The Cyclist Who Went out in the Cold

Adventures along the Iron Curtain Trail by Tim Moore
(Published by Yellow Jersey Press)

Many readers will be familiar with Tim Moore’s eccentric escapades; previous books include ‘Gironimo!’ and ‘French Revolutions’. In this one he recounts his adventures in cycling the full length of the old Iron Curtain from Kirkenes at the very top of Norway to Tsarevo on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. This route, now known as the EV13, weaves across many modern borders so he has to traverse Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania en route. Officially the distance is 6,700 kilometres; he actually does 8,558.

In order to make it even more difficult he elects to do it on a cheap old East German small-wheel folding shopper, a MIFA900, notoriously heavy, with no gears and only a front ‘spoon’ brake. Warned that this model will hardly survive the first few weeks he upgrades it to a later non-folding variant, has it customised with a top tube, an F&S Torpedo duomatic coaster hub (2 gears), his own saddle instead of the ‘vinyl breezeblock’ and a proper front brake. It’s still a ‘Trabant on two wheels’. Starting out at the end of the Arctic Winter he does use spiky tyres.

Bonkers or what? Of course it wouldn’t be Tim Moore otherwise. In between the ‘laddish’ accounts of squalid lodgings, stinky clothes, awful meals and the near fatal scrapes he gets himself into, Moore inserts really informative bits of history which go some way to an understanding of how the Iron Curtain came into being and what it stood for. There are plenty of moments of, often black, humour: visiting the current MIFA factory in present united Germany, his old GDR sports shirt with old Soviet insignia doesn’t go down too well and has to be modified with gaffer tape. His survival drink in the extreme cold is a cocktail of his own devising: the ‘Dirty Rudolf’ comprises one part Hi5 energy powder to two parts vodka.

Your 17-year old nephew will enjoy this book, but maybe not your granny, for whom some of the more manky bits could have been edited out. The reviewer would have liked the in-text photos better printed, plus a decent map.

David Eccles
(This article was first published in the January 2018 Redmon Quarterly Newletter.)