I find stories and pictures of riders doing multi-day rides, wild camping and riding places I’ve always wanted to ride very inspiring, But then reality steps in and I realise I’m not currently or may never be that type of rider who pushes themselves to the limit of endurance, or finds suffering and sleeping in a bivi bag, in a field, in a storm all that appealing. I realise that organising such trips and fitting them around busy work and family life would be a logistical nightmare and I know I’d agonise over what to take, which bike to use, will I have time etc etc so I’ve always dismissed the idea to the drawer marked “one day”?
Recently I ventured down the Chiltern Hills for the 1816 Cycles bike launch (read it here) The guys at 1816 had asked John and Jon (yes it is quite confusing chatting to them via email) from Wild Cycles to host the event. They set up the campsite and supplied the catering and also joined the ride to give logistical support. After to chatting to the Jo(h)ns and learned about what Wild Cycles was all about (I initially thought they were a bike shop) I realised I could do those bike adventures without the organising, route planning and having to haul all my worldly goods with me and be able to sleep in a tent I haven’t had to carry for 70 miles.
Ok, you might say I’m a lightweight for not wanting to do the serious adventures where your life could be on the line but I suspect I’m not alone in this. Adventures though, don’t have to conform to the “epic” scenes you see on social media. you can have just as much fun on an adventure much closer to home.
I thought it would be a great for readers of UKgravelCO to hear about the services that Wild Cycles offer. Their events and rides are also all in the UK so much easier to get to and I bet there aren’t many of us who’ve tried all the great locations the UK has to offer. Staying local will obviously use less precious energy too.
I put together a few questions to get a better idea about the guys at Wild Cycles and see if what they offer can recreate that sense of adventure.
Who are wildcycles, where are you based and how did the idea of guided and catered rides start?
Wild Cycles is a family run/ father & son business based in the Chilterns – Buckinghamshire. Dad raced professionally in South Africa for many years before moving to the UK and I’ve been a passionate cyclist for my whole life. Having lived and grown up in South Africa, we wanted to bring our experience of camping out in the African bush and under the stars to the UK. Combining that with gravel cycling, delicious locally sourced food and epic routes – we hoped to bring a new experience to the cycling tour market which seemed a little stale at the time.
We really kicked Wild Cycles off during the Pandemic, the country was locked down and it was during this time that we discovered the adventures available to us on our doorstep. Like many others, we were surprised and delighted at what we found and rode the local area flat. There was a slight sense of guilt as to why we hadn’t ridden these incredible routes in the Chilterns before and had overlooked them for more exotic destinations. Once we’d created the routes, we wanted to sound the bells and let people know that there is some amazing riding available right here on London’s back doorstep.
Using Komoot, we traced all of our routes and initially just offered these as free to download tours. We were still getting our heads around the Wild Cycles business model and how we’d run our tours. When Cycling UK released The King Alfreds Way, a 220 mile gravel adventure in the heart of the UK – we knew we’d have to recce this and give it the Wild Cycles treatment. So that’s exactly what we did and since then we’ve been running several multi day off road adventures around the UK.
Is it all UK based riding?
Wild Cycles is all about the Adventures that you can find on your doorstep, wherever that may be. We’re currently only running gravel adventures in the UK, and haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible. There are so many incredible routes and experiences waiting to be explored! With the way that the environment and COVID-19 has affected our lives for the past few years, we strongly believe that long distance travel to far flung locations is a thing of the past. We’re passionate about using what we have available here and creating unique memorable experiences around that.
Do you cater for all abilities or do you need to be an expert rider to come on one of your rides?
Definitely, our mission is to make nature accessible to anyone and everyone using the power of the bicycle. We run monthly gravel rides and gravel basics coaching sessions for those looking to get more into the gravel scene. Our tours vary in difficulty but usually sit around the 50 miles -75 miles per day mark so are challenging, but bear in mind that you’ll have an entire day to complete this distance with plenty of cake, coffee and beer stops! We get a real mix of abilities, from those who want to smash out the miles, to those who like to take a more leisurely approach.
What does a typical day at Wild cycles involve?
A typical day on a Wild Cycles adventure involves pedalling through incredible landscapes, enjoying a warm welcome to camp upon arrival with an ice cold beverage of choice, enjoying sitting around a fire and recalling stories from the days adventure, delicious bbq, stone baked pizza or pub dinner, snoozing in a cotton bell tent, hot coffee and breakfast spread in the morning and repeat!
