Get lost!

In the English-language world, telling someone to get lost is considered an insult. Usually. Let’s change that!

When out on a cycling adventure, getting lost can be enormous fun (provided you’re not tied to a tight schedule!) so why not set out to get lost?

But what about navigation, maps & more?

I have a significant and growing number of posts about navigation, and mapping. In fact, I even have a Beginner’s Guide To Designing A Route!

Why would I tell you to get lost?

As we all know, outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Imagine planning an adventure with no predefined route, in an area you don’t know, then not relying on maps, or digital navigation.

Of course there are some gotchas attached to this: when cycling off-road through rural Scotland or Wales, for example, you can actually get proper lost. Getting lost in such environments can become survival events, and will often involve calling out Search & Rescue! I’m not suggesting you get lost in an environment like that!

The UK’s been tamed a long time ago

When you’re out and about, cycling through rural parts of the UK, you’ll soon find (provided you stick to roads) that almost every cross-roads has a name, and that there are directional signs everywhere.

The downside of that system is the signs will often point to places you never heard of before. This is not the M1, with huge signs saying The North. Instead, you can easily end up on narrow rural lanes, where you’re presented with small signs pointing towards Crapstone, or whatever quaint village name may be applicable.

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Now that’s great news if you knew where Crapstone is, but somewhat less than helpful if you’ve never heard of the place.

Doubling back

In simpler times, when cycle touring you rarely (if ever) had to worry about the kind of road you end up riding on. Since those days, we’ve added millions of ever-increasingly impatient drivers onto mostly the same old roads.

In practical terms, that might mean, after following the signs to Crapstone, you ride through the village, and later end up on the fast, busy and narrow A386, and that’s not a road you want to cycle on.

Intentionally getting lost (to a degree) means exploring lanes you otherwise probably never would have cycled. That inevitably will mean sometimes you will need to double back on yourself, to avoid a nasty road for cycling. Look at that not as some sort of failure, but simply part of the adventure.

Have a plan

By all means, look at a map of the area beforehand, but just enough to give you a general idea of the layout of the area. Don’t go memorising the entire map (or attempting to). All you want to know is where the nasty roads are, where you want to start from, and where you want to end up.

Beyond that, get lost! Go end up on some little lane that people only ever end up on if they’re heading to some almost-unknown destination, or they’re lost. Go add some interest to your adventure. Follow roads just to see where they go.

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Go get lost!

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