Whether you are lapping your local trail, having an adventure in your own backyard or traveling the globe in search of unridden singletrack, mountain bikes are vehicles that provide you with opportunities for taking a journey. Mountain bikes also move us all to hit the road and experience new areas. Road trips and mountain biking go together like cheap tequila and drunken adventures. Planning and setting out on road for pastures new or far away with a group of friends is, possibly, the best part of mountain biking. Or at least that’s how it feels when you are five days into a weeklong bender/ride-athlon, which day of the week it is has seized to matter, personal hygiene standards are grossly relaxed, the assembled group has bonded well and each day’s experiences seem to, somehow, outdo the day previous.
This week for Friday Five we look at a few simple laws or rules for road tripping. There’s much more to the perfect road trip but these vital pointers are often overlooked.
1. Everything will take longer than you think.
This is no solo mission where you only have yourself to organize. More people means more faff, mechanicals and toilet breaks. You’d think that to calculate the extra time required would be a case of just multiplying the margin for error by the amount of people on the trip. However, this is not the case. For example, on a recent trip we had six riders which meant six bikes to break down and set up every morning and night, six stomachs to feed and empty, and six guys waiting for the shower, but it’s impossible for six people to use the same Allen key, make a sandwich or clean up after themselves at the same time.
The general rule is that if a ride should take two hours it will probably take four-and-a-half. It will take an extra hour to get there and get ready, an extra hour on the trail and another 30 minutes to find the car key when you get back to the vehicle. So don’t fight it, just accept that the time vampires will be constantly gnawing at your plans.
2. Plan alternative non-bike antics and adventures.
Riding is the reason for the trip but it’s not always what will leave the most vivid memories, scars or tales to share. Also, no one really wants to ride for 12 hours, sleep and repeat. Well, not anyone that would make for good company on a road trip. So organize some extracurricular activities. Visit the local brewery, find the best lake to jump in, set challenges and games, drink like it’s the last time you’ll ever be free from work obligations, engage with the community you are visiting or just attempt to say yes to everything.
3. Turn off the phone/iPod/laptop.
It’s time to get away and just be in the moment with your chosen road trip buddies so don’t sit fingering the glass when you could be talking/teasing/challenging each other. In particular, when seated together for meals pile everyone’s phone in the middle of the table with the strict rule that the first person to reach for their phone must suffer a forfeit determined by the group.
4. Rules is rules.
Establish a strong set of rules and corresponding punishments for disobeying. Contrary to what you may be thinking, these are to enhance the fun factor not detract from it. The phone pile can be one and the price for disobeying the directive could be that the violator must pay for dinner. We took a small cowbell with us on our latest trip and each day a feat of strength would determine who would wear the cowbell on their pack for the entire ride. Sounds pretty weak, but I swear that bell would get louder as the day wore on.
5. Make it an adventure.
Have a strong idea of where you want to go, but leave it all open to random acts of brilliance. Go to the local shop, buy a map and talk to people. Often trails aren’t perfectly mapped and marked. However, the real fun only begins when you start getting lost and exploring.