Last year, he cycled home for Christmas from Edinburgh to Erfurt in Germany through ice, snow and blizzards – and did it all on a single-speed push bike.

This year, adventure cyclist Markus Stitz is cycling to Germany again – but is adamant he can do it quicker.

The 32-year-old marketing manager sets off today from his house in Edinburgh on an epic 900-mile trip which he hopes to do in eight days – three days faster than last year's 840-mile trip.

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It means he will have to ride between 95 and 125 miles a day through snow and freezing temperatures and, to make it an even bigger challenge, he's also planning to cycle back to Scotland again afterwards.

"I like cycling and want to promote cycling," said Mr Stitz.

"It's a brilliant time of year to do a cycling trip, escaping the Christmas rush and doing something different.

"It's also a challenge: how much can I do in one day? I wouldn't push it to the utmost at this time of year. If I feel I can only do 65 miles one day, I will just alter the route, but I don't think that's going to happen. I know myself quite well."

Mr Stitz has chosen a single- speed bike because it will require very little maintenance in the freezing conditions. He will have tyres with stabilising treads to help him on icy roads, where his technique to prevent skidding will be to maintain speed and avoid braking.

His route will take him first from Edinburgh to Dover, by ferry to Calais, then across France and Belgium to his family home in the tiny village of Schwobfeld, in Thuringia, central Germany, which he hopes to reach late on Christmas Eve.

He will have no back-up, carry hardly any food (his usual muesli bars would freeze) and have no accommodation booked, finding places to stay along the way.

Mr Stitz is hoping the weather this year will allow him to travel more quickly. Last year he slogged through snowstorms and temperatures of -10˚C. On crossing the border into Germany, a blizzard caught up with him, which he described as being "like someone throwing little stones in my face".

When he finally pedalled into Erfurt's main square on Christmas Eve, he had just 6% body fat (compared to 20% for the average male).

An added complication this year is that he has been unable to train for four weeks, because of a respiratory infection which laid him up in bed until just two weeks ago.

Although he would like to cycle back to Scotland, he intends to see how his health holds up on the outward leg before making the final decision. He said: "The last four weeks, I've done pretty much nothing, but I've cycled around 10,000 miles this year. In the summer I cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats in six days, and rode from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye in one day.

"My first time on the bike since being ill was on Saturday. It's reactivating the muscles. It was quite good."

Mr Stitz first came to Scotland while a student and settled in Edinburgh in 2009, working at the Macrobert arts complex in Stirling and indulging his love of cycling.

He has since become a passionate champion of winter cycling, which he describes as quiet, picturesque and good for the mood during the dark winter months.