As I sit here having been looking out of the window at a lovely late spring day with sunshine and blossom blowing on the breeze only to walk outside at the end of the shift to find it was hoofing it down with rain that has spoilt the planned evening group ride. We’re not fair weather riders by any means but no one wants a soaking after work so I’m looking gloomily out of the window and need some inspiration and something to look forward to. Just in time Katherine Moore has just published her new trail in East Devon. I recently completed a North to South Devon C2C so I know how good the riding can be on the back roads and bridleways of the county ( see the details of my ride here )
Read on for what Katherine has to say about the East Devon Trail, it’s certainly on my list of places to visit.
East Devon Trail: bikepacking in search of wildlife The East Devon Trail is a ~185 kilometre (115 mile) bikepacking route through East Devon, a rural and coastal landscape between the county’s capital of Exeter and neighbouring Dorset and Somerset. The mixed terrain route has been devised by East Devon local Katherine Moore; a zoologist by training and cycling writer by trade.
The Trail aims to showcase this magnificent, and all too often overlooked region of Devon, which will astound you with the sheer variety of habitats, from freshwater marshes to lowland heath, green agricultural field networks to steep cliffs to pebbled beaches and sleepy woodland. There’s more than one way to travel by bike: we want to show you something a little different. Forget about FKTs, put your racing mindset aside and try adopting a different pace for the East Devon Trail. It’s no accident that the EDT visits many nature reserves, gorgeous towns and villages along its 185 kilometre length. We want to show you the incredible wildlife we’re happy to support in East Devon; our rare lowland heath; migratory bird service stations; nation-leading species reintroduction programmes and of course the marvellous views and gravel tracks that accompany them. From quaint thatched villages to delicious cream teas (#creamfirst), (as a Midlander with no Devon/Cornish affiliation I don’t agree with this but it’s Katherine’s route so I’ll let this go) fish and chips on the beach and farm shops boasting local produce by the basket-load, there’s plenty more to the East Devon experience to savour, if you’re willing to give it the time.
A wilder East Devon RSPB Bowling Green and Goosemoor awaits just a short ride out of Exeter for migratory wildfowl, waders and marsh harriers, the Pebblebed Heaths from Woodbury Common to Mutters Moor provide crucial lowland heath habitat for nightjars, Dartford warblers, lizards and many species of butterflies, as do the reserves at Trinity Hill and Fire Beacon Hill. Seaton Wetlands host numerous hides for peering out in search of oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits and ringed plovers, while the luckiest of riders may even see Beavers on the River Otter! Binoculars are a must on the packing list, and handy guides at the reserves and hides often give you lots of information of what to look for and when, not to mention the friendly locals! This is certainly not a ride to be hurried. Sustainable travel Accessibility is key, so you can reach the East Devon Trail easily by train, which both starts and finishes at the main train station in Exeter. You can also link up to other established bikepacking routes, as we’ve deliberately strayed – just a little – into Dorset to the border town of Lyme Regis, where you meet the Wessex Ridgeway and Old Chalk Way routes. Supporting FORCE While enjoying the East Devon Trail is free, riders are strongly urged to consider donating to the local FORCE Cancer Charity to help fund their vital work. FORCE (Friends of the Oncology and Radiotherapy Centre, Exeter) became a charity in 1987, with a Cancer Support and Information Centre at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital that has supported many families in the decades since.
The East Devon Trail has been created in partnership with local stakeholders, including Devon Wildlife Trust, Wild East Devon, the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust, the RSPB and East Devon AONB. The East Devon Trail has been generously supported by Komoot and Outdoor Provisions. Read more: www.eastdevontrail.com Images by ForTheHellOfIt.cc
I see lots of inspiring pictures and reports about people in far flung places, riding exotic trails or pushing their limits nearer to home, some of the pictures from the recent Dirty Reiver were especially good as riders battled head winds and their own stamina. I see people riding gravel bikes like a trials bike, hopping about on the back wheel or doing gap jumps. I’m all for riding an “inappropriate” bike on surfaces and tracks where THEY say they’re not suitable, it’s all about #norulesjust ride after all. However, even though those adventurers inspire us and mass participation events are well attended not everyone has either the time or the money to go to these places or buy the very latest bike or kit. Most of us have a few hours at the weekend or after work now it’s staying lighter for longer and ride from the door on routes we’ve ridden so often we can ride them with eyes shut, and some would say that’s how my riding style looks like.
The following video is a tribute to those of us who make do with what we’ve got and still get a lot of fun out of it. It’s a cheeky homage to when I was little and we got back to school after a holiday and the teacher set us the job of writing “what i did on my holidays” and we had to read the essay out to everyone in the class when we’d finished. I seem to remember I’d got bored of this and started to add space travel and famous people into mine to spice it up a bit.
This is “Wot I did on my Easter Holidays”, I hope it inspires you to get your bike out even if it’s just to ride around the block. Just promise me you don’t do it with your eyes shut!
If you’ve got this far, thanks for sticking with it. Can I ask that if you already haven’t please consider subscribing to the youtube channel, it’s free to do and could one day pay for this website! (only 99,650 more subscribers to go!)
Chrome’s Sutro shorts are billed as being able to be worn from “city to trail” normal, and comfortable enough to be worn to the pub but robust enough to be worn out on the bike hitting some trails or long distance tours. Quite a lot of uses for a pair of shorts to cope with when usually there are some compromises when the “all rounder” label is added to an item of clothing. Jack of all trades or master of non? I was intrigued to find out.
The Sutro short has a 14″ inseam, this means when standing up (I am 6ft tall) the hem sits just on the middle of my knee cap. when sat in the saddle they sit around 15cm above my knee easily clearing the end of my bib shorts. The legs are not flappy, one of my pet hates when wearing baggy shorts but either are they tight. Chrome claim they work with knee pads, I’ve not tried this as I don’t wear them but I think they’d have to be pretty low profile pads to not interfere with the short leg.
The Sutro short on the Chrome Industries website is currently £132, or less if you search around on the net. A not insubstantial price but first impressions when you remove the shorts from the packet they do feel of great quality and when I tried them on for the first time they did feel very comfy straight away.
The shorts have what Chrome call a 5 bar flexy comfort waistband and velcro strap adjustability. I usually take a 34″ waist and the shorts fit well in that size for me and the waistband adjuster allows pie expansion! The velcro is unobtrusive and has never snagged on other clothing. The waist also has a press-stud and button fastening and has stayed secure when riding. It’s also easy to unfasten for those trails side pee stops.
The shorts have a DWR coating that has shaken off spray and in one case marmalade when sat ready to ride while having breakfast! There are two zipped pockets and two open side pockets, the side pockets are lined with a very fine mesh and tiny eyelets that Chrome say will let any liquid or dirt through, nopt that I’ve ever had liquid in my pockets. The zipped pockets sit just behind the opening to the side pockets and add a level of security for valubles, but they are not big enough for todays huge smart phones. Not that I’d carry my phone in my pocket while riding. I would if I was wearing these shorts to the pub, which they are more than comfortable enough to do in. They also don’t look like you are wearing cycling shorts to the pub either, unless you are also covered in mud from the trail!
