In 2022, while aspirations are more important than ever, we put the question to women ahead of the year as to what motivates and drives them, how they see the year unfolding and what they’re looking forward to coming out of the winter months. And while the best laid plans are often just plans, there’s a steadfast inspiration that can be drawn from plotting a map, entering an event and beginning the churning pedal strokes of a big ride. Take heart in reading about these explorers, racers, and adventurers, a selection of our partner athletes.
I’ve been an athlete since I joined the cross country running team as a high school freshman. There, I learned to develop discipline and commitment. I blossomed within a supportive community. I grew to understand and love my body as a tool for expression and adventure.
Decades later, I am still, and will always be, an athlete using cycling to achieve these same incredibly rewarding physical and emotional benefits. An athlete is anyone that uses their body to perform sports or exercise. If you are reading this, you are an athlete.
We define ourselves by the things that we do. And now, I realize that defining myself as an athlete is too limiting and doesn’t fully encompass why I ride or what I do. I am an explorer. An explorer is someone who seeks knowledge within themselves and beyond. She is someone who is repeatedly lured into the unknown to search, learn, and grow.
One of the worlds most inspiring explorers, Amelia Aerhart said, “When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.”
We often define true exploring or adventuring as heading into a far away land or place. And we think exploration is not available to the masses. But the truth is, exploration awaits us daily. Choosing a new path home, riding your gravel bike on mountain bike trails, pushing yourself an hour longer on your bike than ever before, riding at night, sitting and meditating for the first time in a while or the first time ever. These are all explorations of the external and internal kind, and if you are an athlete, which you are…then exploration and adventure await you. Why explore and re-define yourself as an explorer? Because in exploration you will expand yourself, discover new places, and learn more about yourself and the world out there.
Over the past five years, I worked on a grand project to run, solo and unsupported, across a mountain range on every continent. With the successful completion of that project late last year, I already knew I wanted more of these perfect routes - starting at one end of a mountain range, and weaving through its communities, epic climbs, wild camping spots, and ancient stories until I reached the other end.
In 2022, I'll attempt mountains on every continent once again, this time by bike. With less emphasis on going solo this time, I'm looking forward to sharing my love for mountains with others, and traveling fast and light by bicycle. I've cycled in over 30 countries, and I've always found bikes to be a common language. They are machines for freedom and vessels for adventure - the perfect way to explore my favourite environments, the mountains.
The traverses are (subject to change!)
- North America: Trans Mexico (with Allan Shaw)
- South America: Ecuadorian Highlands
- Australasia: Australian Alps
- Europe: Caucasus Mountains
- Asia: The Karakoram
- Africa: East Albertine Rift
Everything that I have learnt about myself has stemmed from following my curiosity on two wheels. Cycling gives me a medium to explore the world on my own terms, and has taught me to see the best of everyone, and everything. Cycling gives me the opportunity to push my own boundaries- not just physically and mentally, but also in terms of the positive impact that I have created in the world.
In November 2021, I had organised a downhill mountain biking race that became the first race of adapted mountain bikes in the UK, the first race to have a category for nonbinary people, and the most percentage of participation in the women’s field. This race was an eye-opener to the fact that there’s a long way to go when it comes to bringing diversity and inclusion in cycling.
Owing to that, and my lifelong mission of making adventure accessible and helping people believe in themselves more, my plans for 2022 revolve around projects that’ll support individuals in leveling up their mountain biking skills. That means more inclusive MTB races, more events that help you improve on your bike whilst having fun and bringing together individuals with a passion for riding bikes. I realise that increasing women’s participation in mountain biking races isn’t as easy as asking all of your friends at signing up for stuff. There’s more to it. The aim is to build confidence on the bike and make getting better on the bike more fun.
Another project that I’m passionate about putting together this year is “bivvy library”. I’m very much into spending nights under the stars (wild camping) and I truly believe that it’s more fun to do so when you’re comfortable spending time in the outdoors. Using good gear and knowing how to look after it is important. Hence, I’m working on putting together a range of outdoor gear used for bike packing across different national parks in the UK, working with local outdoor shops or bike shops to allow for those who need the equipment to be safe in the outdoors at a cheap price, if not for free.
Alongside these projects, I’m also preparing for ultra-distance races like Highland Trail 500, and Silk Road Mountain Race. Next year, I’m looking into the possibility of attempting to cycle across the length of Svalbard- something that hasn’t been done before.
I spent the majority of 2021 observing, introspecting, and reevaluating. This year, I find myself feeling capable and limitless.
I’m refocusing my efforts on local community organizing with RAR ATL with the aim of continuing to be a bridge and build pathways for Black and Brown cyclists who are femme, trans, women, and non-binary (FTW NB). Through RAR ATL, there is a huge opportunity to create something powerful in the Southeast that’s above and beyond just bikes: a community and physical space that is free of the cis het white male cycling industry culture and environment.
On a personal note, I’m participating in more gravel races that are making a concerted and meaningful effort to create space for riders of color and rethinking the competitive cyclist nature of “one size fits all.” I’m leading more groups of BIPOC FTWNB cyclists on bikepacking 101 trips that focus on skill-sharing and honoring the land and our ancestors. I’m partnering with more brands that align with my values and ethos as a cyclist and advocate, while adding value and insight to the conversation on intersectionality in the sport. And for the first time, I hope to face my fears of doing a solo bikepacking trip in the Southeast.
It’s a privilege to be able to do this work full time and ride my bike for fun, but I cannot underscore enough the importance of resource allocation. I hope to be able to continue to push the cycling industry forward to expand access and make space for more Black and Brown folks.
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