This weekend Lee, Rickie, Jenny G and Jenny T will unveil their gorgeous new Shand bikes at Bespoked (The UK Handmade Bike Show in Bristol), and then launch our 2018 team by riding #Southbound for one week, encouraging schools across the UK to follow their progress online and collectively match their daily mileage...
It's hard to believe that this time last year Lee and Rickie were still planning and preparing for the Tour Divide, writing and re-writing their kit lists, obsessing over footwear choice and route profiles, and wondering if their relationship would survive the strain as each of them settled into their own unique brand of mid-expedition squalor. Now, less than 12 months later, you can watch the film of their grand adventure, and witness this squalor for yourself...
Sign up to our schools Match the Miles Challenge between 22nd and 29th April and win a screening of the film Divided with Lee Craigie and Rickie Cotter.
In July 2016 we headed to Kyrgyzstan to rediscover our former nomadic life and explore the Alay-Pamir mountains between Osh and Tajikistan. That first day in Osh we constructed our bikes and a familiar species of bicycle nomads emerged from their bunks to watch. I was embarrassed by the shininess of our bikes, the cleanliness of our clothes, our recently cut hair and our pasty skin.
Last year the TransAtlanticWay was my first long-distance bikepacking race and thus a steep learning curve. With low expectations I managed to finish in a week and just over 11 hours: first woman and third overall. With this experience I felt pretty smug, thinking that I had some time-saving tips up my sleeve, such as using caffeine tablets to reduce time wasted on coffee stops, spying out places to sleep on Google Streetview, and chewing gum to stave off sleep.
"By the time I’d finished my night shift, it was 4am and the atmosphere in the team pits was more subdued. This is the hard part of a 24-hour event. Tired bodies scream, “Go to sleep!” but the craving for warmth and comfort cannot be given into too deeply. With lurking dread you doze, keeping one sleepy eye on the clock, waiting for your next lap to come around..."
If you want to read a bikepacking article about how a wild boar with very big teeth passed ten metres from my tent in a deserted almond grove, or about how I almost got blown off a French bridge because it was blowing galeforce, or about being so cold in a snowstorm that I thought my teeth were going to crack with all the rattling, then stop reading now. All these things happened, but my focus will be on what these and other things do to the mind.
Leaving is far easier than returning. Stepping into the unknown draws me. I like abandoning reality; the normal humdrum of society bores me. I know that life has to continue, the inevitable acceptance of responsibility keeps me coming back, but a thought always lingers: What if I didn’t?
Find out what Lee carried on her bike for the Tour Divide and how this differs from her touring set up.