Riding for the first time in the Sutro shorts I found the crotch area a little stiff but after that first ride I’ve not noticed it again as the shorts have bedded in. The Shorts have a little stretch to them which makes them very comfortable for riding in. You don’t notice them much at all, some shorts have the tendency to feel tight around the thigh at certain points of the pedal stroke but these just don’t have that at all.
I’ve found with baggy shorts that when standing up to pedal the short can slips down slightly and when you sit back down you have to reach back and pull them up to get rid of the gap at the rear and reposition them for pedalling. I’m very pleased to say this hardly ever happened with the Sutro. They are probably the best fitting short I’ve tried. They work excellently over a bib short. I’ve done a number of long and short rides in them (100k+ & just to the shops) I even crashed twice in them on their second ride! They have shrugged this off and still look new. They wash really well too. The only trouble with this robustness is that they are probably a short that I would not wear on the hottest of days because that durability comes with thickness. Not massively thick or heavy but I’d wear a thinner short with more vents in summer. Luckily (or not!) those hot days do not occur much in the UK so I’d be wearing these for 3/4 of the year.
I wondered at the start If these shorts were a true all rounder as that is a bold claim but actually they surprised me, you could wear these shorts for anything, walking, work, the pub and they work exceptionally well for riding in. Would I pay the £132 RRP for them? after trying them and finding them so comfortable I think I actually would!
The Chrome Sutro Short, probably the the only pair of baggy shorts you’d ever need.
More details of the Chrome Sutro shorts can be found here
Over recent weeks while lazily skipping through instragram in breaks at work, as you do, I’ve come across and account with some really inspiring pictures and an unusual idea for an “event”, I put event in inverted commas as it’s not so much an event as a tour, but a tour in lots of bits with no time limit, so not a race either….. so, to get the full story I contacted the account to get some back round and for them to explain exactly what Eryri 360 is, Connaire is the guy with all the answers and this is what he had to say,
My name is Connaire, I am the creator of the Eryri 360 series – An adventure cycling series that gets you discovering the very best of the Snowdonia national park from the saddle of your adventure bike!
I was born and raised in Snowdonia and am incredibly passionate about the place. I have spent my life so far as a freelance outdoor guide, running, walking, and cycling around every hill and valley I can find. I love nothing more than sharing these magnificent places with the people I meet.
Combined with my love of adventure cycling this is what inspired me to create the Eryri 360 Series.
I have always had an itch to scratch with adventure cycling. As a young boy on family holidays to the Scottish islands I would insist on always taking the fold up bicycle and its pannier bags so that I could venture into the wilds alone. I suppose at the time my mother had an enormous sense of trust and security in the fact we were on Scottish Islands and no harm could be done. A sense that inherently exists on an island. Fast forward to 2019, I had spent years working in the outdoors professionally, finished my degree and finally finished renovating the house! It was time to scratch the itch…
I initially took to the saddle and crossed the interior of Iceland twice, on a nice new Sonder and all its nice shiny bags. The remote landscape and its pulsing behaviour as its curdles and boils around you raises the hair on your neck as you gingerly cross its rifting zones. An experience so raw it shifted my perspective on our planet and ultimately, our vulnerability. I left Iceland inspired and made sail for the Faroe Islands where two weeks of riding through undersea tunnels as fast as I could to avoid Carbon poisoning gave me an incredible insight into how these communities in the far North thrive on this archipelago. Having returned home after that summer of 2019 I felt somewhat satisfied, I enjoyed two months back home in Snowdonia, working and settling back in to find myself yearning for the road again. So, I planned a trip of a different nature. I wanted something untamed, unmanicured… I browsed Skyscanner, booked a flight to Peru, joined an expat forum, and asked about second-hand bicycles. Within two weeks I was on a flight to Lima, with a small backpack of bikepacking gear and £300 to buy a bicycle. My aims where to cycle the Peruvian Andes Divide and ride South across the largest salt flats in the world, summit Aconcagua on route and continue to South Americas Southern tip. It was the trip of a lifetime that ended abruptly in Southern Patagonia, when Covid 19 hit the headlines and I abandoned my trusty bike in a Chilean’s garden shed and travelled home to Snowdonia. An incredible tale that needs justifying in an article of its own.
It has always been my passion to share my love of the outdoors and its benefits. Having such incredibleexperiences from the saddle has inspired me further to help people connect to landscapes, communities and nature using a bicycle. As a mode of transport, the pace and the connection to your surroundings is just so much more interactive than any other activity I have engaged in.
So here is the Eryri 360 Series – A series of rides to encourage you to explore my most favourite place in the world – Snowdonia. Engage with its people, communities, local businesses and enjoy its nature, landscape, and of course, world class gravel tracks.
How does it work?
The Eryri 360 Series simply put, is a collection of 7 spectacular non-technical adventure rides spanning the Snowdonia National Park.
However, this isn’t just any event series. As an Eryri 360 rider you are part of a pioneering project. Sustainability for the trails and businesses was always at the forefront of my mind when designing this. Unlike a mass start event that can often overwhelm our trails and small communities you can complete this series entirely at your own pace and on a day that suits you! Fancy the trail to yourself? Take a half day mid-week and complete a loop!
You enter online, you get the routes as downloads for your device, I post you a collection card and off you go! you complete it when you like with whoever you like! You can then submit your times back online and a complete collection card gets you a reward and entry into a big prize raffle!
To show their support businesses at the various start points have kindly sponsored instore discounts and perks for Eryri 360 riders from equipment, bike hire to bike servicing.
If following a route on a device isn’t your thing, then you can join us to complete the series one loop a month at a time as we head out socially to tick them off with guest riders leading the way!
If you’re looking for a sustainable cycling challenge this year, this just might be the one for you.
This seems to be a great Idea. Not everyone wants a mass participation event, a lot of those are great for the social side of riding but sometimes you just want to stop at a stunning view point and just enjoy the beauty and the silence of being “out there”. These routes look just the thing for this, you could of course just do it with a few friends to share the experience. This flexibility is also one of the great things, there’s no deadline, no pressure to complete a section within a time limit and risk being pulled out. Go at your own pace, fast or slow.
Massive thanks to Connaire for taking the time to write this down you can find out more and enter the series at wheelgoodtimes.com
Russ and I have been planning to ride a Devon coast to coast route since 2018, apathy stopped us doing it that year and in 2019. A global pandemic stopped us doing it since, so while out on a ride I messaged Russ and asked if he had any annual leave left to take off from work. He said he’d booked a few days what was my plan? I said lets do the Devon C2C now before we make an excuse not to do it again.
However, this wasn’t Spring or Summer, this was the end of February and on a Monday after a weekend of property damaging winds. The start would find us enduring a new storm named (who approves these names?) Franklin! Franklin was forecast to bring winds gusting up to 70mph all day. It was going to be character building at the very least. The route would take us from Ilfracombe on in the North to Plymouth in the South.
We drove down to Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast early on the Monday morning. February might have been a drawback weather wise but parking fees were ridiculously cheap. £3.70 for 2 days parking! times that by 10 if we’d done this ride in April. We pedaled down to the beach but there was no way I was getting near that sea! foam was blowing off it and if you watch the video you’ll hear, or rather you won’t hear me because the wind was so strong!
