Last year I headed down to the far South West with my good friend Rob to meet up with James and Mat from Otter Surfboards. Our plan was to spend a few days cycling the coastal road, wild camping and bodysurfing along the way. For some reason we chose to do this just as winter arrived, so unsurprisingly we were hit with gritty conditions!
Below is an account of the adventure from James, a cycling newbie, and a photo journal from the talented Mat Arney:
I was incredibly excited by the idea of saddling up and spending a few days on the road powered only by my legs, but as the date to leave came closer apprehension began to creep in as I realised how underprepared I was. Last minute phone calls to friends who owned good road bikes with pannier set ups combined with shopping for comfortable Lycra on a shoestring budget only compounded my panic, but I always find this energy to be a great stimulant for excitement too. It was all going to be a new experience for me, and I started getting pretty giddy on the morning we left.
Packing wasn’t too much trouble as it was just essential camping gear (which tends to live in the van anyway) and then a wetsuit, swim fins and handplane. Thanks to the van, I also had multiple tie downs to allow me to strap everything onto the panniers, saving me carrying a rucksack. At the time I thought that this was a good idea!
I soon discovered that a bike with all of the weight over the back wheel doesn’t make for easy ascending on hills as the front wheel was so light on the ground that I ended up going sideways as often as I went forward…. some work on my peddling technique was needed and I quickly learned to overcome the problem – necessity being the mother of invention.
Once I got that figured out, the riding was so much fun. That extra weight meant that the downhills were pretty exhilarating and I realised how long it had been since the last time that I rode any distance on a bike…something that I used to spend days doing when I was a teenager.
I also loved the pace. It was slow enough that you could really appreciate all the things that you miss when traveling in a van and we could stop whenever we liked to take it all in and have a sip of water, yet it was fast enough that we actually covered some real distance. The freedom to check out some new surf spots by hopping off the road and wandering along the coast path was also another big bonus of traveling so light.
Over the course of our trip we had rain, wind and plenty of sun too, which made the experience and the campfires with basic food all the more rewarding. I can’t wait to do it again! It’s just such an intimate way to explore a stretch of coast that you feel you already know quite well.
I learned that even the hills I had thought would have been impossible on a fully-laden bike just needed sensible tactics, and that you don’t need to go far to have an adventure full of new experiences.
The most memorable moment for me was enjoying a stretch of long downhill with Will; We both held back from Mat and Rob so that we could see what was coming up, and then Will just told me to stay close behind him. The road was quiet so we used the whole width of it to draw some great lines for about a mile, flowing through the turns and making speed out of the environment. For me, it felt pretty close to cruising along a lovely point break wave, only we wouldn’t have had quite the same soft landing if we were to come off! Thanks for that memory Will.