A group of seven female riders – calling themselves the Adventure Syndicate – successfully rode 500 miles along the North Coast in 36 hours over the weekend.
The adventurers set out to complete the craggy Scottish ride to launch their new group, which aims to inspire women to challenge themselves and work towards goals they previously thought insurmountable.
The group of seven included Scottish and UK Mountain bike champ, Lee Craigie, ex-cycle courier and adventurer Emily Chappell, British 24 Hour Mountain Bike Champion Rickie Cotter, Transcontinental veteran Gaby Leveridge, Commonwealth Games athlete Anne Ewing, plus Zara Mair and Jo Thom.
The route – which you can see here – covered over 34,000 feet of climbing, and the women aimed to ride at around 14 miles per hour throughout.
Along the way, they were joined by women keen to be a part of the ride and support the new group and its aims.
Currently, the riders are recovering from their effort, but we had a chance to ask them a couple of quick questions about the ride, and how they’re feeling now it’s done and dusted…
TWC: What were you most worried about before the ride?
Jo: Not knowing the other riders, not knowing if we were all going to make it.
Gaby: The combination of bikepacking distance with racing speed. And not stopping. And the time pressure – a five minute stop makes a huge difference.
Zara: Pain. Body pain. As you can tell by all the drugs and heat pads I brought.
Rickie: No guarantees and no site of outcome. My bum. My physical demise.
Lee: Have I packed my chamois? I was so focused on logistics that the night before I still hadn’t thought about what I was going to wear or eat. And my bike was f**ked from the start.
Em: Riding with other people. The pain.
TWC: Tell us about one struggle you faced during the ride?
Jo: I went into a dark patch at about 2am, and didn’t come out of it till midday. (Gaby remembers her saying ‘the lows are long, the highs are short, but I’m going to make it’.) I got through by thinking ‘for every negative in my head, replace it with two positives’.
I got through by thinking ‘for every negative in my head, replace it with two positives’. – Jo
Gaby: As support rider, trying to work out when to ride and when not. When to hold back and conserve energy. Wanting to finish the ride having given everything I could, but not exhausting myself so I wasn’t any use.
Zara: Stomach pain. I had trouble eating and then went into black holes.
Rickie: When your body rebels and everything comes out from everywhere and you’ve got no control any more and it slows you down. [Rickie was sick on another rider towards the end of the ride. We all laughed, including the two of them.]
Lee: Knowing that I had to get off in Ullapool to come back on fresh later. But I got to have fish and chips with the film crew, which was nice.
Em: Crashing and having to get in the van. Being tossed about in the campervan while trying to sleep. Wishing I was still out on the bike.
TWC: Tell us about one amazing thing you saw along the way…
Jo: The wildlife, especially the deer.
Gaby: The white sandy beaches on the west coast.
Zara: The scenery was just epic. Especially the view from the Bealach Na Ba. I would ride along with my head down and suddenly notice how beautiful it all was around me.
Rickie: Every time I do a night ride in Scotland I get treated to deer.
Lee: Watching the sun coming up on the north coast.
Em: Watching the team in action while descending the Bealach Na Ba to Applecross
TWC: How they would describe the feeling of finishing the ride, in one sentence?
Jo: Forgetting about all the pain in the sprint finish, and realising we could just go on if we needed to.
Gaby: I felt quite emotional. I thought we might not make it, and felt quite drained after the sprint.
Zara: Bit emotional. And my brother was there – I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, and is been missing him. And I was exhausted.
Rickie: Took a little moment to let it settle in, looked at other people’s emotions. Let the feeling sink in.
Lee: Initially just nothing, then just utter overwhelming sense of relief.
Em: Hollow because i didn’t ride the whole 500 then euphoria for the riders that had and realisation that the team had achieved their collective goal
You can read more about this group and their plans to inspire, motivate and empower women to set about their own challenges here.