That time has arrived. Time to pack the panniers and ride in the sunset…well not quite, but in a couple of days, along with a crew of London couriers, i’ll be heading off to Paris for Panamexperience 2, the pre-event to the Cycle Messengers World Championships in Lausanne.

I’m very much looking forward to hit the homeland and ride my new road bike, first on the streets of the French capital  then,  get on the country roads all the way to Lausanne.

Once there, we are expecting amazing scenery and a top notch courier weekend with a main race over the 1000 hills of Lausanne, partying with the world courier family and an opportunity to raise funds for the LCEF.

We’ll be representing and holding shop to sell the LCEF merchandise and link up with other messengers working on similar initiatives.

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So if you’re heading that way, see you on the road or catch you on the race course.

Another long distance ride was taking place last weekend: the Dunwich Dynamo. 

Full history of the ride here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunwich_Dynamo

Clarence, a fellow courier, has done the DD for the past few years and hope to inspire other riders to join in the fun. Here are his thoughts on long distance rides:

“Long distance fix…

How it all started, i’m not really sure.But once i caught the bug, all i could think of was the next one. I just about managed to make it to London Fields for my first DD and i had never done anything like that before.

I had spent the whole day fretting about the idea of riding 120 miles after a week of couriering and to most people in and out of the courier scene, it seems plain stupid. Weekends, for the average courier, are more rewarding off the saddle with an endless supply of booze, food and weed (feel free to insert a drug of your choice).

However,  since going through my first DD in 2009 (it was the one that rained all the way), I have realised that there is still a small group of couriers who have caught the bug too. The same faces seem to pop up on most rides and it’s even more exciting when they manage to bring another rider along. Besides, it’s the least we can do to honour the couriers who started the whole thing 21 years ago.

Since that day, i have done the DD  three times, London to Brighton during the day and at night time riding both ways once. I have also ridden to Cambridge and have taken it as far as Millport in Scotland for a 12 miles time trial. Dates and rides fade me like the stop and start of our daily grind.

The ride for me starts as soon as I receive the text, see the flyer or just hear talk of the ride. Some call it nerves or butterflies but I genuinely get excited at the thought of it and the planning starts then. This rush of blood through me is what makes me ride through the harshest conditions as the crushing feeling of not doing it after all this preparation is such a downer. Besides, it’s either raining or it’s not raining.

Most of my preparation is spent on the bike. As long as the bike is okay, the rest can wait. I’ve gone from carrying enough food to feed a small family for  a week to having peanuts and coconut water. Most of these charity rides have rest stops and there is always the odd volunteers giving out free refreshments, bless them.

If you are not registered, some organisers might escort you out of their “private land” so stealth is the word (shout out to the “security” guy on the 2013 Cambridge night ride rest point). All the madness aside, you quickly realise that you are surrounded by an overwhelmingly positive group of people and that’s enough to keep you pedaling.

I work on my track bike so it made sense to progress it into the wilds. And those hills are all mainly easier than they look as you approach them. It feels much faster as you have less traffic and in some rides, there are no cars at all. You are then free to put your bike to the test, no cycle lane, just you and all the tarmac you can see for hours. The more people I’m on the ride with on fixed gear, preferably with no front brake, the more confident I am. You can stream and you quickly find out that your speed is not compromised. All you are now doing is regulating your speed and enjoying the breeze. It feels like you are coasting, heaven.

The most uttered response when i asked another courier if they want to ride to Brighton, Dunwich etc is “why the fuck would I ride to Brighton?”. I can relate very much to this sentiment as that was the same reason behind my late entry into this invigorating and adrenaline long distance fix.

It quickly transpired to me that it was all about the ride and nothing to do with the destination. Most of the talk around you will be riders telling tales about the different aspects of their ride; the joyous bits, the hairpins and the downhill drops into complete darkness.  The search for the nearest food spot is the most some will get to see of the destination. A vast majority of riders jump straight into their awaiting cars or coaches to return home. It’s what happens during the ride that will stay with you forever. As much as they tend to be group rides, it’s  very personal in the sense that you get to break your own barriers as you are taken out of your comfort level. It has not necessarily gotten easier with the more rides I’ve done but i have become more efficient in every aspect, from not wearing too many clothes, not changing the bike too much before the ride and making sure your tyres have the right pressure.

I reckon riding for cash is also one of the reason behind the lack of couriers on most rides. There is no docket, party or a promise of free food at the end of it. One would be hard pressed to name five couriers who are on the road for the health benefits. However, among the few i have ridden with, we have all  marveled at the high energy levels, confidence and a renewed sense of perspective you have when you jump back on the same bike the Monday morning after a weekend ride. I have not got into the science behind it but the feeling I get makes me feel untouchable.

The consumption of alcohol and smoking is an issue with some participants but i go with the mood of the group. Some rides have been much improved by pub stops and smoke breaks. In true courier style, I would consider it cheating doing the ride sober and drug free. And you have to pour a lil’ liquor for the fallen soldiers. Groups I have ridden with tend to go as fast as the slowest rider.

Considering how the DD has come of age, this might be a good time for a new generation of couriers to explore these rides or come up with some new ones that best reflect the moment. It will be good to see more couriers, or anyone, taking that beast that is the fixed wheel out into the world of long distance cycling, as I’m sure at one point in history, that was the only kind of bike you could buy. In a way, this is nothing but taking it back to the bare basics and letting man and machine work it out.

Clarence Takunda Chodofuka.”