This post was inspired by an article I read recently in a 1986 edition of the first ever mountain bike magazine, The Fat Tire Flyer. The article was about somebody who regularly got lost on bike rides. I thought this ability to get lost could be turned into something quite energising in these current times, so here’s the concept……let’s get lost.

To be clear, I don’t mean getting totally lost and putting yourself in danger, I mean getting a bit lost. I also don’t mean getting lost with work or life or something. This is more of the loss of the spatial and directional type of lost. Just lost enough for a mini adventure and in a positive way.  It is a bit like exploring without a plan.

There is a game that has been developed in New Zealand that you can buy called ‘The Getting Lost Game’ and according to the website, it contains 26 “misdirection cards” which give you random directions to discover new places wherever you are in the country (or anywhere else for that matter). The directions work anywhere – things like turn left, follow a blue car or head in the direction the wind is blowing – and it guarantees a different game every time, even if you set out from the same spot. If you are not wholly comfortable with getting yourself lost on purpose, this game is a great start. (Link at bottom of page).

Whilst we’re all being prevented from doing the stuff that we’ve been used to doing due to ‘you-know-what’, I think there’s an energy that we can create for ourselves as cyclists, or outdoor types. This might be uncomfortable for some who like to stick to their usual routes. For others, this will be fun. It’s a simple idea and illustrates something that I do a lot whilst out on the bike somewhere.

If you go for a bike ride (or walk or horse ride), there are a number of limiting factors such as how much time is available to you, when will the weather break, how far can you go with the water and the food that you have, how much energy you have, and lately, how much battery power you have left if you are riding an ebike. These are just a few of the limiting factors that ensure that we don’t get lost on a ride, or that we stick to a well known route that we know will guarantee making it back in time.

I know people that ride the same routes week in, week out, and are quite uncomfortable with anything other than what they are expecting from the ride. They also measure everything associated with the ride, so if they went somewhere different or actually got lost, it would mess up their data, and their heads as well probably.

My usual approach is the opposite of the above. However, even I use familiar routes either on or off road or a combination of the two together sometimes. I do take a lot of factors in, but I actually like exploring and in some instances, getting a bit lost. This makes getting back to base camp a little more interesting.

What you’re about to read works on the road, suburbia, city or off-road out in the sticks and you’ll probably find some places you never knew were there, and potentially on your doorstep/in your own backyard.

Follow the arrow and not the direction that the handlebars might suggest

Now I’ve set the scene, here’s the idea in chronological, bullet-point format just for those of you who need a little structure to getting lost…….

  • Choose your bike. If you are lucky enough to have two or more bikes, make your choice based on how different you want the ride to be. For example, don’t take out that new enduro mountain bike, jump on an old bike and enjoy the struggle to make it do something a little closer to what the modern bike will do. It’s the same in a road bike scenario too. If you have been riding an old bike and just got a new one, then it works that way around too.
  • Limit all constraints. Don’t give yourself a set time to be back. Take enough water and food and cash for a potentially longer ride than you are expecting.
  • Information. Don’t use Strava. Don’t use Google maps to create a route. You can look at a map before you go out to find a possible destination, but don’t take the map with you. Take your (fully charged) phone as a just-in-case. Prepare for weather.
  • You can do two things to set up your route guidance……..
  • The first is to get a small sticky note pad and start drawing left-turns, right-turns and straight-ahead arrows on each sticky note, then stick them back in a pile in a random order. You then either attach the sticky note pad to your handlebars somehow so they don’t blow away, or put them in your pocket.
  • The second is to photo the sticky notes in a random order using your phone so you can just swipe for the next sticky note direction. FYI……these photos are not connected to Google maps or anything like an App. This is basic stuff.
  • The next step is to just get out there and have fun. Every time you come to a junction and need to select the next directional arrow, look around you and take in the environment whether it is graffiti, 17th Century architecture, woodlands or mountains. Just slow down and take in the view. You will notice details that you didn’t before. Take photos that you might not usually take and you’ll spot some of life’s great details.
  • And finally, the cheating rule is, don’t cheat. If you are with a friend or a group and you are the directional card holder, follow the route guidance, don’t accept challenges or appeals either. Also, don’t change the cards to suit your own route preference.
  • The disclaimer. Don’t take big risks or put yourself or anyone else in danger. This is just my idea for fun, so do not enjoy yourself to the point of extinction.
The electronic version, and don’t forget to ensure you have a full battery or………..

Here’s the link if you want to read more about this particular bike http://John Dennis Strong Here you go. Nearly everything you need to know about Swiss ATZ forks
If you want to check out the game I mentioned, here’s the link

If you want to buy some NOS Fat Tire Flyer magazines for inspiration, here are the links:


Rest of the world

All photos by the Author