Ride a S24O: The Quick and Easy Bike Tour

Forget the pressure to become a racer — just enjoy cycling with a "sub-24-overnight," a relaxed approach to bike touring.

| January 22, 2013

A reformed racer who’s commuted by bike every day since 1980 and founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, Grant Petersen shares a lifetime of unexpected facts, controversial opinions, expert techniques and his own philosophy in Just Ride (Workman Publishing, 2012), a collection of 89 short essays on bike culture and practical cycling in everyday life. In this excerpt, Petersen explains how to take on short-and-sweet rides called sub-24-hour overnights, or S24Os. 

You can buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Just Ride.

The most fun I have with my bike is during overnight bike-camping trips in the local hills. I call them Sub-24-Hour Overnights, or S24Os, and mine average sixteen hours, typically from about 5:30 in the evening to 9:30 the next morning. I’ve gone on several solo, but the best ones are with good company. I go with one to four of the guys from work, and sometimes local friends.

We load up the bags and baskets with what we need for the night, and leave in the afternoon or evening, and after one to three hours of riding we find a place with a good view and settle for the night. It doesn’t matter if there are city lights and hustle-bustle a few miles away and visible in the distance; there may not be any way around that. You don’t want to hear boom boxes, but even just one mile of pavement-free earth between you and city lights and noise is enough isolation to let you pretend you’re in the boonies.

The great thing about the S24O is that it minimizes any problems in planning, packing, weather, bike imperfections, or anything else that might wreck a long tour. If you mess up and forget to bring something, or if the weather turns foul, it’s OK, because everything will be back to normal tomorrow.

Nearby open spaces and parks are ideal places for an S24O. Sometimes you have to get a permit, and these days you do that online. When you’re out there, don’t whoop it up or set the woods on fire. Pack out more than you pack in, and you won’t go to hell or jail for stealth camping. The more official the camp spot, the more comfortable it’s likely to be.

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