Kate Rawles is a long-time, long-distance tourer, whose adventures span four decades and several continents, from her first trip, cycling the Rhone valley fresh out of uni in 1986, to more recently pedalling her way from Texas to Alaska along the Rockies. What sets many of Rawles’ trips apart, though, is that she uses them to raise awareness of environmental issues.
Earlier this month, 53-year-old Rawles, a member of all-women cycling super group, the Adventure Syndicate, set off on her latest trip, the Life cycle. After travelling to Colombia by freight ship, she’ll set off in January to ride from Costa Rica to Cape Horn, raising awareness of biodiversity en route. TWC caught up with her in the final flurry of preparation to talk about her biodiversity mission, cycle touring as an older woman, and inspiring other women to do the same.
Rawles, who describes herself as ‘really not an athlete’, believes if she can cross continents and mountain ranges by bike, at times with little physical preparation, anyone can do it.
The months it’s taken to organise the trip, to travel to speaking engagements and wind down her life for the next 12 months, including quitting her lecturing job, have left little time for training, and it’s been ten years since her last big cycling trip.
“I just decided not to worry,” she says, “because I can start slowly and it’ll gradually build up as I go along.”
“If I can do long rides in mountains, pretty much anyone can”
“If I can do long rides in mountains, pretty much anyone can, because I really did start from a very low starting point and I’ve just gradually gone further over the years. I’m still slow as a cyclist and I don’t do mega distances in one day, I just trundle along on my bike.
As she explains in her blog, this trip will see her cycle 5,000-6,000 miles, from cold, high, mountain passes of over 15,000 feet, to arid deserts.
“It’s amazing what the bike can open up in terms of adventure,” she says.
“It’s hugely empowering to know an ordinary body can become quite fit and then that body can carry you to these amazing places. The Peruvian Andes – it’s going to be amazing to be there – and it’s a relatively simple bit of machinery and doing a few miles every day and gradually you get fitter and stronger.”