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A Weekend Adventure

Finding out how equally great the Cairn E-Adventure 1.0 can be as a non-electric bikepacking rig

4 September 2020

Early in September, while we still had decent sun and long(ish) days, me and my girlfriend, Summer, went to visit some friends in Cambridge. The idea was to ride our bikes there by avoiding tarmac as much as we could and sleeping in a tent at night. Thankfully, down south, we are blessed with a network of gravel paths connecting AONBs so creating a nice route and finding a campsite wasn't an issue.

The only catch was that this was Summer's first long distance adventure. Having ridden a max of 32 miles on her MTB once before, she was initially worried we wouldn't make it. I, on the other hand, was convinced she had the fitness and the fact that the route was fairly flat along the way helped me to persuade her to do it.

This was also a great opportunity for me to find out how the Cairn E-Adventure behaves as a non-electric bike by swapping the Fazua motor & battery with a downtube cover which neatly fitted 3 spare inner tubes and some tools.

The Route

We decided to split our adventure into 3 days, with the last day returning to Harlow where we would catch the train back to Brighton.

First leg was from Brighton to Merstham where we found a really nice campsite to stay for the night. The route took us onto the Downs Link which is a 100% gravel path connecting the South Downs and the North Downs. Once the Downs Link ended we joined the North Downs all the way to our campsite.

For our second leg of the journey, we decided to jump on a train and skip the majority of London as riding wouldn't have been as enjoyable and we wanted to make sure we got to Cambridge before dark. We took a series of gravel paths across endless fields and through some small forests.

The third day saw us ride along one of the routes of the National Cycle Way until we joined a canal path from Bishop Strotford to Harlow.

Click on the images to see the full details taken from Komoot

A Weekend Adventure Pt 1
A Weekend Adventure Pt 2
A Weekend Adventure Pt 3

The Route

We decided to split our adventure into 3 days, with the last day returning to Harlow where we would catch the train back to Brighton.

First leg was from Brighton to Merstham where we found a really nice campsite to stay for the night. The route took us onto the Downs Link which is a 100% gravel path connecting the South Downs and the North Downs. Once the Downs Link ended we joined the North Downs all the way to our campsite.

For our second leg of the journey, we decided to jump on a train and skip the majority of London as riding wouldn't have been as enjoyable and we wanted to make sure we got to Cambridge before dark. We took a series of gravel paths across endless fields and through some small forests.

The third day saw us ride along one of the routes of the National Cycle Way until we joined a canal path from Bishop Strotford to Harlow.

Click on the images to see the full details taken from Komoot.

A Weekend Adventure Pt 1
A Weekend Adventure Pt 2
A Weekend Adventure Pt 3
Downs Link 1

The Start

We set off around 8 am and after a short stretch along the seafront we jumped straight on the Downs Link. This path is 37 miles and was built on old railroad tracks and is a great way to go north to safely, surrounded by lush green fields and trees along the entire way. Also happens to be one of the best work commutes for me as it runs past Partridge Green (Cairn Cycles' HQ).

Downs Link 2

Sandy Surrey

After reaching Guildford, which is the end of the Downs Link, we joined the North Downs Way going through Surrey. This part was particularly fun and was a mixture of singletrack descents and really steep climbs where I wish I had the support of the Fazua motor as I happened to be carrying both of our gear for the journey!

Surrey Hills - Stan
Surrey Hills - Summer
Surrey Hills 1

Getting lost is always part and parcel of a good adventure!

Surrey Hills 2

Getting our feet wet was part of the plan, I promise...

Surrey Hills 3

Just this hill and it's all flat from here. (Famous last words)

Box Hill (The Hard Way Up)

I couldn't miss the opportunity to show Summer one of the most iconic climbs in the UK. I knew that the roads around the climb will be busy as it was a gorgeous day out so decided it will be better to climb it via a gravel path that didn't seem that bad on the map. It only had a little note from Komoot saying:

 

Komoot Warning

 

Should've known better...

At least when we got to the top, the view was amazing and we found a great spot for a late afternoon snack.

Box Hill (The Hard Way Up)

I couldn't miss the opportunity to show Summer one of the most iconic climbs in the UK. I knew that the roads around the climb will be busy as it was a gorgeous day out so decided it will be better to climb it via a gravel path that didn't seem that bad on the map. It only had a little note from Komoot saying:

 

Komoot Warning

 

Should've known better...

At least when we got to the top, the view was amazing and we found a great spot for a late afternoon snack.

