‘pssst’ competition: first loser

we heard a gunshot close by and all looked back in panic

rim fails, tube must pop

In the European leg of a long bike tour, for a two week period we regularly
seemed to get punctures at the worst of times, wearing our patience thinner
than the tyres. There was one on the clay towpaths of the Main-Donau canal, however, which was quite wonderful.

After a brisk morning overtaking the canal’s main wayfarers –touring
grandmothers – we were riding through Nuremburg and had just passed a
travellers’ camp when we heard a gunshot close by and all looked back in
panic. Moments later, realising we weren’’t under fire or in danger, we
stopped to inspect the damage. Gav’s inner tube had exploded and taken half
the wheel with it.

Gav, being the most physically imposing of us, had been a super domestique, taking the wind for far longer than his due. He deserved our solidarity. There being four of us, the only thing to do was for two to remain with the bags and two to find a bike shop in the city.

Cursing our luck, Tim and I sat down at a nearby radweg café and ordered a
radler. The hours passed, as did the touring old ladies, beaming tortoises
to our hares. And the radlers turned into beers. The company was first rate,
including some scholarly Polish builders, whose German was only bettered by their English, and a charming young French couple, who were cycling with their two-year-old son to Canada. The food was pickled fish sandwiches, but you can’’t have everything.

Pete Bloor and Time Keeling

The wearily triumphant pair returned five, maybe six, hours later, having
enjoyed the best of inner city traffic and having managed, at great length,
to find a wheel that was ready to ride. They found a couple of drunks,
gushing about a perfect sunny day on the canal-side to whoever the latest
passing drinking buddy was. The next day, and because of the hangover I
can’’t be sure, but I swear Tim and I found ourselves taking the wind more
than usual.

Peter Bloor 12/12

eds note: A ‘Radler’ – literally ‘cyclist’ – is a mix of beer and soft-drink, a sort of deutsche shandy.

and the winner is…

Thanks to all who entered. The winner was praised for it’s clear economy and optimistic embracing of the inevitable.

So whatever happened to the ‘Pssst’ readers competition announced in November? Don’t tell me you’d forgotten?

The winning entry is over on the new touring strand ‘White Line Fever’ which will also host news and information on the Dunwich Dynamo – edition XXI rolls out on 20/07/2013 – and London-Fes slated for October 2014.

Thanks to all who entered. The winner was praised for it’s clear economy and optimistic embracing of the inevitable.

The runner-up – or ‘first loser’ – is jaunty and exotic but not really a puncture story, more a sorry tale of rim failure, and nobody wants to reward bad management. Remember kids always check the wear on your rims before setting off for China.

Read and enjoy at your leisure but – for readers in the northern hemisphere – spring is coming in so Jesse Edwin suggests you might like to go for a little ride first.

‘pssst’ competition: the winner

Nothing slows you down like stopping; which is why I like it.

a puncture is decisive

A puncture is decisive; it neatly answers the question of whether to stop
versus whether to carry on.

I’m indecisive, and lean towards carrying on at the expense of stopping;
riding optimistically past superbly placed benches, picturesque cafes,
patches of shade in the midday sun and patches of sun at the end of the
day, improbable scenes well worth photographing, bus shelters delightful
enough to take a nap in.

For this reason I like realising that the new noise I can hear is fast
escaping air passing my forks once every rotation, followed by the
roughness of the road becoming apparent. Nothing for it, where shall I sit?

Nothing slows you down like stopping; which is why I like it. A puncture
early one midsummer evening in Scotland resulted in me finding my favourite campsite for over 1000 kilometres. The campsite was one that I would have ridden straight past in the knowledge that daylight was plentiful had I not recently realised how good it was to take in the mountains from a seated position on the ground.

It consisted of an empty field surrounded by distant peaks with a stream
running through it and a single toilet block. One toilet, one sink, one
wooden slatted thing to stand on in front of the sink, and a clouded
mirror. The door frames were painted green and peeling, the walls inside
painted pink and peeling. The floor cold stone, the water from the hot tap
hot. The low evening light hit the pink walls like a flood light while the
stream sounded outside.

I didn’t find the farmer that evening on my walk but he found me in the
morning – the only tent in his field. He drove his tractor over just to say
hello and that I certainly didn’t owe him any money. He had white hair and
a red face and his trousers were held up by braces with a repeat pattern of
different tractors on.

