Saskia Martin / From Bad to Better

All my holidays involve riding bikes. I simply can’t sit still and I’m always on the quest for the right type of epic.

Mentally exhausted and with holiday plans in disarray, Saskia Martin looked to the desert wilderness of Andalusia to force a reset. Heading south to ride the Badlands route with her friend Cat Karalis, the redemption Saskia sought proved elusive but she did discover a sense of self and a way of once again moving forward.

Illustrated with her own beautiful photography, Saskia offers a warm and honest reflection on the healing properties of friendship and the freedom of the road.

As a senior product developer for Rapha, my job is to make our designer’s dreams and concepts into a reality. But as it’s a very fast-paced role – which I love because I thrive in chaos and under time constraints – that brings with it a certain degree of pressure and I was close to burn out.

With this feeling compounded by both work and home life revolving around bikes, I woke up one morning and didn’t want to ride. I was still commuting by bike but even that was exhausting. A physical tiredness but also an emotional sense of weariness that was devastating—I was basically going through a break-up with my bikes.

These issues couldn’t have come at a worse time because I’d signed up for the Atlas Mountain Race with my friend Cat. So when this was postponed and still having a window of annual leave to fill, we decided to book a flight to Málaga to see if I could rediscover my cycling mojo by riding the Badlands route. A fuck-it attitude of let’s see how we will do.

My friendship with Cat grew through working together at Rapha. From Regent’s Park laps to weekend bivvying, we’re always searching for our next cycling adventure and have a shared Excel spreadsheet permanently detailing our packing lists. All sub-categorised, a tick underneath each heading tells us who’s bringing what. 

Just getting our boxed bikes to the airport proved one of the trip’s biggest challenges. Cat was taking her Cannondale MTB so her box weighed in at 30 kg – my Juliana gravel bike a relatively svelte 25 kg – but both proved a burden as we pushed and pulled them across London’s Tower Bridge at 5:00am in the morning.

Landing in Málaga saw us building our bikes outside the terminal before riding to the train station and, unbeknownst to us, a train strike. With no news on a resumption of services, we decided to take back logistical control and ride to Granada and the start of the Badlands route.

Messaging my friend to ask if he could make us a route, he sent one through but warned us not to question the elevation as he’d just done an A to B on Komoot. It was Day Minus One and we had 130 km to cover with 2,500 m of climbing—no problem!

From the outside, our hostel in Granada looked really dodgy but proved to be a palace. Which added to our guilt when we got the camping stove going in our room to brew up our morning coffee. As we’d planned to bivvy each night, this would be our last taste of luxury until our pre-booked Airbnb in Colmenar. I’d used Google Maps to pinpoint each evening’s placement for our makeshift camps but that didn’t exactly go to plan either.

Setting off from Granada we got our first taste of the terrain with a few tumbles to fuel our adrenaline levels. Stopping to spend the night on the edge of a small town, we were pitted against a torrential downpour and gale force winds. These meteorological challenges prompted a shockingly-bad attempt at fixing up a shelter to protect us from the elements. With a tarparline stretched over our bikes, we resorted to supporting the centre of our ‘roof’ with a stick in an effort to divert the rivulets of water away from our heads. Surprisingly, considering the climatic conditions, I slept like a log—Cat, not so much.

Waking up on Day Two, I felt refreshed but Cat had slight bivvy eyes. Automatically slipping into my efficient mode, I prepped breakfast and quickly packed up everything for the off. Naturally we immediately began to climb—a rutted track that was so steep we were forced to push our bikes with outstretched arms and bent knees. Finally reaching the top, any sense of elation was immediately quashed by a British cycle-brand busy with their photoshoot.

Leaving behind the models on bikes, photographer, art director, assistants and cars – so much for seeking out the wilderness – we found our way through a series of gorges that sliced through the arid hillsides. A mini Grand Canyon with wild goats and an isolated monastery adding a touch of local colour—also provided by my Garmin and its coded difficulty ratings on the climb profiles. Ranging from a benign green through yellow, orange and finally a heart-palpitating dark red, I would shout out our colour zone at every opportune moment.

Feeling the need for some creature comforts, we decided to book a hotel for the night. On arrival – after we were passed on the road by the photoshoot crew – this establishment proved curiously reminiscent of a Hollywood film set. Embracing its quirky charms and taking the opportunity to wash out our kit, we slept without the need to take turns holding a stick and both woke ready to greet the next day’s challenges.

With this restful night providing an added vigour to our riding, the off-road trails gradually transitioned into a section of forest—both of us enjoying the changes in shade and light and a part of the trip where the chatter of our conversations proved particularly resonant. With our voices and laughter held in this timber-like lattice, it reminded me that what I love about bike-packing is the sound as you ride—the hum of tyres on smooth tarmac or the crunch of gravel on a trail. Very unfortunately I’d been advised that it would be okay to fit these really cheap disc pads and they were screaming whenever I slowed down. To such an extent that I dreaded descending and anyone who knows me, knows that I love to descend. All I wanted to do was climb because at least that meant I could avoid the anxiety of coming down again.

In the forest, however, this wasn’t so much of an issue as my style of riding at home meant I could confidently pick my line and brake less. And it was here that we first spotted through a gap in the trees, the white domes of the Calar Alto Observatory.

Struggling to work out the distance to this landmark, the road inevitably began to climb until I was finally sitting, eating some sweets, and taking in the architecture of this incredible mountain top cluster of buildings. Wishing we could stay and camp out under the stars, I also knew we faced a long descent and that my brakes would scream all the way down. Sure enough, the noise was so loud that when I finally reached the bottom I was crying—no fun at all and with an added sense of losing my thing. Because my thing is descending.

Searching for somewhere to spend the night, we decided on a lay-by next to a motorway. Admittedly it was a bit grim and we were bedeviled by swarms of mosquitoes but the sky was clear so we didn’t need to be covered by our tarp and we fell asleep under a blanket of stars.

Dawn saw us rising with the sun and counting our mosquito bites. Cat almost immediately had a puncture so, once fixed, we sought comfort in a café. Here I experienced one of the highlights of our trip – the shouts and laughter of the customers, the bustle of orders being brought to tables – and what I love about my rides in and around London. Lapping Regent’s Park isn’t exactly exciting but you do it with friends and go to a café afterwards. It sets you up right for the day—which was what I was witnessing in that little corner of Spain.

On our way again, this was the day we’d be crossing the Tabernas—the only official desert on the European continent. My favourite day as it turned out because the terrain was so technical that it cleared my mind of other concerns. We were riding tiny tracks with a drop off to either side and the knowledge that if either of us made a mistake the consequences could be severe. And although a barren landscape, the colours were truly vibrant and we loved carrying our bikes across rail tracks that disappeared either way into the distance.

Closing in on the end of our sojourn, in some ways I was feeling a little deflated. We were always behind in our plans due to the problems with our transfer from the airport and this meant we’d cut out some sections of the official Badlands route. And there was this voice in my head telling me that we should have done more. Cat patiently pointed out that we were on holiday and should only do what we want to do and not worry about the rest. It took me some time but eventually I managed to get to that place and this process was helped by our time at a campsite by the sea. We rented a plot and there were toilets and showers – such luxury – and you fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.

To ride the route with Cat – an experienced ultra-distance racer and one of the most wonderful people in my world – was why I kept on moving forward. Every time I doubted or questioned, she was there with a gentle reminder of how to be present and embrace the moment. And what struck me as we wound our way back in the direction of Málaga and our waiting Airbnb, was the constantly shifting landscapes we’d ridden through. Road, desert, forest, beach, rolling coastal-California—jaw-dropping visual surprises like the desert train tracks and flamingos in a lagoon. Views and vistas that I tried to capture with my camera as an added reminder of the joys we had both shared.

In all honesty, I use cycling as therapy—I run away from my problems by riding my bike. But when we returned home and everyone was asking how we got on, I had to put on this front and tell them how amazing our trip was. Because I really wish I could say that I found my cycling mojo in the Badlands of southern Spain but I didn’t.

What I did find was a desire to ride my bike a little more. And our trip gave me the time to reflect on what’s actually important to me and what makes me happy. Everything in life shapes you to one degree or another—the next time you go and do something, you do it as a different person. We’re always growing and I do understand that Badlands has changed me. I just haven’t as yet figured out how.

All images with kind permission of Saskia Martin

Cat Karalis

Badlands 2022

The Service Course / Off-piste in the Peaks

It’s 7:30am and the sky is brightening. The forecast rain has failed to arrive and the day promises to be dry. A fact not lost on the riders as they roll up outside The Service Course in Wilmslow ready for an epic day in the nearby Peak District. Signed on and with coffee in hand, talk soon turns to the route and tyre choice. With an entertaining mix of trails and moorland pathways all stitched together by quiet country lanes and a profile that suggests every gear ratio will be required, this will prove a challenging day in the saddle but one that offers stunning scenery, a sense of shared purpose and the reward – on finishing – of a pie and freshly pulled pint.

Vinny / The Service Course

Riding: A brand new Open U.P. in raw carbon. It was only built yesterday which might be a little bit of a no-no.

Gravel Bonanza is a big thing for me personally, and for The Service Course Wilmslow. To do events like this is such a privilege—to see people sign up because they want to ride with us. And this is just one event out of a number that we have planned. Kind of a nod to the future but inspired by rides that started in Girona. Yes, our version ends at a brewery—which might suggest it’s got a little of me on it.


Riding: A Specialized Diverge with some random bits and pieces that happened to be in the cellar.

I actually live over in Bradford so this is a new area for me to ride. A good excuse to check out some new trails. What I love about a gravel bike is diving down those little hidden pathways you notice out on a ride—not gravel with a capital G but it’s off-road and entertaining. What more do you need?

Ali / Wahoo

Riding: A borrowed bike from The Service Course. It’s a very beautiful Curve and quite possibly beyond my gravel ability.

We’re here representing Wahoo to help out with our bike computers. And for the good vibes [smiles].

Sarah / The Service Course

Riding: No bike for me today as I’m staying at the shop to look after our other customers.

