edged past 80-degrees. Luckily, we just had a dozen-odd miles to Budapest. Next time, I'll be sure to include some back-to-back or three consecutive long rides. Since coming home, I've been doing a long ride on Sundays followed by 3 or 4 consecutive days of running – and yep...pretty thrashed after day 5. Turns out 30+ miles of cardio is a serious amount!

4. Download the GPS tracks.

While we passed a touring couple who had laminated flipbook-style maps lashed to their handlebars, I can't imagine how much more time I would've spent navigating if I'd had to read a physical map. While the book was essential for getting an idea of how best to break down the trip into daily chunks, and also planning each day's route, the GPS route provided was super easy for real-time navigation.

The only time we suffered because of it was on the first day, where we took the river-side branch of the path when it split into a Y – riding a couple miles to where it dead-ended at a pier full of river barges. The real path was exactly parallel...atop the hill at our side. Later, the path took us across a bridge that was currently walled off from the river dike path for construction – this was more on the delayed construction than the fault of the GPS, and we managed to heave bikes up a hill and over the construction barriers.

A couple of bonus tips: snag a portable phone charger if you're going to keep your GPS on all day. And a bike mount for your phone is useful for the small portions where you need to make consecutive turns. Just don't let it bounce out while hitting a pothole in the middle-of-nowhere Hungary...

(The weather beginning to turn – luckily, this wind was at our back.
The wind was so stiff that it was impossible to park your bike without it blowing over.
Which it did. Repeatedly. Into thick, farm lane mud.
While we took turns pissing astride a scrubby treeline, still in sight of traffic.)

5. Need to make up time or avoid weather? Hop a (regional) train.

Day two saw a forecast that hovered around 45F with heavy rain and dropping temperatures likely after noon. Since we'd already used our only off day in Bratislava to avoid a full day of cold rain, we had two options:

  1. leave as early as possible and gut out 45 miles and risk the back half being miserable.
  2. leave early, bust ass for 20+ miles to Mosonmagyaróvár, and take a regional train onto Gyor

Since we didn't feel like getting washed out, we opted for #2. (Cold rain is the absolute worst biking weather – I'd take snow and 100F sun above it for sure.) We made it to the Mosonmagyaróvár platform and boarded the train just as the first fat drops were hitting the window pane. The Hungarian railway ticketing machines have an English option, and are quite easy to use – just be sure to buy a ticket for yourself and your bike. The 30-minute journey cost us about $4 a piece – well worth it to stay dry! You might also check with a platform attendant for which car allows bikes. On our train, it was only a single car at the very front.

By the time we disembarked, we did have to port the bikes about a mile through an increasingly heavy downpour to our hotel. When you're that close to a hot shower, though...you barely feel a drop.

6. Beware weekend traffic.

The EuroVelo routes do a good job of keeping you off roads and away from traffic whenever possible. However, in order to stitch together the greenways, bike paths, and gravel-trails-cutting-through-industrial-wastelands...you have to take a road or two. More, likely, if you do any of the suggested excursions.

In the guide, they're color-coded for traffic amounts, so you can choose the route you're most comfortable with. However, the GPS just suggests the best route – likely accounting for all factors (quality of path, speed, etc.). Most of our road riding was on side streets and the occasional country road – with the exception of the ride from Esztergom to Szentendre, which had multiple road segments alongside the Danube.

Since it was one of the first nice Saturdays of the summer, traffic was heavy, full of travelers likely from the Budapest area getting out of the city for the day. We even incurred a couple honks just for riding on the shoulder (which was definitely, due to road deterioration...not a great place to ride); I thought to myself, "What is this, America?"

7. Everywhere you stay will have dedicated bike parking.

Somehow, this was the biggest surprise for me. I just kinda figured when I was told the rental came with a nice bike lock, that we'd figure out where to lock the bikes most nights. Maybe we'd get lucky and have a courtyard a night or two. A funny thing happened though.

When you're riding a bike for 6-8 hours, you acquire a certain wind-blown, sun-warmed (or rain-doused) look. Maybe wearing some of your gear for the entire week has even given you a certain aromatic je ne sais quoi. So, the first thing each host said upon entering the building was some version of, "So you're on bike? Let me show you the parking."

While it ranged from courtyard bikeracks to a skeleton-key wooden-doored alleyway to squeezing all three bikes together and locking a single mega-lock-chain to a laundry room chain-link fence; without exception every hostel, penzion, and hotel had a spot for bikes. ...just thinking about it makes me ready to go back.

(Only had to walk 15 feet from the bottom of the stairs to obtain this garlic soup(Slovakian specialty) and two pints of Zlatý Bažant – Golden Pheasant. And yes, those croutons were amazing.)

8. ...everywhere you stay will not have a bar or breakfast. But it's great when they do.

Whether it was the copious amounts of pork and dumplings, minimum three medicinal pints of pils, or simple combination of being outside for 6-8 hours while riding 30+ miles...then walking around before and after dinner...I don't think I've ever slept as well or as soundly as I did during the trip. And that includes nights where we shared a room with each other, doubtlessly full of snores and mumbling and squeaky, cheap beds.

When you roll out of bed the next morning, increasingly stiff with each day...God, it's pleasant when you can pull on some pants, walk downstairs, and feast on a European breakfast of bread, cheese, yogurt, poorly scrambled American-style eggs, fruit, juice, and as many coffees as you can pound without triggering your bowels mid-ride.

Otherwise, you've got to figure out your schedule to acquire food and snacks pronto. Grocery store breakfast just isn't the same, and packing on those calories in the morning is gonna make you feel way better when you stop for lunch. Not to mention, most lodging I was able to find was priced comparably with breakfast than without. It's worth it to just eat, and not think.

Oh – and in-house bar? You're going to have a terrible ride or terrible weather one day, and I'm telling you, that pils is medicinal.

9. You'll walk more than you think. With your bike!

Well, maybe you won't. But we did. Not really a fan of biking through busy cities where you are more than likely in some sort of commuter rush hour (or, honestly, any amount of bikes in the EU qualifies as rush hour compared to American bike flow) or just not familiar with cramped streets, drivers, and various transit modes, all while trying to navigate with a phone that is very likely to wobble out of its holder the first time your wheel smacks a lippy cobblestone..

So, most of the time, when biking became unsure close to our destination, we hopped off and walked bikes the rest of the way to the lodging. Sometimes, this was a couple of miles. And yeah...walking a touring bike loaded down with gear, saddlebags, lock, etc...not the most pleasant experience. Not to mention feeling like you're sticking out like a sore thumb while navigating crowded sidewalks, hopping across intersections, and generally being in the way.

Anyways. It feels good to walk after 30+ miles biked; but if you want to get there faster, brave the city routes. Or even smarter – book some shit just blocks off the route. We did so in Komarno, and the 2-minute walk and immediate shower was right as rain.

10. Run into other folks touring? Have them take your photo!

Thanks Jon & April, the most friendly Canadians on the 6! See you in Nantes.