Everyone knows the American west coast as the place where innovation hails from. But what about the European west coast? Aafke Eppinga is setting out on a five-month bike ride to discover this and plans to pass some very interesting start-ups along the way. You can follow her soon on Innovation Origins.

Tell us something about yourself

Well, I’m Aafke Eppinga. 25 years old, living in Groningen for the last 8 years. But I’m more Frisian than Gronings.(Aafke identifies as someone from the province of Friesland rather than from Groningen, ed.) I’m doing a Master’s degree in journalism at the RUG. And for five years now I’ve had this idea to do a cycling trip from South to North Europe. So, now the time has finally come.”

What are you planning to do? Have you trained enough for it?

I’m going to cycle from Rabat (Morocco) to Oslo (Norway) along the western coast of Europe. I’ll camp along the way and be on the lookout for innovative start-ups. Once every couple of weeks I’ll make a video of this search and cycling trip for IO. I haven’t really trained properly, I’ll get started with that once I’m on the road. In fact, in my daily life I only cycle when I have to go from A to B. However, it seems pretty special to me to be able to cover this distance by bike. Just as Jelle Brandt Corstius wonderfully captures that in his book ‘As in Tas.‘ (Ash in a Bag,’ a book about a cycling trip the author made with the ashes of his illustrious father, ed). To quote:

“The beauty of cycling is that you really feel the landscape. You get a real sense of it; the Ardennes or The Netherlands. You can’t see the landscape changing when you walk, it’s all too gradual for that. When you go by car, then you invariably go much too fast. But at twenty kilometres per hour, you go slow enough to be able to see details and fast enough to actually notice any changes.”

If you’re such a fan of innovation, you’ll probably go on an e-bike, won’t you?

Ha ha, I’ve certainly given an e-bike some thought. Still, I think it detracts from the overall impression, so now I’m actually going on a Koga with 27 gears after all. By the way, cycling is the most energy-efficient means of transport per kilometer travelled. So, as far as that’s concerned …

Why the west coast of Europe?

Firstly: the mountains along the coast are less steep. Secondly, it seems like a lovely route: Spain, France, Norway, they’re not unusual holiday destinations. Still, I think that since I am going on my bike, I will stumble across a lot of new and surprising things that I would otherwise never have seen.

What expectations do you have?

Phew … That it’s going to be tough. Especially the first couple of weeks: I’m on my own and have to get the hang of plenty of things that I’ve never done by myself. Camping, finding suitable routes, going downhill and uphill with a fully loaded bike and, of course, the online series I’m planning to make for you. Finding start-ups, filming them, interviewing, editing. But I expect that all of that will ultimately be very satisfying, precisely because I’m doing it on my own.”