I wasn’t a cyclist when I started working at The Service Course. But I soon saw first hand how cycling brings so many people together. They meet here over a coffee before heading out on a ride—a real sense of community. So now that I’m also riding a bike, I get to join in and I really love it.


Riding: A Bellé that I had built up at The Service Course in Girona. A custom frame with a road bias but this adventure mini-mullet set-up is really proving itself today.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I needed to get out of London so I came up to the Peak District. One, I never realised how easy it was to get here and, two, it has great roads, great people and great coffee. Today we’ve done gravel, tarmac, cobbles, some technical single-track—and that’s on one ride. We have nice riding down in Kent and Surrey but it’s not as challenging and the people are kind of mean [laughs].

Luke / Outdoor Provisions

Riding: There’s two of us – me and Christian – and we’re a Manchester-based energy snack company. We’re both big into bikes but, today, we’re providing the food at the feed stop.

We put the route together for this Gravel Bonanza. There’s a few gems on the west side of the Peak District like Macclesfield Forest and the Midshires Way which we’ve included. And there’s also some bumpy bits which people might be upset about later on [laughs].


Riding: My all-in-one Specialized Roubaix. You can be cheeky and put on some 35s with just enough clearance.

I was looking forward to the camaraderie. A ride that’s a little bit more chilled without all the cars—in the Peak District when you’re not on trails the roads are pretty quiet. And if you want to get lost – in a good sense – then this is the place to come.

Nil / The Service Course

Riding: An Open. But it has reverse brakes – I’m from Girona – so maybe a little tricky on the descents [smiles].

It’s my first time riding in the Peak District but if the weather is okay, then everything will be fine. When I left Spain yesterday it was 20°C – sunshine, shorts – so I just don’t want it to rain.


Riding: An Open Wi.DE Ultradynamico Limited Edition on 48s.

I’ve ridden gravel for quite a while and this looked like good fun. Not sure about the views on the route as I’ve been staring at my stem all day.


Riding: An Orbea Terra on WTB Riddler 700c 37s. Beautiful tyres on this terrain.

Back in 2019, I went to ride the Gravel Bonanza in Girona. I met Vinny down there so when I saw The Service Course in Wilmslow was organising their own version, I decided to return the favour. And to show them how to actually make a flat white [smiles].


Riding: A Specialized Diverge. The same one that I rode at Badlands but with fewer bags.

The Service Course is my local bike shop. I call in most days and they’ve become good friends so I wanted to support them with this event. There’s a mix of everything with this route – some fast flat, technical sections with a loose surface – which just makes it an epic ride.


Riding: An Allied Allroad. My first gravel ride with this bike and I still need to learn how the bike handles and when to hop off [smiles].

It’s an amazing route and I’ve always liked what The Service Course does. I live in Southport which is totally flat so this is an opportunity to ride with others and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Matt / The Service Course

Riding: I’m making the coffees at the feed stop.

There’s a far amount of logistical organisation in pulling together an event like this. Having a coffee set-up in the middle of nowhere is the main hurdle to get over. But it was great to see everyone meeting up earlier today—that buzz as they headed out for six hours or however long of riding.

The sense of community that I see through my role with The Service Course is very humbling and quite overwhelming. And a ride like today – seeing that many people at the shop, signing on for the ride, getting a coffee – even though I’m not riding myself, I can still take a lot of enjoyment out of that.

Photography by Matt Tomlinson

The Service Course / Outdoor Provisions / komoot / Wahoo / Track Brewery

Lucas Badtke-Berkow / Tokyo Tree Trek

Publishing their Tokyo Tree Trek edition in the spring of 2020, Papersky magazine offered an intriguing insight into the Japanese metropolis from the perspective of the city’s myriad green spaces and the trees that have long been a feature of Tokyo’s urban landscape. Catching up with Papersky’s co-founder and editor, Lucas Badtke-Berkow, we discussed the inspiration that led to the route’s design, why the original premise opened up to offer unexpected outcomes, and how walking or cycling can encourage a rediscovery of aspects of city life often hidden in plain sight.

We’ve managed to successfully navigate a ten hour difference in time zones for our video call but Lucas Badtke-Berkow is having a little trouble showing me a photo spread from a copy of Papersky—the magazine he co-founded with his wife Kaori in 2002. Sitting in front of his laptop, juggling an electric lantern in one hand and the open pages of his publication in the other, the beam of light momentarily picks out the photographs he wants me to see before illuminating his smiling face.

The lantern is on account of Lucas’ farmhouse location. A ‘workcation’ away from his Tokyo home that is proving an increasingly popular trend with a population freed from the office due to home working but needing to maintain social distancing.

Along with frequent bursts of laughter, Lucas talks enthusiastically with a tell-tale Japanese accent. A fascinating insight into cultural assimilation considering he was born in the North American city of Baltimore and grew up in San Francisco where he studied at the University of California.

“After graduation I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been to before. I was an American Studies major so there was a lot of focus on American history and American art. And I immediately thought of Japan because in San Francisco there’s a Japanese bookstore called Kinokuniya where I enjoyed looking at lots of different Japanese magazines and photo books. I was always fascinated by how totally different the perspectives and images were compared to the States.”

“So I decided to go and see Japan for myself. I had this tiny, little backpack and just set off for a two week stay. I arrived in 1993 and haven’t really left. I guess it’s a good fit for me.”

With Lucas making his own magazines since elementary school, he launched Tokion in 1996—the publication’s title translating from Japanese characters to mean ‘The Sound of Now’. Mixing Japanese youth culture, music and fashion with American trends in movies, photography and art, the magazine ran for six years and became very popular.

“People didn’t have a clear image of what Japan was at that time. There was no internet back then and it wasn’t easy to see and understand the culture so magazines were one way that people shared and consumed media. We had a bi-lingual setup and published Tokion in Japan, republished in the States and also distributed to Europe. But then, as I got older, I came to the realisation that I couldn’t really make a youth culture magazine anymore. But making magazines was the only thing I knew how to do so I had to rethink what would work next. I’d grown to love travel and visiting different places – both in Japan and overseas – so with my wife Kaori we started to plan how to turn those interests into a magazine. I sold Tokion and we started Papersky in 2002.”

With each edition of the magazine having a central theme, when Lucas heard the announcement that Japan would be hosting the Olympics in 2020, he decided to offer an insight into Tokyo but from a unique perspective. Rather than simply a guide to the best place to eat or which museum to visit, he considered how Papersky could focus on the culture of Tokyo but in a way that people could experience for themselves.

“I had this idea of offering memories that would last a lifetime and discussed this with Kaori. My wife, she’s a very interesting person because she communicates with trees. She goes out very early in the morning when the neighbourhood is quiet and has conversations with several trees that she likes to visit. And then when she returns, over coffee she’ll talk to me about what they said.”

“So with Tokyo expecting all these visitors for the Olympics, it just struck me that maybe we should plan a trail that connects all the trees in the city. And the interesting thing for me is that, unlike a forest which might have only two or three varieties, in the city people have planted all sorts of different trees. Almost like a museum.”

Over the course of six months, the couple began by listing their favourite trees before asking people they knew to suggest one or two of their own. Once all these locations were plotted on a map, the next step was to design a route that would link all the individual trees together. With a certain shape called an ‘uzumaki’ in Japanese – the spiral you see on a snail’s shell – it was decided that the trail would start in Shinagawa and then pass through their own neighbourhood of Higashi-Shibuya before ending at the Imperial Palace.

“So we had this idea of travelling through Tokyo but from a totally different perspective. Along the way you get to meet all the trees and then there’s a nice cafe here and an interesting shop over there. And I’m friends with a lot of bicycle messengers and they know the roads better than pretty much everyone else. We wanted to connect up the route and messengers are usually thinking about how to ride from one building to the next so we just substituted the trees.”

With an initial route mapped out, Lucas cycled the trail with Kaori before they each walked individual sections on their own. A final run-through and the Tokyo Tree Trek was ready for publication in Papersky in time for the expected influx of visitors to the city. 

“Even though we’d originally planned this to coincide with the Olympics which were subsequently postponed, because the magazine came out during lockdown, many people wanted to spend time outside in the fresh air where it wasn’t crowded. Something that we didn’t foresee but an unexpected and satisfying outcome. The trail and the mood of the city were a really good match at that time.”

Another upshot from the trail’s launch was the conversation photographer and creative director Lee Basford initiated with Strava in Japan. A longtime friend of Lucas, he’d enjoyed the Papersky story and felt it would make an interesting ride feature and photo essay. With Strava in San Francisco also onboard, it was decided to make this a global project.

“The idea of seeing a city from a new perspective and to focus on the green spaces with a bicycle friendly route just resonated. So we started super early and went into the evening on two separate days. Lee taking the photographs of myself and my messenger friend, Yuki Tokunaga, riding our bikes.”

With the route avoiding busy roads in favour of quieter back streets and neighbourhoods, not only does it demonstrate how the city embraces nature in the form of parks and open spaces but also how the ancient and modern aspects of Tokyo are so inextricably  intertwined.

“There’s a cafe on the trail that has a number of bonsai trees sitting outside that are over 500 years old. And these places are easy to miss in a city the size of Tokyo. It’s probably the same everywhere but there’s something about Japan that can be really hard to figure out. Where things are and why they’re there. The story behind these places and how they interconnect. So we set out to offer an easy way of navigating the city that helps you to understand the connection between the built and cultural landscape. And these elements become increasingly apparent as you travel along the route. You’re going on a time trip as much as a physical journey.”

In a similar way to how the city of New York embraced the High Line, now that the Tokyo Tree Trek is established, Lucas is hopeful that at some point the city officially adopts the trail with signage to show the route.

“We walked the High Line with the photographer Joel Sternfeld before the city understood the potential. That was 15 or 16 years ago and we did a Green New York issue of Papersky. So it would be nice to see our trail live on in some form or other. Especially as I don’t really consider Tokyo to be a cycling city.”