After a steep pull up out of Ilfracombe we got to the estuary and things got a lot easier. A tail wind pushed us down to Barnstaple on the River Taw where things suddenly got serious. We crossed the estuary bridge and went head on into near constant 60mph winds. Although we were riding side by side just a few centimeters apart the wind noise was so loud we couldn’t hear each other speak. Not that we were able to anyway, open your mouth and your breath was taken away immediately. That estuary cycle path seemed like a 100 miles long. We were almost in our bottom gear and near a standstill putting in as much effort as a Tour de France sprinter just to stop from being blown backwards! we’d only done around 15 miles of today’s planned 61 mile route and I began to think if it was like this the whole way there was no way I was going to have the energy to do it!
we carried on and thankfully managed to reach the lunch stop without being blown out of the saddle! The Voyager cafe was a little haven out of the wind. The outside benches had the added bonus of being in a little sun trap. we hoovered down our food and updated social media, as you do 🙂
calories topped up we turned back into the wind with some trepidation but apart from having to negotiate more fallen trees we started to move more inland towards Dartmoor on more sheltered paths. Repurposed railway cuttings are great for getting out of the wind. We just now had to be aware of breaks in the fence line or gate openings where the sudden onslaught of air would catch you out and blow you across the trail. especially good was that the route profile didn’t take into account the fact that the route had a lot of rail tunnels on it so the hefty climbs we were expecting actually were hundreds of feet above us as we pedaled straight through the hill on the flat.
The route that Russ had put together was great, linking parts of the Tarka trail and sustrans routes there was minimal busy road riding and mostly old rail line paths and cycle routes. The gravel bikes were perfect as there were a few muddy sections and lots of wind blown debris to negotiate. Thankfully we completed the whole route without a puncture. Both of us run tubeless and it wouldn’t be until the day after I got back home when cleaning the bike I’d notice 5 thorns in the rear tyre that the sealant had sealed around. thank you tubeless!
the sun shone all day but it only felt warm when sheltered from the wind. So after battling wind, lifting bikes through and over trees we finally made it to Okehampton and our stop for the night at Betty Cottles Inn. A quirky little place that had run out of gas and so had no hot water in the main building where Russ was sleeping but had heating in the annexe where I was. But they did have dartmoor ale and Scampi!
After a restless nights sleep, ironically I was too hot, we had a good breakfast and set off on day two. We didn’t have so far to go today but we did have a deadline to make. We had pre booked train tickets and needed to be in Plymouth by 3pm to be able to get back to the van. Today the weather was less violent but we did encounter a few rain showers and had to be careful crossing the many viaducts that passed along the edge of Dartmoor National Park. The views were spectacular though with rolling moors and the occasional Tor in the distance.
There was a little more off road on this section made more challenging with the drizzle we were experiencing. One section of fast disused rail line path was broken by a completely unpaved section of muddy singletrack accessed by a gate lasting only a few yards before going back via another gate onto the paved section again. Clearly whoever owned that land didn’t want to join in with the others and allow the cycle path to continue unrestricted.
There seemed to be more gradient on this second day and although it was rolling we both started to feel the efforts of the previous day of battling the high winds so we decided to stop for a restorative snack
Faces stuffed with pastry we carried on through very pretty countryside, over more fallen trees, dodged council workers with tractors either trimming blackthorn hedges or cleaning up debris (still no punctures)
Over some moorland following a very steep long climb we began to encounter signs of “civilisation” in the form of a golf course. Clearly they didn’t want a cycle path through their patch and so there was a lot of pointless gates and signs warning us not to stray onto the artificial countryside they had groomed, no danger of that from us! Then things got more and more urban as we reached Plymouth and the coast. Cycle paths next to dual carriageways are never fun but given that the alternative would be to be riding on the dual carriageways with the cars and lorries it was much preferable. then at last we made it to the sea!
Now all we had to do was make it across the city in school pick up traffic, find the rail station, find the correct bike storage carriage and start the journey back to Ilfracombe. It was touch and go but we just made it with about 2 minutes to spare. The two train journey was not uneventful though. The second train stopped half way back and became a bus replacement service, not good for bikes! we had the choice of waiting an hour in the hope that the next replacement was a coach and that the driver would let us put the bikes in cargo or get an expensive taxi instead. Being February at already 4pm and 54 miles of busy road away from the van which neither of us fancied the long ride in the dark so we resorted to four wheels.
After an “entertaining” taxi journey listening to the drivers tales of cyclists who had needed his services over the years (thank goodness Russ was up front so had to make conversation while I dosed in the back) we finally made it back to Ilfracombe at around 6pm. A quick stash of the bikes in the van and we headed down to the seafront for a chippy tea, Fish and chips never tasted so good!
Massive thanks to Russ for the route, i think out of the 94 miles only around 6 miles were actually on a busy road, the rest was cycle path or off road. We only had limited time and riding back to the car with another overnight stop would be a good alternative to using the train. Riding during a weather event made it harder than it would normally be as the route actually has easy climbs and long flat sections. It would be achievable in one day but you’d not have time to stop and admire the scenery and really take your time to soak it all in.
Now to plan another long route, Scottish C2C anyone?
here is the video I made of the route, it premieres at 1800 on 27/3/22 and it’ll give you a good overview of what to expect.
Core Bike is a trade only show that traditionally takes place in January and is attended by the most important and influential Brands and distributors of bikes, components and apparel in the UK. They use the show to showcase their new products and try to persuade dealers to buy stock.
I say normally takes place in January, of course the global pandemic has affected the show the last two years but this year it was moved to March to avoid the winter restrictions and today saw the first live in person show. UKgravelCO went along to see what’s new, meet up with old friends and try to make new ones so we can bring you more products to review.
The show covers all genres of cycling but of course we sort out the more gravelly side.
The first thing to say is that colour is back this year, a lot of gravel bikes seem to come in earthy muted colours or black traditionally but throughout the show colour was everywhere, on frames, components and clothing. I think personally that’s great
Bikes and frames are also getting the colour treatment and non more so than the All-City range. Some great paint jobs including some that are unique to each frameset.
The frameset above is the All-City Nature Cross singlespeed. room for a gravel tyre and works with an eccentric bottom bracket for chain tension. You cab run it with gears too with the correct rear mech hanger.
SKS had a cool gadget that might be interesting for the bike packers and long distance riders. This power bank fits to the stem (or bars with the correct mount) has two sockets for charging cables but you can fix your phone to it directly too using an adaptor. It’ll also do wireless charging
SKS also have a range of bike packing bags and a new full coverage mudguard with various widths for even the widest gravel tyre.
A good piece of news is that Ritchey now has a UK importer and they will be stocking nearly all of their components including framesets, not everything is in stock yet but your local bike shop will be able to get hold of things such as the awesome venturemax bar soon. Also look out for a review of the Ritchey Outback frame later in the year.
One of the most unique bikes at the show was this Chapter 3 special edition from Vielo. The paint work is done by hand with a lot of sanding back and each one of the limited run is unique. If you have to ask how much, then you probably can’t afford it. We also saw a beautiful new frameset from Vielo with an amazingly detailed paint finish but it’s embargoed until the Sea Otter show so I can’t post the pictures but suffice to say you’d probably want one!
