Amanda and Julia challenge some friends to a game of lockdown bike bingo.
In association with…
- Words Amanda
- Photography Roo Fowler & Amanda
Who else is fed up of talking about lockdown, reading about it and being in it? How many of you are ready to turn that frown upside down and put a positive spin on the whole situation? I might be overly optimistic, but I also might have a fun suggestion to brighten up one of the many Groundhog Days.
I fall into the extremely fortunate group of riders who have an abundance of trails right out of the front door. For me, lockdown has been an opportunity to explore my local area at a slower pace, maybe venture onto tame bridleways I wouldn’t bother with if I had the preferred option of riding with a group of mates, and just generally get more familiar with the place. And my bike. And myself. It didn’t take me long to realise what motivates me to ride bikes. Yes, the health benefits are great and the scenery is a treat, but it’s all about the people for me. So take them out of the equation and it can become increasingly difficult to motivate myself to get out and ride.
Location, location, location
Sometime last year I made a plan for a two-day adventure with Julia Hobson and Rachael Walker. Things we have in common: we all ride Juliana bikes and we all love to socialise, meet new people and share our love of bikes and the outdoors. Things we do not have in common: location. I’m based just outside of Todmorden in Yorkshire. Julia is in Idle, just north of Bradford, and Rachael lives far away in the Surrey Hills.
Julia and Rachael had a route in mind that was fairly central to us all, which drew attention to the fact that, on the map, Julia and I actually live closer to each other than we thought, although in reality there’s a fairly big climb out of my valley to hers. So, we set the date and then watched it whizz past by from the confines of our home offices. Dates were rearranged, lockdown restrictions were extended and, in time, we reluctantly accepted that our group ride simply wasn’t going to happen. A disheartening amount of cancelled plans required action, so we got our heads together and came up with a solution: Bike Bingo!
Bike Bingo Card
The idea was simple. We’d create bingo cards of items that could appear on a bike ride, and we’d go for a ride to attempt to complete our bingo cards. To turn this into a group activity we had to pair off into teams, so I would ride with Julia, Rachael with her partner Roo (who conveniently is an excellent photographer) in the South Downs, and at the end of the day we would have a video call together and discuss how the day went. Could we experience a similar bike ride by having a list of curiosities to find?
How to make your bingo card is completely up to you. In our case, we each made a list of far too many items, put them all together and asked someone not joining us on the ride to make the final selection to keep it unbiased. You could make two different cards, maybe better suited to the area being ridden? (Or you could head to singletrackworld.com and just use ours). The rules are – pics, or it didn’t happen. And don’t reveal the card until the morning of the ride.
As mentioned, Julia and I live close by – if you follow the Calder Aire Link we’re about 15–20km apart. We decided that I would head towards Julia and we’d begin a loop taking us from Cullingworth out towards Bingley, then a big climb out past the golf club to get back to where we started. The route is chilled, no heroic trails and not too much of a physical challenge. This is important, because we have more important things to focus on: our bingo card, and relearning how to socialise like toddlers at nursery.
Bingley Bike Ride Bingo
We set off with a fizz of excitement about the clear blue skies we were gifted. It was cold – so cold that the icicles had icicles, so we planned to keep moving without losing sight of the goal. Now, I’ll be honest, I’d forgotten about the bingo card almost immediately we started as I had bigger things to worry about… ice. We’d barely introduced ourselves when I demonstrated to Julia what type of a rider I am. Presented with a wide tarmac road covered in sheet ice, I announced ‘it’ll go’ and rolled hesitantly towards the deathtrap. It didn’t ‘go’, and I got to the other side of it on my arse. Given that we’d only just met, Julia didn’t take a photo of my misjudgement so we had that all-important conversation of ‘Yeah, if I’m still breathing get a photo before you help me up!’ before we continued on our quest for grip.
Somewhere along the way we skim-read the bingo card. I chose a couple of ‘easy wins’ to keep in mind. Graffiti, and ‘something out of place’. Surely there must be some graffiti en route? We were heading through a park close to the centre of Bingley, after all. I kept my eyes peeled for the best part of a minute, and then promptly forgot all about the bingo game when we entered some nice woodland.
