Last year saw the launch of the Adventure Syndicate. Formed by some of the best female endurance athletes, the organisation was founded with the aim of encouraging other people to find their own adventure.
Whilst attending the hugely successful Festival of Women event in Oxford, Lorena nabbed some time with three women of the Adventure Syndicate: Transcontinental winner, Emily Chappell, Rickie Cotter and Lee Craigie to find out a little more about this incredible campaign.
What inspired you to start the Adventure Syndicate?
The Adventure Syndicate was very much a group decision and mainly stemmed from the notion that the cycling industry wasn’t getting it quite right Emily explains. Where Emily and Lee, in particular, felt like they didn’t fit in, they realised that they didn’t need to. They ARE women’s cycling and thus should be the influencers.
Emily: For me, I think one of the biggest things is the massive sense of capability and confidence that cycling gives you. Every new thing that I do, I feel like ‘wow, I can do that. I can do more. What can I do next?’ and the way I feel when I come home from a big event – it's like I can take on the world. I want to bottle that and hand that out to other women … You can’t just hand it out as a pill, you have to hand it out as an Adventure Syndicate instead, so that’s what we are trying to do."
Lee: After 10 years of bashing my head against a brick wall with the cycling industry, and being squeezed into a mould I didn’t feel I fitted into, I saw the power, strength and diversity of so many other inspirational women that didn’t fit into that mould either. I felt it was the time that the bike industry and the media, in general, stopped doing what they were doing the way they’d always done it and started taking note that people are different and started celebrating that difference.
What do you hope to get from the Adventure Syndicate?
Rickie, who’s involvement with the Syndicate largely stems from her relationship with Lee and a strong belief in what Lee was doing was important, was the first to jump in...
Rickie: I don’t really want anything out of the syndicate. I think it’s really important that we get more people into it and to actually believe more than they think they can do, not just in a cycling context.
Emily: I hadn’t thought in strictly personal terms. I think it’s interesting because women find it hard to answer questions like this. Women find it very hard to put themselves forward and promote themselves and to compete … and I do too, evidently, in that I am having trouble answering this question.
Lee: There are a real strength and collaboration in that cohesion. The whole idea of this is to create a community of people that share the same vision and values and want to celebrate that diversity and will hold each other up.
What do you hope others will get from the Adventure Syndicate?
As much as it might have become somewhat of a slogan for the Adventure Syndicate, Emily affirms that wanting other people to realise that they are capable of so much more than they think they are is as genuine and true now as when the thought first arrived.
Emily: I meet a lot of people through the talks and things that I give and people quite often say, ‘I'm into cycling too but nothing like you do’ but no-one does the things I do, I don’t do the kind of things Lee does and Lee doesn’t do the kind of things Juliana does. We all do our own thing and it’s not about being the best of going further and faster and stronger, it’s about challenging you, whatever that might look like.
Emily, who has been cycling for 10 years now, recalls the first time she cycled into work and how terrified she was. Having anxiously sat up for most of the night studying the roads on the map between Brixton to Regents Park, she allowed herself twice as much time as she needed in case things went wrong.
Do you see the Adventure Syndicate as all-inclusive?
Rickie: We can only include people who believe they should be included. If the Adventure syndicate empowers people to believe that they can be a part of it, then it will naturally evolve to be inclusive.We all have doubts, we all doubt our ability, we all doubt whether we are capable, and all we can do is bolster people to take the risk and believe that they will be alright if they try.
Lee: I think like anything you need to be quite careful that your passion doesn’t outshine other peoples. The Adventure Syndicate (is) about celebrating everybody’s differences – that’s the whole point of it … my position in that is just as valid as anyone who is pushing their boundaries to whatever capacity they are pushing them. I don’t think we’ve got the balance quite right yet, but it is the hope of those involved that the Syndicate is open to all who want to be a part of it.
Emily: We try very hard to show that we are still a work in progress because I think that will help to bring more people in. I think we are seen as elite athletes that do amazing things – and we really aren’t. I’ve started mountain biking recently and I’m really bad at it really really bad, and you can ask Lee and she will confirm. We want to show that too … I hope it is all inclusive and if it’s not then we want it to be and we are going to work at that.
What advice might you give to anyone thinking of taking on their first endurance challenge?
Emily: Embrace failure and accept that things will go wrong because the thing will go wrong for everyone but also accept that it’s never the end of the world when they do, it’s an adventure.
Lee: Get to the start line. Get there, even if you are not massively well prepared. Don’t over think it and just go. There are only 2 types of ride – that’s a ride where you win something and a ride where you learn something. If you learn then that’s brilliant, it means you can have a much better set up the next time.
Rickie: Do your own thing. Don’t get tied up in pace, don’t get tied up in old Charlie down the road on his £4,000 bike smashing out 30km/hr. Get on your bike, believe in yourself and just do what you do and you will find you get it done.
To learn more about these incredible women, and how you can find your adventure through them, head over to the Adventure Syndicate website here.
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