Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra decided to push herself, and the Endurance SL to the limit loading it up and taking it down south for a bike-packing wild camping adventure.
Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra is no stranger to riding long distances, but this ride was fully loaded and she and two friends set off for the 330km ride down south at 2am?! Here she tells us how the ride pushed her (and the Endurance SL) to the limit.
The plan was simple. Ride 330km south to Dartmoor National Park where myself and two friends would wildcamp.
After months in lockdown and the itch to get out and wild camp getting bigger, as soon as were given the green light off we went with tents, bivys, and our trusty stove strapped to our bikes for a mini-adventure.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. After a number of flats, mechanicals, and the downright freezing cold weather at 4am, the lure of a warm bed did tempt us back home.
However, the achievement of completing the 330km ride with around 4000m elevation on a loaded bike was more exciting than that warm bed.
We set off from Shrewsbury at 2am. Why 2am? Why not? It seemed a nice quiet time to head out and there’s something so serene about riding when everyone else is asleep – or still out at the pubs which they were in Shrewsbury town centre as we left. There were a few double-takes at the oddballs on bikes in the middle of the night.
Our bikes were packed with everything we would need to eat, sleep, and for my mate Greg – shower (turns out it was a fancy a nozzle for a water bottle to give him a two minute water blast).
I decided to take my Endurance SL. I’ve done a lot of my longer rides on this bike so know it’s a cracker for long days in the saddle, but wanted to test it out fully loaded. I had a Tailfin AeroPack attached to the rear of the bike carrying all of my camping gear. I also had an Apidura front roll bag with extra clothing it if got cold. Which it did. I actually had a few mardy tears at one point because it was so cold. That was the moment that probably pushing me to my limits if I’m honest and riding back home did cross my mind. A few times.
After around 40km just as dawn was breaking we got a flat. And then another. And then a small mechanical. Nothing too serious but enough to have us stopped for at least an hour. The sun was just about to come up but it was unbelievably cold. We somehow managed to get our fingers to prise off the tyres and repair it.
For my friend Greg this was about to be his longest day in the saddle – although he had toured across Africa with a fully loaded bike. For me the challenge was carrying all the extra stuff. I have ridden this distance a fair few times but not with all the extra weight. This was where I massively underestimated how much that extra weight would take off our speed. But it’s all an adventure isn’t it? No rush, just enjoying being out and riding bikes with your mates.
40km turned into 80, 80 to 160. There were the laughs, highs and the lows in equal measure. There were some deep conversations about where we should eat, whether dynamos were worth the cash, and also who had the most luxurious camping set up. Turns out it definitely wasn’t my friend Richard who couldn’t get his tent up so turned it into a makeshift bivy. This was pushing him to his limit. But we all just laughed it off and he has now decided to use the tent as a bivy from now on. Whatever works eh?
We rode through multiple counties and even brushed the outskirts of Wales. At 300km we got to Exeter. At this point, we were pretty tired and there was talk of a cheap hotel. But after a quick stop at Tesco (just as they were closing), the extra calories gave us a boost for the last 30km – which turned out was all uphill. And not just any hills. Some absolute monsters of steep climbs. Not what you really fancy after 14 hours in the saddle.
But we were determined to be able to sleep under the stars so off we went. We found the gate to enter the legal zone for wild camping but it took us at least an hour to hike-a-bike our fully-loaded steeds. We also got a bit lost – but it all adds to the adventure.
We found our spot and after a lot of laughs trying to see what we were doing, we finally bedded down for the night. For my friend Greg, this was his longest ride. This was him being pushed to his limits. There were definitely celebrations with some porridge the following morning.
The trip was always going to be three days so we took in some of the sights of Dartmoor, frequented many a supermarket, rode through quite possibly the most Disney-esque village I’ve ever seen – Lustleigh. Google it, it’s phenomenal. Or if you want some very short but very steep climbs I can recommend riding through it. We also did a bit of gravel, then rode over to Oddicombe beach which is meant to be the UK’s answer to the French Riviera. The weather wasn’t quite as spectacular as the south of France but we did see seals swimming really close to the shore which was definitely a highlight.
For me though, the real highlight of these types of trips are the small things. The laughs you have when you can’t get your tent up, the wrong turns at 3am, the squabbles over food stops, the absolute joy in getting food from a supermarket about to close up, but really it’s about the people you do it with. If you can put up with each other riding 330km when you’re covered in sweat, dirty, with food on your face, and still have an epic time, then you know you have friends for life. I would definitely encourage you to take a trip like this. It doesn’t need to be far, but just enough to push you out of your comfort zone because that’s where the real memories begin.
Click HERE to check out the full route.
You can also watch the short film of the trip HERE.