If I have a special diet can that be accommodated?
We want to make cycling as accessible as possible, so all dietary preferences are catered for!
What happens if one of your guests has a mechanical problem out on a ride that they can’t fix themselves?
Our rides are supported so if you do run into trouble on the trails, we are always at hand to come and help as best as we can or ferry you to a bike shop nearby.
Of all the routes you offer, which is your favourite?
Oooh tough choice, our favourite has to be the Wild Wales Gravel Festival route. Created by us in collaboration with some lovely people at Neighbourhood Gravel CC and Gravel Union. After months of recce’s and riding the routes in all conditions, we feel we’ve got them down. From waterfalls, to valleys, natural pump track descents and tonnes of gravel, Wales has it all! We can’t wait to kick things off again at the festival this september, as well as some epic riding there will also be live music, pizza, and a lot of celebrating!
Can you guarantee the weather will be good and if it is wet and horrible, is there a contingency plan?
We like to think that we’re on good terms with the man upstairs, but unfortunately can’t guarantee the weather will be perfect! Saying that, all of our tours run in the British summer from May- September, so you’d be pretty unlucky to get rained on and we’ve only run into rough seas a few times!
Why should I use Wildcycles rather than organise the trip myself and carry all my own stuff?
Our mission is to make cycling and the great outdoors more accessible to everyone. So if you don’t have the kit or the bike, our trips are a really affordable way to access these amazing adventures. We’re providing everything from logistics, to food, to carrying your luggage – so all you have to do is ride your bike! We even have a fleet of hire bikes if you don’t have one yet. Even if you’re a seasoned cyclist, there’s something incredibly liberating about travelling light – with no kit sloshing around on the bike, it makes for a great experience.
Are the group rides mixed? Quite a few of ukgravelco’s women readers contact me to say they are reluctant to attend events because the majority of participants are male. Do you also offer women only rides?
Our group rides are completely mixed, but we’re super aware of the lack of diversity within cycling as a sport and are passionate about helping to change this. Whilst we don’t run any women’s only rides yet, it’s something that we’d love to incorporate. We’ve been looking to expand the team and if any of your readers want to get in touch about running a women’s only ride/ adventure – we’d be all ears! We’ve also saved 50% of tickets to our Wild Wales Gravel Festival for Women and people from ethic minority backgrounds.
I see from your website that you also support multi day rides, If I signed up to do the King Alfred way package what can I expect to get for my fee?
– Ride briefings at the beginning of each day and campsite welcome at the end of each stage.
– GPX routes for each day are provided in advance and we’ll walk you through each days riding.
– We support and transfer of all the gear you aren’t carrying with you on your ride and ensure it gets to your overnight camp before you!
– We support you during your ride and are always on hand.
– Your pitch is ready for when you arrive after a day’s ride – complete with bell tents, cooking gear, bike maintenance kit, tables, chairs under cover of our iconic boma. To complete the set-up – your very own open fire where you can chill and recount that day’s highlights.
– For your 3 evenings – we’ll be sourcing some truly special local meals with Vegetarian and Vegan options available (all dietary preferences catered for). Includes snacks, main & salad as well as a selection of brews and non-alcoholic drinks.
– Breakfast on 3 mornings is a delicious locally sourced granola, pastries, fruit, fresh coffee and tea. Snacks & fruit for the road included.
What’s not included Train fares, parking, lunch and refreshments en-route.
So you can see there’s not really an excuse now not to go and explore the UK on day tours or 4 day adventures. The Two Johns really are enthusiastic about riding, nothing seems too much trouble for them and nothing seems to phase them, they couldn’t do more to look after us on the 1816 weekend and the pizzas were fab! They are genuinely nice people you’d want to ride and camp with.
I’ll admit you are probably not going to risk hyperthermia or have to milk a wild Yak to get fuelled for the next days riding but for some of us just making it to the end of a supported 4 day ride is an adventure and an achievement in itself and who knows might lead to you opening that drawer marked “one day” and making plans!
I’m hoping to get the Wild Cycles Wales festival in September for some chilled out Welsh gravel riding. Maybe meet you there?
You can find more information here Wild Cycles
Wild cycles have just been featured in The Times too 16 beautiful Routes