No one should need to look for a reason to get out on a bike at the weekend, but when the working week is long and the Sunday mornings are dark a little bit of extra stimulation doesn’t hurt to get you going. I had been aware of the Dark and White series for a few years, but I had never got involved. It all looked a bit competitive, it cost money while I could just go out and ride my bike by myself for free. Why would I want to go chasing little boxes around the countryside… why wouldn’t I?As one of this years sponsors it was time to give this ago.
The principle is simple - you have a start point and a finish point, the organisers map out some 20 points in the surrounding countryside for you to visit. There is no predefined route, you make that up yourself and that’s the bit that gives me a buzz. There is a time limit, so you don’t need to miss your Sunday roast. You have just 3 hours on a TrailQuest - this includes receiving your map and plotting your route, a task that can really make or break your ride, no matter how fit you are. Back late and you start losing all of those hard earned points.
It is rather like orienteering on a bike. First up you have to register with the BMBO, it doesn’t cost anything for a day pass and you can do it all online. When you arrive you get given a small plastic widget called a dibber. It has a unique number, and you use it to clock in to each checkpoint.
Most people were on mountain bikes, a few on cross bikes, I had commandeered the Sonder Cahoot titanium tandem for the weekend, Ashleigh was going to provide the power at the back.
All ready to go and it was time to dib the dibber for the first time and the clock was running! We were handed our map and snuck back into the warmth of the Scout Hut to pour over it. It was at this point I realised we didn’t have anything to mount the map to the bike, this would severely slow us down… uh oh were we getting competitive!?
20 minutes later we had the map zip tied to the bars, a rough route in our heads and we were riding.
The first checkpoint was straight up a hill, it was only 10 points but we were off the mark. As we moved further from the start the points increased, first 15 points right up to a tantalising 20! Time was ticking away fast, we had already used half of our time but we couldn’t resist going after a big scoring checkpoint. With this in the bag we needed to start heading back. Rather than taking the road we kept offroad - slower but more interesting riding.
With another 15 points in the bag a check on the time indicated we had just 10 minutes to get back. We hit the nearest main road and got our heads down. Suddenly our easy going approach had gone awol - we now had hard won points to protect!
Pulling into the finish we dibbed for the final time and the clock was stopped. We grabbed a brew and joined the other riders handing in their dibbers. We didn’t have to wait long, it is a slick operation. Upon handing in the dibber you get a full print out of your points - minus any penalties for overrunning, 12 points was our damage - not too bad. Unfortunately points are not doubled on a tandem - even if they were we still would not have been anywhere near the overall winner!
The event was wrapped up with a small prize giving, some more tea and thoughts turned to the next event. What I liked about the Trailquest was that even if you don’t have a competitive personality you can still get a lot out of the format. Whether it is an excuse to ride somewhere new or even to ride somewhere you know but in an entirely new way.
If like me you have been putting off entering a Trailquest don't delay - get yourself fuelled up over Christmas - there are 3 more to go at in the new year.
Round 2 | Great Longstone | 8/01/17
Round 3 |12th February2017
Round 4 | 12th March2017