Jane Stables 11/12

The author apologised for the absence of a photograph to accompany this tale. I hope you’ll agree it doesn’t need one? The words take you there without assistance.

dreams and reality

Mainstream discourse still likes to hint that those who travel by bike are head-in-the-clouds idealists while treating fantasists who imagine you can reduce traffic jams by constructing highways as exemplars of cool rationality

As predicted last week the Government has preempted the current All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group inquiry by announcing £62 million of funding for ‘pro-cycling measures’ in England excluding London.On the subject of the APPCG transport minister Norman Baker said of its co-chairs Ian Austin MP (Labour, Dudley North) and Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge) “They’re both cycle enthusiasts but they’re also realistic”.

dreams and reality -
Norman Baker – centre – being realistic and risking sunburn.
Norman Baker – centre – being realistic and risking sunburn.
Picture from the Guardian

Mainstream discourse still likes to hint that those who travel by bike are head-in-the-clouds idealists while treating fantasists who imagine you can reduce traffic jams by constructing highways as exemplars of cool rationality, even though the blind faith that building or widening roads relieves motor-traffic congestion went underground with a stake through it’s heart in 1994. The killer report was funded and published by the Department of Transport but perhaps their copy’s fallen down the back of a radiator somewhere?

Big ticket infrastructure – for example – a £32 billion, or probably more, railway line, whose economic justification is based on the assumption that you can’t work in a mainline train carriage, is regarded as a critical national policy issue, while English provincial towns and cities have to bid for modest ‘Cycle City Ambition Grants’, in a contest that can only have 2 or 3 successful candidates.

Distributing funds by ‘inviting bids’ and holding a beauty contest is wasteful and divisive. It might be a lot to you or me, but in national public-spending terms £62 million is half a peanut.

the example of Seville

At the turn of the Century cycle-travel accounted for just 0.02% of all trips in Seville – now 7% of journeys are made on a pedal bike.

A highlight of the first session of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group(APPCG)’s ‘Get Britain Cycling’ inquiry was Dr. Lyn Sloman describing the rapid – in local-government terms at least – transformation of the city of Seville in Andalusia now acclaimed as the ‘cycling capital’ of Spain.

Cycle lane in Seville - the example of Seville

the example of Seville

Starting from a very low base – at the turn of the Century when cycle-travel accounted for just 0.02% of all trips – now 7% of journeys in Sevilla are made on a pedal bike.

In 2010 I rode across Iberia – on the way to Fes taking as direct a route as possible across the corrugations of Andalusia, passing the delightful towns of Andújar, Baena, Cabra, Olvera and Ronda to hit the Mediterranean coast at the mouth of the Hozgarganta river. A slightly easier route, in terms of hills and navigation, might be to run down the Guadalquivir valley via Cordoba – with the added bonus of the chance to check-out Seville’s network of bike paths and ancient city centre – and then to proceed to the ferry-port of Tarifa – or Algeciras – via Jerez and Cadiz?

alibi facilities

Images of crap cycle lanes are a well-established, and popular comic genre of the early internet-age but analysis of the logic behind the phenomenon is missing.

On Wednesday (23/01/13) the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) started taking oral evidence for an inquiry entitled “Get Britain Cycling”. There will be six sessions, over seven weeks, where a panel of MPs and Peers take verbal submissions from selected groups of witnesses, to supplement written evidence already collected.

A report with recommendations will be written by Professor Phil Goodwin of the University of the West of England and published in mid-April. What influence this will have on policy, and thence on conditions on the ground, we can wait and see. Informed opinion suggests that Central Government will float some pro-cycling initiatives this Spring – probably before the report comes out – to avoid any suspicion that they’re dancing to the tune of the bike-fancying parliamentarians of the APPCG.

The first session was a significant milestone on Britain’s road toward bicycle paradise
the usual suspects stating the bleeding obvious quite interesting, and – for a couple of hours – #getbritaincycling was the top trend on Twitter; a festival of brain-burps that offered some wisdom and plenty of terse foolishness…

“oh no! not more Wiggin’s wannabees slowing the traffic #getbritaincycling INDOORS!!”

“#getbritaincycling In this weather? You must be mental.”

“#GetBritainCycling For mass cycling to happen cycling needs to be made an option that ppl don’t need to think about it, just like taking car.”

It wasn’t long before laughable examples of current UK provision for cycling were being cited.

alibi facilities

Images of crap cycle lanes are a well-established, and popular comic genre of the early internet-age but analysis of the logic behind the phenomenon is missing.

