Wet Bivvy Overnighter for #12hoursofmay
'A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.'
Alastair Humphreys is widely heralded as the doyen of microadventures. He has literally written the book on them and defined the above description. Controversially I think Humphreys, for all his obvious success in marketing the idea of 'Living Adventurously', is not a microadventure pioneer. That tag surely lies with any teenage boy or girl brought up in the pre-internet age.
In a world free from Facebook, Instagram and (ahem) even the internet…life was one big microadventure. It was local and simple and short and cheap. After knocking on the door of a nearby friend you headed outside for fun, challenging and refreshing tasks.
I felt like my 12-year-old self as I waited at my central Manchester office for the magic six o clock mark when my 12 Hours of May microadventure was due to begin.
The 12 Hours concept was dreamed up by the two Fresh Air Heads who run natural energy bar company Outdoor Provisions and their pals at Albion cycling and Komoot.
Luckily for me, Luke and Christian – the founders of OP – are my pals. I’m a relative novice in the alternative accommodation world of B+B-ing – bikepacking + bivvying. It’s fair to say they know their shit – although not completely (more of which to come in the bedtime element of this story).
For now. We go back to the start. Things are a little different in the grown-up world of microadventures. My mum didn’t answer the door for a start.
The 2021 equivalent of 'knocking on' was an email from the front desk staff at my building.
Hope you are well.
Just a quick note to say you have a visitor at the front desk called Luke Douglas.
Front Desk staff
Not quite “Mrs Reynolds, can Tom play out tonight” but the excitement was the same.
The 12 Hours of May clock had started ticking. A microadventure circa 2021 was about to begin.
I switched off my laptop. Switched on my bike lights.
And rode out excitedly – and rapidly – into the early-evening sunlight ready to make a dash for our 'bed' for the night at Delamere Forest in Cheshire.
Forty five minutes later I had burned approximately 45 calories and inhaled about 4,500 from a fish and chip shop about 450 yards away from our route start.
Having been collected from my office, Luke and I rode down to rendezvous with our third man, Christian, the other half of Outdoor Provisions. He was running late.
Luke assured me this was unlike his business partner – then proceeded to calm his nerves (we had 60 off-road kilometres to ride and it was nudging seven o clock) by mainlining snacks and smacks (a northern chip shop delicacy which, despite being brought up near Grimsby, I’d never heard of. If you’re wondering it is essentially a battered slice of potato – like a chip, on smack).
Not long after the fried potato disappeared a slightly-frazzled looking Christian rode into view.
His teenage days, like mine, are long-since over. In fact, both he and Luke have young children – hence the need to pack a bikepacking adventure into 12 hours these days.
With day rapidly becoming night we set off. The national lockdown restrictions had not long since lifted so the middle of Manchester was just warming up. Beers were flowing.
Even though I was cold – we’d be waiting a while don’t forget (Christian, I’m looking at you) – I wasn’t the slight bit jealous. Our night out was a far cry from theirs. We were – to borrow an OP catchphrase – “taking it outside”.
Forty kilometres or so later we explored that juxtaposition again. This time a little closer. A little more immersive.
And by that I mean. We stopped for a pint.
In my experience, all good trips need a bit of jeopardy. The 'will we make it factor', if you will. By that point it was clear we would make it to the woods. A quick cold beer followed a few pedal strokes and we’d be enjoying a hot meal before bed.
The OP guys are bikepacking specialists. Remember? Second City Divide devisers. Veterans of the Torino-Nice rally.
Yeah – that’s them. Anyway – how to put this?
Luke forgot the stove.
I wouldn’t have minded. But he had spent the last 10 kilometres telling me he had a Firepot meal with my name on it.
I in turn said I’d got us all some pastries from Companio Bakery in Manchester (they’re the best in the city if you haven’t been!) for our morning breakfast and on we rode smugly looking forward to our evening meal/breakfast culinary options.
Half an hour later – and with no stove – the pastries had been eaten.
We had breakfast in our beds. For dinner. With crisps as a starter. And whisky for afters.
5.30am. The morning after the night before.
With a slightly thick whisky head – and soaking wet hair (it rained in the night) we woke up – and broke camp.
Among the many tips Luke and Christian shared during our 12 Hours was to always break camp and ride a little way before stopping for breakfast. It’s a great idea.
Especially when you don’t have any breakfast because you had to eat it the night before.
All jokes aside a quick ride immediately after waking up warmed me up and lifted – and shook off – the Spirits.
With an Outdoor Provisions meeting to get to in Wilmslow – and with my desk calling me – we cracked on.
Cheshire’s backroads and bridleways made way for Manchester’s main roads and metro stops. Our 12 Hours of May adventure was coming to an end.
At a café stop not far from town we sat nearby two-time track cycling Olympic gold medallist Philip Hindes.
In my slightly melancholic/sleep-deprived state I started to muse about our different cycling experiences.
Our ride had been a far cry from his – not least his job in the team sprint is defined by a 12-second all-out effort rather than 12 Hours.
His big bike adventure this summer will take him to Tokyo in search of a third Olympic gold.
We took ourselves to Delamere Forest. Played out for the night on our bikes and ate pastries.
There certainly weren’t any “marginal gains”.
But in our small 12 hour window between one working day and the next, a microadventure was had.
And it was great.
12 Hours of May is a cycling challenge put together by Outdoor Provisions and Albion, hosted on komoot - see the full #12HoursofMay collection here, or find out more about the prizes on offer at 12hoursofmay.cc
Tom Reynolds wrote the piece – he’s a friend of OP and as well as being one half of creative storytelling double act @pieces__of__you, has also recently started @0ut_with_it – a movement to promote movement as a way to get men talking.