Camping

We set up camp just before dark and started looking where we could grab some food.

Pizza time

One Google search and 30 minutes later, pizza arrived at our tent courtesy of a local pizza place that actually delivered to the campsite. Kudos!

Camping

We set up camp just before dark and started looking where we could grab some food.

Pizza time

One Google search and 30 minutes later, pizza arrived at our tent courtesy of a local pizza place that actually delivered to the campsite. Kudos!

Cairn on the train

Day Two

We didn't want to cycle through busy London so instead, caught the train and jumped off on the other side at Edgware. Some 10 miles later, we were in the countryside and away from busy traffic.

Needless to say, it was back to smiles for miles...

Summer Smiling

When Nature Throws Some Obstacles

In the weeks before this adventure, we were sitting in our flat, looking at the 80 mph winds and heavy rain, hoping that it will all go away in time for our trip.

Thankfully it did, but the storm definitely left some damage behind. This was one of the more prominent obstacles we had to tackle on our route and it was great fun navigating our way through the logs and branches.

Natural Obstacles 2
Natural Obstacles 1
Puncture 1

The Puncture

After about 3/4 of the way, we stopped to have some food at the only pub in a small nearby village that we were passing on our route. Upon leaving the pub's garden, Summer managed to find a thorn and experienced her first (and only) puncture.

She refused to get dirty but I was happy to take some weight off the bike and use one of the inner tubes I stashed in my downtube.

Puncture 2
Arriving in Cambridge

We finally arrived! Now it's time for some deserved dinner.

Day Three

After a great evening spent with friends, we were certainly not in a hurry to wake up and leave so enjoyed the morning sun next to our tent before we set off again.

Most likely due to the current pandemic Cambridge was actually very quiet with very few people walking around even on a nice sunny day. This gave us the chance to take the time and enjoy a filling meal from the local food market before leaving.

Food Market
Good morning from Cambridge

The bike paths in Cambridge are so nice and smooth that you can easily miss a turn if you are not paying attention. We didn't so ended up taking a shortcut...

In the last few miles from our adventure, we took a really nice canal path all the way into Harlow which as our last stop.

The bike paths in Cambridge are so nice and smooth that you can easily miss a turn if you are not paying attention. We didn't so ended up taking a shortcut...

In the last few miles from our adventure, we took a really nice canal path all the way into Harlow which as our last stop.

After getting told off for forgetting to turn off our rear lights at the train station, we finally get on the train, looking through the photos and starting to plan our next adventure.

@us.failing.at.adventures

I've always thought this but while writing this article, looking through the photos and remembering the funny moments, amazing views and tasty food, I definitely start to feel much deeper appreciation of the simplicity of travelling by bike. There is no traffic to worry about, no petrol to refill, no parking space to search for, no tickets to buy.

Apart from being much more enjoyable and creating more wholesome memories, travelling by bike also helps us connect to nature, appreciate it and do our bit in protecting it as much as we can. I can't remember when was the last time I travelled by anything other than bike to work and I don't think this will change any time soon.

The benefits of cycling have been clear to me and my colleagues for a long time, but I'm really happy to see that they are also being shared widely across a multitude of channels and more and more people have started or are considering commuting by bike. It doesn't only help us keep healthy & reduce the spread of viruses, but also saves us cash and reduces our impact on the environment.

Next time you wake up and the sun is shining, get on your bike instead of the bus. It's way better than a terrible takeaway coffee and it will get you in the mood to smash your tasks for the day. Trust me on this.

I've always thought this but while writing this article, looking through the photos and remembering the funny moments, amazing views and tasty food, I definitely start to feel much deeper appreciation of the simplicity of travelling by bike. There is no traffic to worry about, no petrol to refill, no parking space to search for, no tickets to buy.

Apart from being much more enjoyable and creating more wholesome memories, travelling by bike also helps us connect to nature, appreciate it and do our bit in protecting it as much as we can. I can't remember when was the last time I travelled by anything other than bike to work and I don't think this will change any time soon.

The benefits of cycling have been clear to me and my colleagues for a long time, but I'm really happy to see that they are also being shared widely across a multitude of channels and more and more people have started or are considering commuting by bike. It doesn't only help us keep healthy & reduce the spread of viruses, but also saves us cash and reduces our impact on the environment.

Next time you wake up and the sun is shining, get on your bike instead of the bus. It's way better than a terrible takeaway coffee and it will get you in the mood to smash your tasks for the day. Trust me on this.

What I Used

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