Albion and Outdoor Provisions joined forces this May to challenge cyclists to get outdoors - and stay there for 12 hours. A hearty encouragement to find local adventure and remove the rushing. You simply had to leave your front door and return no earlier than 12 hours later - what you achieved and experienced within that time, including the kms ridden, was up to you.
I love spectating sport, local cafes and long enough adventures that enable my brain sufficient time to sit with the thoughts I’ve not processed during a busy week. Combining all of these preferences, I researched races and Basingstoke MTB CX appeared (part of the Southern XC MTB Race Series). Without too much further thought, that was now my destination - or waypoint on Kamoot. I had zero confirmation that the event was still taking place or any understanding of what the set up would be. But armed with my camera, snacks and face mask, the unfamiliar territory within a familiar country is what transforms a local ride into an adventure.
I split the route into four 50km chapters. 12 hours with your own thoughts can be either destructive or productive - often a small planned out structure is all that separates the two.
Chapter One: 0km-50km
Location: Escape London
Audio: Joe Rogan x Demi Lovato podcast (one ear only)
Finish Line: Cafe for coffee and croissant
Field notes: This section of the route was extremely busy - coupled with the podcast playing in my ears. I'd been cycling for a few hours but instead of reducing the clutter, I'd only added more noise. I pondered this whilst enjoying a warmed up almond croissant. Warmed up?! Who knew.
Chapter two: 50km-100km
Location: Unknown lanes and countryside
Audio: My own thoughts
Finish Line: Basingstoke MTB CX race
Field notes: Removing cars, traffic and audio in my ears allowed me to look around, day dream about the next five years and spot gorgeous quaint bus stops that I’m low-key obsessed with.
Trying to stay warm
Bumping into Anna as she rode to the start line Dance music playing at the finish line
Packed lunch sandwiches
Gooey chocolate flapjack
Chapter three: 100-150km
Location: Tailwind to Windsor
Audio: Some electronic dance music (one ear only)
Finish Line: Cinnamon Cafe
Field notes: Flat roads and a beautiful tail wind created a much-needed easy chapter with the momentum my brain and legs were craving. After my terrible sense of direction had me looping around the castle, I finally made it to the Cinnamon cafe. I sat in a bubble of gratitude after securing outdoor seating, next to a bike stand and near a toilet. High on thanks, I devoured a three course meal of coke, cinnamon bagel and a chocolate protein bar.
Chapter four: 150km-200km
Location: Final leg to London
Audio: My own thoughts
Finish Line: Pizza and beer on the southbank
Field notes: Not the nicest route home but it was necessarily quick and direct. Batteries - of both my Wahoo and my body - were starting to deplete. I suddenly didn’t have much to contemplate - I’d given myself 10 hours to think what I needed to think, intentionally considering the topics that were important, and now it was tired yet simply content.
This journal is mostly a stream of consciousness - the bike enables that, giving you the space and permission to filter through hundreds of thoughts. During these 12 hours one spoke louder than the rest. The realisation that I am constantly, but sub-consciously, rushing - wanting to get something finished to move onto the next task. Today, I was intentionally slowing down with the enviable peace of mind you experience when choices aren’t an option. The simmering state of unease - that comes with the ability to change plans when a ride, task or emotion gets tough - was removed.
Choices and decisions would return in 12 hours.
But for this moment, I was outside. And thanks to the psychologically of an organised challenge or intentional plan - I relaxed, knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be.