My bike and me – Claire

Next in our series of meet the rider is Claire Sharpe, Claire has only just started riding gravel but is no stranger to adrenalin fueled sports being an expert roller skater, check out the link at the end to Claire’s instagram account for some great video of her in 8 wheeled action.

Why that bike?  I’ve got a Pinnacle Arkose D1, now affectionately known as Ruby. My bike choice was all dictated by how much I could afford to spend. Ruby was the best I could get with the money I had…and I spent more than I planned. I got a bit of advice from my now boyfriend, ummed and ahhh-ed and took the plunge. Now I’m learning about my bike and building up knowledge so I can decide what to modify based on what I need rather than being completely clueless! I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought Ruby was a bit of a looker as well.

What does gravel riding mean to you? I only got my bike at the tail end of July and had very limited cycling experience beforehand. I commuted on a road bike and previously had a hybrid when I lived on a boat to handle all the towpath I was riding on. But, I knew I enjoyed cycling. Having a gravel bike has opened things way up, I now spot overgrown bridleways out the corner of my eye as I’m going along which I never did before. It’s really freeing to think I can get on my bike and head out almost anywhere and the only the limit is what my legs will put up with. The views are amazing and the rides are fun. I love going down hills fast, either on skates or skiing, this is another way to feed that hunger as well. So I guess gravel riding is my way to get outside, appreciate nature, stay fit, have a laugh and escape.

Where & when was your favourite or best remembered( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I have a very limited bank to draw from for this! That being said, my first ever group ride with the Bristol Gravel Group gang will always be the best. I turned up on a drizzly Wednesday evening with no idea what to expect. I’d never been on a group ride and had zero off-road experience, it was just me, my bike and a keenness to find out where I could go on it in Bristol. I got the warmest welcome from the guys and they really put me through my paces but in a way that let me know what was coming. We got covered in mud, went down some seriously slippy descents and had a drink after. It was that night I knew I was hooked and it wasn’t just the adrenaline and views, it was because I was really lucky to have stumbled across such a great group of people. I haven’t missed a Wednesday night ride since and have even signed up for the Devon Grit 70k so they really did get me hook, line and sinker.

If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? That’s pretty much everywhere for me! I really want to get up to Scotland, I love it there anyway but I really want to experience it on my bike. The King Alfred’s Way has just been released, so that! Wales is on my doorstep and also amazing. I have a few ideas for some bike packing before winter really hits and after that, I think the world is my oyster! After organising a Bristol area women’s ride and sharing it in a few groups, I’ve had messages from people who wish they lived closer…so maybe I could go ride with some of them in their neck of the woods? That would be amazing. If you want to do that, hit me up! I used to work for a coffee roastery and would like to do a South West coffee tour at some point. There are some really amazing coffee shops dotted around in awesome locations. Something to plan for next Spring, I’ll have the best route down by then.

How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? Hopefully, I’m already on it. I am co-leading a Women’s Gravel Ride on 2nd September to try and recruit more women out on our rides. I can’t wait to share it with as many people as possible! The Women’s rides will be a monthly fixture and the ‘Bristol Gravel Group rides and routes’ Facebook group is steadily growing with a lovely bunch of people. Once we are able to, it would be great to put on a larger event where everyone can meet at the same time and recruit even more riders! I just really adore gravel riding and want to share that stoke with as many people as possible. I think having an emphasis on social, no-drop rides will open it up to more people. We’ve got a really solid core of welcoming people who just want to share their love for it too. If you’re Bristol way, ride with us!

Thanks Claire, I’m certainly with you about going to other places and experiencing how the riding differs in different parts of the country, maybe we should start a trail sharing/exchange scheme? it’s great to see gravel through the eyes of someone just starting out but it’s pretty much the same for those with more experience, we still ride along noticing bridleways and wondering where they go and having mini adventures riding into the unknown.

Good luck with the Women’s rides, it’s such a shame that more women aren’t into cycling I’m really keen to get involved in trying to inspire more female riders to try gravel out.

check out Claire’s instagram account here @clairesharpe