When I first started EDEMO Electric Bikes, my inspiration had come mainly from two books. Alastair Humphreys ‘Micro Adventures’ and Laurence McJannets ‘Bikepacking’.
I’m not a big reader but just holding these books and flicking through the pages, looking at the photographs of tarpaulin shelters, cooking on open fires and sleeping under the stars; it inspired me.
I already loved e-bikes. In fact, so much that I had built two of my own, bought one and was well on the way to getting another handful 🙂
My dream was to combine the two. I loved the idea of buying all the kit, laying it out on the floor, refining it to fit in the bags and then planning for a couple of days adventuring and living off-grid.
But I guess I also quite like creature comforts…. If I don’t get a full night’s sleep (at least 8 hours!) I know the next day is going to be bad. More for the people around me! And a good night’s sleep, means warmth, good food and comfort.
However, I still love adventure.
Adventure for me is all about doing something outside the everyday and something a bit spontaneous.
It needs to be different to everyone else, and if possible stick two fingers up to the accepted norm.
So during the spring of this year, I decided it was time to scratch this itch. I had read (looked at) the books, and now it was my turn.
The opportunity arose from a ride I had planned with a friend in the Cotswolds. He lives in the north and I live in the south Cotswolds.
We had decided to meet up for a day of riding halfway between us starting in the little town of Northleach. Fans of the hit BBC comedy ‘This Country’ may know it well.
For me, this is about 25 miles from my home, so it was completely viable to ride it the day before.
The next day we would do an off-road loop of about 25 miles, leaving me to do the last 25 miles home on the road.
Seventy-five miles in total of on and off-road riding over two days.
To prepare for this off-road adventure, I needed to make a couple of purchases.
Luckily, I already had the bike; A Riese & Müller Supercharger GT touring with 1000Wh battery.
I also had a sleeping bag from when I trekked in the Picos de Europa. I later realised this may not have been suitable for our climate and that sleeping bag technology may have moved on in the twenty years since I bought it!
And lastly, I had a small gas stove and pots which had seen very little use.
The only thing missing was a tent, or bivy bag. And as I was after the ‘luxury’ experience, it had to be a tent.
So, I jumped on my bike (a Riese & Müller Load 60 Rohloff) and headed off to our nearest Cotswold Outdoors shop.
Here I purchased a 2 man lightweight tent. It was recommended for the DofE, and that was good enough for me.
On the day of the start, I was at work. This gave me plenty of time to get my bike loaded with all the kit…
I managed to fit it all in a single rear Vaude pannier and then strap the rest on the rear and front rack. It looked pretty cool.
I also had a little extra space on the front rack, so decided to pack an extra battery from one of the demo bikes.
Although it would add another 3-4 kgs, I knew I would be able to hit the turbo button a few more times without having to worry about running out of juice…. Well, at least that was the plan…
So, I set off towards Northleach.
I had spent time on Google maps the night before and found a nice bit of small woodland I could pitch my tent on the edge of. It was out the way of everyone, and I would grab fish and chips in Northleach to save having to cook anything.
I was using Komoot, combined with my Kiox display to guide me to my destination.
I can only assume I had not paid attention when planning, as it wasn’t long until I was heading along a slippery muddy track.
I had wanted tarmac for the first part of the trip, just to conserve energy and the thought of getting in a tent covered in mud wasn’t inviting!
Anyhow, I pushed on. This shortcut only lasted just over a mile but enough to christen my beautifully clean bike and get sticky mud all up my legs.
The rest of the ride that evening was uneventful, and riding in the warmth of the setting sun made everything just perfect.
27 miles later, I arrived on the outskirts of Northleach at my secret wooded location. I soon realized that Google satellite images aren’t the best, and they definitely don’t show the terrain.
My intended sleep spot was not going to work unless I was a mountain goat, so I pushed on into town to get my tea and to have a re-think.
Time to re-think and re-fuel
I arrived at the chip shop at 8:15, only to find out they stopped serving 15 minutes earlier..
OK, this was the end of the whole covid lock-down thing, but still…. A chip shop closing at 8pm? So I decided the best move would be to start looking for another Wild Camp location, get the tent up and cook some pasta.
