It's all very well two straight, white, middle class and middle aged men doing a charity ride and calling it "inclusive", even if they genuinely mean it. The claim of inclusivity might legitimately be met with scepticism by some, but by bringing in the Steezy Collective for the first "Thing" in 2021, we were able bring some authenticity to our efforts.
And with this third edition in 2023, we've exceeded parity of numbers for women, non-binary and trans people and the message for everybody is that this makes for a genuinely RAD ride, for every body.
We were joined this year by Alex and Sara, the founders of Manchester-based women's race skills group Jettes.cc - a place for women riders to come and hone their bike handling and skills in a supportive environment. Well worth a look if you're in the area.
We thought it might be helpful to ask Alex and Sara a few questions about their "Thing" experience... (plus it's a great chance to showcase some of the beautiful photos from Sam Stefan (individual shots) and Nick Archer (galleries))
Who are you and what do you do?
Alex and Sara:
Hello! We're Alex and Sara, the founders of Jettes.cc - a women's cycling community based in Manchester.
How much GRVL riding have you done before?
Alex: I’ve done a fair bit of gravel riding before, I’ve just spent a month working up in Scotland so got to ride some of their lovely Scottish stuff. But it was a treat to be back on proper northern ‘gravel’. However it was my first bike-packing trip!
Sara: I'm a complete newb to gravel riding. I've done plenty of road riding, but I borrowed a friend's bike for (s)NaT.
What was better than you thought it was going to be?
Alex: The route was absolutely and one I’d like to do again. Big kudos to Luke, Tobes and Chris for that!!
Sara: The scenery! Those views were breath-taking!
What did you learn on the ride that you might use elsewhere?
Alex: Chips and beer is always the answer….
Sara: Gravel riding is hard work, but equally rewarding.
What got you down during the ride?
Alex: To be honest the weather on the second day was pretty damp to say the least, but riding with all the other folks made it much more bearable.
Sara: I hit a pretty dark moment about half-way through the second day. Fatigue and that weather! ...but nothing a chip butty didn't fix!
What was the best snack you saw someone else bring on the ride you wished you had?
Alex: I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about snacks… I got caught bringing a C**f bar… SORRY LUKE, SORRY OUTDOOR PROVISIONS
Sara: Squishies! Nothing beats squishies!
What would you tell the you that had any doubts about this experience two weeks ago, before you rode it?
Alex: What it’s worst that can happen, just give a go!! Everyone starts somewhere.
Sara: This will be one of your top bike experiences of the year. You see countryside like you’ve not seen in England, meet some great people, and fall in love with a new style of riding.
What would you tell one of your Jettes that was umming and ahhhing about doing something like this?
Alex: JUST DO IT! Much easier said after the event of course. I think everyone has worries before any event but try not to let them get the better of you. Also, if you have any questions just ask them - no question is stupid!!
Sara: "The hardest part is turning up" - so that's it, just get to the start line, who knows what fun is on the other side!
What was your favourite bit?
Alex: Oooh tough question! The whole weekend was brilliant. But everyone coming together after climbing Salter Fell on the first day was pretty epic.
Sara: Ahh there’s too many! The views over Salter Fell, finally getting comfortable on the bike at the end of day 1 and being able to send it down the last gravel decent, the endless moments of hilarity with Alex, the brutal but rewarding climb out of Malham on day 2 … I could go on!
What was your least favourite bit?
Alex: Being stuck in traffic for over an hour on the way. Shout out to Chris and his group for waiting for us and the putting up with us for the rest of the weekend.
Sara: Waiting for Alex while she was stuck on the motorway
Why so many shoes?
Alex: I had so much trouble packing shoes! In the end I just strapped them on my saddle bag and hoped for the best… this worked well until Sara said they’d fallen off at the bottom of the climb and I had to go back and fetch them. After stopping mid climb and starting to trundle down to get them, I checked my bag and they were still attached. Turns out I couldn’t remount my bike because the climb was so steep and I ended up walking to the top. Real friends don’t let friends forget shoes.
What did you pack and not use?
Alex: I used everything I packed apart from a spare t shirt. Pretty good going.
Sara: I used everything.
What didn't you pack that you wish you had?
Alex: I wish I’d packed some electrical tape! My saddle bag decided to get a little hole in it and explode on the second day. I had to stop and buy some climbers tape to do a roadside repair so I wasn’t leaving a trail of clothes behind me (worked pretty well actually!)
Sara: Nothing, I just wish I’d had re-waterproofed my jacket!
You can check out what the Jettes are up to at jettes.cc and we'd thoroughly recommend having a go at one of their brilliant skills sessions. If you want more info about (still) not a Thing and the route we took then check out this blog post for the details.
Here's some more great shots from Nick, in the meantime!