Anthony PensonEpsom CC member 2000 – 2003

Anthony Penson
The Happy Cyclist

There’s something unmistakably wonderful about the humble bicycle. Thanks to encouragement from my parents, as well as Brian Hill, Richard Varian and many others from Epsom CC, I’ve been a passionate cyclist ever since my teenage years, which I spent discovering Surrey on two wheels.  As a result, cycling has always represented one thing for me above all else: the freedom to explore.

Perhaps this backstory helps to explain why when I unexpectedly found myself at a loose end this autumn, I decided to see if I could cycle across Europe. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I did know that I’d always regret not seizing the moment to live out a dream. So I fitted a couple of panniers to my old Giant racing bike and set off from Surrey, with little more than a southeasterly bearing, a Channel ferry booking and a goal of meeting my wife and son in Greece six weeks later.

A cycle path next to a river
Great cycle paths in Western Europe

With Western Europe being home to some magnificent cycling infrastructure, I initially managed to find a largely traffic-free route. Despite unseasonably cold and wet weather, the prevailing westerlies and smooth, flat cycle paths made for straightforward miles. I Ioved the cathartic daily routine of pedalling from 9 to 5, watching the world go by and stopping to eat, navigate and chat to other touring cyclists. 

Particular highlights included following the Neckar valley in Southwestern Germany and cycling alongside the Danube across Austria. Evenings were spent washing kit, route planning, booking accommodation, consuming enough food to feed a family and getting an early night.

Balkans coastal road
Wild coastal roads in the Balkans

The weather became steadily warmer as I crossed Croatia and Montenegro, while the cycling got progressively wilder. Although the EuroVelo route along the Adriatic coastline did an admirable job of keeping me away from major highways and regularly boosting my spirits with stunning views, my days in the Balkans were still spent contending with traffic, steep inclines, dark tunnels and scary guard dogs. 

Yet there were unexpected joys too. Albania in particular was a pleasure to cycle through, with its welcoming people, quiet rural roads and magnificent mountain passes. By the time Greece appeared on the horizon, both body and bike were more than a little weary, but thankfully they held together long enough for me to complete my personal Odyssey and enjoy a stunning sunset at Sounion, the southeastern tip of Mainland Europe.

Statistics: 42 Days, 4209 kilometres, 12 countries and just one puncture!

Surrey to Sounion Map
Surrey to Sounion route