I rode around for the next 45 mins until I found an old by-way.
I made my way along it, and then passed through a fallen wall on the edge of a field.
No one would disturb me here.
Just as I finished putting the tent up, two men appeared from the woods nearby and stopped and looked straight at me. I heard them talking for a few seconds whilst pointing at me then they moved off.
By this time the sun had gone down and it was starting to get cold and dark. I chucked some quick-cook pasta in a pot, half-cooked it, stirred in a sauce and ate it.
It was now cold and I was wondering if I would get uninterrupted sleep.
I locked the back wheel of my bike to its rack, and strategically placed it in the hedge next to the tent. I knew that if anyone wanted to steal it, they would have to carry it out, but not before they clambered over my tent, hopefully waking me up.
I took off my shoes, put on some more layers, set my alarm for 5 am and shuffled down into my twenty-year-old sleeping bag.
Trying to get some sleep
There was nothing relaxing about my sleep.
I was freezing cold, conscious someone would wake me up may minute and tell me to move on. I was hungry, lonely and miserable.
Alastair Humpries you are a lying ba***rd! 🙂
At least when I was woken by my alarm at 5 am, I didn’t have to spend time getting dressed in the cold. I had done that the night before. Instead, I got up, packed away quickly and got back on my bike.
I decided the best way to warm up was with a bike ride. So I headed off on a 15-mile trip to get the blood pumping, which seemed to do the trick.
I had packed muesli and coffee for breakfast and stopped in a gateway to make a brew.
Meeting up for the big event
I met with my friend at 9am and we headed out on a ride.
It was a combination of a route from the Goldeye maps and the Cotswold MTB guidebook.
The route was fantastic.
I had covered the part from the Goldeye maps on several occasions previously, and the addition of the extra loop added to the interest and made it feel a bit more like an adventure.
As we finished the ride we went our separate ways and I started to head home.
Eat more and swap out the battery
I had eaten nowhere near enough and was on the lookout for something good.
I came across ‘The Stump’ pub with a take out pizza hut. This was the perfect opportunity to fill up and swap to the extra battery I was carrying.
The pizza and ginger beer I had was out of this world. I’m not sure if it was really that good or just, because I was so hungry.
Looking back at the photo’s it was more likely the former!
Feeling a little full and glad I had brought the extra battery to carry the pizza I had just consumed, I swapped out one of the batteries with the spare I had been carrying…. It wasn’t charged!
I had carried a flat battery with me for the last day and a half, feeling smug that I could use turbo anytime I wanted.
And now here I was, stuffed full of pizza and ginger beer with twenty miles left to ride home and just under 10% charge left on my bike.
And just for good measure, it was starting to rain.
I changed into my waterproofs and prepared for the ride home.
I quickly worked out that if used ‘eco’ mode and the lowest gear for every hill, I could slowly make my way home.
Surprisingly, switching off the power on the flat did not make too much difference, so long as I was able to keep the speed up.
I eventually made it home, cold, wet and tired. But even though I wouldn’t rush out to do it again tomorrow, now a few months later looking back, it was quite an adventure.
Over the whole trip, I covered a mixture of on and off-road totalling about 90 miles with 7,000ft of climbing. I didn’t need to charge my 1000Wh Supercharger, although I would have if the opportunity existed!
I love telling this story… but what have I learned?
I love telling this story to people when they are visiting the showroom. It’s a great way of sharing the experiences I have of range anxiety (or not), wild camping, bike packing and all that exciting stuff that inspired me to get into this in the first place.
The biggest lesson I have learned, which I hope to put into practice on my next trips is…. Don’t bother wild camping.
I passed a couple of campsites during our ride on the second day.
They looked so inviting, with friendly faces, electricity sockets, warm water and a rumour of flushing toilets. It would still have been cold that night, but I would have felt far more relaxed knowing I wasn’t trespassing and didn’t have to get up at 5 am before I was caught.
Even better still, even the most basic B&B would have been perfect.
Or maybe even a nice pub or hotel.
You could travel so light. I reckon you wouldn’t need much more than a set of waterproofs and a credit card.
So let’s get real, you’re probably going to buy a nice bike. Do you really need or want to sleep in a hedge?