2016 marked the first year of 10,000km.cc. What was originally a personal challenge became a collective of riders with a shared passion and ethos towards riding their bike.
We had hundreds of riders from around the world pledge their milestones, as each vowed to consistently chip away at a challenging distance.
In the process we organised a number of rides from our HQ in London. We made the most of an extra day. We warmed up for summer. We celebrated its departure. We rode to the sea. We rode through the darkness. We drank a lot of coffee. We ate a lot of cake (sometimes for breakfast).
Collectively, we rode over 3.6 million kilometres in the 12 months of 2016. That's the equivalent of riding to the moon and back just shy of five times.
Personally, I pledged to ride an extra 50% on last year, setting my sights on the 15,000km milestone. In the process, I learnt a number of things, some of which surprised me and all of which apply to each and every milestone, whether 1,000 or 20,000 kilometres.
In no particular order, here they are.
10kkm is, at its core, a group of strangers.
Or at least that's what we were.
Invitations to Yorkshire, riding with cyclists from Seoul, incredible coffee stop hospitality, last minute sportive entires, bikepacking across the country, pizzas on pavements, photo shoots, jaw-dropping vistas, local tour guides, mid-ride rest stops in riders kitchens: it's safe to say that interesting things happen when you do interesting things.
By bringing together individuals through a shared passion, shared experiences and stories, for me the collective hasn't just been a platform for organising great rides, but for forging very sudden but very real friendships.
Surround yourself with exceptional people.
There's little better motivation than clinging onto the back wheel of people better than you.
It normalises the ridiculous; makes the outrageous ordinary.
290km every week for fifty-two weeks seems silly in isolation. But contextualise it with those preparing to ride across a country or a continent; the riders I've met taking on some of the best amateur athletes in races across the world; the Iron(wo)men and endurance athletes; those representing their country in the saddle, in the water and/or on foot; those that have been forced to start again from scratch; the riders with families and commitments that still find the time to be out there with you.
Suddenly, 42km per day doesn't just feel reasonable – it becomes paltry.
What's more, behind those achievements and endeavours lie the people themselves: the true reason we continually set our morning alarm for 05:30.
It's okay to try and fail.
15,000km was one of numerous challenges I aimed to compete this year.
I wanted to complete Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, but thanks to some poor planning and a minor bike issue, my race was over a mere 5km into the bike leg.
I wanted to complete all 12 Strava Climbing Challenges throughout the year, but two of them alluded me.
I wanted to finish the Festive 500 for the third year running, but only made it to 300km.
It's fine. They'll all be there next year.
In the meantime, I rode over 15,000km, ran a half marathon every month, completed a number of other triathlons and sportives, and experienced the proudest and momentous day of my life so far when I married my now wife on 30th December.
Challenges are not just there to be achieved. They're there to drive, to motivate and to provide focus. If you completed everything you set out to do in 2016, congratulations.
But maybe you should dare to dream a little bigger this year?
I get FOMO.
I'm not great at accepting opportunity cost, the idea that in order to pursue one course of action, something else must give in its place.
At the beginning of the year, I wanted to keep riding far.
I also wanted to start swimming. And run further. And keep up the gym. And organise a wedding. And have a social life.
Needless to say, each and every one of these things was the victim of another throughout the year.
You can't do everything.
Accept that and, where you can, embrace it. Forget riding for pizza (or coffee, or cake or anything else for that matter). Just gather up your friends, leave the bikes and the Lycra at home and just go and have the pizza.
It's in doing this that you create the time to reflect and appreciate what you've achieved. It's easy to forget, moving all too quickly on to the next challenge.
Don't ride your bike.
I managed to juggle a number of commitments for seven or eight months, but then I started to feel the consequences of burning the candle at both ends and straight up the middle.
I didn't reach my limit, but I did discover a border that separates tiredness from burnout and, having toed that line, chose to take a few steps back (see lesson Number 4).
I've written previously that routine is your enabler. It removes the need to think and allows you to just do. But in dragging yourself out of bed on another early morning, mindlessly brushing off your bodies cries of "please, just one more hour!", there's also a need to remain self aware.
I found myself in danger of getting on the bike not because I wanted to or even because I had to, but simply because it's what I'd done the day, week or month before.
And that's not why I ride.
When you've kilometres to cover, rest seems counterintuitive. Sometimes it feels downright detrimental. But you're in this for the long haul, so give your body what it needs: some extra sleep, a lazy morning and a second cup of coffee or a late night and a few extra glasses of whisky.
You won't go as far tomorrow, but you'll be better placed to keep going the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that...
Besides, it won't be long before that little voice inside your head is willing you back onto the roads, hungry for more views, conversations and stories.
I've spent the first ten days of 2017 doing just that and I'm ready for the year ahead.
More rides. More news. More early mornings. More new projects. And, most importantly, more wonderful people, both old and new.