There was a lot of embargoed stuff on show, from Cannondale and Fizik to name just a few, some great new stuff on its way. Again I can’t show you yet.
Ortlieb are a brand known for quality, I have a seat bag of theirs that must be 10 years old and it’s still like new. their latest bike bags seem to have the same quality and have a few unique touches that I hope to be able to review soon and show you in more detail.
The same distributor that brings in Ortlieb also import Salsa bikes and as well as the Cutthroat, this Warbird was a standout in their display. There was rumours of a Stormchaser single speed too but that was locked away in a bedroom as it was the personal bike of one of the guys at Lyon Cycle.
Surly had a great display including the new Ghost Grappler which I’m hoping to review soon. Surly is distributed by Ison-distribution who also bring in All-City bikes seen at the start of this article but they also had this little gem below.
All in all an interesting show, with some new ideas, some left of field and some practical. Check back for reviews of some of the above items soon and I’ll leave you with some more shots from the show
Many thanks to Dan Phillips for wielding the lenses find him here
When Cotic launched their steel drop bar Gravel/MTB bike I just knew I had to get my hands on one. they stated it was an MTB designed for drop bars and that’s something I’ve been trying to create for years using my old MTB hardtails but with limited success. The top tube on those hardtails, quite rightly was designed with flat or riser bars in mind. This makes the fitting of drop bars awkward. usually the bars end up too far away making you adopt a “superman” position leading to poor steering control and fatigue on the neck and shoulders. it also makes the bike look awful as to try to counteract this you need to run a short upright stem. Even then it was always a compromise.
So I sent an email to Cy at Cotic to see if there was any way to get a ride on one. Cy very helpfully arranged for a bike to be sent out. I was away doing a Devon Coast to coast ride when it arrived so when I got home I was straight out on it to see if it was all I had dreamed of!
I’m not going to comment too much on the kit that this bike comes with as it was built slightly differently to the complete bikes that Cotic sell and is a mix of parts, almost 100% because of the current shortages of components I guess. The shifters are Sram Force, the rear mech is Sram Rival, the cassette (11-51) is Shimano Deore and it all runs with a Shimano chain very smoothly. I’m not the biggest fan of Sram shifting so would this detract from the ride? There’s a dropper post fitted and this is activated by a drop bar mounted lever. It’s the first time I’ve tried one of these, my bike’s dropper is brake lever mounted (GRX) and it took a few miles of trying to drop the post with the brake lever before I adjusted to it.
The main triangle of the frame is made from 853 steel, a great compromise of weight and ride feel and the rear stays are made of good old 4130 steel. The rear stays are super skinny in that lovely way only steel can be. There’s nothing weird or unique about how this frame is constructed, no Cotic exlusive standards that you get on a lot of other frames. This means apart from the very last run to the dropper post all the cables and hoses are external, thank you Cotic!, the headset isn’t semi integrated or anything hard to get or work out, it’s also external cups and the best thing of all, the bottom bracket is also a threaded external unit. The frame will accommodate 29×2.4 or 27.5×2.8″ tyres. Unusually the bolt through axles take a 5mm Hex key, something that has been 6mm on all the other bikes I’ve owned. The frame has boost spacing (110/148mm hubs) and flat mount brake mounts.
Mounts, to be honest I lost count of the number of either bottle cage mounts or rack mounts but they can be found under the down tube, on the inside of the down tube, under the top tube, on top of the top tube on the seat tube and you can run a rack and full mud guards. There’s a little tab of the left hand side of the chainstay to attach one end of a full mudguard, a great little touch.
The Alpaca fork this bike came with also has rack and guard mounts and triple bosses on each leg. It will take a 29×2.6 or 27.5×3.0″ tyre and has flat mount brake mounts. Cotic can also supply a Salsa carbon fork for the bike.
The Ride, well, what can I say other than this bike is an absolute beast. The geometry is spot on, you can ride on the drops or the hoods all day without issue and without a ridiculously short stem. Anyone who has ridden a drop bar bike off road will know that the maximum control when going downhill is with your hands on the hook of the drops. On a converted MTB this is always an issue as you’re fully stretched out at that point and reaching the brakes can be difficult. No such issues here. grab the drops, drop the dropper and point the front wheel down hill and this thing feels like it will go wherever you point it. it is riotous fun drifting the rear wheel in the mud. Any technical trail can be finessed as the bike’s wheel base isn’t too long to be ponderous and it’ll turn in when needed. I don’t have the skills but i reckon you could whip the rear end of this bike over jumps if you wanted to. If you do find yourself out of your depth though the bike will just roll over stuff with the big tyres fitted. it is very confidence inspiring. However, don’t though let the liveliness of the ride put you off if you intend to load up with bags and disappear into the wilderness. I’m not sure how Cotic have managed it but as well as this liveliness when loaded up it feels stable and forgiving, it feels almost like its on a team building course and you have to close your eyes and trust that it’ll catch you when you fall backwards. It feels like It’ll look after you in all situations. very handy after a long day in the saddle when fatigue is affecting your concentration.
So who is this bike for? Firstly anyone who wants to put a massive grin on their face, the bike is so much fun. If you have never ridden a drop bar bike and are coming from an MTB back round you will feel right at home, If you have never ridden off road and want to leave the tarmac to dabble in the dirtside then this bike will flatter and cosset you while you hone your new found skills riding the trails.
This bike isn’t a short course racer, you can ride you local CX race on it and you’ll overtake lots of riders downhill but it’s a steel bike, it isn’t as light as an aluminium or carbon bike and the long distance comfort that comes from a steel frame won’t shine through on 45 minutes of effort. Where this bike will win though is long distance mixed and heavy terrain riding, think loaded up with your possessions on the trans cambian or HT500 or bag free just messing about in your local woods. Don’t be put off with the “drop bar MTB” label either, this bike is too versatile to be labelled. You could put gravel wheels and tyres in it and it would fly but personally I’d leave the fat tyres on for comfort and the way you can drift it into loamy corners while giggling to yourself.
For the price (£895 for frameset with steel fork at time of publishing) I can’t fault it, the £ to fun ratio is high.
So, Cotic Cascade, Drop bar MTB or gravel bike? Who cares, throw your leg over one and pedal off with the biggest grin you’ve had on your face for a long time!
you can find more info on the Cotic Cascade website here
There’s also a video review of the bike so you can get a closer look, just click below and please take the time to subscribe to my youtube channel to see more reviews on bikes and parts
Ever since Surly announced the corner bar in summer 2021 I’ve wanted to try one, I don’t know if Surly just tested the water with these new bars and the production run was small or that they didn’t import many into the UK but the entire stock at the UK distributor sold out really fast. Scroll forward to January 22 and the first availability for a pair was looking to be May 22. So one not very busy Saturday at work (don’t tell my boss….ok you can, I’m leaving anyway) I set about emailing every UK dealer/shop listed on the Surly website to see if they had a pair of Corner bars gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I had many “sorry not until the summer” replies until Brixton Cycles messaged back saying they had a 46cm (measured to where the “hoods” join the top bar) in stock. I immediately got them in the basket and they turned up 4 days later at my back door.
