As we all know that was weird; like you I had so many plans, paid for several long Audaxes since abandoned, and rode around in circles for a few months on very quiet roads.
I spent the whole of Jan and Feb in a self enforced hibernation, no cycling, and I barely left my house apart from walking the dog. You can imagine I was thrilled to then be shortly told to stay home for a further three months. Inspiration was low and something radical was required to keep me motivated, so a plan was hatched.
To start with I deleted all rides on Strava local to my explorer square which involved a vehicle, or being based elsewhere for work. This included many mountain bike rides from the days when that was all I did, the effect was to see my hard won Explorer square tumble from 64 x 64 to 41 x 41. Once I had got over the shock I first used my lockdown local exercise rides to bump my 2020 only square up to 24 checking out plenty of off road fun.
With the realisation that leaving the country and the planned Lejog and Belgium Audaxes had no chance of happening I then decided to go wild and chase after expanding my very tame cluster of tiles. As I love to do long A to B exploring I have never really figured in that area of the tile grabbing genre. Starting the year with 4800 bunched tiles which was further obliterated after the cull, it was going to require doubling in size to just sneak onto the top 20 leaderboard.
I hadn’t been in a shop in six months, and had no intention of starting after lockdown eased, so going further afield into May and June was achieved by carrying all my water (often 3.5 Litres) as well as a flask of coffee and lots of food. I never stopped in a public place on my travels, used no benches and had many wonderful picnics sunbathing on isolated bridleways. The whole madness of it became a huge adventure, and I enjoyed seeing changes in places I had not visited for many years.
Once accommodation started to open up again and with the great British public rediscovering mass camping I took advantage of cheap over-nighters in Travelodges. Carrying several meals along and refilling water in the room, continuing this traveling isolation was easy and allowed some longer tours as we gained some more freedom.
This is the sum total of all my exploring rides in 2020, it turned out a touch obsessive as it was all done with tile grabbing in mind. Two trips West were a challenge to extend a finger of cluster out to Wales, so at least I got to visit another country. A week long tour finished off another long standing target of linking up a coast to coast cluster. The Wash to the Bristol Channel done; past Weston Super-mare to save any debate. The work done on my square is evident, I grew very familiar with Fen droves and the side of the wash.
Painting the UK red, or is that blue now looks like this. The square is now up to 76 x 76 which puts me 7th in the league table. The Cluster target achieved by just squeezing in at 19th with 8,045, a huge gain. Past years trips have seen upwards of 10,000 new tiles ticked off on the planet, but despite this years meager pickings I am still maintaining the top spot in total tiles. Competition is hotting up though and it looks like it will be tough to keep that going forward.
The great site https://rideeverytile.com/tiles/ maintains some progress graphs, while this new site https://rakietowa.org/maxsquare/ has cropped up if you find the need to check out the weekly progress of fellow tile grabbers. As I write this Koen De Becker has just bumped his square up by 2 to join me on 76, and some of the Cluster gains for mid January are huge; not as locked down as us I guess.
For this year who the hell knows, for once the home wall planner is totally empty. I have plans, but it’s all ideas with no structure. What ever happens it will be UK based again; for a start my passport is now invalid as we drift rudderless away from the EU. It better be more exciting than 2020, otherwise the blogs will be as dull as this one, here’s hoping.