As Papersky regularly organises its own bicycle tours, the fact they are always so popular suggests that maybe the potential does exist for Japan to embrace cycling on a broader scale. The 40 km loops the magazine plans – with stops along the route for riders to eat well and meet the local population – offering an appealing model for inclusive cycling events.

“There’s a particular type of bike with small wheels called a Mini Velo that are popular in Japan. On our tours we rent this type of bike because it helps to keep the pace even and the group together. It’s important to enjoy cycling and I can remember when I joined my University cycle team that I very nearly quit on my first ride. Watching everyone disappear up the road ahead, I was fortunate to have Harrison Ford’s son riding with me – you know, Han Solo – and he kindly explained that the more you do, the easier it gets. And because he did that, it made me stick with it.”

“But would I call myself a cyclist? That’s a good question because I don’t really give myself any labels. I’m not on the bike everyday but I do use it to explore and to show things in a different way. And if I want more people to know about certain things – to discover the undiscovered – then cycling is a tool that I use to do that. And I think it’s a really good way of raising awareness of your immediate surroundings because you’re travelling using your own energy and feeling the atmosphere around you. It’s the same with walking; it’s just the speed difference. So if someone wanted to call me a cyclist, I’d be OK with that.”

Lucas Badtke-Berkow / Papersky

Photography with kind permission of Lee Basford

Lucas’ ride companion is Yuki Tokunaga

Visit Strava for more images and a detailed description of each stage of the Tokyo Tree Trek route

Krysten Koehn / Nothing is lost

I was reading the most beautiful essay by the art critic Peter Schjeldahl. This one particular line standing out as being so acutely relevant to my view of the world: ‘Nothing can be wholly lost that lives in Art’.

And this made me think about the time when I was living in New York and visiting the MET. A tiny still life by Cezanne tucked away in a corner depicting some apples and pears that had me standing with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Because it’s these emotional responses that stay with me. Moments in my life when I’m riding my bike and I feel my heart is going to explode because it simply doesn’t have the capacity for all that beauty.

Krysten Koehn has just returned from a solo ride to the west of Amsterdam and is now sitting in the window of her first-floor apartment with the spring sunshine lighting up her face. Currently waiting for a new passport after applying for citizenship in the Netherlands, this is the latest in a series of moves that have been a feature of her personal and professional life to date.

Copy of Krysten_Attaquer_Web_8

Brought up in Colorado, in her early twenties Krysten spent six months backpacking through Europe where she felt immediately at home. Her goal of once again returning in a more permanent fashion influencing her decision to study a Masters in Art Education that initially led to a teaching post in Kuwait.

‘I was able to travel a lot and it was a very rich time. I’m really thankful that I went and really thankful that I’m not doing it now [laughs].’

Another move to accept a position teaching at a Swiss boarding school coincided with her introduction to road cycling. As she was living in a tiny ski station high in the Alps, an uncompromising baptism of fire with Krysten describing the roads as going either straight up or straight down with very little in between.

‘I would probably still be there if I hadn’t been accepted to the Yale School of Art. And then, when I arrived, I didn’t touch my bike for the whole of the first semester; it just sat in my apartment with flat tyres, gathering dust. Not only was the course crazily overwhelming but I was also readjusting to life in the States and the transition from being a teacher back to a student again.’


As things began to somewhat settle, Krysten learnt that the Yale cycling team held weekly open rides and decided to join. Recruited onto the women’s race team, she now had a coach and structured training; a set of clear, measurable goals that considering the pressures of her course she found to be a salvation.

‘After graduating, I moved to New York where I met a couple of guys riding in Central Park,’ Krysten remembers. ‘We got chatting and they explained how they raced for the Rapha NY team before inviting me to join. This came at a really fortunate time because finding a community in New York isn’t always that easy and life can be lonely even though you’re living in a city of twelve million residents.’

‘The next couple of years were spent travelling between my home in New York and a job I found as a guide with a luxury cycle tour company based in France. But it was an Arctic Circle artist residency that decided where I would next be living. Based on a tall ship sailing out of Spitsbergen, I met a Dutchman on the crew, fell in love and that’s how I ended up in the Netherlands [smiles].’

Although not together any more, Krysten has settled in the small city of Haarlem to the west of Amsterdam where she teaches at the American School at The Hague and continues to work as a practicing artist. Her feelings on riding her bike when first moving to the Netherlands perhaps a little surprising in a country renowned for its cycling culture.


‘I was actually really uninspired by the landscape and almost stopped riding completely for a couple of years. After guiding bike tours in the Alps and Pyrenees and growing up in Colorado, the Netherlands felt like the flattest country in the entire world. And it’s not like it doesn’t have its own unique beauty and charm but there’s just no elevation and the weather sucks. It’s very windy almost all of the time and it’s often cloudy or rainy. I was still a Rapha ride leader for those couple of years – forcing myself to go out now and then to fulfill my responsibilities – but I just wasn’t feeling it. And then something possessed me to sign up for a three-day Rapha ride from Amsterdam to Paris. I tried on multiple occasions to get out of it but the RCC coordinator just wouldn’t have it.’

As things turned out, the experience completely changed Krysten’s cycling life. The shared suffering and group camaraderie made her view riding in Amsterdam from a fresh perspective. That although she didn’t have the same towering landscapes, the sense of community was equally as important. And finding that once she’d found that community and immersed myself in it, all Krysten wanted to do was to ride her bike.

‘In the Amsterdam area it’s mostly wide open polders with a network of canals. Pastoral farmland very much like a Flemish painting. Everything is flat; even the light is diffused because there’s so much moisture in the air. And then when you get closer to the sea, the paths through the dunes are really beautiful. The rippling movement of the sea grasses with all the colours very muted. A unique kind of beauty that just needs you to scratch the surface in order to appreciate it.’

Copy of 2f767f86-92c1-43a1-a2c1-a7cef6628b51

Looking at Krysten’s body of work, this sense of landscape and movement appears fundamental to her creative process. A way of both thinking and feeling that’s not only provoked by her immediate surroundings but has strong ties to another location where she feels equally inspired: Girona.

‘Girona is like an amusement park,’ Krysten suggests. ‘Just magical; like nowhere else in the world. There’s obviously a reason why two thirds of the pro peloton live and train there and it’s easy to talk about the quiet roads and considerate drivers. But for me, it’s all encompassed by this general sense of belonging. A golden Mediterranean light that softens everything from the mountains down to the sea. Roads that unfurl like ribbons; undulating so perfectly with a satin surface.’

Spending the summer of 2019 working as a creative consultant for the Service Course, Krysten built another community centred around her friends Christian Meier and Tristan Cardew and the mechanics she rode with after they finished work. A new bike build – a custom steel Speedvagen – providing a link between the two cities that was heightened after Krysten returned to the Netherlands and was hit by a car barely 50 metres from her place of work.


‘I was very lucky and thankfully I could stand up and walk away but there was a part of me that died when I first saw the bike. A lot of well wishers expressed the view that it was more important that I wasn’t seriously injured and while I obviously agree with that, this bike is so much more than just a recreational tool or method of transportation. To me, it feels like an extension of my body. The primary tool of my artistic practice. When I ride it’s as if I’m drawing lines on the Earth; helping me to feel connected wherever I go which as a transient person is so very important. And because my bike is easily the most prized of my possessions, seeing it warped and splintered absolutely broke my heart.’

Now fully restored, Krysten describes her bike as feeling at home in Girona and more of a showpiece in Amsterdam, where its paint scheme provokes an unfailingly positive reaction. And as it’s fabricated from steel rather than featherweight carbon, it suits the flat, windy riding of the Netherlands but will still happily climb all day in the hills that surround the Catalan city.

‘My bike was a tangible way of connecting these places when last summer I planned to ride the 2000 kilometres that separates them. I had a ten-day window between finishing for the school holidays and starting to work with the Service Course, so I just decided to ride there. Why not?’ Krysten says with a smile. ‘Because when you’re carrying whatever belongings you need on your person or attached to your bike, that frees you to live completely in the moment. Allowing you to be 100% present in where you are and what you’re doing.’

Copy of Krysten_Attaquer_Web_31

‘I’ve previously been on bikepacking trips but this one was all about efficiency. And to motivate myself, I’d broken the route down and pre-booked accommodation. Some days had over 4000 metres of climbing and others were almost pan flat. But every day had its own unique feeling and moments which were super poignant.’

Deciding that she wanted to create an artistic response to her journey, on arriving in Girona she immediately sat down to paint a series of watercolors that captured a selection of her most salient memories.

‘I wanted to preserve those remarkable experiences; to burn them in my mind in terms of the colour and linear movement. Because in art, nothing is forgotten, and these paintings are a permanent reminder of those moments in time that I rode between my two cities. Moments that happened then and happened there. And that’s where they live.’


All artwork by kind permission of Krysten Koehn

Watercolour commentaries first published in Soigneur 

Photography credits:

Girona / Tristan Cardew     Netherlands / Martijn Zijerveld & Aneel Mawji

This interview was first published on the Far Ride journal


Vincent Engel / Riding the roof of the world

I first got to know Vincent Engel a couple of years ago when I needed some images to illustrate an article on Rapha Amsterdam. Vincent’s beautiful photographs of riders set against sweeping Dutch landscapes perfectly illustrated the clubhouse cycle culture. At the time, however, he was still transitioning into his new career as a photographer and even finding it difficult to use that particular term. Fast forward to 2020 and Vincent is now busy balancing his time between working for Rapha and his own photographic commissions. The reason we’re once again sitting down to chat now that he’s returned from riding the roof of the world.

So, a good trip?

After I got back from Tibet I immediately left for Mallorca and the Rapha Summit so I’ve only recently had time to process my thoughts and feelings about the experience.

You were working with Serk; a cycling company based in Beijing, China

I have an architect friend who was over in China when I was still working in Saudi Arabia. He’d mentioned that one of the company’s co-founders, Shannon Bufton, was giving a lecture about cycling in China. Shannon’s an Australian, an architect and was living and working in Dubai before going back to Beijing and setting up Serk with Liman Zhao. I was intrigued so asked my friend for his email address and sent him a message.