Surly tag these bars as a “mountain bike drop bar” as they work with MTB style levers, they are supposed to give you the feel of drop bars without having to fork out £250+ on a set of road shifters that may or may not be compatible with your rear derailleur or brake calipers.
Now, I guess the big question is why would you want to put drop bars on your MTB in the first place? after all the riser or flat bar handlebar has evolved into a nice wide comfortable place that brings confidence and control to some gnarly riding. It keeps your head up so you can easily see the trail ahead on downhills or will easily cruise along sinuous singletrack. Why would you want to put a potentially narrower (i know there are some very wide drop bars) bar on where the best control is on the lowest part of them that stretches you out and drops your head into a position where you have to look up to see where you are going? Well, the reason I think is also why Gravel bikes have become so popular.
That reason is that mountain bikes have become so proficient at their job, smoothing out the trail ahead that your local routes have become a bit tame and dare I say it, boring! You barely notice the off road features that back in the mists of MTB time would have posed a challenge to your twitchy narrow barred and head angled early MTB…….hmmm narrow bars and twitchy handling was fun…..can you see where I’m going with this?
So throw a set of drop bars on your trail beating MTB and bring back the fun! only it’s not that simple. MTBs have very different shifters and brake set up to road/gravel bikes and that’s where it starts getting costly just to experiment with drop bars that you might actually hate after one ride. This is where the Corner bar comes in, it’s not cheap actually at over £100 but that’s a lot cheaper than a set of drop bars, road shifters, new cable inner and outer, bar tape and the hassle of doing it all.
I wouldn’t however sling a pair of these bars on your all mountain/enduro world cup gravity sled, keep that for the really gnarly trails and put the corner bars on a hardtail that languishes neglected, in the back of your shed. Even better if its pre “long , low and slack” geometry which is all the rage these days. that extra top tube length will stretch you too far out when on the drops.
So how does it ride? lets look at it from two perspectives,
1.You’re a seasoned drop bar rider, when you are on the drops you will feel right at home, the 65 degrees of flare make for rock solid handling on the rough stuff giving you masses of control. climbing on the drops also benefits from this flare as your hands fall into a very natural position far away from the shoulder constricting “aero tuck” of a traditional drop bar. Aero is not as it turns out, everything!
The thing that you will miss however is the fact that you cannot ride on the hoods, on drop bar levers the top of the hood is where you will spend most of your time. It is comfortable and you can still reach the brakes and get a reasonable amount of power into them. On the corner bar your hand sits awkwardly on the stump and that has either the shifter or brake mounting bracket on it or both depending on how you configure them. it’s fine for short periods but it’s not somewhere you want to be for long rides The other major issue is you can’t reach the brake lever from there either.
2. You’ve never ridden a drop bar bike in anger in your life and have only ever used a flat or riser bar. You will get your hands on the drops, chuck the bike downhill and either get transported back to the adrenaline rush of the early 90s MTB boom or immediately get what all those old timers are gushing about when they get into the “back in the day” routine. The flare and width are great for control and edge of your seat riding that a modern MTB on tame trails removes completely.
You’ve never sat with your hands on the hoods so don’t know what you are missing, you’ll climb, descend and cruise on the drops and that’s pretty much how these bars were designed. you can of course hold the bars either side of the stem too and that at least gives you another hand position.
So, if you’ve got an old geometry MTB then a set of these bars will bring it back to life for relatively peanuts in outlay…..well, maybe, maybe not. You see if your old mtb has a rigid fork then putting these bars on the standard length stem will stretch you right out. I was running a 60mm stem on my bike and to get comfy riding predominantly on the drops i ended up with a 35mm stem right at the top of the steerer with all the spacers underneath. If you have a suspension fork then the front will be higher and you’ll need to make less adjustments. So bare in mind some swapping of stems etc might have to take place. Oh, and can you wrap bar tape? because these work best with road bar tape on. Controls are easy to access from the drops, even a dropper lever.
One drawback, in my opinion is that these bars have a diameter of 25.5mm which is pretty old school. They do come with a shim to take it up to the popular 31.8mm standard of most stems but this small diameter does mean fitting accessories such as lights need an adaptor. I used some old inner tube wrapped around the bar.
Are these bars for everyone? not at all. do they weigh rather a lot and are expensive for some welded steel pipe? they certainly are. Would i put them on my MTB if it was the only MTB I had? no way. Would I have them on a “spare bike” just for fun? 100% I would.
They are quirky and not perfect at all. But I would stick a pair on a bike just for the hell of it, for shits and giggles because they are great fun for hitting your local stuff.
here’s a video that will give you more insight. Pleas take the time to subscribe for ,more videos like this
This sunday 6/2/22 at 1800hrs GMT the Surly Corner Bar review goes live on the UKgravelCO youtube channel. Just click on the link below, set a remonder and see if this bar can make your MTB into a gravel bike.
If you read my recent review of the Wizard Works Wiz Viz bags (and if not, why not!?) link here you’ll see how great looking these bags are. (not giving anything away there, please read the review) 😉
the top folk at Wizard Works are allowing me to give away the Go Go top tube bag that I tested to one of you lot! As with all these competitions there’s a few things to do to enter the competition. All the instructions on how to win the bag are in the below video but simply, Subscribe to the UKgravelCO You-tube channel, follow UKgravelco and Wizard Works on instagram and maybe mention someone else who’d like to win this bag.
the winner will be announced on 26/12/21 on instagram stories. good luck!
Wizard Works very kindly sent me a set of their brand new Wiz Viz bike bags. Namely a Lil’ Presto bar bag, a Go Go top tube bag and a Teeny Houdini saddle bag.
The Wiz Viz range is made from a black cordura fabric that is perforated to show the reflective layer underneath. There is also a very vivid orange panel on the top tube bag and the bar bag. the saddle bag just gets the reflective perforations.
This Material really works, car lights reflect bag from the perforations and the orange panel acts like your own personal high v-viz jacket. The material is also really hard wearing, I’ve been using the bags on day and night rides off road in gritty conditions and snow and they look pretty much as good as they did when I first installed them on the bike.
The Teeny Houdini saddle bag is a cute little wedge shaped bag that fits under your saddle via a strap over the saddle rails. The straps come together with a very satisfying click from a Fidlock magnetic clasp. This is the slightly larger version (the smaller is designed for road bikes) and I could fit a 27.5″ inner tube (I’m running 2.1 tyres on the grav) a multi tool and a tubeless repair kit fit in it easily with room to push more in in an emergency. the flap also secures with velcro for piece of mind.
The Go Go Top Tube bag is made of the same reflective and orange material as the Teeny Houdini and fits neatly on the top tube via velcro straps pushed through the daisy chain webbing underneath and via another strap around the steerer tube. The sides have a HDPE reinforcement to help keep the bag’s shape.
