Cycling with a club is often thought to involve difficult training rides, with threshold efforts, hill-reps and training zones, focusing on FTP and V02 max, preparing for the next cycling challenge or competition.
But many cycling clubs support cycling activities that do not conform to this stereotype. Where challenging yourself and pushing your limits still happen, but of equal importance is having fun and going on an adventure. This Scottish Women and Girls Week, Zoe Todd from Hervelo cycle club shared with us their experience of a club bike-packing adventure, which was supported by Scottish Cycling Power of the Bike funding.
Hervelo is a cycle club based in Edinburgh. It has around 50 members, mostly women, and aims to encourage women to join sociable rides, either on or off road, via road or mountain bike rides. In the last few years some members have acquired gravel bikes and there have been some ‘easy’ group gravel day rides. There has been a desire to do something a bit more adventurous, involving bike-packing and more technical routes, but members have felt they did not have the necessary knowledge or experience, so it was decided to organise a 2-day bike-packing trip with the assistance of Jenn McKillop of A Wee Pedal and we successfully secured funding from Scottish Cycling to support our plans.
Our plan was to cycle from Aberfoyle to Strathyre, staying in pre-booked accommodation, and returning to Aberfoyle the next day. About three weeks before the trip, Jenn ran a workshop demonstrating different elements of bike-packing, answering all our questions, and checking that our bikes were suitable for the terrain. Five intrepid adventuresses, aged 54-67, were packed and ready to go one Saturday morning, meeting up with our guide in Aberfoyle.
The first day was relatively easy terrain, wide flat cinder paths, and it was a joy to be in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Within the first two miles we saw red squirrels, foraged for blackberries and quenched our thirst ‘naturally’ with water squeezed out of sphagnum moss. Rain did not dampen our spirits, though we opted not to wild swim in Loch Drunkie and pushed on to Strathyre.
Day two, however, was warmer and drier and some of us could not resist a quick dip in Loch Venacher before the hard work started, as we headed off on the Rob Roy Way, beginning with a push up a steepish hill.
This route was more technical than the previous day and the track became narrower, eventually becoming a stoney, and often muddy, walking trail, stretches of which we had to ‘hike-a-bike’. But it was fun, and Jenn was careful to explain what was coming up whenever there was a change in terrain, so that there were no unwelcome surprises. Then we were back on the road and into Aberfoyle.
What did we learn/enjoy?
I think all of us improved our confidence; in ourselves and in our bike handling abilities. One participant was pleased she could do the weekend just by changing to more knobbly tyres on her bike. Flat soled MTB shoes with recessed cleats made the walking sections easier.
The hills at times were challenging, but there is no shame in walking when needed – it’s all part of the adventure. The wild swim was not initially appealing but awesome once in. We watched red squirrels, which was special. The scenery was tremendous. It was wonderful spending time with like-minded people. And finally, Jenn was a great tour guide and we would highly recommend A Wee Pedal.
Many of those who came along are planning some more bike packing and getting some other members involved in another weekend adventure or two!
If you have any questions about this article, please email our Club Development team at: [email protected]