In Cuckoo Nest Wood Julia talked me through the area we were riding in. We shared our delight at the network of trails and slowed down the pace to look around. Huge conifer trees lined the way; we didn’t have bogs or blown-out paths to deal with, just hard-packed dirt and crunchy leaves. Everything about this ride felt like a reward for staying local and respecting the No Gnar rule. Julia had ridden through these woods countless times, but pointed in disbelief at a huge wooden chain hanging from in a tree. “How have I never seen that before!” A stamp for the bingo card and several minutes of appreciation for some fine craftsmanship.
Knock at the door
About halfway through our loop we were about due a decent climb to warm ourselves up. The Altar Road climb is a nice gradient – the path is smooth and straight and it naturally became a great opportunity to switch our minds off. We chatted about all sorts. I learnt more about Rachael and all her amazing accomplishments. I heard about Julia’s past; we talked about her partner Tom Hill and how ridiculously talented he is on a gravel bike. After an immeasurable amount of time, we got to the top and decided it was snack time. Julia produced some home-made banana bread, wrapped in a superfluous apology about how it didn’t appear to be cooked (it tasted amazing; she passed the gluten-free vegan challenge). We’d parked our bikes next to a gate held shut by baling twine, there was a dead bird on the ground with its insides on the outside, Julia was really excited about producing cake from her pack, and I spotted a very handsome sheep in the field against a glorious backdrop of bright white clouds and blue sky.
Boom! Four effortless stamps on the bingo card.
Our ride continued to be a fine mix of chatting, exploring, learning how to ride through ice ruts, and absent-mindedly locating bingo items. I was still on the lookout for some graffiti to take a photo of my bike next to, but it was nearly the end of our loop and we hadn’t seen so much as a sticker on a lamppost. We agreed that failing to stamp the graffiti item is not a bad thing, and I wondered how Rachael and Roo were getting on with their card. I’d detected a hint of competitiveness from Rachael when we made the ride plan, and was hoping she’d followed that through and made more effort than we had. I’m sure in a more comfortable climate we’d have been in touch throughout the day, but sub-zero temperatures demanded that you keep moving so we’d have to wait to see how the other ride was going.
Ride Bingo de-brief
In the evening we met online for a virtual beer to discuss our rides. Julia and I had mostly stuck to our planned loop, though we added an extra venture on the end so she could show me a really cool viaduct. We laughed about my terrible line choices and questionable decisions on ice, and we realised more of our bingo items were ticked off than we originally thought. They just sort of happened along the way. Rachael and Roo, however, had ridden a relatively tidy loop, with many small detours off-route in an excellent attempt to complete the bingo card. They had troubles along the way… Roo had scratched Rachael’s brand new bike, her forks hadn’t turned up so she was riding some in the ‘wrong’ colour that arguably clashed with her frame, and they’d got extremely cold looking for both bingo items and nice places to take photos to share with us to keep the group ride vibe going way into our video call.
Rachael and Roo:
Amanda and Julia:
Neither group got the full card, but none of us really cared. We’d been for bike rides in conditions that we’d otherwise have turned up our noses at, waiting instead for the temperature to go above zero. I was grateful to have learned about a new area to ride straight from the door – I’ve since returned, riding much of the loop I did with Julia, but also finding a great many gravel paths with beautiful views of the valley I’ve ridden over from. I’d never have bothered to ride so far in that direction without having been on my guided tour with Julia.
Bike Ride Bingo could have any number of beneficial impacts on your riding life. For one, it could turn a lonely solo outing into a highly motivated adventure, and one that your distant bingo buddies will be keen to hear all about if they’re competitive enough. It could guide you to new trails, or show you something wonderful you may have passed a hundred times before without noticing. It might slow your pace and, as a result, give you a new appreciation of the area you live in. It could quicken your pace, another reward entirely. Or it could just be a reason to go out on your bike today, even if you don’t have trails straight out of the door. There’s always something to be seen.
Our game of Bike Bingo was enough of an excuse to get us all out on our bikes, even if we didn’t take the game too seriously once we saddled up. Does it even matter who won? (It was us…)
The Bingo Bikes
Amanda, Rachael & Julia were riding…