Over the past few year the major trips that I have completed have been over a few weeks using my own form of transport, be it by bike or by my own two feet trekking across the Sahara. They are endurance expeditions and often haven’t been as hard physically as they are mentally. Every day I would face mental battles with myself, the smallest of things sending my moods racing up and down. This was the main struggle and is often the main thing people overlook when planning longer expeditions. After a while I learned to enjoy these vast changes in my psyche and learnt a great deal from them. However sometimes, mainly during the lows, I just wanted to have an adventure without any of these mental struggles.
Upon returning from my cycle around Europe I discovered that it was indeed possible to experience adventure without the highs and lows that come with long-distance expeditions. Just shorten the distance, go on micro-adventures. They may not sound as impressive but they are as fun, you immerse yourself into the wild and outdoors for a couple of days then you are back at home again in your own bed. You always have something close to look forward to and they can be fitted around your other daily commitments.
I recently watched a video about a man who took a Boris bike from London and drove it all the way to Mont Ventoux and then proceeded to cycle the three-gear city-bike up one of the hardest climbs in the world. It is a climb that has resulted in numerous professional cyclists requiring oxygen at the top and it even claimed the life of Tom Simpson, a British cyclist who died of exhaustion. Once reaching the summit he throws it in the back of his car and drives like a bat-out-of-hell to get back to London and return the Boris bike before the 24-hour rental period expires. I won’t spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t watched the film but I do recommend watching it because it is very well edited and put-together.
After watching the short film I was left inspired. I wanted to go out and try a challenge like it. A challenge that would be unique in its own way, something that no one else would have tried. Almost straight away I thought of the ‘24-hour Boris bike challenge’, how far away could you cycle on a Boris bike in 24-hours? A short-duration adventure in the form of a challenge, it was definitely something up my street. A few days later the seed had been planted and the idea had continued to grow in my mind. I looked up the distance from London to Paris and discovered that via Dieppe it was only 250 kilometres and via Calais it was 385 kilometres. Both achievable distances, with serious training, for under 24-hours.
Gradually it seemed that my idea was growing into a plan. The challenge to cycle a Boris bike to Paris was beginning to feel more real. I showed the Ventoux video to my friend Tom who cycled around Europe with me. Even before I suggested it he was already there suggesting we try to cycle to Paris on a pair of the 23-kilogram Boris bikes, how hard could it be? The problems would arise when we would have to board a ferry and also how to return the bikes to London within 24-hours. Having cycled from Manchester to Paris together we have both got the Eurostar back to London with our bikes before and it takes just over two hours. However it is not quite so simple with bikes, it requires that you must drop them off in advance as they travel in the luggage hold and they cannot guarantee that they will be transported on your train. Also we thought it wouldn’t be much of a 24-hour race if the final few hours were just spent waiting for a train and our fate resting in the hands of a train. Therefore if we flipped our idea around, i.e. take the Eurostar to Paris and then cycle from Paris to London in 24-hours, it would become more of a race. Whether we will get back within the time window will now be in our hands. If the ferry or train is late we will just have to push harder however we will stand more of a chance this way of returning the bikes on time.
This is a challenge unlike any that I have ever done before. We will use solely public transport to complete London-Paris-London in less than 24 hours. This will be a challenge of our bodies rather than our minds, however we will no doubt require a lot of mental strength to push ourselves. We will also probably have a support car to film us and to carry clothes and food for our journey. This will just make the logistics slightly easier and help us during the inevitable night riding. We are planning to carry out the challenge this summer in –hopefully- more favourable weather when the days are longer. This is the first micro-challenge (a micro-adventure that is a challenge or race) that I will do and I am really looking forward to giving it a go. I will continue planning and training over the coming months and keep you posted as to how the preparations are coming along.