Rapha recently launched their Explore campaign with an off-road trip to Argentina - an inspiring adventure that looked endearingly magical. But the thing is, I hate gravel...
Anyone who has ridden with me knows I am a complete wuss that would rather wreck my cleats by walking than risking inevitable death across those cobbled shitters, staring at me with their uneven and uncontrollable tendencies. This doesn’t mean I don’t love adventure. That’s because exploration, and what Rapha are actively encouraging, is a mindset not a road surface. Choosing to ride different because we know what is comfortable for our mind is what often reduces our world.
So below I have highlighted eight key ingredients to make a hot-pot of wanderlust that still gambles but doesn’t gravel. To illustrate the list is photography and stories from our most recent adventure to cheer on Scarpa at a road race last week.
1. A sketchbook
I'm a self diagnosed ‘sketchbook sl*g’ and a slave to paper. My pen is my zen. The process of writing a plan and then documenting the moments are what transform a ride to an adventure. It promotes awareness and being hyper switched on to the small things that often go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten.
2. A new route
We all have our ‘go to’ ride. The comfortable one that we can complete without the need for a map. There’s a place for those routes but not in this recipe. Grab a different GPX or ask a friend for a recommendation. Some cyclists may encourage no route, but my 'controlled spontaneity’ doesn't stretch that far.
3. A bag or musette
There’s something invigorating about riding with a musette or handlebar bag. You’re promoting freedom by feeling content with only what you can carry. You’re not adding more (in the hope EasyJet don’t charge you extra), you’re reducing until all that is needed is left in the musette. Which is often too many scooby snacks and not enough inner tubes.
4. A new cafe stop
The girls often joke that after 5 mins of pretending to explore the menu we remain fiercely loyal to eggs. No adventurous food choices here (unless you count the cheese we added to our fries on Sunday). However, push yourself to find somewhere new to fuel. Sometimes it pays off and you discover a haven that gives you free haribo in paper bags for the road.
5. Good conversation
Compliment riding on new roads with travelling somewhere new with your conversation. Ask valuable and considered questions that spark debate and opinions you may not have had the privilege of hearing before.
6. Bike lights
Charge and pack your lights. Reduce any avoidable reasons why you can’t keep exploring (especially, like on Sunday, if you decide to stay much longer at the cafe than expected).
7. Bike friends
Adventure means nothing without good people along for the ride. Choose those who can still laugh after you snap the valve off the fourth and final tube you packed - explore friends are those that can quickly adapt, not quickly paceline.
8. A higher purpose
Don’t go further for the sake of it. Find a reason that makes the journey, and whatever happens between A and B, worth it. That could be a ride home to see parents (see Scousetour) or to cheer on your team at a race that you would have otherwise missed. Make it a voyage with purpose and let that purpose fuel the inevitable f**k ups along the way.
If you find yourself with 20 minutes to spare on a commute or waiting for your next artisan coffee, write down an adventure in the lists section of your iPhone. It doesn’t require rocket science, just a dash of curiosity, permission to leave your comfort zone and the ability to deal with high levels of faff.
Choose your own ingredients, pepper them with some personal spices and enjoy the taste of exploration - which for me, can often be described as early morning porridge or melted back pocket sweets.... Bon bon appétit, adventure.