How-To: Microadventure

  • Posted by alex
  • 15 August 2011

howies microadventure
Last Monday, Alastair Humphreys came down to see us in Cardigan. We'd arranged to go on a Microadventure - an adventure close to home that is cheap, easy to organise and most of all, fun!

So, what if you're new to the world of adventures? Alastair's got a few tips for you mind out of the daily grind and taking the plunge into the world of Microadventures...

It's been more than fifteen years since I began enjoying sleeping in wild and wonderful places. I guess I've spent about a thousand nights sleeping outdoors. Out of all those probably only about ten have been in a 'proper' campsite.

I've slept on top of England's highest mountain on New Year's Eve and on the northern tip of Britain in midsummer week.

I have also spent many nights without a tent -bivvying- and these are often the most magical of all. (Not always, mind!). I've bivvied on hill tops, seashores, even on a swimming platform out at sea and in sewage pipes (clean ones) on three continents!

So I know how easy, safe, simple, fun, rewarding and invigorating sleeping wild can be. It is one reason why I came up with the idea of microadventures to try to encourage people to give these things a try. But I completely understand how someone who has never done it might think otherwise.
Therefore I hope that this article will help encourage wild-campers to give a microadventure a try by explaining how to do it all, and answering a few common worries.

What is a bivvy bag and wild camping?

A bivvy bag (bivouac bag) is a waterproof outer layer for a sleeping bag. If you live somewhere it doesn't rain (ie Not Wales) then you don't need one, and you can just lie out smugly in your sleeping bag. For a one-off bivvy microadventure a cheap orange survival bag is fine (your sleeping bag will get a bit damp on the outside from condensation). That's what I used on our howies microadventure last week. A better option is one from Alpkit for about £30.

Wild camping is camping away from a proper campsite, out in the wild.

Is wild camping legal?

It's completely legal in Scotland and, elsewhere in the world, nobody has ever complained, told me off, arrested me, or been in the slightest bit concerned. In the same way that nobody would mind you having an afternoon snooze on the beach, nobody minds wild camping, so long as you're not on private land, near someone's home, or otherwise being annoying.

Is it safe?

Assuming you are out in the countryside, away from people then a night out under the stars is about as safe as a night can be. I will admit to the occasional night when strange noises in the woods have spooked me a little, but that is only the fault of an over-active imagination and a youth frittered on late-night horror movies! This goes away after a couple of nights. If you're out there with a friend it's even easier.

Where will I sleep?

Finding spots to wild camp is an art form! It's also all about compromise: sheltered in an old barn or under a cliff in case of rain versus a full canopy of stars out in the open if it doesn't rain. Getting out of the wind will keep you much warmer, so if you're bivvying on a hilltop (my very favourite place) then consider dropping just a few metres down the leeward side. If you're sleeping on a beach sleep above the high-tide mark or else you might win a Darwin Award.

You can find safe, snug wild camping spots surprisingly close to towns and villages too. Follow a footpath just a short distance away from a road then nip behind a hedge or a clump of trees. You'll feel very open, conspicuous and slightly silly as you lie down to sleep but you'll soon relax and enjoy the novelty of being right out in nature.

How do I use a bivvy bag?

Shove your sleeping bag into the bivvy bag. You can, if you wish, put the sleeping mat in there as well, but I find that's too cramped. Snuggle in and sleep. If it rains in the night just snuggle even deeper, pull the bag over your head and leave just a little hole for your mouth otherwise you end up getting way too hot!

What do I need to take on a microadventure?

The whole point of microadventures is that you do not need much time, money or specialised equipment. The trip I did with howies is a perfect example - we left their office at the end of the day's work, rode out of town wearing small backpacks, had a great adventure, and were back at the office ready for work the next morning. Granted, not every workplace will allow you to ride your bike round the office or wear merino cycling stuff as you work, but these are minor problems! A bundled up suit makes a great pillow...

