moi: One-half of moi outside recently completed the Rapha Pennine Rally , a multi-day off-road cycling rally from Edinburgh to Manchester, crossing the Pennines via some of the best bridleways, singletrack, and forrest access roads the UK has to offer.
The event wasn’t what Chris expected it to be, which is a story for another time, and it got him thinking about how different the definition of “adventure by bike” is for different people.
Meeting riders from varied backgrounds, levels of experience, and relationships with cycling on the route Chris was struck by the post event words of one fellow rider, Amy Perryman, about how events like the Pennine Rally can re-ignite a passion for the simpler side of pedalling from A-B in a world where we can easily get distracted by fitness statistics, numbers, training programmes, and endless fitness apps to monitor our ‘progress’.
As an athlete that has been racing for many years, and competes at a very high level across almost all disciplines (riding for TEKKERZ.CC and Montezuma’s Race Team) we think Amy has a really interesting perspective on what ‘Adventure’ by bike means, so we asked her to write some words on what she took from the experience of the rally.
Amy: There has been a steep rise of gravel riding in the cycling community over the last couple of years and with many ex-pro athletes continuing their cycling careers through gravel racing or bikepacking adventures, it has many riders like myself itching to see what the hype is about.
I’m a 21 year old athlete and have been immersed within cycling since I was 7, starting out racing on the track, moving to cyclocross aged 12 after getting bored of riding in circles. Since discovering the off-road racing scene I was hooked and have come back every winter to race a full CX season – this year will be my 11th cyclocross campaign. Many people would call me crazy for committing so many hours and giving up so much of my life to the sport, the sport I’m yet to get paid to do, but there’s a reason I keep coming back each year… I really love it. The highs and lows, the adrenaline kick, the feeling of winning after so many losses. It’s addicting.
However, sometimes my mind can get lost in statistics, results and overwhelmed by stress – this is where adventure cycling comes into play. Over the last 2 years my motivation and self-belief dropped massively, a consistent lack of results meant motivation was hard to come by and as a result I genuinely believed I’d never be good enough to go pro. This lack of self-belief created a downward spiral of negativity until eventually the idea of calling it quits got more real every day.
Adventure riding showed me that cycling doesn’t always have to be so intense. Learning to ride for the love of cycling again was like a breath of fresh air, taking things back to my roots (no pun intended) and just embracing the outdoors. I feel I don’t do it often enough, just packing up and going on an adventure but I think it’s because nowadays I have a much healthier relationship with my training and a good mindset balance. Meaning that my training can be just as enjoyable as off-road aventuring.
Recently, I rode the Rapha Pennine Rally – a bikepacking event from Edinburgh to Manchester over 5 days. 500km covered with 1000-2000m climbed each day, no easy feat. I’d never ridden anything like this before, or never even spent that much time continuously in the saddle (30hrs in 5 days!!). Until this point, I had convinced myself I’d only ever be good at 1hr intense races and that long distance riding wasn’t for me because I’d never been good at it or enjoyed it. I used to struggle when I would see 4hr rides set on my training plan and refuse to go at it without a group of people to distract myself the whole way round. I entered the Pennine Rally simply to see how I would cope.
Turns out, when all you have to do in the day is focus on moving forward, where your next meal is coming from and finding a prime (midge-free) camping spot for the night; long distance riding is quite beautifully peaceful. Switching my phone into aeroplane mode and only focusing on where my GPX route would take me next meant my brain went into auto-pilot mode, I was just pedalling. Thinking about everything, yet nothing at the same time – a type of hyperfocus I’ve only ever experienced when racing. Naturally being a social butterfly, I’d never ridden such long distances alone. I was scared of my own thoughts discouraging me, which is why I would distract myself with conversation. However, during the rally I found myself wanting that empty headspace, I craved my own company.
Reflecting on my time at the rally, It opened my eyes to a side of cycling where speed and stats don’t really matter but also I proved to myself that I’m not terrible at long distances, I’d just never allowed my brain to see that it could actually be enjoyable. It’s not that adventure cycling saved my cycling “career” but it snapped my brain out of a negative spiral and showed me why I began this journey in the first place.