And he got back to you?

Shannon was keen to have me over in Beijing to see what Serk was doing so he invited me to accompany one of their Everest trips and take some photographs.

What an amazing opportunity.

It certainly was but at the same time I was thinking Everest? Cycling? This was something I had to carefully consider and by the time I’d made a decision there was a problem with getting the correct permits. An opportunity of a lifetime that I’d just thrown away and a hard won lesson that you should just say yes and think about things later [laughs].


So where did it go from there?

We kept in touch and when a friend here in the Netherlands was planning an Everesting challenge I suggested that he join one of Serk’s trips and ride to Everest itself. He liked that idea and thought it would be good if I came along too.

And this time you said yes?

I did [laughs]. Shannon was really happy with this arrangement but just needed to square the funding. This led to him designing a complete clothing set for each rider made from yak wool instead of merino and these sales allowed me to take a place on the trip with a green light to do the photography.

So how do you prepare for riding in Tibet?

You really want to know, Chris?

Yes, Vincent, I really want to know [laughs].

I completely didn’t. I was so busy with work for Rapha that I never seemed to have any spare time. And that was combined with my worst year on the bike – only riding 2,000 km – and a sense of nervousness because I knew that a photographer that accompanied one of Serk’s previous trips had the flu and really got into trouble because of the altitude. So I was very aware that you needed to be fit and healthy but maybe didn’t fully expand on my lack of ride preparation with Shannon [smiles].

I suppose it’s difficult to know quite what to expect on such a trip?

It is because I didn’t have any reference points. Especially when you consider the  extreme altitude. And then I also had to decide whether to shoot from the bike or from the support vehicle.


And what did you decide?

Well, I didn’t take a bike with me so I guess that’s pretty self-explanatory [laughs]. And Serk has its own titanium range so I knew I could borrow a bike if needed. But then I caught a cold immediately after arriving in Beijing. Just what I was afraid might happen and accompanied by some serious teasing from the group in response to all these photographers – past and present – falling by the wayside [laughs].

So you had a dilemma?

Yes. To go with the group or pull out. Weighing up the options of joining a trip, literally, of a lifetime or playing safe.

Was the latter really an option?

Thanks to a medicine called Diamox that treats altitude sickness, no [smiles].

From the outset you weren’t planning on travelling by bike but you had other equipment to think about. Did the climatic conditions affect your choices?

The Leica SL system that I use is so robust that I wasn’t particularly concerned; even though the weather in Tibet can be one of extremes. It can be very hot but we also had a few days of snow. And it can change every 15 minutes so that was the difficult aspect. The most commonly asked question that was directed at the guides concerned what the riders should wear. And the answer was always the same. Just bring everything because, at some point during each day, you’ll probably need it [smiles].

Can you tell me about the ‘onesie’ suit that one of the riders was wearing?

He was the youngest cyclist on our trip and a little bit of an extrovert. He had this one-piece suit for wearing in the van to warm up if the day proved wet. But on one particular descent in the worst weather ever – rain, snow and hail – he decided to wear it on the bike. It made for an interesting image [laughs].


Looking back on your pre-arrival expectations, when you landed in Beijing and then took the internal flight to the start of the first stage in Chengdu, what were your first impressions?

I was expecting it to be a spiritual journey as well as a road trip. Shannon had already mentioned to me that everyone, at some point, cries. They get so overwhelmed by Everest and the surrounding region. And because I was looking at the group rather than riding alongside them, I could more easily observe their reactions and the effect of the altitude. That riding 50 km at 5,000 m feels more like 150 km. How breathing becomes so difficult that even walking takes more effort. And I was running out and back from the van to get the shots even though our guides kept telling me the number one rule at Everest base camp is to go slow. But I didn’t want to miss a single moment even though it was exhausting [laughs].

How did the days work out? What was the rhythm of the trip in the sense of the riders and guides?

We had two vehicles; one to carry riders and a mechanics’ van to hold the spare bikes. The mechanics always drove behind the group to attend to any issues and sweep the tour along. For the majority of the time I travelled with the lead vehicle so I could work out the best vantage points before the riders approached.

So each day started with breakfast?

A simple Chinese breakfast of rice or noodles before the group set off riding. Each day we rode higher before descending a little to the next hotel. So, overall, the trend was a gradual gain in height to acclimatise to the altitude. Very different compared to riding in the Alps because we were starting out at 4,000 m and could still see the tops of distant mountains. Never more noticeable than when we reached base camp at 5,600 m and Everest was towering above us [smiles].

And the landscape?

This was super varied. Every day a change of scenery. Sand dunes and wild rivers; lush green vegetation and mangroves.

It must have been pretty special when you got those first glimpses of the high mountains?

I’m not one of those guys that really lives in the moment. Not a personality trait that I’m particularly happy about because it takes me until I’m back at home before it begins to sink in quite how amazing an experience was [smiles]. But the actual moment of reaching Everest? I just felt like I had a job to do.


I can understand that you’re very focused. But looking at the shots you took, there’s such beauty in those images. A reaction that I would suggest reflects a deep emotional response. As if you’re inviting the viewer to almost reach out and touch the texture and form of the landscape.

That was the most interesting aspect of this trip; the fact that nature dominates when it’s set against the reference point of a rider.

But you also managed to combine these stunning vistas with shots taken in really quite extreme weather. Bodies covered up against the elements with their hunched shoulders and bowed heads.

They were all strong cyclists but it was a tough trip and you’d need to be superhuman not to get tired. And that was the case; some good days and some not so much. Riders completely wrecked due to the altitude with everything feeling fucked. The usual ups and downs that were exacerbated by the challenges of the region we were crossing.

Were you able to get a sense of the people and their communities?

It’s an ancient and fascinating culture. And it’s always fun to engage with the people you meet so you can pick up some simple words and phrases in their language. I wanted to visit one of the Tibetan monasteries but was a little late so decided to walk around the outside where you can see all the prayer wheels decorated with colourful pieces of cloth. I later found out that you have to turn them clockwise but I was mistakenly walking in the opposite direction which explains why individuals were trying to help me change direction. A very warm and humble people.

Any issues with flying your drone?

I actually didn’t use the drone that much. You’re already at such a great height; standing at 5,000 m and shooting down. But they’re such a fan of switchbacks over there that I did use the drone to capture those quite remarkable sections of road.


Any images that you’re particularly happy with?

There are and they usually have a disproportionate use of scale. Rider small, landscape big [smiles]. Possibly not the most popular ones because people naturally prefer a close-up of themselves but they’re the ones that I personally like.

A trip that you’d recommend to other cyclists?

We saw these advertising signs rising 10 m high in the skyline that left absolutely no doubt that Tibet is part of China. Depending on who you speak to, the political situation has its supporters but also opponents. But going to Tibet in general I’d very much recommend. It’s changing very rapidly and we travelled through small villages on gravel sections between concrete curbs waiting for the road to be laid that I’m guessing are now beautifully smooth tarmac. And if you’re a fan of wide-open views then it’s definitely the country for you. But maybe a complex trip to organise. Serk made our trip incredibly straightforward with their familiarity regarding arranging the hotels, transport and guides. And then there’s all the passes and military permits that you need. So to do this on your own can’t be easy.

Any other challenges that spring to mind?

We started our trip from one of the world’s highest airports at around 3,000 m. And when we reached base camp at 5,600 m there’s only 50% of the oxygen at sea level. But riding at such an altitude; you really start to view yourself in a different way. You hit the wall much easier so it’s interesting to see how you react as an individual.

But worth the effort?

This group all knew each other so they really worked well together. When it got tough and the weather worsened they looked out for each other and there was a strong sense of camaraderie. But talking to Shannon, there’s been many occasions when riders sign up individually and then leave after a week’s tour as best friends. The act of facing these extremes together has bonded them and forged lasting relationships.

For you, personally, what were the highlights?

I just felt so humble that I was able to witness this trip. But my most proud aspect? You know I arrived with a cold and for two weeks I was a little bit sick and struggling with the altitude. But the day we were scheduled to arrive at Everest base camp I told the driver to drop me off before grabbing one of the spare bikes from the mechanics’ van and riding the final leg with the group. Of all the stages, the one that I most wanted to do. I didn’t have any cycling shoes or bib shorts. Just my Rapha trousers and down jacket, a pair of trainers and a camera on my back. And that’s how I rode the final 65 km up to 5,600 m. Something I just had to do [smiles].


In some ways this was a trip of extremes. And I remember thinking when we spoke previously that you’d reached a certain point in your professional life where you needed to take a leap of faith. So how does this trip sit in terms of that personal journey?

From a designer’s background I have a passion for aesthetics and telling stories. And carrying a camera helps validate my life choices. As a way of learning about yourself, photography is wonderful in that it reflects your world back at you but it can also be a harsh tool. It was asking me to make a choice between using it to earn a living or keeping it for myself only as a hobby. In the end it demands passion and sacrifice. Long hours with both ups and downs and a requirement to stay excited and energised day after day.

The distance from home, the cultural differences, the altitude. Did you learn anything about yourself as you rode into base camp? Has it changed you in any way?

What I actually gained was a greater confidence in myself as a photographer. That’s the real difference between now and when we discussed this a couple of years ago. At that time I was just starting out and exploring whether I could actually make it in a professional sense. But now? I don’t do anything for free anymore. In the beginning I did work just for the exposure but that doesn’t buy your bread or pay your mortgage. So I’ve been able to discover my sense of worth. Still a very difficult business but it’s good to let go of these doubts [smiles].

Images with kind permission of Vincent Engel

Serk Cycling


Moments of movement / Girona bike-packing

‘I consider these to be Mediterranean bikes. Rooted in the soil and culture of this beautiful region where I ride. Combining a sense of movement through a changing landscape with a timelessness that nature represents.’

These words, spoken by Clementina Bicycles founder Pau Tena, are the reason I’m being met outside the arrivals hall of Girona Airport. Accompanied by photographer friend Ian Walton, we’ve planned a 4 day bike-packing trip to the north of the city and Pau is here to hand over a couple of newly-built bikes that he’s transported from his Barcelona workshop.