Although Wizard Works don’t claim that the bag is waterproof I found them very water resistant. The zip is very easy to open and close with one hand for mid ride snacks or to grab a camera etc. Because the bag is quite tall it’s best to pack it with the heavier items as low as possible to stop the bag flopping. Wizard Works do stock a Dr Jon widget to stabilise the bag via the steerer though or something like the 76 Projects anti strap clip will do just as good a job, see my review here The bag has a media port on the front which is great if your lights have a separate battery and a cable to you light unit. I could easily get my pixel 4a in a rubber case inside, a go-pro and mini tripod, some emergency cash, a spare face mask and a buff. You could easily use it as a refuel station for bars and snacks needed on the go. The only thing I’d like to see is an inside pocket maybe to store a credit card or to keep cash separate from the other items so it’s easier to find in a hurry.
The Lil Presto Barrel Bar Bag is very well regarded on the bike packing/gravel scene for it’s robustness and ease of use so the addition of the reflective fabric just makes this that little bit more special.
Again made from cordura and the orange panel the bag just feels quality when you pick it up. Massive kudos to Wizard Works for using the brilliant Voile nano straps to secure the bag to your bars, simple and easy to adjust and secure. the daisy chain webbing on the bag allows lots of mounting position options for the straps if your bars are crowded with lights, a bell or navigation tech. The zip is the same type as on the Go Go bag and again it can be opened and closed with one hand. I had a few wet rides as mentioned before and although not stated to be waterproof anything inside the bag stayed dry. The bag has a pocket on each end to stash things you need to get too quickly, sadly in the current climate this meant a mask for me. it never bounced out though despite a lack of elasticity on the pocket opening. The bag has a HDPE liner to keep its shape and avoid saggy bag syndrome some other bags suffer from. This stiffness also helps when fitted to the bike as it stops the bag wrapping around the head tube when secured tightly by the supplied paracord and clasp. There are two loops at either end of the zip that could be used for a shoulder strap to use the bag off the bike, this isn’t supplied with the bag.
For a small size bag it’s amazing what you can stuff in it, I’ve had a waterproof jacket, a gilet, bobble hat, keys, phone and even my go-pro in it at one time. The interior is bright and thankfully the liner is covered so there’s no rattle when things such as keys are inside (an internal key loop would be a great addition as I hate fishing around for keys)
When you describe an item as fit and forget it makes it sound a bit boring, but nothing could be further from the truth and here it’s a big complement. the Li’l presto is so well designed, built and made with quality materials it is something that you can rely on to keep on working. The voile straps mean that even when you add an unwieldy or heavy load you don’t constantly have to re-tension the straps like some other bags, the paracord head tube stabiliser does just that. The bag will take a few knocks that everyday trail and city riding can bring. It just feels pretty indestructible and something you don’t have to think about when concentrating on the tricky terrain or traffic ahead. Add in the “see me” qualities of the materials used and there’s no reason not to look at these for your next bike bag purchase. Other colours but not reflective materials are also available should the orange be too much for you.
I knew when Wizard Works asked to send me their stuff that this was going to be a difficult review as their reputation preceded them and a good review needs to be balanced and a little fault here and there makes for much better reading and subjectivity and the last thing I want to write is just “this is great, buy one” but..
“this is great, buy one!”
you can find more details and buy the wizard works kit here Wiz Viz Collection (this is not an affiliated link, I get no commission & the bags will be returned to Wizard Works, which I’m actually sad about)
As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.
overview video, please subscribe to my youtube channel!
I think that black friday is pretty rubbish for retailers and shoppers alike. If companies can afford to drop prices on one day they should drop prices all year round or at least spread those savings across the year.
So in the spirit of not having a black friday sale all the T shirts in the UKgravelCO shop are all now £5 off when you use the discount code “blackfridaysucks” at the check out. offer will last until black friday weekend or until the T shirts run out.
please share with anyone you can, proceeds from the shop go towards paying for this website and for buying products in to review so you don’t have to lay out your hard earned cash on something that might not work for you.
Overland is a clothing company that once was an off shoot of Morvelo but has now become a separate entity run by the original Morvelo designers and owners. The Overland cater more to the adventure and every day riding needs of cyclists rather than just those who wear lycra and want the maximum aero gains.
The range consists of looser fit and more relaxed clothing for long days in the saddle over mixed terrain, bike packing, commuting or just riding to the shops. So just like the riding I do and probably most of the readers looking at this now.
Overland have recently launched some new items and I purchased (Overland haven’t sent me these for free) a couple of pairs of “Far out” socks.
I love a longer sock, mid calf being my favourite length and Overland state these socks are in a skate style with extra cushioning on the sole for comfort so they sounded ideal. First impressions count and the first thing to note was the packaging that the socks arrived in. Sustainable packaging might cost a few pennies more but I’m happy to pay the extra to do a small amount to help the environment. Overland use biodegradable bags and are trying to remove all plastics in their business. On this note it was great to see that the socks have a cotton fastening to hold them together in the packet rather than the plastic clip usually seen holding socks together. See overland’s sustainability ideas and plans here
The socks were of a thinner material than I was expecting, tube socks to me evoke memories of 1980’s BMX/Skate socks which were always thicker than normal socks. The length was perfect, mid calf without having to pull the material thin to achieve the height. Pulled up, the socks kept their colour too and didn’t look stretched thin and go “white” like some dark colour socks do.
Riding the Far Out socks for the first time I was very impressed how comfortable they were, some new socks are tight until the first wash, these were so comfy and apart from remembering to photograph them I forgot I was wearing them, always a good sign. The socks survived a soaking and a layer of mud without incident. They also stayed up in the same position despite numerous trips over rough ground that has literally knocked my socks off before! I can’t say I noticed the extra padding but maybe that was because they were so comfortable anyway. The socks also survived a few brushes with spikey under growth and look as good now as when I opened the packet.
Post ride washing meant just chucking them in the washing machine, I’ll freely admit I didn’t check the washing instructions (and I’ve thrown the paper card that came with the socks away) before doing this. I couldn’t find any instructions on the Sock product page. I’m pleased to say though that the socks survived that 30 degree wash and kept their shape and there was no shrinkage or loss of colour and this is the case even after 2-3 washes and numerous rides.
Overall the Overland Far Out socks are great, thinner than I was expecting but this hasn’t detracted from the performance and they are thicker than a normal cycling sock at least. They have survived numerous rides with out damage and I love the look of them and they’ve attracted a few comments on the styling too.
If you like a longer sock I’d definitely recommend you look at The Overland Far Out Sock range.
As with all my tests, this is a real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of you reading this. companies sometimes send me things to test but i always let them know it will be an honest review good or bad. In this case I paid full price for the socks and apart from fact checking the Overland/Morvelo split with the Overland guys they have had no input on this review
I looked at the fair weather forecast and decided to go and ride some tracks I’ve not ridden before in the forest and then make a loop of it for fun, then it rained
Actually a great ride, I was “lost” at times but sort of knew where I was, but aren’t all the best rides like that anyway? The canal towpaths were very greasy because of the rain and I had to concentrate on picking the best line for fear of ending up in the cut.
No proper cafe stop on this ride, too wet to stop but I can thoroughly recommend Kings Fayre Bakery in Kinver, hot savouries and an eccles cake restored my energy and the banter with the girls in there brought a smile to my mud spattered face.
