Sioelau Tjoa

What type of shelter do you use and why?

Anything that can keep me warm and dry will do. Tried a tarpaulin with some bungy cords before and managed to hook it between two trees like a tent – which was fine – however the moonlight peering through the gap woke me up in the middle of the night. When it rain and is windy this might not work so well. For the #Jennride South Lakes 100 we used a Alpkit lightweight tent, spaceous and light – a great purchase.

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

I have just used my usual bike to go bikepacking. Usually I ride a full suspension Specialized 29er – however for this ride I choose a lovely orange hardtail as I thought it may be easier to push it uphills if needed and I was not really fit enough to power up the big hills with the 29er.

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

I am definitely a multi day tour sort of person – prolonging the fun as long as I can that way you just appreciate the mod cons in your home far more!

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

Phone only – to take photos.

Map or GPS device or both?

I normally take my husband, the best portable navigation tool I can find, he includes map and GPS all in one!

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

I can work a compass, however don’t use it often whilst riding with great navigators.

Do you do rides like the #Jennride often?

Last year we did The Welsh Thing for the first time… tough going with it starting with hail and rain and realising the you couldn’t trust the GPS and map necessarily gave it an extra dimension. And there are not many shops around either in this area making it super adventurous.

Do you do other types of riding or just bikepacking?

Yes I love cycling so I do road riding, touring, MTB- and Bike pack-ing, still haven’t mastered the uni cycle yet…

What is the best bit of bikepacking for you?

The best bit of bikepacking is that it is a true adventure – experiencing the elements up close, diving into the unknown – exploring new territory, becoming more self aware of the weight of every single thing that you carry – weighing up whether it is worth the pleasure/comfort it gives you. Realising how precious (and heavy) water is, especially in less habituated areas like in the middle of Wales and finding out what is most important to you. The thickness of your sleeping bag, the minimum clothes that you need to keep you dry and warm, dried food vs real food… learning more about yourself and what is most important to you… and appreciation of the things that you take for granted in this western world of abundance.

What is the worst bit of bikepacking?

When you hit a closed gate or style and having to lift everything over it, pushing up very steep hills with a cross wind when you riding a 29er, full suspension – noticing that the bike is super heavy and the handle bars are too high to control the bike easily. Or when going down steep technical steppy descents that the bike fully packed feels less predictable and as it requires longer braking distance also making you less confident.

How long have you been bikepacking for?

About a year.

What appeals to you about bikepacking?

The sense of freedom, being close to nature, the unknown, excitement of the unpredictability and learning something new.

What is your ultimate trip/destination?

Hmmm, not sure yet – love to go somewhere dry and to a unknown area.

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

My blue decathlon warm lightweight down jacket to keep me warm, absolute lifesaver for the night and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.

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

2.3 knobbly tires to give me some grip of the trails and some comfort with the extra weight and no suspension.

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

Usually not, I rather have gripper heavier than lighter tires so I can control the descents more effectively.

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?

This is a very fine balance – I pack the minimum to keep me warm/dry overnight (comfort), arm and leg warmers and the lightest, smallest Aldi sleeping bag to fit in the bag space. Because I am super grumpy when I don’t get my sleep through being cold, it would definitely spoil the whole experience for me.

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

I keep learning and starting to get better at it every time I have gone out..

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

When it is cold, hot porridge made with water and raisins in it is a real luxury, however still wondering weather peanut butter sarnies for breakfast might be better value when the temperature increases.

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

There were a couple of road sections that we didn’t enjoy as much – we prefer as much off road as possible even if it meant that the event was shorter. Great reception and finish, otherwise well organised, parking, registration and the surprise beer at the end! And meeting unusual people from all walks of life – hearing the stories from a senior university lecturer to a self employed window cleaner – awesome! Pushing myself over the limit on the first day… maybe my confident brain should listen more to what my body is trying to tell me next time. bikepacking still rocks…

Tell us some interesting facts about you?

Nearly six years ago an Orthopedic Specialist told me I would not be able to cycle again, if I didn’t opt for hip surgery… I couldn’t cycle for about a year… then with conservative treatment like acupuncture I did manage to build up again to full long distances, only swinging my leg over the bike remains somewhat comical – however it doesn’t stop me… where there is a will, there is a way!


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