Although we’ve been regularly messaging since the idea for our trip was first mooted, this is the first time I’ve met Pau in person. Calm and measured in conversation, initial impressions suggest an individual with considered views on his craft; his passion for this region of Spain abundantly clear and translating into the custom frames that we’re fortunate enough to be riding.


Both constructed from steel – Ian’s ride differing slightly in having a carbon fibre down tube – what’s first apparent is the flawless paintwork. One a deep, lustrous black with the Clementina brand name and a stylised crow’s eye picked out in gold. The other referencing blossom, fruit and wildflowers in the coloured dots that adorn the frame and fork; all set against a blue fade of the Mediterranean sky. Arranged – as Pau describes it – in their natural order.

With introductions out of the way, Pau kindly drops us off at our hotel where we complete a final kit check before finding somewhere to eat dinner and discuss our first day’s ride. Taking us north towards Camprodon and the foothills of the Pyrenees, our trip is loosely based on the Pirinexus 360; a circular route that crosses into France before looping back along the Costa Brava coastline. For the hardiest of riders this can be completed in a single day but we’ve decided on a more leisurely pace to allow us time to stop and enjoy the spectacular scenery.


Waking to the promised leaden skies – we’ve tried a number of different weather apps yet none are offering much hope of bright sunshine – with our bikes loaded we head westwards out of Girona along the Via Verde. A greenway of compacted gravel that follows the original path of the Girona – Olot railway, this offers a quiet and car-free route out of the city centre that criss-crosses a patchwork of allotments and tree plantations. There’s a distinct feeling of spring in the air with blossom petals covering the track and birdsong softening the crunch of our tyres. Even the sun decides to make an appearance; prompting us to remove a layer next to grazing cattle far more interested in their morning feed than Ian’s exhortations to look towards his camera.

Staying close to the River Ter, we pass the towns of Bonmatí and Anglès before a steeper ramp rises into woodland; sheep and goats momentarily blocking our path until the shepherd and his dogs move the straggling flock further up the hillside. The collar bells of the grazing animals echoing across the valley until we crest the top of this first short climb and all is once again quiet.


At Amer the origins of this gravel trail are evident in the disused platform, station house and engine sheds; the latter now roofless with a covering of ivy and tree saplings taking root in the crumbling brickwork as nature gradually reclaims the man-made structures. As we take a moment to photograph the scene, an elderly gentleman approaches; introducing himself and questioning where we’re heading. One hand pointing north, Ian explains our route before asking the gentleman for his own thoughts on the day’s weather. Even with my limited Spanish I can understand the shrug of the shoulders with a nod towards the darkening sky.

Sure enough we feel the first spots of rain after pausing to fill our bidons at the natural spring adjacent to the Fonter bottling plant. Fortunately arriving later than forecast, the weather gods are feeling benevolent and we arrive in Olot only slightly damp but with one eye on the nearby mountains now disappearing from view as the cloud thickens. Deciding to abandon our lunch plans – refreshment now entails a shared bag of salted crisps and a Coke – we push on in the knowledge that the Coll de Coubet lies between us and our first overnight stop in Camprodon.


At a little over 10 km in length we begin to climb almost immediately after leaving the outskirts of Olot. Never too steep – averaging 5% – the road takes us up through wooded slopes offering breathtaking views to the valley below and cloud-shrouded mountains to the north and west. With our bikes’ unladen weight of 7.5 kg and the uniformly smooth surface, the kilometres pass easily; the number of vehicles countable on the fingers of one hand. Reaching the plateaued top we descend rapidly; rolling up outside our hotel as the clouds finally burst and the rain pours down. With a knowing look passing between us, we unpack the bikes and roll them into the basement garage before minutes later settling comfortably into our room with the radiators turned to max and our shoes drying.

The evening passes enjoyably in the company of Lucas; Camprodon resident and friend of Ian’s. Our only concern as we sit in a restaurant eating dinner being the increasingly sizeable snow flakes mixed in with the falling rain and the thought that we’ll be climbing to 1,500 m the following day. And sure enough, morning sees us pulling back our room’s curtains to discover clear skies but a few centimetres of snow covering the town’s roof tiles.


Retrieving the Clementinas from their overnight storage – a week earlier the garage was full of police motorbikes supporting La Volta a Catalunya – each now wears a reddish coat of sand and grit from the previous day’s gravel trails. A quick stop at a supermarket for ride provisions – the town is gradually waking to the sound of church bells and the scrape of snow being removed from car windscreens – and almost immediately we find ourselves climbing the Col d’Ares which will take us up and over the border into France.

The overnight snow has settled along the tops of the road’s guard rails and the trees on the wooded slopes are each coated in a silvery layer that glitters when it catches the morning sun. It’s cold but not unpleasantly so and the climb helps to warm our hands as we follow the steadily rising contours. Only in the shadows is the road surface icy but the absence of traffic means we can pick our own path.


Passing mountain villages and stone-built farm buildings we continue to rise; each bend in the road revealing a new vista with the tops of Pyrenean peaks stretching away into the distance. And again the sound of bells; this time from cattle, their breath condensing into clouds as they feed. Higher still a large bird of prey glides effortlessly on the thermals; the markings on the underside of its wings offering a contrast against the blue of the sky.

As the road finally flattens there’s little to delineate the border save a thick black line on our navigational devices and the signs changing from Spanish to French. We park our bikes in a snowbank before adding extra layers of clothing to combat the expected chill of the descent. With the road disappearing downhill into the northern lee of the mountain we’re in the shade for longer stretches and both of us are struggling to brake with cold fingers.


Entering the town of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste we immediately head to the nearest café; warming our hands on our coffee cups before continuing down the valley with the river at our sides. A steady gradient and the road’s sweeping curves make the descent a delight and the kilometres pass swiftly. Arriving at Céret we’re greeted by tree-lined streets with open channels on either side; each flowing with crystal clear melt water from the nearby mountains and adding a musical counterpoint to the sound of conversation from the pavement cafés.

With historical links to the art world, after storing our bikes and freshening up we decide to take a walk through the town. Quiet passageways radiate from the fortified centre; roadside reproductions of paintings depicting a particular viewpoint adding another interesting element to an already pleasant environment. An enjoyable interlude at the halfway point in our trip before we wake to another cold but sunny morning and prepare to cross the border once again.


Re-entering Spain at La Jonquera offers a very different experience to our previous crossing and is the only time in our trip where the number of vehicles on the road feels a little oppressive. Ian in particular dislikes the frontier feel to the sprawl of urbanisation but brightens up immediately when our route takes us on a rocky trail away from these busy roads. Here our Clementinas again prove their versatility as they climb and descend the loose surfaces with an easy confidence before we reach a sinuous stretch of road that twists and turns towards the sea between dry-stone walls and groves of olive trees. 

As the day warms and the terrain flattens, our route alternates between gravel farm tracks and quiet country roads edged with wild flowers. The fertile soil of freshly ploughed fields is a rich, dark brown and the hills that ring the coastal town of l’Escala gradually grow on the horizon.


Reaching the middle distance of this third day the wind begins to build and we each take a turn on the front. Passing the small working town of Sant Pere Pescador our thoughts turn to lunch and we decide to stop earlier than planned before pulling up outside a bar advertising a daily menu. Sitting at our window table we notice passers-by hunched over and leaning into the wind; promising some tough kilometres ahead but not until we pay due attention to our meal. Homemade soup, a meat course and dessert followed by coffee and it’s time to settle the bill and continue our ride.

The rest of the day is a war of attrition with the wind sapping our strength as we each take turns sheltering the other. The road signs count down the kilometres until we finally reach the outskirts of Palamos; approaching the town down another section of the Via Verde before arriving at the hotel and the promise of a hot shower. A wonderfully fresh Thai meal is followed by a peaceful evening in the hotel lounge. A converted farmhouse, the well-stocked library offers a choice of reading material as Fuji, the resident cat, takes turns to warm our laps.


After waking during the night to the sound of heavy rainfall our final day dawns with the promise of clear skies and sunshine. Still feeling the morning chill as we ride across the seafront, the wind is blustery but should be behind us when we turn westwards towards Girona. Sunlight reflects off a sapphire blue sea as workmen busy themselves erecting the beachfront café bars in preparation for the start of the season. Our morning ritual of a supermarket shop complete, we ride inland on a gravel path; a short 50 km stretch through a mixture of farmland and forest that takes us first towards the towns of Llagostera and Quart before we reach the outskirts of Girona. Two friends – down for a week’s riding – our welcoming party as we lean our Clementinas against a wall and mark the occasion with a beer.

Journey complete and with time to reflect, highlights of the trip include the people we’ve met on the roadside and in the towns where we’ve stayed. Whether offering advice on locating the nearest fountain or strangers leaving the bar where we’re eating wishing us a casual bon profit; everyone has been friendly and happy to help. The landscapes too – from the mountains to the flat coastal plains and rolling wooded hillsides – have been as varied as they are stunning. Towns and villages rich in history yet still home to real communities where neighbours gather in tree-lined squares to pass the time of day. Our Clementina bikes have also been a revelation; light, responsive and taking all manner of surfaces and terrain in their sure-footed stride. What better confirmation of their quality than the daily excitement at loading up our packs before riding off on the next section of the route? Above all, however, this has been a trip made by two friends. Sharing the road with time to enjoy the beautiful scenery, conversations over dinner and quiet efforts climbing mountain roads. Appreciating – as Pau sees it – those moments of movement through a changing landscape. Decisions reduced to the turn of a pedal.


We owe Pau Tena of Clementina Bicycles a huge debt of thanks for making this trip possible. His bikes were never less than a joy to ride whether on gravel trails or climbing Pyrenean peaks.

To Far Ride Magazine for first publishing the story.

To Rapha for their excellent Explore clothing and luggage.

To Parcours for the wheels on my Clementina. Lightweight and beautifully understated; they smoothed away the kilometres.

