Produced in partnership with FE Sports

I’ve got an addiction. Wait, hear me out! It’s not a bad one. Although, I suppose that depends on how you look at it. I’m addicted to searching, mapping and scouting out what our land really has to offer. I suppose this is why we, especially me, ride bikes: to get into the areas, regions and pockets we wouldn’t normally go, with the ability to cover ground quickly in the backcountry. A bike really is the ideal tool for exploring.

The problem with my addiction is that it doesn’t induce a high straight away and, like many addictions, it costs. A lot. The time spent dreaming of places to explore and sitting in front of maps and devices make up only half the cost. On top of that, there’s the handbrake that is modern life; sometimes I feel like I’m living in a version of lockdown. There’s always stuff to do, and the endless to-do lists bloody irate me after a while, even though I’m the organised type and like things neat. Sometimes you need to flip the list and close the laptop lid. The other cost of my addiction is generated by the physical act of actually getting to these further-afield places. A huge amount of effort goes into thinking about what to pack and take – and that’s before you even turn a pedal. When I set off on the bike, it’s often only then that I find out how hard the route that I’ve plotted actually is – but that’s all part of the process. The exploration, meeting locals and seeing new sights are what I’m drawn to, no to mention the memories of the experience.

I will do anything to get that high. And, it’s kept me coming back for more and more.

The route I plotted was long, I mean very long and up and over numerous hills, so it’s fair to say this (the start) is where we left the leisure side of the trip. I mean, it still featured a good approach and stops to take in our surroundings, but the ride itself was far from leisurely. After what seemed like an endless climbing we finally descended. The endorphins were running high as we descended into the desolate valley, nudged along by a solid tailwind. Corrugated single-lane gravel roads followed as we quickly became more isolated. The river flowed swiftly beside us we tried to keep speed with it.

The next few hours rolled by rather blissfully. Rays of the sun on our backs kept us warm, and the wind behind us kept us moving swiftly past the vast landscapes. In fact, the views were exquisite. The addict in me was getting an early dose of the high. But, I wasn’t satisfied. This desire to get deeper, further and explore more is hard to keep under control; it’s almost like we want to be broken. This is where lessons are learnt, and the ‘real’ experience happens. It didn’t take long for that broken feeling to come around, though!

We hustled for a while, without much discussion between us. We detoured one too many times before the tall shadows of dusk set in; the light bouncing off the landscape was incredible, but we were too tired to care. My Pirelli Cinturato Gravel RC Tyres handled the terrain that was thrown in front of them perfectly. The day’s effort and the constant route-finding was getting to us. The topo map showed our end destination buried amidst tight lines and although it wasn’t far away, it was bloody steep. We’d found the high and now the inevitable low was kicking in. We yarned to the farmer about our route, and he explained that it wasn’t far away but there were a few hills in between.

Darkness was just setting in as we reached the dim streetlights of the town. We walked into the front of the tavern and almost collapsed. I attempted to order, hardly able to talk. Our beer and food was served, but it was hard to stomach. We’d pushed ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of, and it was rewarding. Again, addicted to the pain and game of attrition.

The next day the residual from the previous day’s efforts was still in my body, however, the satisfaction of knowing the route can be done far outweighed any fatigue. The addict in us got the all-time high we were longing for. But it wasn’t long before we were searching for it again.