5 Bike adventures to ride before you die

Why do you ride your bike? What compels you to jump in the saddle, fuel up and pedal off into the distance? Whether you ride your bike to get to work, enjoy the weekend, shred the trails, or to race or tour, one thing’s for sure: our bikes bring us so much more than fitness. To celebrate the true joy of cycle touring (the highs, the lows, and all the ‘oh WOW’s’ in between) we’ve rounded up a few of the incredible adventures some of our staff have experienced. Which one takes your fancy?

[cover photo credit: Ness Knight]

Vancouver to Tijuana – Robyn Furtado (Videographer)

‘Two years ago my twin sister and I cycled down the west coast of America from Vancouver to Tijuana in Mexico, which felt like a proper adventure. The route is about 3000km.’

What was the highlight?

‘So many! Going over the Golden Gate Bridge was an incredible feeling, and telling all the tourists en-route that we’d CYCLED FROM VANCOUVER – they didn’t care – but also the Mendacino coast was super beautiful, and Oregon was stunning. We made loads of cycle tour friends as well, that was fun.’

What was the lowpoint?

‘Probably when we didn’t listen to all the storm warnings because “We’re British and we don’t mind a bit of rain”, and then realizing this wasn’t normal British rain. We were in the middle of the redwoods and visibility was about five metres. Everything was soaking and there was no shelter for about 60 miles either way. Putting up a wet tent in the rain and getting into wet sleeping bags is not recommended.’

What did you learn?

‘Essentials for a successful bike tour include: gaffa tape, zip lock bags, zip ties, oats, and a heavy bike pump to chase off thieving racoons.’

 

Tour Divide Race – James Olsen (Own Brand development)

‘Back in 2013 I raced the Tour Divide; 2750 miles of dirt roads and tracks along the Great Divide from Banff in Canada to the US-Mexico border. It’s a self-supported bike race that simply happens each year. There’s no entry fee, no prizes and no official organisation. I don’t race my bike much but decided to race the TDR for a few reasons; to see as much of America as possible in a short space of time, out of a love of those big sky landscapes, and a personal test of self-sufficiency and commitment.’

What was the highlight?

‘Leaving Ovando in Montana after a great breakfast. The night before I’d slept at the side of the trail after getting over the last pass of the day as it went dark. It was the area of highest bear density on the route and there were more footprints and fresh scat in just a few miles than I’d seen so far on the route. Navigation without a GPS wasn’t easy at times and I’d felt quite exposed. The morning after was quite different, a great ride in the sunshine and far less threatening. The locals in Ovando are keen TDR followers or ‘dot watchers’, a couple of them came to the diner to say hello and give me my first update on how my race was going. I’d made good progress and I rode out of town full of bean burritos, listening to Bob Seger and just feeling great about everything the race and the mid-west was offering.’

What was the lowpoint?

‘When it all got a bit weird in New Mexico. Cumulative fatigue started to get the better of me and I was at the seeing-things level of tired. I felt like I was losing my ability to pace well and I rode through the night with my vision distorting what I could see in my headlight and I thought every light from a ranch in the distance was a rider catching me. I was still enjoying the riding but I’d lost perspective of why I was racing. It was all blurred through exhaustion and sleep deprivation. The low point lasted a couple of days until I got to the Toaster House in New Mexico, a renowned stopping point for Divide travelers. A birthday party was in full swing there and some good company for a couple of hours reset a lot of things for me. It was my longest non-sleeping stop in the whole race.’

What did you learn?

‘That motivation and momentum will get you through far more than you might think possible. There’s not always the need to build up to big things like this, in at the deep end can be a good motivator and work out OK. Waiting or preparing for too long for something just means there’s more chance of other things getting in the way. And that no matter how self-sufficient you may think you are, being around good people makes any situation better.’

 >>Read about what it’s like to be a RAAM mechanic here<<

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) – Magdalena Schoerner (Marketing)

If James’ stories of racing the Tour Divide sound a bit too intense then you can always ride the route without racing it as Magda did back in 2016:

‘Ever since hearing about GDMBR about five years ago, I just couldn’t get it out of my head! I finally convinced my boyfriend that there wouldn’t be a better way to spend the summer together. It took us 46 days to tackle the route, carrying all our own gear, from south to north. As much as I’m competitive in nature, it was the right decision not to enter the race (Tour Divide) which was in fact happening at the same time, as it allowed us to take things in and engage with our environment just that little more.’

What was the highlight?

‘I loved the remoteness of New Mexico, it felt raw and honest. It also, to many people’s surprise, features the highest point of the route – Indiana Pass standing 11910 feet tall! Still covered in snow in early June, we were lucky as the pass just reopened after the winter months. Amazing memories – from sandy dessert roads to high Alpine-like peaks in little over a week!

I was also thoroughly moved to experience what they call ‘trail magic’ on so many occasions. People are generally good, we must remember that among all the fear-mongering in the news out there!’

What was the lowpoint?

‘There were definitely a few days where the going got tough and I found myself wondering ‘why?’ but I remember one particularly bad day where I got soaked and freezing cold out there. I’m really terrible once I’m cold, it’s almost like my brain freezes too. Luckily, I had my boyfriend looking after me. A favour I could return on all the hot, monotonous, mentally draining stints he, on the other hand, found hard to cope with. We made a good team.’

What did you learn?

‘I learned that I was right to trust my thirst for adventure as I ended up with an experience of a lifetime. There are always apparent barriers to embarking on such an epic trip, financially (quitting a job?), emotionally (what if things go wrong?); physically (will I be fit enough?), but we can generally make things work and we’re almost always more capable than we think..’

 

Lands’ End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) – Katie Simmonds (buying team)

‘From 8th to 16th September this year I rode LEJOG, which was 980 miles and some of the most challenging hill’s in the UK (mountains in my eyes).’

What was the highlight?

‘One highlight of the trip was one of our feed stops being at a ski resort, I can tell you we didn’t stop there for long, as it got pretty nippy. The other highlight was having enough energy after 80 miles one day to sprint up Cheddar Gorge, which was fun in my eyes.’

What was the lowpoint?

‘The lowest point was tackling pin like rain and Icey head winds, through southern Scotland, which can really get you down in the dumps. The most challenging day was entering the Cairngorms, starting at 6:30am in four degrees, with ice on our bikes! (see photo) With this, it was a tough three mile slog up the Lecht only two miles in, with some 25% gradients throughout.’

What did you learn?

‘It’s made me learn that you can do anything if you put your mind to it with a little bit of hard work and training.’

 

Split to Barcelona – Lorne Campbell (Glasgow Store)

‘Earlier this year myself and a colleague rode from Split to Barcelona through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, France and Catalonia.’

What was the highlight?

‘The highlight for me was riding some roads that I had driven in Saanen, Switzerland. Having spent a few walking holidays in that region it was amazing to be back there on the bike.’

What was the lowpoint?

‘Day Three riding though Slovenia was tough. Having ridden 470km in the previous two days the climbing towards Austria was brutal. After 140km and some discussion we cut the day short.’

What did you learn?

‘I would say that it isn’t as hard as it looks. Anyone can do it. It’s one of my favourite things in the world. Which makes it easy for me to promote, but the feelings of freedom I have when I’m on a bike really do it for me.’

>>Read about the world’s toughest bicycle races here<<

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