Bikepacking Around the UK Coast
Andrew Mathias has just completed a 60-day ride around the coast of the UK mainland, starting and leaving from his hometown in South Wales. We caught up with Andrew a couple of weeks ago, as he passed through London, to discover what he’d learnt on his 8,000km journey.
Like many others, Andrew Mathias discovered the appeal of two-wheeled travel through a simple commute. But – also like many other others – that daily commute soon extended to weekend rides, and before long he was doing longer distance efforts such as Wales to Paris, and LEJOG (Lands’ End to John O’Groats). Having now signed up to race the TransAtlantic Way in 2018, Andrew wanted to embark on a journey that would go some way in preparing him for such an event, as well as providing an adventure in itself. He chose the UK, his homeland, to discover what life on the road is like, and here is what he found…
“Even before I left, I learnt something. I learnt that there’s a danger that you can plan and plan and plan, but that if you let it, there’s a chance that nothing will materialise from those plans. You could end up worrying about this and that, then putting something off, and years can go by.
You just need to get on with it and start. You don’t really know for sure how you’ll cope until you’re out there, but you have to leave to find out.”
“Once you’ve left on a trip, you very quickly work out what you do and don’t need, and after a few days on the road, I decided that if I wasn’t using anything then I would discard it. I’ve learnt that there’s a specific order in which to pack stuff, so that you don’t end up rooting around in the bottom of a Pack, searching for something you need, at an inconvenient time. It’s all about efficiency, and working out the best way to fit the jigsaw together.”
Follow your nose
“I planned out my route before I left, using my GPS to navigate, and as a result I haven’t travelled further than three miles from the coast. However, when I’m able to, I like to follow my nose and explore. If you spend too long looking at a Garmin, you can get too distracted with things like your speed, the time, or whatever, and not taking in what’s around you.
The fact that I’ve been riding new roads every day since I left is a big part of what keeps me motivated, so I tend not to think about what’s coming up ahead too much. I think it’s good to know where you’re going, but also that it’s good to just ride whatever is in front of you. I want to discover places first hand, upon arrival.”
Be prepared for adversity
“As much as you might love cycling, you have to accept that if you intend on riding every day for two months, there will come a point where you’d rather not be on the bike. You might not be in the mood; you may have a headwind and rain to deal with, or it could just be one of those days where every time you look up, it feels as though the view hasn’t changed. On days like that you just need to adopt an accepting mindset, think to yourself: “Well, I’ll be there in a few hours,” and get on with it.
Your body can do a lot more than you think – it’s often just a case of getting your mind on board as well. Looking back on it, the hard times will be the bits where you feel like you’ve done yourself proud.”
Meeting people is part of the journey
“A big part of my journey has been the people I’ve met, either randomly, or through the Warmshowers hosts that I’ve stayed with. It’s worth remembering that the stories you hear and the characters that you meet are as much a part of the journey as the landscapes you ride through.”
There’s no place like home
“My geography and general knowledge of the UK was pretty poor before I started, but now I feel that I can relate to regions, people, and places around the country much better. It’s been fantastic to be able to get to know the place I’m from in such an immersive way.”