“So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate Park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head…
There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves.
Bent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering in the wind.
…wind-burned eyeballs strain to see down the centerline, trying to provide a margin for reflexes.
…and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see… the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears.
…letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge…”
Hunter Thompson may have been writing about motorcycles but the principal is the same, two wheels -whether powered by an engine or a pair of legs – are a great way to get around.
Whilst the motorbike may be able to go faster, the bicycle offers a return on investment far outstripping any other mode of transport. No sooner have you set off and the miles simply melt away behind you, covering ground at a rate of knots far quicker than walking, far more comfortable than running and far more in touch with nature and your surroundings than a motorbike or car.
Even slogging up hills is rewarded (eventually) with the freewheeling joys of the downhill, the effort of the climb a distant memory as you hurtle along, no input required save for a dab of brakes and a touch of lean to keep you heading in the right direction.
And so, with all this in mind I loaded up my mountain bike and set out for a bikepacking microadventure this past weekend.
Admittedly the first couple of miles were a hellish nightmare, navigating first into, then out of my local town, the roads snarling with post-Christmas shoppers looking for a January sales bargain.
I’m sure a few of them tried to kill me but I’m equally sure it was nothing personal… 😉
But never mind all that for I was on a bike and it wasn’t long before I escaped the clutches of town, the drab grey concrete reluctantly giving way to the green of the North Downs.
The North Downs are about as wild as it gets in Kent which is to say they are not really that wild at all but to give them their due they put up a good fight, providing some challenging hills (certainly for me in my current unfit state), some excellent bivvy spots with great views below and all this whilst for the most part being sandwiched between two motorways.
Having traipsed through the muddy trails and found a quiet spot, I watched the sun set over my home town, that wry smile that so often finds its way onto my face whilst out adventuring slowly appeared as I thought about what everyone else would be doing on a Saturday night – X Factor, The Voice, takeaways, pubs and clubs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to a curry and a pint or two but not tonight. Tonight dinner would be two packs of 15p Tesco noodles and some venison sausages, drinks would be provided by my trusty Camelbak (ok ok and a bottle of Czech lager…) and entertainment would be provided by real stars, you know, the ones up in the sky.
Fed and watered I turned in for the night, the forecast was for minus 1 but even so I was still somewhat surprised to be awoken to what felt like very gentle and very cold rain on my face – yes it was actually snowing!
I pulled my bivvy bag up closer around and over my head, trying to minimise the gaps where snow could get it, I succeeded for the most part but every now and then a few flakes would creep in, a small price to pay though for waking up in the middle of a blanket of fresh snow all around me.
It wasn’t much but it was enough – I’d bivvied in the snow! A few “hero” pics, a quick brew of coffee and I was off, threading my way through the snow and ice, back towards home and a welcome blast of central heating.