To Lucas for his generous hospitality as the rain poured down.

And lastly to Ian – my bike-packing mentor – who took the vast majority of these images. I learnt and laughed in equal measures.

Roger Seaton / TransBromptonental

One of the world’s most arduous ultra-distance events, the Transcontinental is an unsupported cycle race that saw competitors on the 2018 edition roll out of Geraardsbergen in Belgium on Saturday 28th July before crossing the finish line in Greece some 4 checkpoints and 3,900 km later.

So deciding to race across Europe on a Brompton might seem an unusual choice of bike for such a challenging feat of endurance. But ask Roger Seaton to recount his experience – he can list the individual weights of his equipment down to the gram – and you soon begin to appreciate his serious intent when entering such an extreme event.

Now back for a 7th edition with an East / West route, in his own words Roger describes the decisions that led to a second Transcontinental start line, the preparation required to race a bike across a continent and why – no matter what challenges lay ahead – he was intent on having as much fun as possible.

I rode throughout my teens; in and out of trails around London. Seeing where the bike could take me on casual trips with friends. Even years later never really losing that sense of adventure you get every time you set foot across your own doorstep. And thinking back to my first attempt at the Transcontinental during the summer of 2017, I suppose I was looking for a challenge; something on an epic scale.

Both riding regular bikes, I’d entered as a pair with a fellow Rapha Cycling Club member but to be honest I’d pretty much coerced him into doing it. He was very unsure as he’d never tried sleeping wild before. In my opinion a minor detail because you don’t need much experience to lie down on the ground after riding 250 km. If you’re tired, you’ll sleep. It’s that simple [smiles].


A week out of the start he’d decided to pull out but I still felt good so re-classified as solo. And then barely a day into the race I bumped into a fellow rider and he asked if I’d heard about Frank Simons who, as I soon found out, had tragically died following a hit and run incident shortly after the start in Geraardsbergen.

My family back home in the UK had learnt about this on Facebook and immediately tried to contact me. 17 or 18 missed calls later they finally got through but by that time my children in particular were increasingly concerned and upset. Especially as 6 weeks before the start of the race I was the victim of a hit and run driver myself when someone knocked me off my bike leaving me unconscious on the roadside with lacerations and broken ribs. The seriousness of these injuries preventing my doctor from signing me off to ride but fortunately not detering my dog’s vet from passing me fit [laughs].

After speaking over the phone I told them I’d think it over before calling the following morning. My daughter was still very tearful after a sleepless night so I decided then and there to scratch from the race. I’d lost my ability to focus entirely on myself and what I needed to do in order to complete such a mammoth undertaking. Not an easy decision as I was feeling great but it was the right thing to do and I don’t regret it. In my mind it’s only a bike race – a fun run – and if your journey isn’t a happy one then why would you do it?

When the 2018 edition was announced I decided to give it another go but this time riding a Brompton. To some maybe an unusual choice but it’s all about your frame of reference. A Brompton has smaller wheels but the geometry isn’t miles off a normal bike. And I wanted to ride the Transcontinental again but on my own terms. Yes, it’s a race, but I wanted to stop and smell the flowers along the way and the Brompton is a bike I always associate with maximum amounts of fun. Just as importantly my family felt the same way which helped alleviate any concerns left over from the previous year.


I use a Brompton every day as transport and CHPT3 – the company ex-professional cyclist David Millar and some friends founded after he retired from racing – had produced this pimped up and modified superlight version. I’d arranged to pick mine up from the Brompton Junction in Covent Garden and when I arrived David was there; chatting to the people who’d bought the first run of these bikes. I remember making this off the cuff remark that I was entering the Transcontinental again and, if I got a place, I was thinking of doing it on my new CHPT3 Brompton. He was very nice about it and suggested I get in touch if I got a place. So when my confirmation came through from the race organisers I sent David a message to let him know I was in and to ask if they were still interested. From there it went very quickly to full team support.

The individuals behind CHPT3 are super fun but my entry in the Transcontinental was treated with absolute seriousness to the extent that we immediately planned several long weekends away to put the bike and kit through its paces. Basically a series of big days – 250 km back to back – that included a fair bit of mixed surfaces as I’d already decided to vary my race route to make the riding more interesting.

The route planning is such a crucial part of your preparation. Make or break in some senses and the more time you spend on this aspect the better the ride experience. The checkpoints determine your general direction but it’s down to each individual competitor to plan from there. You’d think that cycle paths, for example, might seem appropriate but they can be very variable in surface and you need to constantly slow down to avoid other cyclists and pedestrians. But you wouldn’t want to travel the whole way on dual carriageways with trucks thundering past you day and night. And that’s before you factor in the ban on using tunnels and whether there are places to stop and refuel because on a big day you’re burning 11,000 calories. One thing I quickly discovered was that nearly all French cemeteries have a tap that you can use to refill your bidons.

bike profile

Luggage was one of the easiest considerations when prepping the bike. Apidura’s seat bag fitted perfectly on the rear rack without any need for modifications and that’s all the storage I’d planned on taking. In terms of sleeping there’s two schools of thought. If you book hotels then it can be expensive and you need a fixed route which can be an added complication time-wise. But a hotel room means you can easily power up devices, wash your kit and generally have a good night’s sleep. I wanted a more fluid approach and didn’t start with any preconceived plans. If I was at a hotel at the right time and the right price then I’d take it. If not I was going to sleep rough.

Not including navigation, my kit came in at just under 2.5 kg. Very pared down but when your equipment is good then this allows you to make tough decisions in the sense of what not to pack. You take my CHPT3 1.21 jersey for example and the moment I’d opened a tin of mackerel and managed to tip the whole contents of oily tomato sauce all over me. I washed it out in a stream with some soap, it dried within minutes and didn’t even smell. Superb quality kit that will take a good beating yet still functions perfectly.

With the start day fast approaching I crossed over on the ferry from Hull and then rode the 110 km from Bruges to Geraardsbergen ready for the off. A useful distance to make sure everything was working in terms of both kit and rider [smiles]. I was feeling apprehensive that it would seem a little disrespectful to be rolling up on a Brompton but the reality was I meant business. As it turned out the reception I received was great and people were genuinely interested. Some, it must be said, thought it was absolutely crazy but the bike was clearly kitted out for adventure and the camaraderie I enjoyed with the CHPT3 team was such an important aspect. Constant messages to motivate and reassure me to such an extent that even David’s mum had texted to wish me good luck.

The race got under way at 22:00; a parade lap before immediately climbing the Muur and its 20% cobbled ramps. It’s very frenetic with all the riders charging ahead in the heat of the moment but the Brompton was just sensational. And one of the most profound experiences of the race was hearing people shout my name as I climbed – individuals I’d met the day before or who’d seen me on local news programmes – until you reach the top and it all quietens as the race itself gets underway. For 30 to 40 km you’re riding alongside the other competitors before, one by one, they gradually veer off to follow their own routes into the night.

kit bag

The first few days went better than expected as I pretty much settled into a rhythm from the off; riding my own race. The Brompton felt fast and I just needed to keep on top of my hydration as it was very hot. And this also makes keeping clean one of the hardest things to manage as you sweat with a corresponding build-up of salt. One evening I’d pulled up in a forest and got my kit out ready to bed down but the moment the dew point changed all this dried salt became slimy. Not particularly pleasant as you climb into your bag [laughs].

For me, the secret was breaking the day down into manageable chunks; both physically but also mentally. At times the temperatures during the day were unbearably hot so why wouldn’t you sleep for a couple of hours after midday before making that time back later when it’s cooler? And I’d already decided not to bury my head in terms of counting off the kilometres. I swam in streams, stopped to take photographs of the amazing scenery and I’ve got quite a sweet tooth so if I passed an open patisserie… [smiles]

Approaching Checkpoint 1 I’d pulled in at a McDonald’s. Not my usual choice of restaurant but there’s power to charge your appliances, toilet facilities and WiFi. I’d checked the map before leaving but managed to end up on a really fast dual carriageway before backtracking down my alternate route that brought me to a 20 km gravel fire track through a forest. Serious off-road sections that would’ve been great on a mountain bike but were decidedly sketchy on my fully-laden Brompton. So there I was, roughly 8 hours outside my plan and having to ride all night through thunderstorms and torrential rain to get back on track; making the checkpoint with a good four hours to spare to receive my first stamp after roughly 800 km and 3 days of riding.


It was on the Silvretta-Hochalpenstraße with its 34 hairpin bends that I first heard an odd clunking sound that I assumed was just something touching or rubbing a wheel. I had a good look but couldn’t see anything amiss before noticing that even on the flat I was 2-3 kph down on my average pace and it was becoming harder and harder to pedal. Still not being able to work out what the issue was I decided to carry on but over the next 200 km the noise got considerably louder. I was in the Tyrolean Alps at this stage and the effort required to keep moving was just horrendous. So I phoned the CHPT3 guys for advice, we diagnosed a failure of the rear internally geared hub before realising that as I couldn’t retrofit a standard hub my race was over.

Obviously very disappointing and whether it’s unfinished business is yet to be decided. I still have faith in the Brompton as a valid choice of bike for this event if we can just overcome the issues with gearing. And I came away with wonderful memories of all the people I met: fellow competitors, the race organisers and those random individuals you encounter along the route. Then there’s the mountains, the breathtaking views; even the extremes of weather. That overnight effort to reach Checkpoint 1 fuelled on tinned ravioli with the road ahead briefly lit by each lightning strike. Little things like the message from home asking why I’d stopped before suggested I get moving again – they were dot watching and tracking my progress – that make you smile.

There’s a quote that I find particularly appealing that mirrors how I feel about my experiences on the Transcontinental: ‘Blessed are the curious as they shall have adventures’. Yes, I was very sorry to pull out but it’s not the end of the world and now there’s the next journey to plan.