Here then is an idea for a microadventure and the stuff you'll need:

  • Leave work
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) out of town
  • Climb a hill / go to the beach / find a lake
  • Eat
  • Relax
  • Campfire (where appropriate)
  • Sleep
  • Wake up
  • Find a lake / river / lido / ocean for a quick skinny dip.
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) back into town
  • Greasy Spoon cafe
  • Back to work
  • Ask your colleagues if they did anything interesting last night

 Basic Kit List

  • Bike
  • Rucksack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cheap orange survival bag
  • Cheap foam sleeping mat
  • Torch
  • Rain coat
  • Wooly hat
  • Warm clothes for night (use a spare jumper as pillow)
  • Food and drink that doesn't need cooking
  • Water bottle
  • Toothpaste with toothpaste already applied and wrapped in clingfilm
  • Matches to light a campfire
  • Notebook - even if you never write a diary this is a really good chance to jot down a few observations, thoughts, resolutions
  • Camera - for smug self portrait

 Next Step Up: take all the above plus...

  •  Camping Stove
  • Pan
  • Pasta and sauce / pesto, Super Noodles, Pot Noodle etc.
  • Spoon
  • Proper bivvy bag (instead of orange bag)

Luxury Additions: take all the above plus...

Even if you have never cycled or walked ten miles before, even if you have never wild camped (or even if you have never camped) I really urge you to give this a try on a nice warm, dry summer's evening.

The very worst thing that's likely to happen is that you get back to work the next morning a bit tired. Far more likely is that you will be thrilled to discover wildness, nature and beauty on your doorstep. You'll probably enjoy it so much that next time you'll take the whole office with you as well!

Microadventures

  • Posted by alex
  • 9 August 2011



You may have heard on the grapevine that Alastair Humphreys came to Cardigan to see us yesterday. A few of us joined him and spent the night on a Microadventure based out of Cardigan.

Keep an evening or two free in the coming weeks, we've got something we'd like to share with you and will let you all know about it very soon...

£2000 of howies clothes

  • Posted by alex
  • 5 July 2011

A little while ago, Surfers Against Sewage came down to Cardigan to talk about plans for their annual raffle. Their plans are big, and it's no longer just about Surfers and just about Sewage.

This year, howies are helping SAS sell tickets to raise a target of £20,000. We're also giving away the headline prize - £2000 of our clothes.

But what does £2000 worth of clothes look like? Well, something like this...

SAS receive no government grants or funding, so it's up to us (that means you too) to help sell and buy tickets to raise this year's target of £20,000.

Like the video, we thought we'd give you an idea of what £20,000 could do:

£1 Could pay to send an item of identifiable marine litter back to the manufacturer

£10 Could pay for a family to attend a beach clean

£25 Could pay for SAS to attend a local pollution incident

£50 Could pay for a school talk to educate young people about marine litter

£100 Could get SAS in front of policy & decision makers

£250 Could help us train a regional representative to tackle environmental issues in your area

£500 Could contribute towards a campaign action, and help us lobby government and industry

£1000 Could pay for an investigation into the misuse and abuse of combined sewage overflows

£5000 Could pay for a scientific report into the threats facing your local beaches

Tickets will be £1 each, with 90p in every pound raised going to fight their causes.

As well as your pound helping to campaign for cleaner beaches and water your ticket could win you this bundle of howies kit, a hand-made wooden board, a bike, surf sessions and loads more great stuff.

It's almost time to dig deep (we'll let you know exactly when), but in the meantime write a sticky note or tweet this to let your mates know what's to come.

PS. If you can't wait, you can get involved with Surfers Against Sewage online now!

BÖIKZMÖIND

  • Posted by matt45
  • 28 June 2011

For those of you who don't know, a good friend of mine, Gavin Strange has been filming BÖIKZMÖIND over the last year. It's a documentary film about riding fixed gear bikes in beautiful Bristol. The film is in progress right now and will premiere 20.08.2011 on the big Screen at the Millennium Square. (a must, so get out your diaries!)

Last Sunday saw about a hundred plus riders get together for the final bit of filming, I chose to do this in a full vintage rabbit costume.

It was an epic day which i wont forget in a hurry! I climbed Park street still suited up in the costume which was my favourite moment, sweaty is an understatement! That along with the mass take over of the Clifton suspension bridge as the sun set, are going to be hard to beat.