The people (mostly men) who design and approve ‘joke’ facilities are not fools. A crap cycle facility is not a mistake. To understand the logic behind, and function of, the ‘useless’ cycle facility it’s necessary to revisit a concept popular amongst Northern European cycle-campaigners in the later 20th Century, what the Germans used to call ‘alibi facilities’.

alibi facilities

According to the APPCG their current inquiry will…

“…examine the barriers which are preventing more people from cycling in the UK.”

There is no doubt – as inquiry witness Carlton Reid put it – that there is “huge demand for cycling.” It is however a big mistake to imagine that the whole, or even a large part, of the population of Britain is currently in a precipitous, pre-cycling state, only waiting for conditions to change so they can start riding. Most people in the UK never consider practical cycle-travel as a realistic possibility for themselves or any other normal person. To talk about the ‘barriers’ preventing them from cycling is like asking why English people don’t – knowingly – eat horse-meat. They don’t do it because they’re normal and – everybody knows – normal people would never – knowingly – do it.

During yesterday’s session APPCG panel member Jeremy Corbyn MP recalled talking recently to a group of 30 local youngsters. Half currently cycled but only two planned to continue, they all aspired to own cars. Corbyn said: “One of them described it by saying cycling is for losers.”

A traffic-engineer is told to make changes to the streetscape that will ‘remove the barriers preventing people from cycling’. The traffic-engineer wants a quiet life, to do their job without controversy and then to go home and relax. Street space is limited. In the short-term the traffic-engineer knows they can’t make conditions easier for one mode of travel without taking space and green-time away from others. A dedicated cycle-lane may – for example – mean less space for parking motor-cars. The traffic-engineer might even feel sympathetic to the old, but by no means extinct, idea that people travelling by bike are ‘a vanishing tribe’.

The function of an alibi facility is not for cycling, not to encourage cycling. It’s function is to absorb any budget allocated to ‘removing the barriers preventing people from cycling’ without causing trouble among ‘normal’ people who just want to drive their children to school, themselves to work and home via the super-store on the by-pass. The point of the alibi facility is to enable bureaucrats to say ‘well we tried to encourage cycling but look what happened, nobody uses our new facility which cost £X00,000’. When a cycle facility is built for people to use, to make cycling easier, the more useful it is the better, and the less it costs the further any available funds can be spread.

alibi facilities

Alibi facilities are most effective when they don’t encourage anyone to cycle. It helps if they make cycling seem marginal, dangerous and problematic. The more they cost the better. ‘Oh yes we spent 100k on facilities for cycling but – you know – nobody really wants to do it.’

A conspiracy theory is always over-optimistic – relying as it does on the assumption that somewhere, somebody is in control of something and knows what they’re doing – but it can be a useful tool of analysis. We left the era of the vanishing tribe years ago and are now well into the era of mixed messages, old school highway-engineers are retiring and being replaced by those trained after it became necessary to, at least nod towards, sustainability, social-inclusion and the non-threatening modes of travel but – with Central Government poised to push for a ’90’s-retro road-building spree – we’re definitely not safe from the possibility that any new ‘pro-cycling’ programmes may be subverted into alibi facilities.

The unrestricted information super-highway has brought a welcome injection of energy into the toyland world of cycle politics. It’s brought in many new voices, some of whom naively imagine that this is a technical – rather than political – question. As if all we need do is send round pictures from our Dutch, Danish or Deutsche touring trips and the 97.2 per-cent of the population who don’t currently travel by bike will scatter rose-petals in our path before jumping onto their trusty rods and pedalling after us into bicycle paradise. The truth is – alas – more gritty.

The internet is great for our campaigns. It goes some way to re-balance the battle, by making communicating, organising and lobbying easier and cheaper; but ‘like-button culture’ is no substitute for the slow, dirty grind of politics. Supporting allies, isolating enemies, building coalitions, manoeuvring engineers, officers and politicians into positions where doing good becomes their line of least resistance.

The time-table for the remaining inquiry sessions is…

  • 30 January – Safety
  • 06 February – Planning and design
  • 13 February – Active lifestyles
  • 27 February – The local perspective
  • 06 March – Government

Which may be interesting – or not – depending on your taste. Really the press-release from the first session says it all. “Political leadership is needed to transform Britain into a cycling nation”. And that won’t happen by accident. The outstanding questions remain, what are we each doing, what have we each done, what are we each going to do, to make our own streets and neighbourhoods more pleasant and convivial places?

gone-too-soon V. won’t-go-away

Nicole Cooke’s farewell statement is something like her career, awkward and awesome. Read it and regret. We may not witness such power again.

“Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald:- “There are no second acts in American lives.” Lance Armstrong has already had two…

  • ACT I. Wunderkind with swimmer’s shoulders – World Champion at 22 – is tragically struck down by cancer.
  • ACT II. Skeletal conqueror with a coffee-grinder cadence turns out – who’d have guessed it? – to be on anything he can get away with.

…and is rolling the dice for a third.

Not sure exactly what the next chapter will consist of, but some unlikely version of ‘PENITENCE’ is sure to feature.

won’t go away

The shit-storm surrounding his latest, ‘confessional’ interview has over-shadowed the retirement of the World’s greatest living Welsh person (not Gareth Bale).

[pic id=”3″]

Nicole Cooke’s farewell statement is something like her career, awkward and awesome. Read it and regret. We may not witness such power again. Read it and celebrate. Be grateful that you lived while the tiger rode.

Rash Prediction:- Nicole Cooke will not be making any embarrassing comebacks.

London-Fes 2010

Fes is definitely a different place but, because I’ve measured every dry millimetre with the power of my will, somehow I still feel at home.

(8/10/10) M.V. Normandy docks at Ouistreham before dawn and – after yesterday’s ride to Portsmouth and a sweaty night on-board – I turn West along the coast for a few hundred metres, lean my bike by an imposing D-Day memorial and trot down the beach. It’s a long way to the water. On the last dry sand bank I take off my shoes and clothes, stack them neatly with my passport, cards and cash, then run into the shallows to bathe.

Returning, scouring the gloom for my possessions, I imagine losing them to the incoming tide. When a dark pile becomes my stuff relief breaks in a warming wave. On a trip like this you have to trust yourself, trust others and the World.

London-Fes 2010 - roadside Jesus and funny bike in Anjou
roadside Jesus and funny bike in Anjou

Normandy sand stays in my shoes until I swim in the Loire – camping wild on a river island – two nights later. Two more and – like some low-rent Richard Long – I’m rolling in the Atlantique at Soulac sur Mer. Sleeping to the sound of crashing waves, hooting owls and mysterious cracking noises, too diverse to be human, on the nearly deserted camp-site; some kind of nocturnal woodpecker is my first guess? In the morning I work-out it’s pine cones, loosed by the breeze, hitting chalet roofs.

(14/10/10) There’s no sign for Spain until you’re 1500 metres from the frontera. Is this because I’m on the old coast road rather than the autovia, Francocentrism or sensitivity to Basque nationalism? Funny to find a whole country, an empire, treated like some municipal amenity. Orwell called Spain “a lump of Africa crudely soldered onto Europe” is there still evidence you’re entering a new continent, a new World view? The small “Welcome to Spain” sign has – predictably – been defaced by Basques, with something about “Nazios”.

My morning coffee in France was often taken in an empty bar, or one shared by a rheumy-eyed town drunk nursing a – not necessarily unfortified – orange juice or coffee, and wondering where it all went wrong? In Irun I nip into the first local, a small room, nearly full of big men with bellies and moustaches, smoking, shouting and drinking spirits in generous measures.

My arrival causes some muted interest as they go out in ones and twos to check my bici-comico, a Burrows Ratcatcher. They politely don’t engage me in conversation as I drink my con-leche but, after I pay and bring my drinking-bladder in for the barman to fill, they burst into a raucous chorus of “Whisky-Coca’ – Whisky-Coca’ – Whisky-Coca’ “. It’s tempting to build psycho-geographical theories on an anecdote. My first coffee in Spain was slightly later in the day and in a more urban setting than those necked in rural France… …but it did make me think?

60 km uphill to the first continental pass at 847 metres. Near the top the new road runs in a tunnel, closed to cycle-traffic, so I climb further, alone on the old highway, winding gently through intricate forest hairpins. An unfamiliar road sign – the silhouette of a petrol pump? – indicates a spring-fed, roadside fountain. Two elderly men in shabby clothes are filling plastic bottles, putting them, four at a time, in carrier bags and loading them into the back of a battered saloon car.

They stand aside to let me wash my salty face. I ask how far it is to the top? “Not far” The first suggests.
“A kilometre?” I ask.

“More or less” offers the first.

“Less than half a kilometre” adds the second.

“More clothes.”