There was definitely a lot of climbing at the start and a lot of flat, so mucho pedalling and weirdly not much downhill for a circular route. maybe that’s just me though.
hope you enjoy the video
Please subscribe to the ukgravelco youtube channel, if you do it’ll help pay for the website and enable me to review more kit and bikes and give you honest reviews.
Garmin are hosting a road and gravel sportive this october in association with Action medical research for children. Based near Wimbourne in Dorset it looks like there could be some interesting gravel routes.
To celebrate this Garmin have let me share a 20% off code for the entry fee. the code is RO21
Hope to see you there!
for those who can’t make it there is an indoor event on the thursday so those with a smart trainer can also join in.
Thursday – 7 October
18:00 – Ride In – Join a cycling legend for an hour’s indoor ride on Zwift. Receive the Garmin Ride In badge for participating.
Friday – 8 October
9:00 – Ride Out – Join Garmin and Action Medical Research for a day festival of cycling. Take on either the 50 mile road route or the new 30 mile gravel route. Receive the Garmin Ride Out badge for participating.
I’ve just published my review of the Chrome Barrage Cargo pack here Barrage pack have a read and then follow the link to UKgravelCO’s insta page for a chance to win your own pack direct from Chrome Europe!
UKgravelCO first mentioned the Dukes Weekender prepandemic but of course that dratted virus put paid to all the fun but now, hopefully things will go ahead this year with new entries released on August 11th and we hope to be there to enjoy the stunning scenery and atmosphere. Here’s what the organisers have to say…
September 2021 will see The Dukes Weekender in association with Santa Cruz Bicycles return to Aberfoyle and the surrounding Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. After a year’s hiatus the event organisers have announced plans to continue with the weekend long family focused event which includes Scotland’s largest ‘Gravel Enduro.’
Set in the heart of the village of Aberfoyle, the event is operated by local residents and has been a huge success, growing over the initial 2 years and bringing nearly 700 cyclists to the area to enjoy the weekend’s festivities. The Dukes Weekender is focussed on the growing trend of gravel cycling, a new discipline bringing the accessibility, physical benefits and non-technical aspects of road cycling to the safety, experience and landscape of mountain biking. The weekend, the biggest of it’s kind in Scotland, will see participants take on a forest road hill climb on the side of Dukes Pass (with local crowd, catering and music), a stunning 75km gravel enduro and also a 10km kids enduro and event village.
The event has been instrumental in establishing the village of Aberfoyle as a booming cycling destination, leading to the launch of a new destination brand ‘Gravelfoyle’ and will soon also see waymarked trails launched in Loch Ard forest as a collaboration between local community interest company Bike Trossachs, the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Forth Valley Leader and Forestry and Land Scotland.
Event organiser, Bike Trossachs member and local resident Stu Thomson commented; ‘it’s absolutely fantastic to be able to bring the event back to the community after such a challenging last 18 months. The Dukes Weekender was established with the aim of bringing people to the village and showcasing the gravel riding on offer in the area and it’s been incredible to see the resulting explosion of Aberfoyle as a cycling hub.’
Stu’s partner in the event, well-known local cyclist Rob Friel added; ‘We’ve always put community right at the heart of the whole event, using only local suppliers, no outside catering and bringing the participants to the centre of the village. We’ve also used recently funded a selection of cycling equipment for the local primary schools in Aberfoyle and Gartmore too.’
As mentioned above, the organisers have announced some limited additional entries will be available on August 11th with the majority carrying over from the cancelled 2020 event. For more information on the event and entries please visit – www.dukesweekender.com
The scenery looks stunning and I really want to try and get there to experience the vibe!
I’ve been a convert to tubeless tyres for over 5 years now. Originally a sceptic I now stress if I’m riding a bike that doesn’t have the security of being set up with tubeless wheels, tyres, valves and an effective sealant. There are always debates on social media about tubes V tubeless and at one time I was the guy saying “but tubes are so easy to change and there’s no hassle or mess setting them up” but, once you’ve had to change or repair an inner tube on a fat bike 3 times in one ride you soon see that the initial work that goes into tubeless is well worth the piece of mind of knowing you are not going to have to stop and change tubes, inevitably at the worst times, usually in torrential rain on a wheel covered in mud in sub zero temperatures.
So, fair enough I hear you say, on a fat bike with large volume tyres that take an age to reinflate or get seated on the rim properly I can see his point, but on a gravel bike? I can see what you are saying, but think of it this way, most gravel bikes are being used to explore places you’ve either never ridden before or seldom do and you’re mostly going a lot further away from home when you do it. That bridleway you spot as you wend your way down that back lane could be the passage to riding nirvana….or it could be that just around the corner the local farmer might have cut the hedge and a million thorns are waiting to rip into your tyres and make life a misery, so better not risk it hey? Well on a tubeless tyre you can ride that bridleway secure in the knowledge your tubeless tyres and sealant will shrug off those thorns and let you get on with exploring and not missing possibly the best riding you’ll ever do!
I recently changed tyres and found 5 thorns in the rear and two in the front tyre I knew nothing about, the sealant had just sealed around the hole and I’d not even noticed any pressure drop. So potentially that was 5 instances of having to stop and change a tube!
So, we’ve stablished that tubeless is a good idea, but what tyre sealant to use? I’ve used Orange seal, Muc-off, Stan’s, Joe’s no tubes and Bontrager to name but a few and i know what I like so it’s always with a little trepidation that i swap to a new brand. However, having used Squirt Lube for the past few years and found that to be simply the best chain lube I’ve tried so far I asked the guys at Squirt Products to send me some of their sealant to try out.
When you get the Squirt Seal it comes with a pot of Bead block particles, these help to seal bigger holes in the tyre that the “glitter” in many of the other sealants on the market contain. Squirt tested these in South Africa where they get considerably bigger thorns etc than we get in the UK so it should be spot on for every where!
Squirt Sealant differs slightly from other sealants as they recommend you pop off a small section of tyre from the rim to apply the granules rather than go via the valve stem as they might not go through without clogging. This is especially true if the valve is still damp with a previous sealant. I tried it and they are correct. You only need to pop a very small section of tyre off the rim though so reseating afterwards shouldn’t (and wasn’t) too much of a problem.
Once up to pressure I left the wheels 24 hours to see if they lost any air but they were fine so I fitted them to a bike and spent the next 4 WEEKS without any sign of a puncture. Was this because of the superior quality of the Squirt seal or had it silently got on with it’s job and saved my ride numerous times without me noticing (this is what tubeless set ups do)? I’d put the sealant into 650×2.1 tyres on the Fearless Warlock I’ve got in to test and I’ve ridden it on unknown trails, familar puncture black spots, down a lane where hedge cutting had strewn black thorn all over the tarmac, the frankly shockingly bad surfaced roads near here, to work and back road etc but even with the big surface area of the tyres to gather debris I still didn’t notice a pressure drop the entire time.
How do you effectively test a tubeless sealant when you don’t get a puncture? time for drastic measures!