Thanks to everyone that came, as I met so many nice people. It has made me love Bristol just that little bit more!

Keep up to date with more news here http://www.boikzmoind.com/

Thanks to Benjamin Reid and Francesca Milano for the great photos

Cheers then
Matt/45

Matt's Mayhem

  • Posted by ruben
  • 23 June 2011

In contrast to my team's slightly lackluster performance, here's an altogether more upbeat account of Mountain Mayhem 2011 from our friend & European 24 hour solo champion rider, Matt Page - in his own words:

My cycling career has moved forward very quickly over the last few seasons, going from working as a courier in Cardiff and racing as a hobby, to racing a little more seriously and having a “normal” job to now where I train full time and race for a living.

I enjoy my cycling, so it isn't a chore, but sometimes I forget why I started riding and what I enjoy most about being on a bike. After my win at the 24hr UK/European champs I went back to “just riding” and enjoyed the rides, rather than turning every ride into a training session.

Last weekend I was at Mountain Mayhem, the biggest festival in Mountain Biking and somewhere that really ignited my pasion for cycling. My first experience of the event was way back in 2004 when it first visited Eastnor Park in what was very much a fun team. The weather was really bad, I certainly wasn't very fit and I remember one lap in particular taking almost 2 hours because of the mud and terrain but I loved it and I was totally hooked and in awe of the solo riders, including Tinker Juarez who won that year. I've been to every Mountain Mayhem since and each time since it has been quite serious. In 2005 it was in a fairly fast team, and we narrowly missed the podium in a team in 2007. The came the solo attempts in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and despite coming close in 2008 I managed to win the following year, celebrating by proposing to my now fiancée, Nia on the finish line. Last year it started as a bit of fun, but soon turned into fast racing as I was joined by a team mate and two Wiggle mechanics in a team where we made the top 10 in the Open Men category.

So this year I decided that I would go right back to the start and enter a fun team and really enjoy the atmosphere of what is really more of a festival than a race. As a solo racer it is impossible to enjoy what goes on and in a serious team you are always busy with no time to wander about. This year was different, I was asked to join a team with the people from USE/Exposure lights and although we were entered into the Expert Mixed category (thanks to my elite XC licence) we were there to enjoy the event more than anything else.

I volunteered to start, which meant doing the run. Normally a couple of minutes and about 800m in distance, I can just about cope with that. I wasn't expecting to be running over 10 minutes in a pair of super stiff race slippers! It hurt quite a bit and I was glad to get to the bike.

From that point onwards every bit of the event was fantastic. The slippery mud was good fun and quite challenging then it started drying out and it became really fast. In between laps I chilled out, walked about the arena, cheered everyone else on and just got stuck into the atmosphere that makes this event unique. I only managed 4 laps, none were that quick but as a team we did keep someone on course at all times. Mountain Mayhem reminded me of why I love this sport so much, to go back to where it all started for me and recapture the magic I felt back then.

Go Somewhere New

Hands up if you've heard of Muckle Flugga!
To eliminate show-offs, could you also place St. Agnes, Soay or Ness Point on the map?

I certainly could not have managed this until recently, yet they are all in our country. They are the north, south, east and west extremes* of Great Britain**.

I always encourage people to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats at some point in their lives to get a better understanding of the place we live in. Nick Hand went one step further in his exploration, cycling a full lap of Great Britain.

But even he didn't make it to the poetic-sounding Muckle Flugga. Our country is full of beautiful, surprising places and we should make the most of these long, lingering summer days to go somewhere we have never been. You don't even need to go far to do this: I bet there is somewhere interesting within 15 miles of your house that you have never been to.

I'm feeling particularly fervent about this at the moment. Here's why...

Years ago I stood at John O'Groats, tired but jubilant, and gazed out to sea (or, more accurately, into the fog). I had conquered Britain by bike and I could go no further.

I was wrong.

For last week I was in the Shetland Isles, more than 100 miles further north than "J O'G". This time, as I stood outside my tent in the soft solstice midnight light I looked at the lighthouse on Muckle Flugga and the tiny islet of Out Stack, I was at the top of Britain. And I realised that only now was I beginning to realise how little I know of my own country.

