Kit was packed with consumate care making sure I had everything I would take on the Tour Divide. This was my first fully loaded run out and after the disaster of last weekend (see previous blog) I was a little nervous that this would be worse.
I got up early and after some faffing was on the road to Winchester and the start of the South Downs way. My plan was to cycle out until around midday... turn round and cycle back... hoping to do a huge amount of mileage in the process.
So it didnt work out quite like that. I managed a paltry 41 miles in many hours of cycling albeit in pretty crappy trail conditions. The mind boggled at such a pathetic attempt but as the disappointment cleared ... the analysis began....
Having uploaded the route GPX to Ride with GPS (https://ridewithgps.com/trips/13466774)
Looking at it - once the mud had dried out a bit I did manage to keep the speed up a bit. Total moving time was about 5 hours with a stopping time of nearly 4 hours!! this is where I need to eliminate some of the faff. During this ride I was also doing some filming for a possible documentary /short film that I hope to do of the Tour Divide. this takes up time - clearly I need to incorporate this within the cycling time better. But it needed to be tried out. I stopped for food 3 times and whilst this is necessary to maintain blood sugar levels and avoid the bonk (cycling terminology for totally hitting the wall) - again this is an area where I can improve.
Looking at the scenery, enjoying the view is another area that I need to minimise, though I Imagine that this will be difficult in the spectacular landscapes I will come across.
the trail conditions I encountered are hopefully worse than many sections of the Tour Divide. this was all grass/mud/uphill/mud and whilst im not expecting perfect conditions for the Tour Divide - I am aware that much of it is on forest roads which hopefully will be in slightly better condition than the majority of this trail. that said I'm sure that some of the Tour divide will consist of tricky conditions, and here therefore is the upside of the run yesterday...
I Had FUN!! I was smiling even through the most annoyingly slippery gloopy mud conditions and at times even laughed out loud at how ridiculous this must seem to many of my less craZy friends out there.
another bonus is that by doing this run out (one of several planned) I familiarise myself with my kit, how it feels cycling fully loaded, and hopefully will eliminate any silly mistakes by learning from them now.
Well it performed well. I had no bike failures, no kit malfunctions. I have learnt that I will need several short USB connectors to avoid them dropping down into the wheels! this happened on a particularly bumpy section and totally ruined the USB. a shorter USB would have been safer.
My leatherman type tool, fell out of it's pouch during another bumpy section and I didn't notice but although that is lost forever, I now know to make sure it is secure.
My new jacket was certainly not as hot as my old one and I never overheated like I have previously. The layers that I used served well to protect me from the cold, wind and rain and although I got slightly chilly when stopped for more than 10minutes, I soon warmed up again.
My waterproof socks worked wonders even with all the wading through mud and water on many of the hike-a-bike sections.
My sleeping 'bed in a bag' was secure on my handlebars and never once felt unbalanced or skewed.
Things that didn't work!
2 things gave me a little cause for concern!. My SPOT tracker, whilst looking like it was working - all lights blinking green; - did not send tracking data to the website. The check in/ok message did lodge on the SPOT page but did not share to facebook like it was supposed to. i have sent a message to the support line and hopefully they will help me resolve that issue. It is however an old model, not sold any more, but it may be that I have to upgrade it to a newer version.
My USB charging hub
Whgilst this may work - the cable I took didn't work well. this is something I must remember to include in my kit as spares - several more USB charging cables as they have a tendency to break in these conditions.
And now to the most important things for success on the Tour Divide - my head and my legs. firstly the legs worked a hell of a lot better than they did last weekend in Grizedale. Despite the mud and slow progress, my legs never felt too bad.
My headspace was the good bit - as I was having fun, I never felt mentally bad even with the lack of progress. And for the outbound section, I trialled cycling without my music in my ears - as they may be times on the Tour Divide where power has run out and I have none. Cycologically music is the thing I turn to when I'm feeling crap so will need to keep it for times when everything is against me.
Cycling in the UK in March is not necessarily going to replicate Tour Divide conditions BUT if I can struggle through these then conditions in Summer on the Tour divide may be a nice surprise. OR provide a completely new set of challenges!!
I'm hoping to upload a short video of the ride in the next few days to try and show what it was like. I also plan to do a long ride around Swinley forest complete with all kit to try and get some time on gravel roads and see if that goes better and another attempt at the South downs is not out of the question though perhaps with slightly more clement weather :-)
So that's that... the journey to the Tour divide continues. follow the journey on www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime