As a self-defined journeyman, I generally seek adventure that involves a journey. Events sometimes offer this - e.g. the OMM or MdS and are easy to find. Sometimes they are a little harder to find. I can't actually remember how I found the BOUNCE, but I'm glad I did.
B.O.U.N.C.E = Bikepacking Orienteering Unsupported Navigation Challenge Event - have a look here
The website says -
Riders are challenged to create their own route with the aim of collecting as many checkpoints as possible within the 105 hour time limit… & the clock does not stop.
There are approximately 84 checkpoints scattered far and wide across 1,000km of rough Spanish mountain trails within a 1,200 square km area of some of the most beautiful and rugged terrain in Europe. All of the checkpoints are located well away from tarmac roads and some are extremely remote!
Well, that was enough to hook me in, that's for sure. So, in went an entry, followed by a quick message to my MdS tent mate Phil and there we had a team of two.
A quick order of maps from IGN meant that four maps of the area landed in North Wales, and the enormity of the event started to become clear.
The contours describing the landforms. The sheer density of trails. The location of potential resupply points. Definitely all things to rattle around inside my brain. The countdown had started, and nothing more would come until 8 weeks before. That didn't mean other things needed to be sorted - how to get to the area, what kit would be useful, checking the weather and working out a nutrition/hydration strategy. Oh, and obviously putting in some training! A little part of this was a shakedown ride on the Transcambria
8 weeks out, a large envelope arrived, and this contained ALL the information we'd need for the checkpoint locations. It's worth being aware that the idea for BOUNCE is the brainchild of Austin Vince - if you've not heard of him, maybe have a quick read here
So, Phil and I had a planning meet - this went along the lines of "gosh, that's a big area" and "right, points are the focus".
Now, bike navigation is a subtle art - things move quite quickly - even when teaching the NNAS syllabus on bikes, a fair bit needs to be done on foot. The Hero class (non GPS) was attractive, but we chose to go with GPS navigation. NB the standard required for paper navigation on the BOUNCE is around NNAS silver award level - definitely not unattainable for most folk. Now, even working on GPS navigation means a fair bit of work to give some flexibility. I started spending a couple hours here and there transferring as much information as I possibly could onto Garmin Basecamp - not just Checkpoint locations, but other information - water, re-supply points etc. This gave a nice pretty picture!
Then came the leap, how do you join these up for 105 hours, have enough water and food, and a place to shelter?
This is a hugely personal choice. Nothing would stop you looping out and back each day. Riding to accommodation, or being a little more dynamic, sleeping on the trail. Should we buy food en route, or be more self contained?
With each pass at trying to pick up as many points as possible, the approach for Phil and I became more and more obvious. We wanted to cover ground, and pick up points (1,2,3 or 4 points depending on the location). We decided that we needed to only be reliant on water stops, carrying everything else (food, shelter etc). This inevitably meant that as well as the water needed for cycling, we needed the ability to carry enough to camp, and ride the morning the next day. A flexible 3l bottle, with a filter, being the obvious solution. This would work with the need to rehydrate freeze dried meals, and for me, use Mountain Fuel energy/recovery sachets.
Average weather was 30C during the day and a very mild 22C at night. This needs only a very light sleeping bag at best. A tent being too heavy to be practical, so a sleeping mat would be optimal. This was the planned approach until a week out when the forecast started to show the risk of thunder and heavy rain. This forced the inclusion of a bivi bag, and a lightweight tarp in case we couldn't find shelter.
Then we travelled - everything into the van, and ferry, drive, sleep down to the event area. A beautiful journey in itself. A re-check of the weather forecast meant that our initial plan to ride into the mountains on Tuesday would be a bit fool hardy. Big thunderstorms and rain would mean that this slightly audacious day would maybe compromise the rest of the week.
The Sunday evening briefing with Austin was useful, and gave a few pieces of information that turned out to be key - like the location of some caves.
Monday morning started with a need to overcome to kit issues before rolling out on the start. 33C by 11am, hunting water was going to be essential. Finding somewhere to rest and recover with water would be essential as the average temperature was going to be significant.
I don't want to give away what we chose to do, too much, the thrill of the adventure should be yours if you're reading this with a view to doing the event. However, this is some summary information from Day 1
Light rain that night meant the tarp earnt its keep - this superlight set up means that good tarpology can be enjoyed anywhere - highly recommended. The inclusion of nanocord and a figure 9 tensioner, is in my opinion one of the best solutions for tired heads and fingers for creating shelter. At just under 300g, there is no reason not to carry this!
Freeze dried food, and some recovery powder started the process for ride, recover, ride, recover, repeat etc etc. All the pre-planned approaches to recharging GPS kit worked, with a bit more capacity than was needed. All was great!
Rather than give a day by day account, this gallery might help you get some insight into the event.
The solution to knowing whether you can do this event is genuinely to get out there and do it yourself. The navigation skills, if you're on GPS, are not too difficult. The journey skills are possible to acquire (get in touch if you want to explore options for this). The area is relatively unvisited and worth the journey for that alone!
At the end of the event, the shower was good, the de-kitting of bikes and getting ready for the drive home easy. The only long term casualty was the front of my shoes which saw a bit of a hammering from some rocks on day 1.
This event can be all rideable, or have hike-a-bike in it. It can be short days, or long. It can be fast, or it can be slow. It truly is what ever adventure you want it to be!
Would I take a different approach if I did it again? Yes, I always learn something from journeys, whether it is skills based, or something about myself. This event did both, so that's a positive for me.
Ultimately, as the only finishers of BOUNCE 2022, the approach worked for us and justified the pre-planning and preparation.