A couple cycled 7237 kilometres through seven European countries to create a GPS route in the shape of a bike to encourage people to ditch their cars and fight climate change.
As travellers look to travel more sustainably, biking has become a popular way to see a city. Although, few would go as far as to cycle 7237 kilometres across Europe and draw a giant GPS bicycle.
However, after feeling confronted by the threat of the climate emergency, that's exactly what United Kingdom based Arianna Casiraghi and her husband Daniel Rayneau-Kirkhope did.
The Italian-British couple first attempted to "draw" a 965km-wide bicycle across the continent in 2019.
The goal was "to draw attention to the scale of climate breakdown and persuade people to think about using bikes instead of cars for shorter trips", they told the Guardian.
However, their mission was the opposite of a short trip and took three years and two failed attempts.
After quitting their jobs and starting the ride in 2019, Casiraghi soon experienced a knee injury that put a stop to the journey. November that year they returned, but the cold and rain made camping miserable so they stopped again.
The pair refused to give up on their bike-shaped route, which had involved a huge amount of planning.
They planned to resume the ride in March 2020. We all know what happened next.
Despite several false starts, Casiraghi said finishing what they started was partly for the sense of accomplishment and partly so they didn't let down the people who had been keeping track of their mission.
Eventually, the trip involved 131 days of cycling.
Including rest days, this totalled around four months.
Most of this time, the couple camped with the occasional hotel or Airbnb stay.
On August 15, the couple shared the finished GPS picture to their Instagram account, signalling the end of their journey.
"We cycled 7237 km through 7 countries to draw our massive bicycle and hopefully encourage one or two people to use their bike instead of the car," they wrote.
You, me and puppy makes three
As if this feat wasn't impressive enough, the couple also did it with their Italian water dog, Zola, in tow.
By custom-building the bikes, Rayneau-Kirkhope was able to build a cargo compartment for Zola to sit in when she wasn't running alongside them.
"We tried to go on small roads where possible, or off-road, so Zola could walk a bit," he said.
Creating the route
As simple as it may look at first, the couple said creating the GPS image was a surprisingly complex task. During the first draft of the route, one segment needed to cross directly through Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Aside from a few short legs between campsites and one unavoidable detour around the Rhine River, the couple kept their GPS on the entire time.
The result was three world records for the largest GPS drawing, the largest image drawn by cycling and the largest bicycle ever drawn.
Cycling through the highs and lows
Understandably, the trip involved several highlights and lowlights.
Reflecting on the journey, the duo said Casiraghi's knee injury had been "really quite demoralising".
"We had to stop travelling in order to rest and undertake dedicated
physiotherapy sessions, which unfortunately meant that our project got delayed," they said.
However, these darker moments were outshone by people's responses to their journey.
"The highlight of the trip has been the incredible support that we have received from
people along the road," they said.
"Without them, cycling through the cold and rainy winter months would simply not have been possible with our tight budget."
They met some people through warmshowers.org, an online community that supports cycle tourism, while others were simply met on the road.
"We still are amazed about how open-minded and selfless people can be."
As for what comes next, the couple said they looked forward to taking less meticulously planned trips.
"Now, we will go home and rest before going for another cycling trip," they said.
"No drawing, just pedalling in whichever direction we bloody well please!"