What type of shelter do you use and why?
I use a bivvy bag and small tarp, although I don’t always pitch the tarp if the weather forecast is really good. I use that combination because it’s a good balance between being enough shelter and not too heavy.
Is your bikepacking specific or is it just your usual bike adapted to go bikepacking. What, if any, adaptions have you done?
It’s my usual bike that I’ve adapted by swapping out my suspension forks for rigid forks. I made the change because with the suspension forks the sleeping bag hits the tyre every time the suspension compresses, so I’d always end up pumping the forks up really hard or locking them out and then they might as well be rigid anyway.
Are you a sub 24hr, over 24hr or a multi-day tour sort of person?
I’m a long ride kind of person. Mostly, long day rides but when I get the chance for a multi-day ride then I’ll take it. This could be a brief one-night bivvy close to home or taking a couple of days to ride somewhere. For example, a couple of years ago I cycled from Sheffield to Ashford in Kent to stay with friends before heading to London to see family and Brighton for Big Dog. I did LEJOG a few years ago too, but with a more traditional pannier set up. So I guess I’m all of those.
What gadgets do you take with you? Dynamo/GPS/Gaia/Phone etc
I have a Garmin GPS on my bars and my mobile phone. Then I have a battery pack to charge both of those from. It’s plenty for a couple of days.
Map or GPS device or both?
Both. GPS on the bars, map (and compass) in my bag – just in case. Plus, I like having a map to be able to see what’s coming up more easily than on the small GPS screen. It makes it easier to plan stops for food etc.
Navigation: can you work a compass, get your bearings etc?
Yep, I thank doing my DofE for being able to use a compass, but I think I’ve also been gifted a pretty good sense of direction and map memory, which makes it easier. Although that all fails me in Milton Keynes where everything looks the same!
Do you do rides like the #Jennride often?
As often as I can, although I wish that was more. I rode the Peak 200 last summer (for the first female completion), although I was doing that against the clock, so I travelled very light and didn’t sleep. I have a few other routes in mind that I’d like to do, but I’m also really happy to just make something up and go out and do that. I love riding from my front door, so I like to go and sleep out on a ride from home or to catch the train somewhere and then ride home. In fact, I’ve recently moved city so that’s something I’d like to do to explore some new-to-me areas.
Do you do other types of riding or just bikepacking?
I do lots of types of riding. These days I’m doing more road riding than I have previously because I’m living in Hull and there’s not a lot of mountain biking, but that would often be my first choice. I like to race off-road, things like 12-hour solo races and one 24-hour solo, or events like the Kielder 101, Brighton Big Dog etc. At the other extreme, I also enjoy CX because I can bear the pain of riding full gas when it’s only for 40 minutes.
What is the best bit of bikepacking for you?
The freedom from schedules and the need to get somewhere specific to sleep / get home to do jobs etc. Having said that, I did end up time trialling to Hawkshead on the #Jennride to get there before the pubs stopped serving food. Also, I especially like bikepacking in the more wild and remote parts of the UK, I love the feeling of being small and vulnerable in a big, wild-feeling landscape. I think it’s important to have a reminder that we’re not really as invincible as living in a city can make us feel – I certainly don’t feel invincible in big landscapes.
What is the worst bit of bikepacking?
Sometimes being cold and wet and not having easy access to proper shelter. I love being outdoors, but I really don’t like being cold and wet.
How long have you been bikepacking for?
I think I did my first trip out in the summer of 2014. I just rode out of Sheffield with a friend one afternoon in August. We’d had amazing weather for the whole of June and July but it rained when we went out and I wanted to get the train home from Hope. In the end, my pal and I compromised and went to sleep in the walker’s shelter above Ladybower. It has an uneven, hard stone floor and made for an uncomfortable night.
What appeals to you about bikepacking?
I think it’s partly what appeals about cycling, which is that you can cover so much ground and see great places. Only with bikepacking, you can do that free of a strict schedule and that means you can link up places that might not otherwise fit into one ride or get a bit further away before you have to come back.
What is your ultimate trip/destination?
That’s a tough question. I don’t think I have an ultimate trip / destination that’s a place on a map. Rather, it would be to places that meet the criteria of being landscapes that are big, beautiful and wild-feeling – I find that adds to the sense of adventure and that feeling of being small that I mentioned above. But if I had to pick somewhere, I’d really like to explore more of Scotland and Wales off road. There are amazing places on the planet I love to visit too, but I actually really like travelling in the UK.
What is the essential extra gadget/widget or treat that you have to take with you?
It’s often something boring like an extra piece of clothing that I know that I won’t really need, but I throw it in in a last-minute, just-in-case panic. That or ear plugs to block out the night sounds of creaky trees / rustling a bit.
Choice of tyres (size/width/tread) and why you choose these?
At the moment I’m running Vittoria Mezcal Graphene 2.25’s just because I won them in a race last year. I really like them so far though. They’re 29” because that’s my only mountain bike other than a 26” wheel singlespeed that I haven’t ridden for a couple of years.
Do you change tyres to suit the destination you expect to ride on?
No, not really. I used to, but then I got lazy and tight and just tend to run something fairly fast rolling but grippy enough for most conditions.
Do you opt for gram counting over comfort? i.e. did you pack the sub 400g wafer light sleeping bag despite it’s gonna be freezing just to save 250g?
I sometimes pay attention to gram counting but then I always seem to offset it with things like the extra jumper or the fact that I don’t want to replace older, heavier kit that still works just fine. I definitely packed for comfort on the #Jennride.
Have you got the art of minimisation down to a fine art or did you pack everything and the kitchen sink?
I think I’m somewhere in between, on the #Jennride I packed for comfort because there was some rain planned and I was out for a nice time rather than a hot lap. On other rides, I’ve taken the bare minimum to be safe with, although that’s probably more than some might take.
Did you take some creature comforts like coffee, a stove a hip flask etc?
I planned to take a stove, but the guys I was riding with didn’t take them so I left mine too. Instead, I bought an iced coffee to have with breakfast from the co-op in Hawkshead. I foolishly forgot my hipflask, but thankfully one of the guys I was riding with remembered his.
It was a brilliant ride! The route was great because there was a nice mix of high end exposed places and lower, more sheltered spots, and there were plenty of resupply and bail points if needed and the majority of it was rideable. It made for a really sociable couple of days as there were some people who were cutting off loops of the route, so we kept overtaking / bumping into each other. The weather mostly played ball too, although we did get caught in an almighty downpour on Sunday morning just to remind us that we were in the Lake District.
On bikepacking in general, I really enjoy it as an addition to the variety of riding I love to do. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time because I also really enjoy riding a light, unloaded bike faster, but the heavier bike, and the freedom from schedules that I mentioned before, means that you can reassess your attitude to speed and have a more relaxed and exploratory ride. Maybe that attitude will change if I ever decide to do a bikepacking race, which I don’t think is off the cards.
Tell us some interesting facts about you?
Erm… I’m a grown up student at the University of Hull. I also like to pick up heavy things and then put them down again as well as biking, or actually for cycling – I think it makes me better at mountain biking in particular. I like to bake, especially bread, and I have a sourdough starter called Claude. I never know what to write for interesting facts.