Pedalling for Pancakes

When I cycled to Paris, 2 good friends of mine were sadly unable to join the fun. We decided to make up for it by taking on a similar mini adventure by cycling to Holland. Taking things as seriously as ever, we named it Pedalling for Pancakes.

Having recently teamed up with CLIF Bar, I was well stocked with their products and keen to put these to the test, too. It was a rather fitting experiment considering that CLIF Bar was actually inspired during a 175 mile bike ride back in 1990 — during which the founder, Gary Erickson, decided that he could make a better bar than those currently on the market. I’m so glad he did!

Meeting up with Elise and Kate in Stratford at 11am, we headed out of the chaos of London and onwards to the somewhat more tranquil country lanes of Essex. We’d given ourselves plenty of time to cover the 120km to Harwich so after an hour and a half on the road, we stopped for a very leisurely country pub lunch. Well, when in Brentwood…

Pedalling onwards, we soon settled into a good rhythm until we were caught out by Google Maps’ very dubious definition of a cycle path that led us up and over a field and through a farm. But what is an adventure without a little unexpected detour along the way? For the rest of the trip, conversation would frequently drift to tarmac appreciation. By the end of the trip, we all considered ourselves tarmac connoisseurs, capable of appreciating the very finite details that contribute to a “good” road surface.

Arriving into Harwich with plenty of time to spare, we very efficiently settled into our cabins and wolfed down a quick ferry dinner before snuggling into our surprisingly comfortable bunk beds. I was asleep before the ferry had even left the port.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise as the ferry pulled into Holland.

We had an easy 30km to cover to reach Rotterdam. I think it’s safe to say that throughout this entire section, we couldn’t help but marvel at both the amazing road surface and also the incredible infrastructure of the infamous Dutch cycling paths in general. As any frustrated London cyclist would appreciate — they’ve really nailed it.

Riding into Rotterdam, we headed straight to say hello to some friends

KEEN HQ! Photo credit: Elise Downing

Having been a proud KEEN ambassador for over 2 years now, it was very exciting to see HQ in person!

The folks at KEEN were kindly hosting us in the gorgeous company guest flat above the office for the night so after a quick coffee and catch up, we headed upstairs to unpack, shower and change into non-lycra clothing before then heading out to explore Rotterdam on foot.

We also had most of Wednesday to explore before once again hopping on the overnight ferry — it’s amazing how much you can pack into 24 hours when you really try. Naturally, wanting to get my obligatory water fix, we ended up on a somewhat impromptu and completely hilarious boat tour — that actually ended up being free because the enigmatic captain enjoyed Kate singing London Bridge so much, he joyfully refused any payment for the trip.

Out of lycra and on to a boat!

Cycling back later that day towards the ferry, we all concluded that we’d fallen a little bit in love with Rotterdam and were feeling sad to be leaving so soon.

Coming back the UK, we were greeted with totally uninspiring grey skies and whilst the girls were jumping on a train because they were heading back to their relative offices, I’d stubbornly opted to cycle the 70 miles home, too. It was noticeably less merry without the sunshine, giggles and singing that had defined Monday’s journey down here and I immediately decided that I wanted to put my head down and get the miles done as quickly as possible. This meant, also in the stern contrast to the leisurely ride on Monday, I wouldn’t be stopping for breaks or for lunch and would instead be fuelling on the go.

My trusty CLIF Bars really came into their own here! When tired, it’s often tempting to fuel with sugar — the problem being that after the initial rush, you also get the inevitable crash. It’s simply no good fuelling long miles with short peaks and dips of energy — you need something to sustain your muscles so they can perform. With an optimal blend of protein, fat, fibre, and multiple carb sources, these brilliant little bars fully sustained me for the whole ride — all 70 miles of it. For the environmentally conscious readers, I’d also like to highlight that they never use artificial flavours, synthetic preservatives or genetically engineered ingredients.

I can also gladly confirm, being a huge fan of both mint chocolate-chip ice cream and mint Aero, that the new “Cool Mint Chocolate” flavour is similarly delicious.

If you’d like to recreate this fun challenge for yourself then you can check out the details of the route on my Strava. There’s a fun little film about the trip below and if you have any questions about planning your own mini cycling adventure, then get in touch!