Image of Brompton descending by courtesy of CHPT3 and Alex Rory Jacobs

All other images with kind permission of Roger Seaton


Karly Millar / Keep keeping on

Karly Millar is no stranger to challenging cycling conditions; an innate hardiness helping her ride year round in Scotland where she lives and works. That being so, she clearly remembers a certain sense of trepidation when signing up for the 2017 Rapha Manchester to London; an event that involved riding north to south on a demanding 220 mile route sandwiched between Peak District climbs and the rolling hills of the Chilterns.

Back for 2019 with a revamped format and registration now open, in her own words Karly reflects on that Sunday in September when she left the Manchester Velodrome at dawn and rode south to London in a single day. An honest account of a physical and emotional journey that tested her to breaking point.

I wanted a challenge. Something so big that I wasn’t absolutely sure I could do it. An 80 km club run would leave me totally empty and eating macaroni in the bath with a bottle of flat coke to recover; so I genuinely didn’t believe I would make it all the way to London.

I’d tentatively floated the idea quite early in the year; initially to myself before discussing it with friends until the more times you mention something the greater the social contract that says you should probably follow through on what you’ve been talking about.

In terms of preparation I just kept on riding. I think subconsciously pushing the distance but my biggest ride before M2L was still only 120 miles. Well short of the 220 mile total that I would be riding on the event. But I remember talking to a friend about long distance cycling and him suggesting that once you reach a certain point – as long as you’re putting fuel in the tank and you keep turning your legs – then it’s different. It’s all mental.


In the final few weeks running up to the start date I felt a little bit sick if I thought about it too much. But as the weeks turned to days I grew calmer. What would be, would be. I couldn’t change anything; couldn’t train any harder. My only concern was letting down everyone who’d sponsored me. They’d been so generous and I didn’t want to feel that I might fail them. But my partner pointed out that simply rolling up at the start line was big enough. And I kind of found my peace with that.

At the pre-ride party you could feel a real sense of nervous energy in the Manchester clubhouse. The magnitude of what we were taking on suddenly hitting me and that I was part of it. And then standing on the start line at the Velodrome; actually feeling very irritable with the degree of faffing around in my group but more likely because I’d been up since four in the morning after only a couple of hours sleep.

The ride itself I broke down into the feedstops. Manageable chunks of effort. And I felt really good when we rolled into the first at Carsington Water after completing a hilly 50 miles through the Peak District.

By the second – 90 miles in – my mood had definitely dipped. It was the first time during the day that I actually wondered whether we’d make the time cut-offs. It had started to rain and I was feeling the pressure of all those miles ahead. But we pushed on, into the headwind that had dogged us all day and it was a special moment when we reached the halfway point.


I can picture us pulling into the third feedstop at this grand stately home but the rest of that section was rather a blur. I knew I hadn’t eaten enough and what lay ahead would be tough. In hindsight we should have taken a little longer to eat the hot food on offer rather than grazing on snacks. That would have been a wise investment in time.

You’re physically tired but more so mentally. And as we set off once again I was steeling myself for the hard slog into the night. Running on absolute fumes, I knew we still had 77 miles to go and the thought of carrying on made me want to cry.

But we worked together – following Simon Mottram’s [Rapha CEO] advice to ‘just keep on keeping on’ – until we finally reached the last feedstop. Feeling absolutely broken but with a realisation that this might actually happen.

On that final 25 mile stretch I was bargaining with myself when I was allowed to press the backlight button on my Wahoo; trying to guess how far we’d gone from the last time I’d checked. Mind games to ease the passing of those last few miles until, almost without warning, we were out of the dark country lanes and riding under street lights. Crossing the line in tears; a mix of emotions that I’d never experienced before and I wonder whether I ever will again.

And although I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment, it took until the next day’s train ride home before it all sank in. When I sat down with my helmet on the table in front of me and the passenger opposite asked where I’d cycled from and I answered Manchester and the look in their eyes when I told them it was in one day. I’d spent the past 48 hours in my M2L bubble and this was the first proper acknowledgement from the outside world. That we’d finished. That all the doubts and soul searching were now behind me.


Experience has since taught me that if you put your mind to something you can do it. And I think, previously, I’d underestimated myself and I walked away from M2L with a far stronger ‘can do’ attitude. I don’t feel like I need to prove myself anymore. We did good.

As for highlights? Riding as a team; each looking out for the other. The guy who rode it in an Elvis costume. Those random acts of kindness from the helpers at each feedstop. And if I had to advise anyone contemplating signing up for this year’s L2M? I’d tell them to do it. 100% commit because you will never know unless you try.

And just remember to eat. Eat all the time.

Now in its sixth edition, following last year’s ‘win’ by the North the route will reverse and for the first time riders will set off from London; just one of the new changes introduced for the 2019 Rapha London to Manchester.  More information and sign up can be found here.

Image of Karly arriving at the 2nd feed stop with kind permission of Jess Morgan

Karly Millar


Ride Like A Girl / Race Series

Amy (pictured right) and Elle are both fairly new to the sport but have big ambitions for where their cycling journey is taking them. Responding to the current provision available to women wanting to give racing a go, these passionate individuals sat down to discuss the reasons they ride, why they’re both tired of ‘mansplaining’ and how this in part led to the launch of @ridelikeagirlrs


Until just shy of two years ago I hadn’t done any cycling since my paper round when I was 10. I got the hump because my other half signed up for a Leeds to Manchester charity ride and didn’t even bother asking if I wanted to do it [smiles]. My first ride after deciding to buy a bike was a whole 3 miles before I stopped for coffee and cake and then went home. But since then I’m joined some clubs, worked at getting stronger and started to enter time trials and hill climbs; discovering in the process that I’m actually quite competitive.


For me it was all on a bit of a whim. I was looking for a way of fundraising for a charity and everyone knew I didn’t particularly feel comfortable riding a bike so I decided to sign up for a mountain bike ride across Kenya. It initially didn’t go that well – I went down a couple of days early and managed to break my hand – but I still had the best time before realising when I got home that I didn’t really know how to cycle on the road. So in April this year I bought a bike and went out on my first ride. I’d already decided to join a club so that I’d be motivated to keep riding and within the space of a couple of weeks I had an effective fitness regime and a whole new group of friends; especially important as I’d just moved back to the UK.


And then you decided to ride from London to Paris just a few months after getting your first road bike [laughs].

Amy climbing Holme Moss


Rather a baptism of fire as I kind of threw myself in at the deep end but I’d already decided to be a cycling ‘yes’ person and then find solutions to the rides or events I’ve chosen to do.


For me, riding my bike is all about the exhilaration of exertion. I’m a project manager and I’ve worked from home for the last six, seven years; doing absolutely nothing with my day beyond getting up and walking to my desk. I snowboard and cycling takes what I enjoy about that – being outside with my friends – but on a day-to-day, year-round basis and without the need to fly out of the UK in search of some snow. When you’ve been sedentary for so long, the physicality is a really addictive feeling. That sense of tiredness; of pushing on and making your body do what it’s meant to be capable of doing.


In some ways it’s been a little overwhelming. My life has changed quite dramatically since I’ve started cycling. I’ve made new friends like Amy and I’ve discovered a place where I can be myself. I climb onto my bike, I clip in and even if I’ve had a particularly rubbish day my mind clears. I sleep better and generally feel uplifted.


We’re both members of the Rapha Cycling Club and I very much appreciate the opportunity to go out on women’s rides that are a little stronger and faster than what I’ve previously experienced. A lot of female-specific cycling is focusing on getting more women on bikes and I wouldn’t be here today chatting about my riding if it wasn’t for those initiatives. The RCC also offers this same provision of introductory sessions but with the progression of more challenging rides.


The discipline within the RCC is good as well. Everybody rides how you should ride on the road; everything is kept really tight which is nice because it gives you that security blanket that comes with working together. If someone’s new to road cycling there’s plenty of friendly advice and support to overcome any initial worries or concerns. And because I spend so much time travelling through my work as transatlantic flight crew, I find I have this instant friendship group at whatever clubhouse I visit across the world. I can easily rent a great bike so I don’t have to lug my own along with me and I know I’ll be riding with a like minded group of people. There may be different languages and cultures but they all share the same connection of wanting to ride their bikes.


And there’s coffee at the clubhouse before we roll out [laughs].

Holme Moss


Getting to know Amy, pretty much one of the first things she mentioned was her determination to race before explaining that she couldn’t find the right platform to achieve this goal. As a friend I found this really frustrating as I knew she was a strong rider and had been competing in local time trials and hill climbs. But in terms of road or circuit racing, she couldn’t find a 4th category only event. There are 4th category fields entered in races alongside the elite 1st, 2nd and 3rd categories but our gut instinct is we’d just get in the way and it would be massively intimidating. And even if you have the self-confidence to enter a mixed category race you need to finish in the top ten to score points and that’s potentially against elite riders assuming enough sign on and the race isn’t cancelled.


Every time a race day arrived and I asked why there was a men’s 4th category race but the women were all lumped in together, I pretty much got the same response: there’s not enough interest and women don’t want to race.


And we both know incredibly strong riders that compete in triathlons – mastering three disciplines – and have the mental toughness to enter these gruelling events but baulk at the thought of racing on a circuit. So we decided to launch @ridelikeagirlrs and explore ways that women can give racing a go.


It can be a question of confidence. I had something similar myself a couple of weeks ago when I said I was going to enter my first crit race and people – actually they were all men –  suggested that maybe I should work on my skills first; that it was too dangerous. And I honestly don’t think a man would have had the same response. It would have been, ‘Cool, go for it.’



There is this problem of ‘mansplaining’ to women. Very patronising and something we’ve both come up against throughout our lives. Especially when you’re young and you hear comments that you run like a girl, throw like a girl. This derogatory term for a girl being worse at something than a boy and it’s usually a boy that’s saying it. So we’re turning that back round by saying that if I ride like Tiffany Cromwell, Hannah or Alice Barnes, Marianne Vos; then, hell yeah, I ride like a girl. And a lot of people have responded really positively to this idea because they understand where we’re coming from.


