Exodus Cycling Expert in the Spotlight
Which passport stamp are you most proud of?
Can you be proud of a stamp that you don’t actually have? Last year I went on the Exodus Lhasa-Kathmandu (MCT) trip and it proved to be one of my most memorable biking experiences ever. Although you need a visa to get into Tibet, we travelled on a group visa so I didn’t actually get a stamp in my passport. I got a mental stamp instead though.
Road or off-road cycling?
Off-road - especially if it involves fast, swoopy, sun-dappled woodland singletrack rides. I also race cyclocross and ride frequent road sportives, so I like all forms of cycling really!
What are the essential ingredients for successful cycling holiday?
- Location – choose carefully and consider the terrain, the type of riding you want to do, ease of accessibility, cost, climate and the quality of the pre-ride coffee…!
- Companions – try and go with likeminded people of similar fitness, experience and skills to yours. If going with friends, think about who you will get on with the best!
- Planning – research your trip as well as you can and make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared.
- Kit – make sure you have the right kit, whether it’s a saddle that fits you perfectly or remembering to pack spare memory cards. Some careful planning, a packing list and kit that you trust will make a huge difference to your enjoyment of the trip.
Do you have any tips for those embarking on their first cycling holiday?
Buy a couple of pairs of the best cycling shorts you can afford. You wouldn’t believe how much this will improve your experience! I recommend Bontrager and ZeroRH+ brands.
Would you advise taking your own bike or using a locally hired one?
I’ve done both. The type of cycling holiday you are embarking on will dictate whether or not you will take your own bike. Consider the difficulty, style of trip, suitability of your bike, ease of getting it to the airport, duration of the trip and the quality of the hire bikes. On an Exodus cycling holiday, often it is easier to use local bikes but I would still recommend taking your own saddle and SPD pedals (if you use them).
What advice would you give to someone considering trying a tougher cycling holiday for the first time?
- Make sure you are properly rested. Having led hundreds of cycling trips, when a client turns out worn out, stressed and sleep deprived from a hectic week before they came away, it can have a very negative effect on the beginning of the trip. Get some early nights before you fly!
- Do some training – it doesn’t need to be on your bike – you could jog, swim, do aerobics or even some energetic housework – anything to push your heart rate up! The more time you put in on the saddle though the better, just not too much too late.
- Do some gentle stretching every day for as many weeks before your trip as you can.
- Take it easy on the first few days – don’t go flat out up the first hard climb – save your legs for later in the trip.
What essential item(s) are you never without when on a cycling trip?
A tub of Assos chamois cream to apply to the padded insert in your shorts each morning before your ride. It adds comfort and gives you some antibacterial protection. Allied with the best cycling shorts you can afford – never skimp on these! Make sure you wear a clean pair each day and go commando!
With summer coming to an end, which cycling trips would you recommend for some winter sun?
Morocco would be my first suggestion. It’s only a short flight from the UK but the weather is generally wonderful with plenty of sunshine. There are fantastic mountain bike trails, incredible hospitality and incredible food to enjoy on any Morocco cycling holiday. What more could you ask for!
What makes Exodus cycling holidays so special?
The fact that we’ve done 99% of the planning for you – we’ve found the best itinerary, carefully researched the route, booked the hotels, organised the transport, got the best leaders, found all the decent restaurants and even sent you a kit list of what to bring. All you need to do is to do some training beforehand and come with a positive attitude - you can’t fail to have a good time!
Who is your cycling hero?
Lance Armstrong. Although a bit of ‘Marmite’ figure, his incredible fight with cancer and seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France, followed by his amazing work for the Livestrong Foundation where he’s helped to raise over $300 million for cancer research, makes him a hero to thousands of people, both in and outside of the world of cycling.
Describe your most unusual cycling experience.
Whilst doing my leader training out in Morocco with one of the elder statesmen of the Exodus biking guides, he led me and his group through the tiny streets of the Marrakech medina very late one night after a week of thrilling high altitude biking in the Atlas Mountains. We rode at full speed through the deserted souks, trying not to lose sight of our guide and not as concerned about our Health & Safety as we probably should have been!
Tell us about your most challenging cycling experience.
In 2005, whilst suffering from a pretty serious illness, I was forbidden to exercise beyond gentle pottering around at home. I wasn’t allowed to exert myself or raise my heart rate at all. After six miserable weeks, my consultant said “You can ride your bike again” - one amazing word for each week of hideousness I’d been through. I was out the door and in the saddle immediately! I pedalled hard up a steep climb (20% gradient) called Stint’s Hill for about five minutes, before riding over a slippery, rooty, off-road section at the top. I rode about 50% quicker than I should have done, pushed my heart rate through the roof and was violently sick at the top. A little too much too soon? Perhaps, but it felt amazing!
Tell us about your worst cycling experience.
Back in May, I entered the European Solo 12-hour Championships on the Scottish borders. I’d trained for months in the run up to the race and was physically prepared. However, I wasn’t quite mentally prepared and failed to cope with the hardships of riding in pouring rain and freezing temperatures that typified Scotland this May. I shivered my way around the course for four hours but was borderline hypothermic, so had to throw in the towel. Feeling very low, my team mates fed me, made copious cups of tea and reassured me that quitting wasn’t the end of the world. After a few hours of sleep, I felt vastly recovered and spent the rest of the race helping look after my team who were still ploughing stoically onwards.
Most memorable moment you failed to capture with a camera?
I occasionally ride with a helmet camera to capture the thrill of mountain biking. Whilst riding with a good friend (and current Exodus leader) in Dalby Forest in Yorkshire, we went flat out around a manmade singletrack and on the final descent, with the setting sun filtering light through the trees, we duelled our way down the tight twisty track just inches off each other’s back wheel, trying to overtake each other at every opportunity! The low lighting, dry trails and strong desire to win meant we were kicking up plumes of dust. On the penultimate corner, I braked too late and carried much too speed into the 180 degree bend. Somehow the tyres gripped and I managed to overtake on the inside and consequently made it to the bottom first, although by the skin of my teeth! I couldn’t wait to to review the footage of the final descent, but as it turned out, the helmet cam’s batteries had died just after the start and I’d failed to capture any of our ‘fighter pilot’ battle!
What is your travelling guilty pleasure?
Noise cancelling headphones so I can plug into to some decent music and turn the volume right down on the outside world! Just don’t wear them whilst riding your bike!