There are a few rules to this bike packing malarkey. Light = fast = sacrifice... BUT (and it’s a big BUT) are you too light to be prepared? Can you save yourself if necessary?
Self-supported bike pack races require sailing close to the wind in terms of risks but I’ve learned the hard way.
When your light fails in the last 100km of a 3200km race at 10pm on a lawless road in Turkey you’ll be really glad you carted that crummy battery commuter light across the continent because it will save you from getting squashed, or if your Garmin fails (mine has twice) having a map will literally guide you out of the abyss, cross referencing your route will prevent you riding the Tour de Garmin.
[caption id="attachment_12125" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Be ready for anything and everything![/caption]
Take Audax riders for example. There the guys who grow beards because their too tight to buy a buff, usually of a bus pass age with Carradice faded panniers, some homemade dynamo system, an almost see through pair of shorts, legs like string beans and a smile that only a retired cyclist could wear. Underestimate them at your peril!
Yes they love a bit of tea and cake (not coffee, TEA... in a pot!) and they don’t do sprinting, but you suggest riding the length of a country over the most mountains you can find, via the longest quietest route just because its prettier, then they are unbeatable.
A lifetime of kit fettling has made them the epitome of efficiency; they know how to get the most out of their body and they always have everything they need and nothing they don’t want. They are so in tune with the world they navigate by the sun and never get lost. Quite simply they are my unsung cycling hero's!
People often say I’m mad and that its dangerous but in fact I minimise my risks by trying to make good judgements, this is quite hard when you're exhausted and fatigued but that right there is a time to make another judgement; do I need to rest because I can't think? Food, water, shelter.
I learnt the hard way with this too. I’d rode from Geneva to Nice via every mountain pass I could find, all the big TdF ones.
I was meeting a friend at the airport so was on a tight time scale. Upon my arrival in Nice I went down to the beach, it was the end of Ramadan so there was a big family having a party and an actual boat load of people arrived at the shore, they asked me to join the party, there was food so I gladly obliged. I was ready for sleep so I pushed myself and the bike to a quiet part of the beach.
Then, as I lay there asleep I could smell cigarette smoke, I awoke to a shadow rifling through my handlebar bag! My gut reaction?? I picked up a load of stones and threw them at his head, running at him like a screaming Welsh banshee. I had the rage and the fear, it was unreal.
My lesson learn't - always choose where to rest wisely and read a situation. If it doesn’t feel right then it’s not right.
Its going to take me a lifetime to perfect the skills I need but one things for sure ,im going to enjoy all the adventures on the way there!
Words - Rickie Cotter