See how Tested the effectiveness of Squirt Seal Tubeless Tyre Sealant with Beadblock
Squirt claim the sealant hs minimal to zero bioaccumulation in the environment and it’s also ammonia free so doesn’t stink or sting your eyes like other sealants on the market
So I’d definitely recommend trying tubeless on your gravel bike and for that extra piece of mind look at Squirt Sealant as your tubeless fluid, it survives multiple stabbings!
you can find more details on Squirt Seal and Lube here Squirt or on the Uk Squirt Insta here
As with all my tests, this is a real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of you reading this. companies sometimes send me things to test but i always let them know it will be an honest review good or bad
During the first lockdown in the UK in 2020 the only exercise we were able to do outside was walking and cycling and so this meant a great many people got their rusty old bike out of the shed or splurged some cash that they couldn’t spend in non-essential shops on a new bike. The lack of traffic on the roads as everyone stayed at home was also a great boost for getting new people out on bikes. The great weather of spring 2020 also helped. Fast forward to the latter part of 2020 onwards when restrictions were eased, then tightened, then eased again, sounds exhausting and it was! But a very pleasing number of riders carried on this healthy hobby of ours.
Also excellent to see was the amount of women riders taking up riding, returning to riding or inspiring others to ride. Group rides were once again allowed and women riders around the country began to organise group rides without the strict rules of male dominated, predominantly road-based clubs. Pictures were posted on social media of smiling riders riding a huge assortment of bikes, wearing whatever they wanted rather than convention dictated “cycling” uniforms of lycra etc and it was so refreshing to see. Since then things have moved on quickly and many more groups have started and are now visiting other groups to share adventures out on the bike.
One such person who organises the Off Road Club is Nic C (she/her)…. And I contacted her to get a bit more background about the group and how things are going, this is what she had to say…
Who started the club, what’s the idea behind it?
We started the group because we wanted to find rad women to ride off road with. Our local bike shop, The Woods Cyclery, ran group rides but we wanted a women led space to build our confidence on two wheels. The initial idea was to run group rides but now, after realising how necessary the space is for women to build confidence, we have some exciting goals, beyond group rides, that we want to work towards.
Our mission is to build confidence and community on two wheels.
Our goals are
To provide practical support and encouragement for folks starting their own community-led, inclusive bike groups.
To link into a network of community-led cycling groups that work together in creating a new normal for non-competitive group rides.
What sort of rider turns up to your rides, where are you based, what sort of terrain/difficulty do you cater for?
We have all kinds of people show up to our rides. Women over 60, women under 20, women who haven’t ridden a bike for 3 years, women who are training for the Silk Road Mountain Bike Race. We extensively document our rides in order to show women who are yet to join that it is a safe, welcoming space. We have a blast getting to know women from all generations, backgrounds and walks of life. We had 3 generations join a ride once- that was pretty special.
The terrain in the New Forest is brilliant for beginners. Over 100 miles of New Forest signposted tracks and then a whole host of bridleways and single track for folks who want to go rogue. We know we are biased but we can’t think of a better place to try riding off road for the first time.
What would you say was the biggest hurdle to women taking up bike riding?
This is such an important conversation so thanks very much for asking the question. There are so many! However, instead of focusing on the systemic hurdles the patriarchy upholds, I believe it would be more productive for your male readership to learn what they can do to remove blockers to help women get into cycling.
Amplify women cycling content. See a video of a woman shredding? Share it and send it to your mate who you know would love riding but just needs a nudge.
Financially support women riders. Giving the gift of a (Gravel) bike to a loved one is probably the best gift of all time (we know we are biased). Buy your partner a puncture repair kit, a stem bag or a new water bottle. All of these material gestures are really solid ways to get anyone excited about riding.
Offer child care. So many women DM us to say they would love to join a ride but they can’t because they have to take care of children. Offering to take care of children so you can free a woman up to go on a spin is an incredible act of support to help get women riding.
Plan fun rides. A ‘go anywhere’ gravel bike opens up part of the countryside that some people never knew existed. Plan rides that demonstrate the beauty of the landscape, off road routes are the perfect tonic for someone who might be a bit nervy cycling with cars.
Given the massive potential market of women cyclists do you think the cycle industry is doing enough to attract new women riders?
Again, many thanks for asking this question.
I work in retail and one of the biggest questions I have is why aren’t brands thinking about women as literally 50% of the market. It just doesn’t make business sense to not think about women when you’re retailing. I can only speak about non-competitive cycling but bike shops that don’t stock women clothing lines, or have any women staff, are missing some really easy opportunities to sell more product.
There are bike shops doing excellent things. A friend of mine recently said she had the best time in Primera bike shop Poole when buying a saddle. The male shop assistant was incredibly aware of the needs of the female anatomy and took loads of time-sharing advice and recommending a woman specific saddle. More of this please.
In a recent poll on the UKgravelCo IG page the overwhelming vote was that women (and any beginner rider) feel reluctant to visit their local bike shop for fear of being patronised or intimidated. What message would you send to potential new riders who like the idea and look of riding but are unsure of where to start or ask advice & what can bike shops do to improve their image?
This is such a big question.
Diversify your teams. Hire women. Folks feel comfortable talking to people that look like them. Women will buy more from other women. The more diversity you have in your team, the broader your customer base will be.
Set up a mechanic internship for women. Women who learn to fix bikes will encourage more women to buy and ride bikes. Excellent allyship, diversify your customer base and higher bike sales. It really is a win win.
Consult your women customers. What do they want to see? What would make them feel more comfortable? As you have shown, social media makes gathering feedback so easy.
Saddle libraries. Women don’t hate riding, they hate being uncomfortable. Normalise talking about soft tissue and lean into the fact that women need specific saddles.
We have 3 guides on our instagram account that make it easy for people to find excellent riders to follow, women owned businesses and local community rides. Taking a look through them will help women to find mechanics and resources that will show even the most nervous of riders that this is a space for them!
How do you see the New Forest off road club evolving and If there is someone reading this now who wants to start their own group how should they go about it and what things should they look out for?
Just start it! We didn’t know what we were doing when we started and we are still working it out. You can do the same. We are proud to be a ramshackled group of folks who love being on two wheels and out in the forest. We have a patriarchy to shred and we need as many hands on deck as possible so just start it!
Some actual tips though:
Get a bunch of people you know together for a ride and go from there.
Start off small if you are nervous to begin with, even a 3 mile bike ride is still a group ride.
Take loads of photos of your rides. Be the best ally you can be and use your skills and expertise to facilitate a space where people who don’t look like you, come and gain confidence on two wheels. Next step is to take loads of photos of the people that are joining your rides and put them all over the internet so you can show the world that 1) cycling is great and 2) everyone wants to do it, they just need a gentle nudge.
As for how we see the group evolving, we want to continue facilitating women building confidence on two wheels. We have plans for mechanic sessions, bivvy camp outs, ride leadership skill training, allyship and coalition courses. We have high hopes that one day, there will be a women led group ride within an hour’s ride of everyone in the country. Everyone here knows that riding a bike is the best thing ever, we all need to work together to make sure everyone gets to know the joy that comes with being on two wheels.
How should riders get in touch with you to find out more?
Follow us on the gram and turn on notifications so you never miss a ride! ✌🏻
the New Forest off road club can be found on instagram here
Thanks Nic for taking the time to answer the questions, it’s really inspiring to see lots more riders out there having fun and fun is what it’s all about. Long may it continue.