My tent was pitched on a patch of flat green grass like a billiard table. A metre away from the door was the cliff edge, swirling with puffins and scores of other seabirds swirling above the crashing turquoise waves far below. Not only was it one of the best camping spots I have enjoyed in Britain, it was one of the best in the world. You don't need much time or money or expertise to experience a night's camping like that. You just need to go do it.

I have not yet been to St. Agnes, Soay, Ness Point, Rockall, or any number of other super places. But I certainly will do. It's a lifetime's work to know your own country, and there's no better time to start than right now.

* - pedant alert: I have not included the Channel Islands because they are Crown Dependencies, not constituent parts of the United Kingdom and Rockall is not internationally recognised. There are a couple of other pedantic details too, but summer is not the time to be discussing stuff like this!
** - apologies to Scottish, Welsh, Shetland and Scillian separatists!

fort william trials
Fort William is perhaps better known for it's downhill events but has always had a Trials presence. The event showcases the skill and technique of bikers who can navigate over rocks, logs, pipes, barrels and vehicles in impressive style.

Local lad and British Championship trials rider, Owen Gawthorpe, dropped us a line after the event to share a few photos from his recent win at the Fort William UCI World Cup.

He's currently in the process of entering the World Championship series in the Czech Republic and Spain this summer and will be riding in a great bundle of howies merino to keep him focused on the bike, not sweating the competition.

Good luck this summer. Keep following that front wheel.

fort-william-01-follow
fort william trials

wethepeople in 2011

  • Posted by will
  • 21 June 2011

Our photo competition to win a copy of the wethepeople 'Anytime Now' DVD was won by Robert Senior with the picture here.

We asked people to send us a picture that encapsulated the notion wethepeople in the here and now.

This image echoed innumerable times in the last year has for many defined a return of the mass demonstrations against a government that is increasingly seen to be detached from the people.

As the Con-Dems continually tell us were 'all in this together' the reality of a situation in which a team of Oxbridge educated millionaires tells us we need to volunteer to run our own public services is becoming ever clearer and ever more unpalatable.

We are starting to see that we are all in this together, they are not. we are the people.

Thanks Rob.

Italian bike race tales

  • Posted by ade
  • 15 June 2011


Alberto from Castelli clothing invited us over to race round the town of Feltre in the feet of the Dolamites in the 24hr road race they put on every year.


The first few hours of traveling to the race were stressful when Ruben and I got the flight times wrong and missed the flight out on the Thursday and were not able to get a flight till the next day. Spending a night in Gatwick airport  was a great punishment, as well as the embarrassment of having to tell the rest of the team.


Trek kindly lent us two super spec spangly carbon madones for Ruben and our team 4cross rider Dan. We spent a day boxing them up and shoving in all the team jerseys, shoes, socks, helmets ready for the baggage mishandlers to load them into the plane.


We had been watching the weather in Feltre all week and reports looked like we were going to get 3degree cold mountain rain, so we packed down jackets and enough merino to recreate a flock of sheep, but when we arrived we were greeted by sun and that kind of heat you don't get in West Wales. No shorts or flipflops were in the bags.


After a huge pasta lunch in Bassano we drove the bikes and kit upto Feltre to meet Alberto at the Castelli offices. We sat in a room getting the race briefing with jerseys worn and signed by cyclings great names next to Carlos Sastre's 2008 tour bike and a cabinet full of trophies. The feeling of the race was moving from us going to have a laugh, to us going to have to work it with some skilled riders. Alberto gave us all rain race jackets to see us through the event.


We were taken down to the event and unloaded all the kit into Castelli's team tent, and we unpacked, built and tweaked the bikes. Race numbers were zip tied on, and rear lights were fitted as they were mandatory for the night laps. We shoved all the bike bags and boxes in the vans and we were set.


Before the race every team was to be called up onto the stage infront of the gathered crowd to show off their team kit. So at 9.30pm after 107 teams had been introduced 7 non Italian speaking howies riders climbed onto the stage to be introduced and cheered by a great crowd who continued to shout for us to the end of the event. Their support for the only team from Wales was amazing.


