“Experience” is often coded language for “learning through failure.” While it’s true that the stickiest lessons are the ones we learn by trying and not succeeding (often repeatedly!), there’s also a lot to be said for astutely observing and listening to the pros and learning from their failures. From relationships to career planning to, I dunno, being a decent cook in the kitchen, the real pros always seem to have that one little trick up their sleeve, their one golden nugget of hard-won wisdom that can help to put you on the right path. We wanted to compile a goldmine’s worth of those nuggets relating to adventure cycling and Swift Campout, so we posed the following query to our extended fam:
Tell us about one great lesson — big or small, serious or fun, philosophical or just plain helpful — that’s applicable to adventure cycling and/or group bike-camping, and that you had to learn the hard way.
On the front end of trip planning, there are lots of lessons to apply. We covered some of these a couple weeks back in our “It’s All Fun ‘n Games” installment, but several new things to consider during your planning phase came up, and several bear repeating. Swift head honcho Martina leaned into the group dynamic topic: “Choose your travel buddies carefully and match your pace and expectations to the lowest common denominator in the crew. Trip planning with a group is always better when group dynamics and personal stressors are talked about before the adventure starts.” The more of these types of trips you go on, the more you realize that, when it’s all said and done, the group dynamic, above all else, is the thing you’ll remember most. Best to suss out what needs to be sussed out during the planning phase — like, for example, Watson’s beta, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re unsure of the route, seek intel. Cache water if needed!,” the last bit of which is especially applicable in desert environments and/or droughty times.
“Don’t take mental preparedness for granted,” says our friend Duncan. But what does that look like? Minding your headspace and expectations, managing anxieties in the runup to go-time is important. It’s key to remind yourself that, even if it’s challenging, it’s supposed to be FUN! And it’s even more fun if you’re properly prepared. Bill at Ride Bicycles hit the nail on the head: “Make sure everything you planned to pack is packed. Checklists help. Nothing like showing up to camp and getting dinner out only to realize your stove is on the counter at home!” And to that point, ilana, Swift’s head of design, adds, “Pack light! Clean clothes and smelling good are overrated. And always plan to eat twice as much as you think you will.” Our marketing guy, Todd, says, “if you think you packed enough spare Swift Straps or Voiles to get you out of a busted gear pinch, you didn’t; throw in a couple more!” (see photo below!) And speaking of repairs, Blaire C. adds, “always carry a solid tool kit. I’ve joked that maybe I don’t know how to use a specific tool in my kit, but I bet I can find someone who does!” All of these tips will add to your peace of mind before you even take your first pedal stroke.
We got a lot of responses centering on being a good team player on a group ride; some great stuff to keep in mind during planning, as well as throughout the duration of the ride! Rob at Cambridge Bicycle says, “It’s not a race! Taking it easy and not overdoing it is a critical one that will lead to you having more fun individually and with your group too.” And Mitch from Black Saddle agrees, “Group rides are fun rides! I used to worry about ‘just getting there, but now I truly don’t care how long it takes. I can do a solo ride if I want to keep a strict agenda.”
Adam C, says, “humility goes a long way. In a hobby that has a lot of cost prohibitive and fitness hurdles, remaining humble and accepting of others goes a long way!” And Chris J adds, “Be flexible. There have been multiple trips where we’d planned bigger days and more miles than we were capable of or ready for. As the sun sets, expectations and plans were changed. Impromptu camp sites were found and memories made.” Yes to this! Rigidly hitching the group morale to distance or time objectives, or the ideal camp spot, can be a setup for splitting up the group mid-ride and a recipe for a gnarly group dynamic breakdown — been there, done that, and guilty as charged!
Speaking of splitting up a group, a great thing to keep in mind if you are in a group that has decided to distribute gear, tools, food, etc. across the group to lighten the load, it’s imperative that you discuss the ride being a strict no-drop policy. That means you do not lose site of the people at the back, and vice-versa. This here author limped into camp well after dark on a flat tire after walking for miles because the group had decided to distribute tools across riders… and then half the group sprinted ahead to camp with the only pump. Now I just carry my own stuff, every time, which photographer Aaron L. (who was actually on that ride) fully concurs with, “Just suck it up & carry your own shit. That way you are responsible for everything you might need along the way.“
Another great tip to be filed under sensible and practical, from our friend Jessica at Ponderosa Cyclery: “Always fill your water bottle when you can. Even if the next opportunity comes when you’ve only had a few gulps. Chug a bit, and refill. If nothing else, you’ll have plenty when you’re making breakfast and coffee in the morning, hopefully.”
We talked a lot in the “It’s All Fun ‘n Games” episode about managing emotions especially when things start heading south. It’s so much easier to do that if you start in the right headspace, and we received a handful of helpful reminders here. “Don’t worry too much about breaking down or getting lost. It’s nice to remember that only assholes don’t stop to help. So in the worst case you’ll likely get to meet an incredibly nice person if (when) shit hits the fan,” says photographer Brian L. Echoing that sentiment, Kelly, our head of production, says, “Mechanicals, injuries, getting lost are all part of the fun.” There’s a scientifically-proven direct correlation between amount of perceived challenge and amount of perceived fun (as recalled by the group-mind after the event) — that’s Type II Fun! But in the moment, it can be hard to cast your thoughts to that kind of future scenario. Let the ever eloquent Brandon H remind you now that, “The body always has deeper wells of strength & endurance. The mind, greatly more willpower than we imagine. (Both have their limits too.)” A great thing to keep as a mantra to help get you through the challenging moments.
Hope this helps! Got some hard-won wisdom to share with the community? Chime in on the comments in our Instagram 🙂 Happy Camping, Campers!