From the evening of the Tues 23rd October through until the 10th of December, I’d been making notes, researching, and buying up kit. Now, what with this trip meaning me not working fora little while, I’m relatively budget. But I don’t want to skimp and then regret purchases or lack thereof when I’m halfway up a hill, cold, wet and lacking in morale. Planning and preparation as a preventative, right?
I’ve had a ScottUSA road bike that’s taken a load of pounding over the time I lived in London. I bought it from new in 2000, it’s good but I don’t trust it. I’ve recently replaced a wheel, there’s a small crack in the frame, so to make up for me blowing a bit on other kit, it’s currently on eBay. I just didn’t have confidence in it. So I needed a touring bike – did a bit of research and it seems to me that a touring bike is really just a road bike with panniers. There are a few that are renowned for the job, but the bargain I saw was a grand’s worth of a bike, which had had zero use as the guy I bought it off had recently come off his other bike twice in London so lost his confidence in cycling the city. One man´s loss is another man´s gain. £530 for a £1000 bike. Happy with that.
I came across what seems to be the site for cycle tourers: Crazy Guy On A Bike, looking for a similar example as to what I was planning. There I found Julian who´d done a very similar route last summer. Couldn´t have been more helpful, we spoke on the phone for a few pointers and I even have his number in case I get into difficulties. Top guy. I love the kindness of strangers that the Internet can hold.
So Julian in turn told me about Warm Showers, the cyclist´s social network. You open your place up to other cyclists, and they´ll do the same for you. Works for me. Would be happy to have randoms come stay some day at my place, so signed up for that too.
Then once the majority of my kit was in place, I needed to give it a dry run, so on a Monday at the end of November I headed down to Brighton fully laden. 74 miles I think. Getting used to the weight of the bike, the pressure on your knees and relentless work on the quads was an eye opener. Have I bitten off more than I could chew? I revised my daily estimates and therefore timescales. 100 miles a day just wasn´t going to happen. I needed to knock some kgs off too, so out went the bladder (2 bottles should be fine) and out went the SLR and sundries. I wouldn´t have time to fanny about with that along the way anyway. So I reduced 25kg to about 20kg. But that 70 odd mile figure was still heavy going and to do that every day for up to 1300 miles: I have my work cut out.
A few weeks ago I went to the 3rd birthday party evening for EscapeTheCity.org (the only organisation I’ve ever invested in because what they do really chimes with me, look’em up). It was all good (apart from having to invest another £8 for a G&T!). Some of it I didn’t connect with so much but all of it was interesting and inspirational. The adventuring part rang loudest for me: The idea of setting yourself a challenge and just doing something adventurous, even something small so that it’s affordable in time and money. Like Alistair Humphries walking around the M25, something that’s a little unknown, perhaps risky, challenging but actually quite doable. If only you just take the first steps, the next ones are bound to follow.
Well, I’ve been a little weary of my current contract for some time, and have wanted to ‘do something different’ (as is Escape’s strap line) for some time. So there and then it clicked that what with the old man having recently moved out to Seville, and me having a bit of time out coming up, there was the perfect window of opportunity for me to do something: Cycle down to see him. Then even better, complete the ride by making it down to the Costa and hopping over to Maroc. Berkshire to Africa somehow sounding better than Wargrave to Seville.
So on the 11th of December after saying goodbye to the girls before they leave for South Africa for Xmas, I will get on my bike, and cycle. It should be about c.1,300 miles and I’ve warned my father that there’s every chance I might not make it in time for Boxmas. 1300/14=93 miles a day for 2 weeks solid. That’s not a small ask of myself. If I’m up to a week late, that could be 1300/21=62 miles a day. So as I go, I know that I need to be aiming for about a ton a day in order to then put miles in the bag.
I do however have this vision of finding myself stuck up a mountain in Spain on Christmas eve, dark, cold, lonely as a cloud, blizzard incoming, rear puncture being repaired, drivers covering me in slush, half my kit having been stolen or fallen off along the way. But that’s just not going to happen, is it.