Romania to London on a bicycle!
“It’s just a hill, get over it. At some point it has to end. So as in life, the downhills were so nice.”
It was my absolute pleasure to sit with the lovely George Serban and hear about his epic adventure, cycling all the way from the mountainous backdrop of Brasov, Romania, to London, U.K to raise money for Lochaber Hope! We are unbelievably grateful and inspired by his endeavors, competing such a challenge and generously donating the funds he’s raised along the way.
George’s strength and determination is incredible, and his story is one worth sharing. We are blown away by his perseverance, traveling across Europe on a bicycle, covering over 3000 kilometers and 6 different countries in just 2 and a half weeks!
George is a family man, writer, and night manager at The Garrison, he cares deeply about the suffering of others and actively finds ways to support the community and those most in need during times of crisis. On the 9th of July this year George set off, leaving his young son Filip and partner Kamila at home, with nothing but a bicycle and mission.
When you meet George, you immediately feel at ease, he is so warm and approachable, with a heartwarming outlook. When asked George what inspired him to take on this massive challenge, he said, “even if it helped just one person it would be worth it”.
What Motivated you to raise money for Lochaber Hope?
“I know people suffer and I wanted to do something to help local people. People think it is okay to suffer in silence, but it is not okay.” George recognises that there are a lot of people here struggling with depression and people are not seeking help. Hearing local people talk about their struggles inspired him to do something.
What inspired you to do this challenge?
George took inspiration for this challenge from Mark Beaumont, a British long-distance cyclist who holds the record for cycling round the world, completing 18,000-mile in less than 79 days. George said he “was the guy who inspired me in the sense that he showed to people that it was possible to go beyond your limits (he knew it because he cycled twice around the world).”
A few nights into the trip and close to the Romanian border, George unexpectedly found further inspiration when he discovered the bike that had belonged to Aurel Vlaicu at a museum.
Aurel Vlaicu was a Romanian engineer, inventor, airplane constructor and early pilot. After teaching himself to fly, he was the first Romanian pilot who flight tested his own airplane.
Aurel used this bike to cycle from Germany to Romania, an extraordinary undertaking given the technology available over 100 years ago!
It was a great relief that the bike survived the journey! Remarkably, despite the scorching temperatures, even the tyers lasted the whole trip. Just a tiny bit of WD40 in Austria and that was it, thanks Marin Bikes!
Stepping aside from technology was also something George enjoyed, he recalled how he usually listens to music when running, but on this trip, he listened to almost nothing at all. “To be alone with myself was scary sometimes – with my thoughts”. Despite taking 5 or 6 podcasts, an audio book and music George was surprised that he only listened to about an hour of music over the entire 2 and a half weeks! “There was no need. I listened to the birds, road sounds, wind.”
The weather was generally relentlessly hot but there was an incredible thunderstorm in Romania, it didn’t last long but was not like anything we get to see in Scotland.
Best bike tracks
The winding beautiful reads from Melk in Austria to Passau in Germany.
George recalled how Romania used to be scattered with wells with fresh drinking water, these are not common nowadays, there where large sections of the ride where the lack of water got really challenging.
Understandably some days felt long, George averaged around 180km per day and even covered 240km in one day. He was regularly doing 30 – 40km sections without a way to get help or supplies, keeping him very focused. Days full of elevation were particularly testing for George and some felt relentlessly steep.
There were additional challenges along the way, extra miles to find a lost bag, sections without internet connection for navigation and even a GPS error that delivered an extra 30 miles and an uncrossable river!
George was exhausted at times, but sunrise woke him early each morning when it became excruciatingly hot in the tent, so there were no lie-ins or mornings of rest.
Most memorable meal
When you’re burning 9000 calories a day you can imagine food tastes even better. George recalls the food highlight of the trip being a Kabab in Romania, which he said could only describe as ‘unreal’. This delicious meal was only made better as it was given for half price, when they learnt why George was there and what he was undertaking.
The best part of the trip
Whilst George has many fond memories of the trip, he describes the best part as being “on the 27th of July, getting off the train back in Fort William to my little boy Filip and my partner Kamila”. With a welcome like that, how could it not be!
What kept you going?
When asked how he kept his spirits lifted and kept going during these tougher bits, George had a refreshing outlook, “it’s just a hill, get over it! At some point it has to end, so as in life. Then the downhills were so nice”.
“There were of course a few moments where I wanted to quit and in almost every country, but I kept going. Quitting is the easiest thing you can do. Really, I could have gone a further 100k each day. But I didn’t need to push myself that far. When we think we are done we are only 40% in. If I start something I don’t like to quit”.
George recognises the imaginary limits that we put on ourselves, “it is important to know the difference between when you’re tired and when you’re hurt. We are capable of so much more than we think we are.”
Even when the opportunities to chill out a bit did present themselves, George was spurred on by his excitement to get home to his son.
This type of trip is a good exercise in perseverance and appreciation. When you go without cold water and a comfy bed you start to really appreciate them when you do have them, “sometimes it is good to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions”. Life can be too physically comfortable, a little suffering, hardship, and discomfort helps you to grow and appreciate what you have.
George noted how he saw so many children along the way who had very little material possessions, no phones or technology, but they were all so happy.
This trip also brought George closer to nature with the unexpected benefit of overcoming his fear of bees!
Lessons & Advice
Enjoy cold water when you have it – it was warm within an hour and often hard to find.
Avoid gravel tracks, stick to roads.
Pack light - George felt he has 10-14 kg extra weight on bike that he didn’t end up needing.
Take lots of sweets – a palatable way to get calories and sugar back into your body.
Don’t burn! A lesson learned the hard way, remember sun protection.
“No matter how much you plan, things are going to go south sometimes – as in life as well.”
Do it and don’t think too much about it!
Maybe America… we will see!
If you would like to sponsor George you can still do so https://gofund.me/2ab5ac99