It’s been a while since I did a bike overnighter. I’ve got no real excuses. Life can get on top of you and before you know it, it’s the middle of the year and you say to yourself, ‘hey, I haven’t done a bike overnighter this year’. But I’m not complaining. I’ve done lots of good stuff this year so I’m very, very lucky.
However, for a few weeks, the S24O itch had been growing in my bones. For anyone who doesn’t know what S24O is, it’s a term coined by Grant Petersen of Rivendell, to describe a particular kind of bike overnighter – the Sub 24hr Overnighter. This is the haiku of bike touring/bikepacking – the distilled essence of a bike adventure with the journey, the pitch up, sleep over and journey home compressed into less than 24 hours (in this case a lot less than 24 hours).
The ne-plus-ultra of S24O, for me, is the midweek special. You finish work at 5, grab your pre-packed bike and go, heading for a campsite within about 2-3 hours’ ride, giving you time (at least in summer) to ride out in daylight, set up, and chill for the evening. Then you wake up at first light, pack up, and get yourself gone, so you’re back home when you’d normally wake up.
This is probably a nano-S24O which might be a bit extreme for some tastes, but I’ve found it’s the one that fits into my life best. I don’t like to hang around in most scenarios. I like to get the essence of something and leave myself wanting more. Which is exactly what I did yesterday.
I took the opportunity of some warm weather and the long evenings/short nights of summer to get out to my usual S24O destination, which I’ve visited on and off for a few years now. It’s in the Vale Royal of Cheshire, a grand title for a grand place. My exact location will remain classified but suffice to say, it’s a site with a pub and, yesterday, a visiting wood-fired pizza truck. Lured by the promise of cask ale and pizza dough, I set off through the peak hour traffic of Liverpool, cutting onto the Trans Pennine Trail, which took me south and over the Mersey at Runcorn. From here I rode over Weston Hill and dropped down to the historic market town of Frodsham, before climbing the long hill through glorious countryside, lit by golden evening sunshine towards my destination.
I pitched up, paid up, and ate my pizza (ham and pineapple) outside in the evening sunshine before retiring to my tent for the evening, to watch some YouTube, ‘gram the heck out of the evening, and make some calls before turning in at about 11pm.
I slept really well. My sleep system (itemised in my last post) worked a charm and I woke up at first light to a fabulous dawn chorus. Still full from the pizza the night before, I just had coffee for breakfast before methodically packing away and crunching out across the gravel road of the site at around 5:15am, with not a soul stirring elsewhere on camp.
The ride back home was sublime, with very light traffic on the roads and a glorious morning unfolding all around me. I got home in record time, under two hours (which is good for me on a laden bike) and came through the door ten minutes before my normal ‘wake-up’ alarm goes at 7:30am.
Showered, changed, fed, and watered, I was in front of my laptop for work at 8:30, with my camping gear airing out on the washing line.
Like I said up there, it’s a haiku bike tour, which won’t suit everyone. But I know that for a family man with a full-time job, I ain’t in the business of writing epic poems. So haiku it is.
Small, as they say, is beautiful.