Like most decisions of great consequence, my plan was settled in a pub, pint in one hand, mini-atlas in the other. Reality dawned in early 2010 as I wobbled away from London on my bike, unfit, overloaded, heading into the coldest winter in western Europe for 31 years.
Six years later I rolled back over Westminster bridge. I’d crossed 102 international borders and a similar number of cranky immigration officials. I had filled 23 journals cover to cover with weary scribblings. I had worn 26 tyres, 16 cables, 14 chains, 12 sets of pedals and five Rohloff hubs to scrap. I had camped for free by roadsides for over a thousand nights, and of all the statistics I dutifully collected, this is my favourite because it reminds me of the capacity for freedom in a world more dependable than I’d ever imagined. My final tally was 53,568 miles of bicycle travel, but none were longer, or more daunting, than the first.