In association with Velocio
Imagine leaving everything behind—your home, your possessions, your friends—and start cycling for days, weeks, months, and years. Imagine that cycling, your passion, becomes your purpose. You wake up in the morning, pedal, stop, eat and sleep. And the next day, you do it all over again. Forever.
Wouldn’t that be the dream?
One person who can answer that question is Andy Cox, who has been doing this since 2017. He decided he needed a break from the same old routine and wanted to get on his bike and discover Europe on two wheels, and since then, he hasn’t has stopped “I was a bit bored of the UK,” he admits. “And then Brexit came. And I thought, well, I’d better go see what Europe was like before I don’t have the opportunity to travel so easily.”
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However, their initial mission, simply to roam, has also become a service to the growing gravel community. It has also become a project backed by bike companies, including Velocio, Komoot, Bombtrack, Hunt Wheels and Tailfin.
“I left my home in South Wales for the UK in 2017, and I’ve been riding randomly for two years trying to find nice places and do different routes,” says Cox.Cox, who has worked as a bike mechanic , MTB. tour guide and bike shop manager in the past – started by renting out his house to get things going. These funds helped him through the first four years of his adventure. He then decided to sell his house to continue cycling.
“I’ve done some garbage jobs in the past, and I’ve done this job myself,” he says. “So I thought, well, if I spend a little bit of money now doing this, this thing that I love, then, you know, so be it.”
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Cox had initially decided to cycle with no real purpose for eight months of the year and rest the other four, which is still his routine these days.
However, their travels through Europe began to connect and link in some way. The random unpaved tracks on which Coz traveled evolved, little by little, into a long route that divides the European continent, from north to south. That was the beginning of the Route of the European Divisionsome 7,500 km of unpaved roads stretching from Grense Jakobselv, a small village on the Barents Sea in the far north of Norway, to Cabo São Vicente, the most south-westerly point of Portugal and Europe.
However, despite being on the road since 2017, Cox, also courtesy of the pandemic, was only able to complete his own European trek last year.
“Last year I finished it and released it, but only one person wrote the whole thing, a Czech woman named Jana Liška,” he says. “But it didn’t go so well because I had some problems with the layout. I was making sure all the turns were right. Still, when you have 7,500km, inevitably some turns are not going to be perfect.” Cox left. Norway in August and arrived in Portugal in November, but says it was already a bit cold. That’s why he suggests people start the trail in late May or early June (if starting in Norway) or, if starting from Portugal and then heading north, from late March or early April .
The goal of his route, which takes its name from and is inspired by the relatively untechnical Great Divide MTB route in the US, was to find easier and more accessible routes. I had ridden several single track trails in the past (or even hard gravel) and found them too difficult to enjoy with a heavy bike and bags. And that is why, first of all, he avoided going through the Alps.
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“I’ve been a mountain bike guide in the French Alps and I’ve enjoyed riding single track, but it’s not sustainable day in and day out. The bike will take a hit; dangerous,” he says. “So I wanted to find quiet roads, bike paths and lots of dirt roads that were relatively easy to ride.
He began charting his route with an all-terrain motorcycle route called the Trans Euro Trail, which crosses several European countries for a total of 37,000 km. “I thought, well, if you can ride a motorcycle with luggage, you can definitely ride a relatively normal off-road bike,” he says. But it’s still no walk in the park. It is a long and often remote off-road track for expert riders. “I wanted to make the challenge more about logistics, finding food and water and finding a way to sleep,” he says. “The track goes through so many different weather and time zones, and the highest parts are in eastern Spain, up to 2,000 meters. So it can still be freezing in mid-May, and then there can be snow in October”.
Cox also wanted to avoid major tourist destinations. Although the European Divide Trail passes through villages, he tried to avoid them whenever possible.
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“But I also wanted to go to emptier places in Europe and less of the touristy kind of spots,” he says. “So the route might go through a few cities, but they’re usually not on people’s radar as a vacation destination. And if they are, I tend to miss them.”
Divide, a popular name in transcontinental cycling events, also means crossing different countries and cultures, along with their various political and economic differences. Cox sees it as an alternative way to “weave the story of this varied land” and “try to undo the reality of international borders and create an adventurous route with a European flair.” along the way, you can take it in smaller pieces. The Northern Section will take you through the Scandinavian forests, lakes and rivers of Norway, Finland and Sweden; the Central Section passes through flat lands and plateaus of Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and France; and the southern section will offer dry and stony landscapes through France, Spain and Portugal.
And while only two people have done it all so far, more are on the way by the end of the year, as Cox says at least 30 more are on the way as we speak. More will also join the list in the future as Cox continues to pedal to find and link up new off-road trails. It has become his job and mission. He wakes up, cycles for 8 to 10 hours, stops, eats, sleeps and repeats. From Monday to Friday, eight months a year.
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Will it be forever?
“I’m 44 now and I’m in the right frame of mind and fitness level to ride a heavy bike,” he says. “So I’d like to keep doing this. I still have a lot of plans and places I want to go.”