Well! This competition has been something of a revelation. Mainly in terms of the sheer variety of trip ideas submitted.
Who’d have thought that there were folk out there planning to tour the breweries of the world, explore countries while researching historical-mythological novels, use bike touring to find a new home, and string lectures along the route of pedal-powered journeys?
There’s something really reassuring about all of this. There’s an abundance of imagination and passion out there. It’s inspirational to get an glimpse of it through this giveaway, this tiny cross-section of the adventurous journeys that are taking shape right now, not just here in the UK but all across the planet.
Unfortunately I only have a single bicycle to give away. I wish I had one for everyone who entered! Before revealing the ‘winner’, though, I’d like to go into a little more detail about what I was looking for — what kind of a trip plan I considered appropriate and in keeping with the ethos of the #freeLEJOG experiment:
More than anything else, this project arose from the sheer spirit of adventure; the spirit of saying bollocks to institutionalised thinking, throwing oneself wholeheartedly at the unknown, putting one’s fate in the hands of the universe. A scary thing to do, a grand départ from the comfort zone, and an experience guaranteed to be valuable, memorable and absolutely worthwhile.
I was looking primarily for trip plans formed along these lines. There were lots to choose from!
Space to reap the true rewards of adventure is provided by keeping things simple and flexible, allowing for failures, lessons, changes of direction, departures from pre-planned itineraries, departures from expectations. This ruled out trip plans built on tight schedules and complicated concepts; trips whose success depended on being in certain places at certain times.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with plans like this. But it is not quite what I wanted to get at with this project — especially when a less-than-100%-reliable bike is concerned. A shortlist began to form.
“A life without risk is not worth living,” said someone significantly wiser than me. The strongest learning experiences come out of the greatest hardships, and doing something involving a complete paradigm shift and a move to a totally unfamiliar environment is a sure recipe for challenges of that kind.
This swung the balance in favour of people with less travelling experience who were pushing the boat all the way out.
There was no shortage whatsoever of imaginative trip plans submitted for this competition. However, some entrants took this on board for the actual entries themselves, going to considerable pains to convince us that their idea should be chosen. Someone who demonstrated imagination this early on would surely have little trouble innovating solutions to the inevitable hurdles and challenges of touring on a no-budget bike.
This consideration had the effect of elevating a few particularly compelling efforts above the remainder of briefer, vaguer entries.
Finally, I was looking for a trip that was not overplanned or overthought; for someone who’d see the opportunity to take off on an adventure, find the next available space in their calendar (or make one) and go. On that note, trip plans that were ready to roll within days or weeks took precedence over those slated for departure months into the future.
The bike is begging to be ridden somewhere. Summer won’t last forever. So the sooner, the better!
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There was one entry in particular that demonstrated all of the above qualities really well. And I think we’ll all agree that Tegan Phillips is a deserving ‘winner’ of the temporary stewardship of this set of adventure-enabling tools and the opportunity to use them for a truly enviable adventure. Just check out her fantastic video entry:
Who wouldn’t want to see that happen?!?
I’ll be encouraging Tegan to pass on the bike and kit in the same spirit, putting her in touch with other deserving entrants whose plans for a little later in the year might match up with the end of her own trip.
As I said before — in true clichéd manner — everyone who entered this competition is a winner, really. All these plans are out there. Commitments have been made, dates have been set! And I have no doubt that each of these entrants will, as a result of vocalising their plans, feel a renewed impetus to make them happen, with or without a pile of free gear (which is really nothing more than a brief head-start).
I’m hoping many of them will be good enough to share their tales from the road in future editions of this blog.
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A special mention to Will, whose awesome idea to ‘relay’ this bike around the world has really got me thinking.
It occurred to me that there are plenty of veteran cycle tourers in this community with cupboards of kit and garages of bikes all woefully under-used and gathering dust… perhaps we could get these bikes out on the road and adventuring again?
Imagine: you pass on a bike, a tent, a stove, or a pair of panniers (or all of the above). It gets handed from person to person; they use it for as long as is relevant; they pass it on in trust that the new user and keeper will do likewise.
The resulting series of stories that might emerge, as the bikes and gear passed from one person to the next, would hardly be making it ‘about the bike ‘, as was suggested in one comment — rather, it’d continue to demonstrate that cycle touring isn’t about possessions or notions of ownership, nor the ability to choose the perfect gear.
Instead, it’d show that it’s possible to make these journeys with and on whatever bike and gear comes to hand — regardless of where it came from and how you came across it. In other words… it’s not about the bike. (Am I even allowed to say that any more?)
Come on, ye who profess to be about inspiring future adventurers — now’s the chance to prove it! Who’s in?
Seriously. If you’ve got a working touring bike and/or touring gear gathering dust (no matter how basic), and you’d be up for pooling it for generations of future bicycle travellers to ride and share their stories, get in touch!