Cycling Towards Syria

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Part 1, cycling more than 2000km from London to Vienna was completed in Summer 2016. Part 2, from Vienna to Turkey/Syria will take place in Summer 2017. is now the home of this ride, with many stories, photographs and cycle routes from Part 1 already up there. I’ll keep this page live for the fond memories of my pre-departure naivety! (Although I’m quite proud that the first part followed my supposed plan pretty closely.)

See you over at our new home! 🙂


To cycle ~3,000 miles across Europe, following the routes of migration from London back towards Syria. Don’t panic – this isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. We’ll spend most of our time in Germany, and probably only get as far as Turkey. The plans are fast and loose.


Along the way, we’ll be sharing stories about migrations from migrants of all nationalities, aid workers, government officials and local residents, using each interview to inform the course of the journey. This website is just one place I will share these stories. Most of the content will be dispersed across:

Do you work in press or media? Contact me or tweet me for help with your content.


(Link to Google Map of the route.)

The route marked out above has a few flaws, not the least of which is that Google thinks we’ll be walking, but the three thousand miles should cover the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Transportation will entirely by bicycle, save for two ferry crossings, of the English Channel and the Aegean Sea.

MeCycle to Charing with Claire 2015-08-01 026

I am a freelance writer with extensive cycle touring experience in Europe and North Africa. Although it feels long distant, I also have an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic, modern history and music).

I’ve been writing and taking action on migration issues in Calais and beyond since summer 2014 and was one of the instigators of the 2015 Calais Critical Mass, which brought eighty-plus bicycle donations (and their riders) to Calais. After the Critical Mass, I contributed to many media organisations, including the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC 2 and Newsweek.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to take on a journey such as this by choice, and so feel a deep obligation to share the things I learn with as great an audience as possible, across as varied media as possible. This will be my most ambitious story-telling expedition to date, and due to the need for hyper-mobility, my most high tech. You can read more about the tech setup here.


I’m proud to be cycling this journey with C. She’s as secretive as a unicorn, but I can exclusively reveal that she’s very excited to be riding her grandma’s old bike and is looking forward to Georgia (er…). I’m sure she will surface from time to time on these updates.


This is not a charity ride, as such, but if you would like to support the idea of the cycle, then I’d be honoured if you consider donating to The Bike Project. IMHO, no one upholds the glories of cycling quite like them.

Their mission is simple: take abandoned bikes, give them a lick of love and pass them on to refugees. Travel in London is heinously expensive and asylum seekers must survive on £36 a week – only 6 trips to the shops if you use the tube. But at The Bike Project refugees can help fix up a knackered stallion and ride it home that evening. A bike cracks London open like a nut: with access to meals, lawyers, hospitals and schools.

I’ve been volunteering at TBP for a while now and urge you pop down to Denmark Hill to lend a hand, or donate your own guilty garage secrets. If you can’t do that, then you could do much greater harm in the world than to slip them a tenner (or a twentyer)!


If this ride is going to be a success, then we’re going to need a lot of help with encouragement and logistics. If you can help at all, please give me a shout.

Encouragement: Follow me on Twitter, say hi, share this page and the stories. Drop me a line using my contact page. Let us know your ideas and how we might be able to help each other. Thanks!

Logistics: We are taking camping equipment (video of tent raising), but would love to stay with friends, friends of friends, strangers and friends of strangers. We’re on Warmshowers and Couchsurfing.

  • If you or anyone you know lives on, or even remotely near the route, through the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey or Syria, then please, please get in touch.
  • If you can offer suggestions on where to go or who to speak with, likewise.
  • If you’d like to join us for some of the ride – awesome!

Even if you’re not sure how helpful you can be, please do get in touch. Thanks!

Calais August 2014 157
Migrant kitten, asleep in Calais, 2014.