Last term, a team of five of us set out to complete our Gold Duke of Edinburgh. To make the challenge even harder, we decided to do it on bikes. So, with all of this now behind us, we wanted to pass on what we thought are the most important items to bring on your Duke of Edinburgh award.
First things first, you must keep hydrated. Throughout Duke of Edinburgh, you are pushing your body through a physical challenge, so any fluid is essential to rehydrate your body and keep the morale up. However, every award you do will seem long and drinking plain water for the whole time can get boring quickly. Therefore, I found carrying around a Robinsons Squash’d (or any other similar product) really handy as it was very light and didn’t take up much space, but it also meant that I was drinking a lot more fluid than I normally would due to the contrast of squash and water.
Typically, when you think of a luxury on DofE, a special homemade sweet treat from your mother might come to mind or maybe a packet of your favourite sweets. However, Immy thought outside the box and on our practice, she brought along a three-leg folding stool. Not only was this easy to fit in a bag but, for the main expedition, she kindly got one for all of us. And so, after a few arguments about who was going to get which colour, when we set off in the rain on the first day of our actual expedition you can imagine how grateful we were that our bottoms remained dry when we stopped for breaks.
Looking down the list for what to pack, there is always a suggestion of dry fruit. Yet it is a bit like marmite: either you like dry fruit or you don’t. It is fair to say that Meg certainly did not fit into the latter category and at every stop she seemed to whip out yet another bag of dried bananas or raisins. She had such a large supply that by the end of the four days we began to question the size of her panniers and whether she had managed to gather any tips from Mary Poppins. This is not a complaint, as we soon began to realise how many arguments could be solved through eating this type of food and regaining our energy and brains. And, as they contained natural sugars, we felt that there was no harm in eating handfuls of these as a substitute for the artificial sugars found in sweet packets.
The main components of a bicycle are the wheels, frame, seat and chain. And, as Max found out, they can break. It was just after a very steep climb that he realised he could no longer peddle his bike and had to get off.
Laying in the road just 5m behind Max was his chain. Cycling up hill in a high gear, although it means you can go up quicker, puts more strain on the chain and, as Max unfortunately found out… chains can snap. This incident meant we ended up at the top of a large hill in Dartmoor trying to attach a chain link to Max’s chain using rocks and anything we could get our hands on. If it had not been for Adam’s handy fixing kit we would have been stuck there for a lot longer. So, it is fair to say: if you do decide to cycle, remember a chain link and a whole puncture repair kit because you can never be too prepared.