The view from the startline is where the main action went on. The crowd sat in the stalls on the left. The course was the left hand lane that passed under the inflatable arches, the pits where you waited for changeover were in the centre behind the  orange barrier pad and under the white awning on the right was the lane you took once you had finished your laps. The burgundy colored mats I am stood on clocked your digital chip on your bike as you passed over them logging your lap time. Behind the Garmin sign at the top of the picture was a clock counting down to the start of the race and eventually to the end of the 24 hours.


And then things happened fast. Helmets were on, glasses got clear lenses fitted, shoe tension was tightened, loosened, tightened, gloves on, electrolytes mixed and the last supper eaten. Three test laps ridden, and then like a dream (and that dream like out of body feeling was to happen allot over the next 24hrs) I am on the start line with 107 other riders all ready to race. Anna from Castelli spotted me in the pack and again, with the care were were treated with all through the event, weaved through the riders, introduced me in broken english to a few "greatly fast riders" and explained the start format. 3 laps behind the safety car, and then the race would begin as it left the course.

The man on the mike was filling the time as it counted down to start time, and the last 5 minutes were spent pulling a rider from the center of the pack and introducing him to the crowd as having just ridden the Giro D'Italia

And as my pulse becomes the dominant sound in my ears I am scared. I have raced bikes for 24 years. Mainly mountain bikes. I have never ridden off a start line on a road bike in a pack behind a car and I have never raced round a city centre at full tilt.

Then the clock drops to 24 hours, the crowd are shouting stuff, the man on the mike goes more crazy than he has already been, there is the cracking of cleats into pedals and the pace car fires off up the road. I am outside left 3 riders back for the first 50 feet. Then I have riders ahead slowing, riders trying to squeeze between my bars and the barriers, but I can't move over because of the riders trying to come through on the right. Brakes are applied, released, gaps appear then closed then we hit the hill and there is no room for one more bike to be funneled up between the barriers that line the course. Once we are at the top of the hill the road drops, the pace really picks up and we string out to the first 90 degree left hand corner. Please don't let me be the one to fall and bring you all down. We rattle the drain covers as we chicane over a small rise into a drop to the next 90 degree left hander. No brakes round, head up against the railings inside the corner, use the full width of the road to sling shot out and then out the saddle hard on the pedals upto full speed to chase down the accelerating bunch who string out into a roaring train heading to the finish. Then it happens again. I am aware that I am riding in a race, in Italy at full speed chasing down pro riders. Suddenly we start to bank left out of the darkness into a spotlight shining right at us and the rumble of the bikes in the pack turns to a roar as we hit the cobbles that corner hard left into the finish line.

And then lap 2 of the warm up begins. Same again, but I am getting the hang of it and when the car finally leave the course the pace of the front riders explodes and we break up into small groups of riders working to break the friction of the air to keep the pace high.

Then with bursting lungs and lactate filled legs I wave to Drew, break right into the exit lane and want to go again.


Drew was our fastest rider, our youngest rider and did the most laps over the race. I would go out on my laps and work as hard as I could to position myself just infront of the super fast pack (by being caught by them) then Drew would roar from the pits straight into their windsheild and off to ride 1.8km in two and a half minutes. Within 3 hours we had worked out the rider schedule as me, Drew, his uncle Paul, Ruben, Dan our team 4cross rider, Harold  and finally Peter who handed back to me. Once we had don our stint of 6 laps it was back to the Castelli tent, out of helmet and shoes, warm jacket, eat, drink, rest, watch some racing, back into race kit, down to the pits and back out.

Dan, who has never ridden a road bike before or been clad in tight lycra came fresh from an accident trying to jump a road on his 4cross bike, to riding the beautiful sleek Madone like a mountain bike complete with flat pedals. He ragged it up the hill like he was just out of a drop start gate and descended through the corners like a demon and came back into the tent with a huge grin on his face. If they had put a small jump in the course he would have been over it. Harold had a tough start. He was posting terrible lap times, until we found that the front brake on his bike was stuck on which was why he was having to pedal hard down the hills to keep the bike moving. Once adjusted he went out and nailed some sub three minute laps.


