One of the greatest things about cycling, to me, is the simple joy of getting out of the house and going places under my own power. Whether it’s riding to work, running errands or just rolling downtown to meet friends for a beer. It’s more relaxed and more fun than driving and faster than walking.
Probably the greatest way to enjoy this aspect of cycling is by bike touring, covering dozens, hundreds or even thousands of miles by your own muscle power. The challenge for a lot of us, though, is finding the time for extended trips, or the money for specialized equipment that we may only get to use once or twice a year.
This is where the S24O comes in. “S24O” is short for “Sub-24-Hour Overnight,” a term that was coined by Rivendell Bikes founder Grant Petersen, although the idea has been around forever. Basically, one heads out after work in the afternoon or evening, spends the night outdoors, then rides home in the morning (or afternoon, or whenever you need to be back). It’s less a tour than a chance to get outside for an evening and have a mini-adventure. Because you’re not spending a long time on the road, or covering huge distances, you don’t need a ton of gear, and what you do have doesn’t have to be super-light or high-end. It just has to be good enough for the night. It’s also pretty low-risk, since your time outdoors is measured in hours, not in days or weeks.
A few of us at Revolution Cycles have been talking about getting out for some overnight trips for a while, and this September we finally managed to sneak out for a couple of Sub-24s. Most recently, we got together with a bunch of our friends and took the Glacial Drumlin Trail out to Mud Lake where we spent the night at Sandhill Station State Campground.
One of the coolest things about this trip was seeing the sheer variety of bikes and gear setups. From John’s expedition-ready Salsa Fargo, with a full complement of racks and bags to the simple backpack full of gear carried by one of our regular customers.
Jeff brought his touring bike and trailer, making it easier to buy some adult beverages and firewood before we reached the campground
But the most popular setup seems to be a 29”-wheeled mountain bike with large handlebar, seat bags and a frame bag.
I like this setup a lot, as it allows you to setup just about any bike for a trip, regardless of whether or not it has braze-ons and fittings for traditional racks and panniers. Furthermore, if your trip involves mixed terrain or off-road trekking, it keeps the weight of your gear centered and less likely to snag on vegetation than a traditional pannier setup. I’ve been experimenting with my own setup and decided to try the traditional rack-and-pannier approach with a small front rack to help balance the load and manage the light-but-bulky stuff like my sleeping bag and tarp.
I chose to use my singlespeed cyclocross bike because it was easier to put a rack on than my mountain bike, and I’ve had those panniers sitting around for about 15 years and only used them a few times. Fortunately, this was a pretty flat ride, so the lack of gears didn’t hurt me, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more upright riding position for this sort of trip. Again, this is part of the benefit of the S24O, since it’s only going to be a couple hours of riding, you don’t need a touring bike, just a way to carry your stuff that you can put up with for a couple hours (a basket, a big messenger bag, whatever) and you only need the most basic of camp gear. If you want, you can leave after dinner and get home before breakfast so you don’t even need to cook. You don’t need extra clothes except for a jacket in case it gets chilly and if the weather is clear and the bugs aren’t too bad you can even skip the tent. Our ride out was a blast! We left the shop a little while before sunset and were able to get through the worst of Madison traffic before it reached full dark. In Cottage Grove we hopped on the Glacial Drumlin trail which, thanks to a super-bright moon and a bit of early-autumn chill, turned out to be an extremely pleasant ride. Everything went perfectly until we got off the trail in Lake Mills, and back onto the road…
Due to a few navigational complications, we missed the turn in the dark and had to loop around a few times before getting to the campsite. Hey, bonus mileage is good for you, and we were in good spirits when we finally rolled in and joined our colleagues who had taken a detour for firewood and snacks! There was fire, there were marshmallows, there was food and beverages, and most importantly, there was all the fun of a night with your buddies around a fire.
Then we got some sleep. In the morning those of us who had to open the shop got up bright and early headed back towards town while those bastards, our friends who had the morning off, slept in and missed out on a gorgeous misty morning ride home.
After some much needed coffee, we were able to get to work on time with enough life left in our legs to make it through our Saturday of working.
For the early crew, our adventure lasted about 15 hours, from 6:30 on a Friday evening when we locked the door and rolled out till about 9:30 Saturday morning when the first of us arrived to get Revolution ready for business. Because we run a business that’s open 7 days a week, and most of the staff has our days off staggered, it’s nearly impossible to arrange for a more traditional bike tour, even for a weekend, where we get to hang out with each other outside of the shop. By getting together for a S24O, it was possible to get some outdoor time with a great bunch of co-workers and friends in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
If you’re interested in trying your own S24O adventure, or joining us on one of ours, there are a lot of resources on the internet to get you started, including Grant Petersen’s blog on the rivbike.com web site. Or you could simply come on down and talk with us!