Rich Rothwell

Rich Rothwell

What type of shelter do you use and why?

The absolute least I can get away with. I like travelling light so a bivvy is all I tend to use for distance riding, and maybe a tarp. There’s always somewhere you can find shelter. When I’ve been bikepacking overseas, at a leisurely pace, I’ve carried the inner of my super light two person tent to keep the beasties off.

Is your bikepacking specific or is it just your usual bike adapted to go bikepacking. What, if any, adaptions have you done?

It’s the bike I think most suited to the terrain. Which is usually my Specialized Epic. With some bikepacking bags and a small back pack, I can easily carry as much as I would feel comfortable carrying. I recently saw a seat pack designed for use with a dropper post. Want! It doesn’t get any more bikepacking specific than that! I’ve been amazed by how well a bike can handle with the new breed of bikepacking luggage. It’s a far cry from the world of panniers!

Are you a sub 24hr, over 24hr or a multi day tour sort of person?

Anything goes! I just love epic long distance rides in wild terrain. I’ve done my fair share of lapped 24hr races and now it needs to be something special / unique / horrible for me to really want to do it! They can be great and I’ve enjoyed plenty, but the rides that I really love and stick in my memory are the long distance wilderness adventures. I really enjoyed the #jennride as it was around my old ‘patch’ (I lived and worked in The Lakes in the past) and that sort of terrain is right up my street. You can’t beat Scotland for epic-ness and completing the Highland Trail 550 was a real game changer for me; I’m hooked on multi-day madness and despite the difficulty and the hardships of the ride, the positives made them fade into the background pretty quickly. Colorado Trail Race could be on the cards next year.

What gadgets do you take with you? Dynamo/GPS/Gaia/Phone etc

My Garmin 1000 is absolutely superb and I use it a lot. I had never wanted technology to impinge on my riding experience but it has now become indispensable. It does not sanitise riding, but actually opens up new possibilities. Last year I was at 2,500m on a Greek island and could continue on deep into some very isolated terrain because of my GPS. They are superb for events like #jennride and HT550 as well as planning and executing any big rides. I mean, these events just couldn’t really happen in the same way without GPS. The old Polaris style events back in the day were ok but with GPS people can now ride long / race unhindered by navigational concerns. It levels the playing field for those who want to race long distance but don’t have a background in navigation. Besides, paper maps just don’t work for a smooth and flowing ride. It’s one of those technologies that has crept up on us and had a huge impact on how we ride.

Map or GPS device or both?

I will carry a back up paper map but I’ve never had to use them on a long haul bike ride. GPS all the way for me!

Navigation: can you work a compass, get your bearings etc?

Yes, I can navigate with map and compass and it is something I very much enjoy doing when on foot. I LOVE maps and can sit and read them like a good book. I will often study a paper map for a big ride and try to take a mental snap shot of the terrain before I leave. Navigational skills very important and something you will need at some point; if you crash and smash a GPS in the middle of nowhere, you need a back up!

Do you do rides like the #Jennride often?

I often do rides of this nature off my own back, but not often have I done organised ones. I definitely will do more because it was a great event and is a brilliant format. I am riding the Yorkshire Dales 300 which looks ace and has the appeal of plenty of new Dales terrain for me.

Do you do other types of riding or just bikepacking?

I like all sorts of biking! Road, CX, mountain. Easy pleasant rides to steep and rocky. Quick blasts to bikepacking. I just love being on a bike.

What is the best bit of bikepacking for you?

Setting off and knowing you won’t be back for some time! In a strange way, the LACK of comforts; not to say you can’t get comfortable of course, but you learn to appreciate comfort more when it happens, and savour it like a cold beer after a hard race. That outbuilding that has a corner out of the draft and that great feeling when you get into your sleeping bag, feel some warmth, and enjoy the sounds of the night.

What is the worst bit of bikepacking?

Nothing! It’s my own choice. If I get into a difficult situation I learn from it and put it down to experience.

How long have you been bikepacking for?

Well, I’ve done plenty of bivvying and touring over the years but the revolution in luggage in the last few years has got me more and more interested and I’ve increased the number of nights out in the last year or so. The ease of carrying stuff makes it simple to just nip out! I definitely plan on doing a lot more.

What appeals to you about bikepacking?

The way you can just pop out the front door and go on an adventure. I have a slightly sadistic side and I love sleeping rough, pushing sleep deprivation limits, and walking away form the security and comfort of indoors. I appreciate comfort more by abstaining from it once in a while.

What is your ultimate trip/destination?

I really want to do the Colorado Trail Race in 2018. The scenery looks amazing and it’s a part of the world I’ve never been. I love racing and multi-day bikepacking racing has really caught my imagination so it looks like the ideal event for me. There are so many good place to ride but north America is pretty high up my list at the moment.

What is the essential extra gadget/widget or treat that you have to take with you?

An emergency caffeine gel in the bottom of my bag! I travel very light. The only luxury items I might carry would be something food related.

Choice of tyres (size/width/tread) and why you choose these?

Something 2.2 / 2.3 in 29″ and for long haul it will have a pretty fast tread. I go for low rolling resistance and the percentage of terrain on long-distance routes that requires an aggressive tread is usually pretty low. Also a low profile tread works well on rocky terrain.

Do you change tyres to suit the destination you expect to ride on?

Only on shorter rides and events if there is the chance of mud and lots of soft ground.

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 always make sure the kit is going to be appropriate, whether it’s clothing or equipment. Being warm, comfortable and my bike holding up are the priorities and I work back from there. I may be a bit of a weight freak in some ways but I don’t take unnecessary risks.

Have you got the art of minimisation down to a fine art or did you pack everything and the kitchen sink?

I am very minimalist and I do have it pretty dialled. The only item I carried but did not use for the #jennride was a spare pair of gloves.

Did you take some creature comforts like coffee, a stove a hip flask etc?

Nope. No way. If I wanted to be comfortable I’d stay at home in bed!

What are your thoughts on the ride we took the photos at and bikepacking in general?

I think bikepacking is fantastic on so many levels. The luggage and the GPS revolution has made it so accessible. #jennride epitomised this and drew a really diverse crowd. It is appealing to such a broad range of people, from the racers to those who want a peaceful yet exhilarating long weekend / multi-day trip….. world tour! I will be doing much more and will soon be taking my young son on some overnight trips soon; he is very excited about sleeping out in the woods! It is so easy for us to go for a short ride into Northumberland, get away from the road and bivvy out. It’s so easy to do it without carrying tents and too much equipment.

Tell us some interesting facts about you?

Once my brother and I hitch-hiked from Newcastle to southern Portugal. Got jobs (eventually). Blew all our savings on a couple of big nights out. Had to hitch hike all the way home, which took a month or so. And that’s the family friendly version.

I used to surf competitively and had a UK ranking. Then I went to Australia and realised I was mid-pack.

I managed a bar in Zimbabwe and used to ride to and from, through the bush every day. This often resulted in crashing into bushes during the night. Perhaps this was the seed for bike-packing?

I taught English in Greece and Turkey. For no other reason than there were dead big mountains on the doorstep. And the kebabs of course.


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