“More clothes.” They agree. The cloudless evening is drawing in and I face a 25 km drop to Pamplona.

lobby exhibition, Hotel Yoldi, Pamplona

At the Hotel Yoldi – mentioned by Hemingway in “The Sun Also Rises”, where, every Saturday, by tradition, Miguel Indurain hosts a get-together for his extended family – they insist I park my bike in the lobby, among the designer furniture, as “an exhibition”. I’m certainly not in condition, not tough enough, to ride weeks of consecutive 150 km days on a classic bike.
Late night department-store shopping yeilds a set of maps for the Iberian diagonal.

The high plains of Castille are cold in the mornings and hot in the afternoons under skies of blank Velásquez blue. I see the towers of Madrid from the hills above Guadalajara. In Peurtollano, a mining town strung along a valley like South Wales, well dressed people in early middle-age have rickets. Not long ago this was poor country.

The roads in Spain are mostly even better than France, but occasional sections are rough, on some cycle-traffic is exiled to a dirt-track service road, I can’t identify these from my 1:200,00 maps. Where old roads are being renewed whole sections are closed entailing lengthy detours.

London-Fes 2010 - from the ramparts of Atienza, high plains of Castille
from the ramparts of Atienza, high plains of Castille

(20/10/10)Into Andalucia over four mountain passes through a lonely parc naturel. I see, a brown squirrel with tufty ears, deer the size of horses and an Iberian lynx. I might have thought it was a big domestic cat but for the multitude of road signs telling everyone to keep under 40 kph as this is “the Country of the Lynx”. The signs persist for fifteen miles and the scarce motorists respect the limit. Motorists in Spain are the politest I’ve ever ridden amongst.

In Andalucia the evenings are warm in pastel-painted towns busy with animated citizens like an operetta’s opening scene. Two days of rolling hills with nothing but olives. Low down it looks like you’re lost in a great, green sea and – from hilltops – as if the country has been upholstered in some tufty green and cream fabric. The trees seem gnarled and ancient but are planted in regimented rows to be serviced by machinery. The largest building in every town is the olive oil refinery. Their heavy scent is everywhere.

Relief from this hallucination of stasis only comes with rugged mountains and white, Moorish, hilltop villages, at odds with the road network, making navigation troublesome. Andalucia clings to my heels like some plaintiff lover, probably singing a nasal ballad, Arab pop with Castillian vocals and just when you think you’re breaking through to the coast, the shock of English ex-pats, behaving like they’re in East Sussex with the heat turned up. At a café I find an English-language flyer for a dog show.

Hilariously I must walk the last kilometre in Europe as the Algeciras Port police are affronted that I’m riding sin casco – no crash-hat. I told them I’d only had politeness from people and police of all categories all the way from Navarre. Was their dual-carriageway really the most dangerous road in all Spain? It felt somehow OK to be hounded out of Europe by jobsworths.

(24/10/10) Landing in Africa it’s a short ride to the border of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta and entry into Morocco proper. Here the landscape, the faces, the crops, lots of the architecture, are indistinguishable from Andalucia. Do the Spanish hang a quarter pig behind every bar, drink spirits for breakfast, beer for lunch and wine at night, to convince themselves, and everyone else, that they’re no longer Muslims? You’re leaving lands where people expect cars and fridges, for those where street markets feature second-hand shoes and old clothes. In the country some families must walk to collect their water.

The sparse roads of the Moroccan countryside are quiet and well surfaced. Some of the motor traffic a little less disciplined than in North West Europe but the possibility – round any corner – of very slow moving traffic, flocks of sheep, ancient trucks labouring up hill or creeping gingerly down – keeps everyone vigilant. I manage to avoid being overtaken by any donkey carts.

Down the Mediterranean coast, through the Rif mountains, across a fertile plain – where the only tourists go speeding by in buses and towns are strung along the highway like sets for wild-west movies – to reach the mysterious, ancient capital Fes; exactly three weeks riding from London.

Fes is definitely a different place but, because I’ve measured every dry millimetre with the power of my will, somehow I still feel at home.

London-Fes 2010 - light commercial freight waiting to enter the Old City
light commercial freight waiting to enter the Old City

(28/10/10)First stop a home-furnishing shop in the new city to cadge a coffin-sized cardboard box. Then to a carpet shop in the old city to enquire about shipping to London. I buy a 10mm hex key and some candles in the souk and in a gloomy garage spend half a day breaking up the bike and packing it, with my road clothes. A barrow porter wheels the resulting carton to the post-office.

London-Fes 2010 - Soraya

(01/11/10) After a couple more days exploring the alleys of the old city an early morning train to Tangier.

(02/11/10) Lunch between trains in Madrid, and – just over the invisible French border – onto a rattling sleeper.