This was our changing room and bedroom for the whole 24 hours. Male and female riders came and went throughout the race and there was always someone in a state of undress. Broken English conversations discussed form and pace. Even blown out cheeks and eyes raised to the sky worked. Wet clothes were hung in the roof to dry and clean kit was kept in bags on the floor that also doubled as pillows.


As dawn broke Ruben (centre rider) was out with legs fresh from the Edinburgh marathon mixing it with the fast boys, coming round leading his pack and attacking on the hills. The rest of us were looking to the surrounding mountains that had been clear all night and were now making cloud.


Then came the rain. I was out on a 6 lap stint. It came very light at first. Nothing too much to worry about, except the large metal drain covers. Then it came in ernest. The road wetted. When sprinting you could feel the back wheel slipping with reduced traction. Then on my 6th lap as we approached the second 90 degree left hand bend it was clear by the change in the riders line into the bend that there was a problem. Which I found as I dropped the bike into the corner. The front wheel slipped out on the white lines of the zebra crossing that bridged the corner, I caught it but the bike stood upright in the middle of the corner taking me wide across the path of another rider who just missed me by swerving up my inside line and I hit the padded bariers that kept me upright and threw me back out into the race. Back came the fear. As I changed over to Drew I tried to warn him, but he was off at full tilt into 4 very slippy laps before the race was suspended due to the dangers of no traction. It spent the next 6 hours raining hard.


As soon as the racing stopped so did our ability to stay awake. The other teams returned to their hotels. We slept under canvas. Then the air above the mountains cleared. The sun came, they took 6 cars onto the course to drive round it to dry it and they announced that racing would commence in 30 minutes. I was up again to start behind the pace card and I had the fear. There was water on the course still and all I focused on was corner 2, 90 degrees, no brakes, wet white slippy lines and other riders. Three laps behind the pace car was much more sedate this time and as we rolled the heat of the day and the tyres cleared a line, the pace car dropped, full traction returned and then it was on at full pace to the 10pm finish time.


Up to this point we had been the smallest team on the course. Most teams had 8-12 riders. We had 7. As the afternoon set in we were joined by Rolando, a local club rider that came and raced with us to make the minimum required number of 8 riders. He was going out every 3rd rider and pushing 3 laps which eased the work load. Paul in the picture above was also stoically going out and adding to our laps. And when we checked our position instead of being in 2nd from last as we had planned, we were in the mid 80's. Suddenly the team is focused on the finish, the time seems like we will make it and we all want to reign in a few of the teams above us. So we reduced the amount of laps each rider was doing in blocks from 6 to 3.
Then came the last 30 minutes. I went out, nailed three laps and handed over to Paul. He put in two laps and with no other rider ready I put in another three laps and handed over to Drew who caught the fast pack and rode it out to the end. He crossed the line 50 seconds before the 24hr bell went, and got in an extra lap to take Team howies to 332 laps in 24hrs 1 minute and 10 seconds and pegging us at 77th out of 109 teams.

Although he was nearly felled by a massive 6 rider pile up on the sprint finish.

Because we were staying an hour away from Feltre in Bassano, it was 10pm, the hotel closed at 12pm and we needed to eat we had to run. They awarded us a prize for the team that traveled the furthest to get the event, the mayor shook hands, gave us champagne and we headed off the the van to cheers to pack down the bikes.

At 1.30am we were sat in Bassano, eating bruschetta , drinking beer and wine and chatting through our highlights. Then as the alcohol sunk in so the fatigue grew and we headed to bed, without even showering. And despite wearing, living, sleeping and racing in them for 24 hours, the merino sprint jerseys did not smell.

This snipet of video will show you the fast pack coming through, riders waving in the pits to acknowledge they are on, 3 riders joining the race, then Ruben in blue accelerating out the pits followed by a small bunch following through.

We have already signed up for next year.

Thanks to Alberto, Anna, Castelli and Feltre for the hospitality, the kit, the food and the invite. Thanks to Rolando for working all night and then coming to race for us. Thanks to smartwool for the socks. We only used one pair each. Thanks to Trek for lending lovely bikes at short notice to unprofessional athletes. Thanks to Wiggle for a deal on stuff.

Roll on 2012

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