A cosy glow spills from the windows of an isolated highland croft at dusk. The smell of beer and a hearty pub meal escaping out the front door of a country inn. Bangin’ bass lines and laughter heard through the open window of a remote house at 2am on the Pennine Bridleway. These are the moments where choices are brought into sharp relief. I could be in that pub, at that party or settling in for a good night’s sleep, but I’m not. I’m pursuing a notion or conquering a self set challenge just because; well it seemed impossible.
Thats’s where this year’s GBDURO sits. At first glance riding 1963km without resupply seems impossible. Of course it’s not, adventurous types trek to the poles dragging sufficient provisions for 90 days on a sled. There are no shops on the Iditarod route and you’ll struggle for a SPAR at Everest base camp. This forces a shift of gear, a whole new mindset and a self reliance that endurance athletes are familiar with. Full self sufficiency takes this further though, there is no escaping the soaking chill of an unexpected thunderstorm in the embrace of a hot shower at a hotel. Dodgy stomach? You’d better get your trowel out and dig some catholes. There is no shoulder to cry on and you’d better know yourself very well because your food choices for today were made weeks ago.
Self sufficient riding has a more important role than demanding better planning though. It forces us to really consider consumption, the noun that sits at the centre of 21st century capitalist ideology. How much do we actually need? How much is enough? These questions are more easily answered when every gram slows the pace of our wheels. Less and lighter spells success. Even packaging carried is wasted effort, it pays to minimise.
Big money cycling has for years relied on money from sponsors whose raison d’etre is simply more. More stuff = more profit. Consider the 14 million items of landfill thrown from the caravan of the Tour d’France each year. Cheap trinkets to pass the time until the riders arrive, each of those riders supported by several team cars spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. A crash? It’s OK, just grab a spare bike and carry on. The consequences of the rider’s actions are focussed on their athletic performance and it is a poor metaphor for life. We as a race and individuals must learn to live within our means and that means looking at everything we carry with us on our journey.