It is just over a year since my last post here. How this has happened, I do not exactly know. What has taken place during the past twelve months? In some senses, many things. In others, none at all.
The trip along the Colorado Trail was amazing. There are some images here and below, and some half written words that I will get around to finishing and publishing soon(ish). The effect of the altitude for us sea-level dwellers was significant and slowed our progress – we spent almost as much time hanging out in Breckenridge, Leadville, Salida and Denver as we did riding, and in the end headed back from Salida to Denver to catch our flight. The remaining portion of the trail from Salida to Durango remains unfinished business, but we had no regrets – we met some awesome people in those days (here and here), and returned yearning once again to spend more time outdoors and in the mountains. Harry has in fact made that a reality, moving back to his native South Africa as a co-owner of iRideAfrica.
Aside from the Colorado Trail, work dominated 2015 and the first few months of 2016 until the low oil price caused even the environmental consulting work that had previously remained relatively consistent, to slowly dry up. For now, at least. Plans were made for a summer and autumn following the warmth southwards in the USA. Plans were changed. I found myself somewhat unexpectedly, but happily, travelling in South East Asia, and then Greece. My flat in London is still let out, and the rooms I called home for the last nine months are empty. My belongings are once again in boxes, mostly filling up one end of my brother’s garage.
In January I head to Mexico, to ride the Baja Divide with a group of people who have provided inspiration and motivation from afar over the past few years. The flight is already booked. For now, I’m back in Greece, for a few months of slow exploration, starting with the Bike Odyssey route, which uses dirt roads to cross the Greek mainland from close to the Albanian border in the North, to the Gulf of Corinth in the South. There’s a great account of a similar journey here and here, although my route will be slightly different to that taken by Nicholas and Lael. At the end of this route I’ll continue southwards, picking my way across the Peloponnese, and then perhaps move onto Crete. But the plan is loose. I’ve hardly ridden a bike in the past 4 months. My strong commuting legs have all but disappeared and so things will start slowly, with the focus on taking my time and enjoying the camping, mountains, gradual return to fitness, and a little bit of solitude.
So, after a few days in the heat close to Athens, the bike was wrapped at the airport for the 6 hour bus journey up to Grevena, in the slightly cooler north. The wrapping seemed to work (it arrived intact) but I can tell you that when used on a partly loaded mountain bike, those machines that spin your bags whilst wrapping them in cellophane require some careful balancing (on the operator’s part), a nervously clenched jaw (on the bike owner’s), and don’t seem to have a ‘very slow for large, heavy and delicate items’ speed setting…
Keen eyes may have spotted that there is also a new bike. On recent trips, and whilst watching people like Cass, Joe and Mike exploring on fat-bikes over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself yearning to try some fatter tyres. Following the majority of the bike industry like a sheep, I jumped onto the 27.5+ bandwagon and picked up a Jamis Dragonslayer when they were released in the UK earlier this year. It’s steel, relatively cheap and comes with a few features to make it a little more bikepacking friendly. And it has an awesome name. The 3 inches of rubber on the 27.5 inch rims with which the Dragonslayer is equipped might just hit a sweet spot between weight, efficiency, traction and cushioning (if you believe the marketing hype). Or they might just be fun to ride, which seems to be the case from a few unloaded rides in the UK. I’ve upgraded a few things from the stock spec, swopping to a Thompson seatpost, trusted Brooks Cambium saddle, a riser bar with wide, extra chunky ESI grips, Maxxis Chronicle tyres, SLX brakes, and adding a SON 28 15 dynamo hub to the front wheel.
I’m currently in that pre-start phase of wondering what on earth I’m doing, how I’ve got so much stuff with me despite thinking that I’d been more careful than ever before, struggling with a new language particularly given that it also involves a different alphabet, and wondering when I might next get a shower. But I’m sure that this will all pass once I set off into the Pindus National Park tomorrow, and that the calm, familiar simplicity of just needing to focus on pedaling and the search for food, water and a spot to camp for the night, will return. Fingers crossed!
Featured image at the top of this post and on the Home Page is courtesy of Harry Millar.