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4 August 2015 No comments

The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club - Taking a Classic Book for a Very Long Cycle Ride

Correspondence Friends Monthly highlights Travel & Adventure Cycling Stories
The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club - Taking a Classic Book for a Very Long Cycle Ride
Boat - Holland ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ is one of those classic old adventure books that your dad (or grandad!) probably thrust upon you at an early age, but which you haven’t much thought about since. It tends to sit on the shelf alongside books like ‘The 39 Steps’, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ and ‘Treasure Island’. It’s a tale of two plucky Englishmen - Carruthers and Davies - sailing around the Baltic and the Frisian Islands in the early 1900s intent on foiling a dastardly German plot. It’s full of atmosphere, curiously specific about dates and locations, and fantastically good at making the adventures of these two Edwardian gents feel very very real. So real, in fact, that you might be tempted to think you could go out and follow this adventure yourself. And that is exactly what my friend Lloyd and I intend to do. We want to take one of our favourite books out for a long long trip, going where the book tells us to go each day, trying to do what the characters do as much as possible  - and recording every day what we get up to all the time on our website. It’s our intention to create a month-long web adventure show and a brand new hardback edition of this classic book, that will also contain a record of our own adventures - and all the information you’d need for undertaking a ‘#rotsadventure’ of your own. We’re currently trying to raise money for this venture at Unbound. Just £25 gets you the book, access to the web adventure, plus an e-book and a ‘field recorded’ audiobook. CYCLING NOT SAILING Obviously in the book, Carruthers & Davies sail the whole way through the story. But if we tried that, not only might we find the weather against us, but we’d only have each other to talk to and film - and frankly we’d probably kill ourselves given our rank inability to sail a boat safely. Instead we’re planning to cycle along a coastal route and persuade more experienced sailors to take us out on boats at key points in the story. Cycling is a great option for us since it more or less guarantees we’ll keep on track date-wise, and we can plan breaks where we meet and interview interesting local people, record the audiobook and film dramatic land- and seascapes. Cycling is also something that historically speaking would have been very much in vogue at the time of the book. More and more people in the 1900s would have been taking Continental biking holidays (in the spirit of another rather doable ‘adventure’ book of the period: Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men on the Bummel’). Cycling was also liberating a lot of women at the time, allowing them to travel independently for quite long distances, and also to wear more practical (aka ‘rational’) clothes rather than traditional skirts and corsets. Do read our post on cycling women of the 1900s if you like here, and listen to our podcast on the same subject here. The only trouble with this seemingly practical approach to adventuring with an adventure book (well, slightly less impractical anyway) is that we’re about as experienced cyclists as we are as sailors. So quite what kind of bikes we should be riding on this trip, and what extra kit and accessories we’ll need, is up for debate. In fact I’m rather hoping that readers of this blog might be able to advise us. To be clear this not a historical enactment project, but a modern replaying of classic adventure, so we’re not going to be using 1900 bicycles - although it’s rather tempting to root out an old Humber that would have been on sale at the time and give it a go. For the most part we’ll be cycling on roads and cycle paths (we’re favouring the use of http://www.opencyclemap.org/ as our chief guide). There may be some moments on the Frisians when we’ll need to go ‘off-road’ a bit alongside canals or across hard sand. This makes me think we should be opting for some kind of touring bike - light but robust enough wheel and tyres that are not going to risk a lot of punctures (famous last words). We won’t be cycling at night that much, but it will be the autumn, so the weather could be a bit grey and windy. We’re not having to move that fast since we’re progressing at sail boat pace. The most we’ll have to cycle in any given day will be 75km. Most days it’ll be a lot less and the good news is that our route is generally pretty flat. I’ve already had a good read of Tom Allen’s excellent blog on planning a bike tour, which contains many useful reviews of a number of touring products. Being a reasonable chap, Tom makes it clear that there’s no one-size fits all, although he clearly rather likes the Surly Long Haul Trucker (with Brooks saddle of course). Given we’re crowdfunding this project at fairly low cost, we can’t really go for the most luxurious option, and I’d like to put the budget for a bike down at nearer £600 rather than the £1200 that lot of them seem to hover around. I like the idea of buying British because I think that’s what Carruthers would do. (Dawes, maybe?) And I also need something that I can attach two bags to, or even a trailer, since we’ll be out in the field for 10 days at a time and will have a lot of kit with us for live streaming, filming, audio recording etc.

So bike aficionados, what is your advice? What kind of bike should Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club members be using for this trip? And am I missing some very obvious accessories that I should be taking? You can add some comments here or on our Facebook page - or better still, join us on http://riddleofthesands.net/, become a member of the club, share your stories and your knowledge. And don’t forget to pledge to the book at Unbound (a mere £25) - and ultimately see where a great old book might take *you*… http://unbound.co.uk/books/riddle-of-the-sands.