It’s all snowballed really quickly with a Q&A session planned for the end of September providing an opportunity for women to ask anything and everything about bike racing. Off the back of that, once everyone’s hopefully had their questions answered, we’ll be organising coaching sessions before we run our inaugural race that’s pencilled in for November 3rd. This will involve a 60 minute coaching session followed by a 20 minute Go Race around the Brownlee Centre’s cycle circuit. And because it’s a Go Race event with no points available there’s also no need for a race licence but we do have a friendly commissaire who’s volunteered to run it in the same format as a 4th category race so riders can understand how everything’s organised. Time trials and hill climbs are all well and good but it’s that first across the line feeling that we want to address.


That’s the whole point. It’s for anyone who’s ever considered competitive racing whether that’s for her own fitness or to satisfy an urge to test herself against other women.


In the same way that you have a social ride run by your cycling club, it’s not always about being the fastest but taking part in something a little different. An opportunity to learn a new set of skills and have some fun alongside a great bunch of women.



As individuals, we sometimes talk ourselves out of stuff but as a group we’re really good at building ourselves back up. So I think our message with this @ridelikeagirlrs campaign is to just give it a go.


To be honest the response has been a little overwhelming. You can expect a degree of interest from friends and fellow club members but within the first few hours of launching our Facebook page we had hundreds of requests from people we didn’t know. Responses from coaches; even from British Cycling themselves saying they want to get involved. And what’s also exciting is the messages we’ve had from race organisers to tell us what they’ve done, that it’s not worked before asking whether we have any ideas of what they can change. We’re not setting ourselves up as experts but there isn’t a massive number of women fighting for women’s racing and we both want to be part of that journey.


We’re building this network of women that want to race, can support each other in doing that and if race organisers want to tap into that interest and work with us that would be perfect.


Currently there’s a huge focus on getting women on bikes which is just brilliant and there’s fantastic things happening in professional women’s racing with the Tour of Britain and other high profile events. But it’s the gap between the two that we’re looking at. What do you do once you’ve got all these women on bikes? So in one sense it’s me being selfish. I wanted to race but couldn’t find a suitable event to race in so we’re creating our own.


And this isn’t our job. We’re not doing it to make money. It’s born out of a passion and in some ways it’s kind of an experiment but with the knowledge that if we go out to achieve something together we’ll be totally fine.


For more information on the Ride Like A Girl // Race Series


Temple Cycles Adventure Disc Review

Recently launched by Bristol-based Temple Cycles, their Adventure Disc model encourages exploration beyond the limits of paved road surfaces; opening up route planning to include bridleways, dirt roads and gravel tracks. It seemed therefore fitting to test the bike’s abilities on an appropriate parcours with Rapha Manchester’s ‘A Day In Hell’ proving the perfect setting for putting the Adventure Disc through its paces.

A tribute to Paris Roubaix – one of the Monuments of the European racing calendar and affectionately referred to as the ‘Hell of the North’ – riders left the city centre clubhouse on a testing 66.6 mile loop before returning to beer, frites and the closing kilometres of the race. With Rapha referencing this moniker in their own event branding, the cobbles of Castlefield and Hocker Lane to the south of the city offered a flavour of the continental pavé with the additional challenges of riverside gravel and dirt farm tracks. A mixture of surfaces to test both bike and rider alike.


After the previous day’s torrential rain, it was with some relief that I woke to low-lying mist on the morning of the event but with the promise of clear skies. The Adventure Disc had been easily set up following delivery; rotating the handlebars, inserting the seat post and attaching the front wheel all that was required before the bike was ready to ride. Attractively finished with glossy dark grey paint and an elegant headtube badge, the Adventure Disc never failed to receive favourable comments on its appearance. Perhaps an unimportant aspect compared to the quality of its ride but nevertheless gratifying.

With a Shimano 105 groupset, mechanical disc brakes on handbuilt wheels and a Brooks saddle nicely complementing the brown leather bar tape, the competitive pricing reflects the direct-to-customer sales approach favoured by Temple Cycles. To such an extent that you’re encouraged to discuss your needs and ride requirements prior to making a purchase and your bike being built.

With the addition of a rear rack I’d commuted on the bike for a week prior to our ‘Day In Hell’. Whilst not exactly lightweight – a stock build on a medium frame comes in at 11.5kg – this perhaps misses the point of its intended use and I always looked forward to every ride. With each twenty mile round trip including 1,500 ft of elevation, the compact chainset and 11-32 cassette made climbing surprisingly comfortable and it’s important to remember that, unlike a stripped down carbon racer, the Adventure Disc is designed to cross continents on a variety of surfaces. It has a relaxed and smooth stance that irons out any imperfections in the road and proved an absolute delight when descending.

Although the frame has bosses for mudguards, rightly expecting our tribute route to be muddy I decided to leave clearance free and rely on an ‘ass saver’ to keep me dry. With SPD pedals in place and rolling on the supplied 35mm Schwalbe G-One tyres, I set off through the Manchester suburbs enroute to the Rapha clubhouse.

Located in the shadow of St. Ann’s Church, the bikes arranged in formation outside the clubhouse entrance suggested a good turnout; a hum of conversation carrying down the pink painted stairwell that leads you up from the ground floor workshop to the cafe area above. With coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other – this was a tribute to a French cycle race after all – discussions ranged from tyre width to who would eventually triumph later in the day at the Roubaix Velodrome.

Our start was a little less frenetic with groups setting off along Deansgate following a pre-ride briefing before we immediately reached our first ‘sector’ of cobbles in Castlefield. Once a thriving area of mills and warehouses interwoven by canals and railway sidings, it’s now home to bars and apartment living but still conveys a strong sense of the city’s industrial past.

Railway crossing

In this setting the Adventure Disc was in its element. Handling the variety of surfaces – both wet and dry – with surefooted ease before we left behind the city centre along the gravel pathway that edges the Bridgewater Way.

Approaching Sale, the canal towpath was substituted for quiet suburban streets and it was here that I paid a slight penalty for my heavier tread and wider tyre profile; riders on standard road rubber finding the going a little easier.

This however proved a temporary advantage as we soon reached the next off-road section; a delightful dirt path that wound its way through wooded copses before emerging out onto a farm track. Arrow straight and bisecting hedgeless ploughed fields; the dark, peaty soil in the still lingering morning mist giving more than a passing impression of the fields of Flanders.

Without the penalty of rim brakes collecting the heavy mud left over from the previous day’s rainfall and the added confidence of wider profile tyres, the gaps to riders ahead began to close as I chose my line without fear of slipping or sliding on the unpaved surface. An off-road affinity that was once again demonstrated on reaching Hocker Lane; a cobbled farm track located immediately after our midpoint coffee stop that I can easily imagine prompting envious appreciation from Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix [The Friends of Paris-Roubaix].

What followed was a concertina of progress as I was distanced by riders on the linking road sections before reeling them in again when the surface became more challenging. In part supporting the Temple Cycles’ premise that, although the bike is designed to embrace off road adventures, swap out the heavier tyres and you’re good to go on the weekend club ride.


Considering the weight advantage I was giving away, not even the 20% ramps of Beeston Brow could halt my progress; the Adventure Disc taking this cobbled climb out of Bollington in its stride before a descent down from Pott Shrigley and the final stretches of disused railway lines and riverside pathways before we once again fetched up at the clubhouse. This time to be greeted by a fish & chip van; a welcome indulgence whilst watching Peter Sagan drop the hammer.

On reflection this proved a well-organised and enjoyable event made all the more pleasurable for riding Temple’s Adventure Disc. It’s performance over a range of surfaces – cobbles, gravel, dirt – was always assured and never skittish. And with the frame having mounts for front and rear racks together with full mudguards, there really aren’t any limitations to where the Adventure Disc can take you. Factor in the numerous appreciative comments the bike receives and though you might not cross the finish line first, when you do I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be smiling.

Temple Cycles


*Feature image by Alex Duffil

*Ride images by Martin Wilson

Frame detail by @openautograph

*With kind permission of Rapha UK


Departing at dawn on 3rd September 2017, I joined riders on the Manchester to London challenge as they headed south on a route that threaded its way through the heart of England before finishing at Ambitious about Autism’s TreeHouse school.

Described as ‘220 miles of hard British riding’, it’s almost inevitable that you focus inwards. The chatter ceasing as the pace line forms. Decisions reduced to your turn on the front before dropping back to recover. On the need to keep eating and drinking. To keep moving forward.

Later in the day – raw emotion etched across faces – it seemed fitting that, though each individual may have had their own starting point in terms of fitness and cycling experience, in riding together they all shared the same finish line.


I knew it was going to be a tough day but everybody pulled each other through. And rather than be negative when things got difficult we chose to look at the positives. Each mile, every metre of climbing; a step nearer to our goal. Enough to keep you moving forward. At the finish, that’s the poorliest I’ve ever felt on the bike. Suffering with dehydration and hypothermia. One of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do but, as much as it was hard work and it hurt, it still didn’t break me. Sarah

I think it’s an amazing achievement that we finished. And it’s definitely a case of mind over matter. You can make yourself push past limits you never thought possible. I’m proud of my body and how far it went. Crying helps. As does swearing. But all of this was only possible because of the company on the road. Everyone looking out for each other. Karly

It was tough. Well over twice what I’d ever ridden before. And I had moments when I did wonder why I was doing it. But I came out of it releasing that I’ve completed something that I wasn’t absolutely sure was possible. With the knowledge that if you put your mind to a task, if you just keep going, then it’s surprising what you can achieve. David

Such a hard ride. A brutal headwind but we all worked well as a team. You learn how deep you can go and that, mentally, we’re all so strong. You just have to keep going and, when you cross the finish line, you realise it was worth the effort. Hannah

There’s a point where things start to get really hard. Hurting all over and weary from the long hours of riding, just sitting down in the warm community hall at the final feed stop was a welcome relief. But there was still the need to step out again into the dark and the rain; the grim reality of two more hours of effort. And that’s when companions come into their own. You’re not venturing out alone. We worked together, suffered together and finished together. This is what I’ll always remember. Adrian

Ambitious about Autism

Rapha M2L