As great as it is to plan a bikepacking trip that will take you away for a night, or a number of nights, it’s important to remember that not all adventures have to take you dozens of miles from home. Nor do they need you to be in the saddle for 8 hours a day.
The reason this little blog post came around was due to a little ride I had on my gravel bike just a few nights ago. It wasn’t planned, I was just lucky enough to have a couple of hours spare and so away I went. I know my local area pretty well by now and I like to think I’ve ridden a lot of the roads and trails around where I live. This ride showed me there’s always somewhere else to discover and sometimes it’s a stones throw away from your front door!
The ride started as normal, I headed out on one of my favourite quiet cycle paths that runs alongside the river and is covered by trees. This time of year is great because it’s dry, the path is clear, and there’s never that many people around. Come the winter this path turns into a slippery gauntlet with wet leaves everywhere and the occasional ice patch. Challenge accepted though, my bike handling skills can only get better.
As I continued on my way I noticed a little car parking area and just beyond where the one solitary car was parked I could see the dirt road continue up and around a tight right hand bend. Well obviously I had to go for a look. The worst that would happen is it didn’t go anywhere and I would have to turn around. Spoiler alert though! It went somewhere.
The surface was loose and quite rocky in parts but it was manageable. In hindsight I should have stopped and let a little bit of air out of my tyres to give me some more grip and increase my comfort levels. Ah well, next time maybe. It climbed up for about 3 miles with the grade varying every so often. 400m climbed already… there must be a nice view coming surely?! As the road appeared to reach a summit and the tree line levelled out I knew I was at the top. Let’s see what scenery was on offer.
All that climbing was definitely worth it. The view stretched out for miles and as I stood there taking it in I became aware of just how quiet and peaceful it was. I could be no more than 10 miles from my house and it was like the world had ended and I was all alone up there. Not a car or a person could be heard. Obviously I needed to snap a quick picture for Instagram and now I can share that with all 4 of you that are reading this.
I took a gulp of my drink and looked ahead of me to see a rocky descent. It didn’t look too bad so I was quite excited to let the bike roll over it all and guide me down the hill. I sometimes find that less is more on the bike when it comes to going downhill. The more you fight it, the more caution you show, the harder you hold on or pull the brakes, the more dangerous it is. Relax, look where you want to go and trust that the bike and your skills will get you there. With that in mind I clipped back in and launched myself down the hill.
It wasn’t long before there was thick forest either side of me again and the light that had been at the summit was swallowed up by the tree cover that refused to let the fading suns rays through. Sunglasses off and in my jersey pocket and the problem was solved. I descended for about 15 minutes until I reached another small car park and the road levelled out. I could hear the hum of cars nearby but thankfully another, narrower, track allowed me to follow the river instead of having to take the road. This place was lovely.
Still yet to see another person I took a look at my Wahoo bike computer map to make sure I was heading in roughly the right direction. It was getting close to home time and more importantly dinner time. I was heading towards where I had initially turned off and within a few minutes I recognised where I was. A little bridge and a set of traffic lights were my reference point up in the distance. 4 or so miles and I would be home.
As I returned to my outbound route and followed the river home I looked down to see I had only done 18 miles riding at that point. An 18 mile loop with new gravel roads and spectacular views. This adventure had been small, you could say mini, but it was an adventure all the same. I had seen a couple of other gravel roads as I had been descending so I already had it in my head that I would need to come back.
I hadn’t had to pack a bag, pitch a tent, or filter water from a stream. This was a local ride that took a couple of hours. I was definitely going to get on Komoot later that night and see where those gravel tracks went!
As great as it is to have big adventures and nights away in the middle of nowhere, don’t forget that there’s roads and trails close to home that you’ve probably never pedalled along. Spend an hour one day cruising around and taking those trails that might go nowhere because as in my case – they just might go somewhere beautiful. The only thing it’s going to cost you is time.
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