(03/11/10)Breakfast in Paris, London by lunchtime.

Into Africa

Daughter of DD needs to be arrestingly unlikely, needs to start in London. It needs to terminate somewhere mysterious and interesting enough to avoid anti-climax. Welcome to London-Fes.

Happy new year. Welcome to the teens.

If – back in the late Twentieth Century – I’d told you that one day a Mayor of London would…

  • 1. travel to work on a pedal bike.
  • 2. leave 10,000 push-rods standing around the City and West End for any chump to use, pretty much, for free.

…the chances are you’d’ve asked if I’d been working too hard, suggest I take a glass of camomile tea and sit in the shade for a few minutes. The challenge is to try and imagine scenaria strange enough for the coming years.

This brings up the question of a follow-up to the Dunwich Dynamo. The legendary frolic, which once seemed very strange, now has a raft of tribute events including, since December 2012, a first in the Southern Hemisphere. The Newcastle Overnight just misses out on alliteration but in other respects follows the tested formula of a summer night-time spin from the city to the beach under a full moon.

The NO – or for francophone readers the NoN – contains an extra layer of perversity as everyone knows Sydney is blessed with many idyllic swimming strands and all towns in Australia – except Canberra, Alice Springs and various open-cast mines and sheep-stations – are on the coast. So not only do you leave a city hooching with saltwater swimming opportunities, the itinerary is never far from the Tasman Sea.

Into Africa - Tetouan: first mention of Fes on the road from London

Tetouan: first mention of Fes on the road from London

Not so much a ride to the beach as a ride along the beach but what the heck it looks like fun and if the current vogue for backward social-policy continues, and I get transported to the antipodes, in chains, for stealing a loaf of bread, it’ll definitely go on my to-do list.

Daughter of DD needs to be arrestingly unlikely, needs to start in London. It needs to terminate somewhere mysterious and interesting enough to avoid anti-climax. Welcome to London-Fes.

Fes is an ancient capital of Morocco.

Fes contains the largest area of motor-free urban space in the World.

Fes is in Africa.

Fes is definitely different to London

Into Africa - cricket on the beach anyone?

cricket on the beach anyone?

While the DD can – often is – undertaken on a whim, an extended international jaunt whilst, neither necessarily, serious or arduous, is best undertaken with a little more forethought. Time to rake up funds to enjoy the trip and plan time away from work and family responsibilities. For this reason the first formal edition of London-Fes will take place in October 2014. It will continue on a four year cycle, 2018, 2022 and so on, conveniently L-F takes place in the Autumn preceding a Paris Brest Paris summer.

October is preferred, first because after the equinox – on September 21st – riding South means the days get longer also because tourist facilities tend to be quiet but not shut and afternoons in Andalusia and Morocco are not too hot. These are formal dates but there’s no reason why the ride can’t be undertaken at anytime. You could leave tomorrow.

The most direct route from London to Fes includes around 2500 kilometres of cycling. London to Portsmouth for a night boat to Ouistreham in Normandy. South across the Loire to Royan where a short ferry over the Gironde puts you on the flat, coast road to the Basque country. Up into Navarre, across a corner of Aragon onto the high plains of Castille. Madrid is an option if you have time then across the Sierra into the corrugations of Andalusia from Algeciras to Morocco then a last 300 kms up to the old Berber city of Fes.

This is a classic route but there are other possibilities, a boat from Portsmouth to Bilbao to miss out a week crossing France. You could cross France diagonally and take a boat from Marseille to Melilla.

When the DD was launched there was no internet for everyday people, ideas were spread with flyers, alliances cemented with coupons and cheques. Nowadays things are much easier, more fluid. London-Fes is an idea. The plan is to build a resource a place for people to share ideas.

The only actual event currently planned for the first edition is a party in Fes in the last week of October 2014. The advantage of keeping trimmings to a minimum is not putting people off with too much targeted marketing. The trip can be undertaken by thrifty people hauling tents and kitchens and by others whose idea of survival is “if you can’t find a five-star hotel check into a four star.” Average 70 miles a day and you can do the riding in three weeks. Go faster and you can leave later or spend time exploring places that take your fancy, Pamplona, Madrid, Cadiz? A few days to hang out in the hallucination that is Fes and a train journey – two and half days – back to London add up to a month. When I rode London-Fes in 2010 I broke my bike in a gloomy garage and posted it home in a box which made the train journey simple and glamorous. The Moroccan Postal service is professional and used to shipping bulky items – mostly souvenir carpets – to the North.