Four middle-aged men with very different physical conditions – albeit on identical Pilen bicycles – began the prologue from Visby on Gotland's southernmost tip Ljugarn, a trip of about 100 kilometers. The fifth cyclist joins in Målilla on Monday. Now, we would soon have an answer to whether Brooks saddlery could make saddles which also fits old Gotland fellow's behinds, if German gear hubs works for us amateurs and if Pilen bicycles are so fantastic, balanced and user-friendly as promised?
The south-west wind was persistently intrusive, but relatively mild this morning. The thermometer spoke about spring and the rubber linings in our pants came in handy from the first meters. Everything worked …
The thing that worried us the most was a blog post stating that elite bikers biggest problem is not doping – but impotence problems it you are not attentive enough of genital numbness. Our pauses became thoroughly scheduled, before sensing numbness inside the rubber linings. What should our loved ones think if we come home and told them that impotence is to be expected after riding 3500 kilometers to Gibraltar?
After a spring dip in a six degrees Baltic Sea, we all agreed: the trial trip went well and passed with distinction.
Stage 1 Oskarshamn - Trelleborg
We started very early from Oskarshamn (07.15) since the camper car felt all too narrow. In thick mist and close to zero degrees we mounted our iron horses and entered the thick timber-traffic, where the timber was run in all directions at once. A few hours later, we reached the intermediate target of Pilen factory in Målilla. After loading the car with spare parts we proceed to Älmhult where Ingvar Kamprad and IKEA (without knowing it) offered a shower, power and accommodation.
Tuesday's riding took us to Hörby in Scania (100 km) without a single complaint (well). Wednesday morning offered Scanian fair winds and uphill riding! But we got to the ferry …
The first service is carried out – two turns of the saddle nut.
Stage 2 Travemunde - Frankfurt
The first German cycling was along the Lübeck - Elbe canal south towards Elbe. We had a great day and evening with our newly acquired friend Jurgen Holscht in Stelle who was hospitable with both bockwurst and lodging. Everything was under control, until our old camper car on Friday morning woke up coughing with a bad cold. When the German tractors looked like Formula 1 vehicles, we gave up. The whole Friday and 300 euros didn't solve the problem more than temporarily.
On Saturday, we found Uwe Rogge in Steuerberg. He promised to fix the car on Monday. So we had to devote the weekend to bicycle rides, football games and to socialize with the Steuerbergers. Since Uwe gave an very reliable impression the gang went ahead against Minden in pouring rain and later that evening a healthy and happy camper car could catch up with us. Close to the nuclear power plant in Walde came our first puncture.
The Pilens got to rest for 400 km while we caught up to our travel plan. Soon we set sail for the Rehn valley and next the border of France.
Stage 3 Frankfurt - Dole (Alsace valley towards Lyon)
Bikes roll slowly uphill, but they did take us to the French border with only a little mishap when the black cycle happened to land on a smashed beer tankard. When the sun set, we see the Tricolour in Strasbourg. Strasbourg offers rain but we have umbrellas (we have seen the movie, Umbrellas in Strasbourg) and the journey goes on …
Three days along the Doubs River everything is perfect. Nightingales, birch trees with mouse ears, a mild early summer, shorts and Cote du Rohn.
On Thursday, 17, we had our first accident when the green bike couldn't cope with a sharp bend on a sandy road - and there was bloodshed. The day after the green again had to enter the workshop as the rider forgot he had loose pack belt on the on carrier. Five minutes later, we found a Peugeot workshop guy who solved the problem.
Stage 4 - On the road to the Rhone
Friday, 18, sun and rain - lots of rain. But rainy nights are replaced by sunny days and beautiful scenery. Sunlit alps, blooming lilacs, cowslips and cobbled mountain villages. The red Pilen tired of the endless ringing and the bell had to go. Heavy rains makes all Brooks saddles sag as old mares, but who cares. Sunday evening invited us to two hours of downhill riding to the Rhone. Tomorrow we plan a silent tour of through the vineyards. The bikes delivers and enjoys a few squirts of French chain oil.
Stage 5 - In the Mediterranean and Spain
We're rolling with the current right now towards the Lyon Bay and our first swim the Mediterranean. The summer strikes us with full force, magnolias are overblown, rye, wheat and corn is almost ripe. All-in-all, we have had three car breakdown, three punctures and two gear hub crashes, but everything looks like it's going (read: should) be fine. The Spanish border offers serpentine roads and anxiety. Now the brakes and gears on both Pilen bikes and the Peugeot are put to the test. The Pyrenees and the beautiful Costa Brava coast is a thing of the past. Now the Spanish highlands awaits us.
Stage 6 - Barcelona in tears
But first we ride to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, which was passed in the rain, and tears when the city's pride made a single mistake against Manchester United in UEFA semi-finals, and thus was the 0-1 loss a fact. The Pilen knights and their iron horses rolls smoothly, despite the fact that load is at the maximum on both gears and brakes when a days journey may have difference of altitude of 500 to 1000 meters. The speed record is for now 65 km/h and gear 1 is now widely in use. The Spanish highlands are captivating – both for body and soul.
Stage 7 - In Malaga - without brakes
Going downhill against Malaga and the Spanish Costa del Sol in 30 degrees Celsius, four naked old men on bicycles the Spaniards never had seen before, invites to new meetings, raised eyebrows and half-hidden fingers against the temple (sueco luntatico). May 1-4 is holidays in Andalusia, and we end up at Fiesta dela Cruz, we drink wine, and dance flamenco with traditionally decorated senoras and senoritas. "The Old lady" (peugeoten), however, becomes jealous and spends her last brakes in the final serpentine slopen down Rincon del a Victoria at the Mediterranean coast. But as usual luck grins us in the face in the middle of our misfortune. Our English friends, Magnus and Lottie, brings up a Spanish car-doctor and after a few hours of sun and sea in the Mediterranean, the "old lady" gets new brakes and starts the hunt for the elusive Pilen bicycles, which is now only 150 km from the goal.
Will she catch up bicycles for Gibraltar?
Stage 8 - Finish
After two days of confusement at private golf clubs, dead ends and beautiful sandy beaches, the Pilen knights reached Gibraltar on May 6 at 17.00. Cheering, tears and a strange separation anxiety followed.
But we did it – we have have arrived! The Pilen bicycles and their knights passed the test!