Late last year, I bought a new bike, I’d cracked the frame on my fat bike in May and had been without a bike over the summer. Wanting to get out on some adventures, both long and short, I decided to buy a gravel bike, rather than another fat bike, or mountain bike. The vast majority of the riding I do, is straight from the house, linking sections of bridleway and byway, with large swaths of tarmac. While the fat bike was loads of fun on bridleways and byways, it wasn’t much fun on tarmac. I wanted something that would hopefully be just as capable on the local trails, but much faster on the roads linking them up.
While I’m generally happy in my comfort zone, I have a constant nagging wanderlust, to be outside somewhere everyone else isn’t. To be pushing myself to exhaustion in some remote location, just for the sake of being there, to revel in the wonder of nature. All the shocking weather, sore limbs, punctures, mechanicals, and other things that see you screaming into the uncaring void in frustration, are forgotten by a stunning sunrise on a misty frosty winter morning, or cycling alongside a hunting barn owl, or the view from the top of a windswept Cretan mountain, you get the idea.
It’s much easier to remain in the comfort zone though, nice and warm and secure. It takes courage to put yourself out there, to be vulnerable and exposed, but the rewards are worth it, more than worth it. Not just in terms of having those adventures, it’s good for your self confidence, your self reliance, your mental health. For me, fresh air and exercise is the magic cure all pill, one that’s most satisfying when taken alone.
Rather than buying my new bike, then just using it to cycle on my own locally, I decided to challenge myself to have bigger adventures, to go further afield, and to join it with other people. I signed up to The Dirty Reiver, a 200km mass participation gravel ride around Kielder Forest, then I signed up to the Frontier 300, a 300km mass participation coast to coast multi-surface ride. I also decided to attempt some multi-day bikepacking adventures, and take part in bivvy a month.
These will be the first proper adventures I’ve undertaken in years. The first organised, mass participation, events I’ve taken part in since I used to race Triathlon in the mid-noughties. The first self supported multi-day outings since the early Nineties when I used to go for days Munro bagging in the Scottish mountains.
If I’m being brutally honest, I have no idea if I can accomplish some of what I’m setting out to attempt. While I don’t necessarily have the right equipment, or experience, if I don’t leave the house and attempt them, I’ll never know if I’m capable. Nor will I ever accumulate the experience to enable me to gather the right equipment. It’s only through failure that you learn how to succeed; learning which road to take, what equipment works, these things can only be learned by doing. It’s time to start doing.