We all must’ve thought at some time in our lives how great it would be to set off on the open road with no destination in mind and cycle wherever the wind took us.
Unfortunately, that reality is somewhat still a pipe dream. There’s still the mortgage to pay, kids to put through university, a business to run, bills bills and more bills! But, you know what, I’ve made a start!
There’s something quite nice about setting off each morning with nothing else to think about apart from getting from point A to point B. It’s equally nice having the whole day to do that without the pulls and strains we all face on a regular day trying to squeeze in a ride between work, cooking the evening meal and the British weather!!
One day, I want to pack my bike with a tent, sleeping bag, stove and food and do the real wild camping bikepacking adventure. But, for now, as I’ve entered my 50s, me and my mate Ken and, when I can persuade her, my wife Krista, set off with some nice overnight stays in Airbnbs or countryside pubs – some may say a gentle introduction into what’s to come.
Where have I been? In my first year of adventuring, I’ve done trips between 2 and 4 days. I made a decision that it would always be a nice plan to either set-off from home on the bike or ride home (with the retrospective journey via train to get some distance and new roads and scenery into the mix). I’ve made four trips including: home (I live on the North Yorkshire/Lancashire/Cumbria border) to Edinburgh; a round trip 1 nighter into deepest Lancashire; Lockerbie then West Coast of Cumbria home; and the most recent saw a start in Carlisle, through the Scottish Borders to Jedburgh before heading south through Kielder and onto the North Pennines, looping back home over a 4-day trip.
What are my stats? My objective was to break no records but just to get out there and enjoy the company of my fellow rider and the open countryside (along with some good food and accommodation). In total I’ve squeezed in 10 days of cycling, covering 731 miles with 45,625 feet of climbing.
What’s my set-up? Being a road cyclist by heart, I have a beautiful Cervélo R-Series but wanted something else to tick all the other boxes while still being a fast bike that I could load up for an adventure. Ideally, I wanted a bike capable of both road and gravel and one that I could happily ride all year round. My choice was a Trek Checkpoint SL 7 Force eTap, the perfect all-round dream machine. A seamless SRAM wireless x2 set-up giving a great range of gears, a 40mm tubeless carbon wheel set and enough mounting lugs to accommodate every conceivable bikepacking set-up imaginable. I suppose this is where my first year of adventures has become my Achilles heal – I’ve been packing far too much! For my next trip I think I’ve finally worked out the gear to trip ratio… I hope so anyway!!
The checkpoint fits Bontrager specific frame and top tube bags with direct fixings and no need for additional straps and Velcro fastenings. This keeps things clean. Then, I have a seat bag and handlebar bags (Ortlieb). My overpacking excuse to date had been the unpredictability of the UK weather, forgetting each time that when staying in Airbnbs or pubs you can pretty much always dry or wash kit ready to use again the following day. I find I’ve been packing enough for a daily set of fresh bib shorts/longs and jerseys plus fresh clothes for every evening!! My bags have been bursting at the seams and when you’ve got a full day in the saddle of anything up to 90 miles and over 6000 feet of climbing ahead, then you start to pay the price…
What have I learned? I know I love riding my bike and having the freedom of only having one objective each day of getting from A to B. I’m learning to pack more efficiently and ultimately I know that I have a great bike and kit to continue to pursue my adventures. I ‘m currently planning more trips for this year – I suppose my current status is more akin to glamping, but I know that the future involves packing my bike with a tent, sleeping bag, stove and food and entering into the realms of real wild camping bikepacking adventures. Watch this space…
Paul Pearson – Team Cycles Brand Ambassador