The Summer Solstice weekend is a call to go on a bike-camping adventure; something our friends at Swift Industries have been championing over in the US for a few years now. The call has since spread worldwide and this year saw Solstice Squads bike camping all over the Americas, Europe and as far away as Australia (their Winter Solstice).
We thought we’d join in with a laid-back overnighter of our own – a Solstice Social in the warm(?), sunny(?) UK. Pannier HQ lies on the edge of the Peak District National Park so we plotted an escape route in our own backyard – 70km out from Sheffield via the odd gritstone edge, wild-swim location, and moorland track to an overnight camp location in Edale which was prepped for the longest weekend day of the year, Pannier style…
The idea for this weekend was to escape on a S24O cycling adventure: meeting at a decent time on a Saturday and heading off on a 24-hour ride that arrived back at a decent time on a Sunday. This circular ride from the centre of Sheffield was ideal: a 70km mixed-terrain route out to a camping barn where pizza oven, campfire and drinks awaited us … and then 40-50km back on the Sunday. A lot of the route forms sections of our Peakland Tour route, launching next year. Join us!
Our Solstice Social squad ended up being made up of 17 riders. We all met at Seven Hills Bakery on the Saturday lunchtime, using the forecourt space to dish out hire kit, load the last bits onto bikes and sink some top notch coffees. The cafe’s central location makes for a great meet spot – super close to the start of the Porter Valley out of Sheffield and into the Peak District, largely off-road.
If we’re honest, we had no idea who would actually show up! Whilst we tried to limit numbers to around 20 bike campers – a good number to be out riding in one/two groups, we wanted to keep it chilled – no official sign-up, no booking – just meeting-up on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre to enjoy riding bikes. That said, the max number of tourers we could host was 30; that was the number of pre-made dough balls we had and sharing pizzas wouldn’t be cool. Also, we knew we’d 100% f*** up a few pizzas to start with. So it was technically even less. Charred, mashed-up calzones taste as good but don’t photo well, so they basically don’t count…
– Get yourself a peel. The peel is the paddle thing that fetches pizzas in and out the oven.
– Palm, knead and pull the dough out to form a base, rather than squashing and it smashing it out.
– Less tomato sauce than you think. More toppings than you think.
– Semolina. All. The. Way. Make dough bases on a bed of it then use it on the base of the base to slide it off the peel into the oven speedy. Note. Semolina gets f***ing everywhere – you’ll find it on your spare shirt, inside your seat pack which is on your bike that’s out of sight.
– Get your fire from elsewhere. Or, start a fire in the oven, but gradually bring big stuff from a firepit. If you don’t have a firepit, go find one that’s alight, or slog away at the oven fire. For aages.
– Like basil on a pizza? Watch it fly away if you try sprinkling it on in prevailing winds. If the wind doesn’t stop, glue it down with some garlic oil, or just squish it on.
– Pizzas cook quick. Real quick. Give them a spin every 30 seconds for an even cook and so the base of the base doesn’t burn up.
– Enjoy with a cold beverage, in the sunshine. We had one of those, at least…
By the time darkness arrived the hiss of rain hitting the hot embers had reached feverpitch. As some dedicated folk attempted some last nutella/banana sweet pizzas on the reduced oven fire, in the rain, the rest of us gathered inside the camp barn to make negronis en-masse and whittle away the hours chatting all things travel and Gary Verity, weirdly. Good ol’ Garity…
Our 120km mixed-terrain route, taking in single-track roads and moorland / forest / reservoir tracks meant the bike rule was minimum 28c+ tyres. We we had all sorts of adventure rigs:
– custom 29” Bombtrack machines
– 26” Surly Long Haul Trucker tourers
– 650b Cycles Toussaint randos
– Carbon Viner CX rides
– Fairlight & Genesis 700c adventure bikes
– Pannier x Surly Tour Hire bikes
…and Clare’s Cycle Wolf basket-packer
In the morning, after morning coffees and brioche, and then a hearty breakfast at Coopers café in Edale the Solstice Social Squad went their separate ways. A group of about 8 of us ended up riding back to Sheffield together, finishing up at the Seven Hills Bakery where we started out 24 hours prior.
OK, the wild-swim was optimistic but the rest all worked out nice – chilled and enjoying riding bikes – that’s what it’s all about. Aeropress coffees always taste better in the drizzle anyway. Same again next year? Join the Pannier 15kph Pizza/Negroni Club.
Over and Out…
Like what you see? Check out the Pannier Borders Tour (a three night adventure cycling tour from the Heart of England into Mid Wales) we’re starting to run in August and September this year, and then as part of a full calendar of tours in 2018…