When we originally planned for Chase the Last Long Days with Zero Lemon, we quickly acknowledged that between our Tobes and Chris, we had a lot of white, middle aged, straight, male cycling experience.
Just claiming the ride was going to be "inclusive" and trying to actively encourage more women and people marginalised by the "mainstream" of cycling wouldn't actually make for an inclusive experience, no matter if we were well meaning.
We couldn't really make it authentically inclusive for the people that we really wanted to come and join us in this fundraising ride for Movember and Women's Aid - so we got in touch with our friends at The Steezy Collective. We asked them to come along with us and bring a whole different vibe to the gig. Party Pace, plenty snacks and third way for those cis and trans women (as well as non-binary people comfortable in a space centring the experiences of women) that wouldn't normally be enthused by the sadly all too familiar choice of "fast or not quite so fast probably-mostly men's group" options.
By doing this, we not only made a space for some amazing humans that wanted to complete this daunting two day ride in full on October-in-the-North conditions, but we also hoped to make both the Cold Dark North and Zero Lemon groups more appealing. Especially to people that might ordinarily have been intimidated by the "normal" assumed make-up of those groups. And we think we succeeded to a greater or lesser degree too.
But we wanted to take a proper moment to acknowledge the astonishing achievements and atmosphere of that awesome Steezy Group. With words from group member Gabby Howell and photos from Nick Archer (who rode with the group as a guest), here's what life was like in the Steezy train on #chasethelastlongdays:
Chase the Last Long Days first came on my radar during some early afternoon Insta scrolling after a particularly boring period of sitting behind a computer. Coast to coast route with plenty of elevation? An excuse to ride up north? Raise some money for Movember and Women's Aid? All sounded perfect to me. Seeing that Steezy Collective were involved was the last gentle nudge I needed to sign myself up, knowing that even if the hills were ten times harder than I imagined at least the ride would be just as fun as it would be challenging, no straggler left behind.
Despite this peace of mind, the familiar pre-ride doubts crept in. Would everyone else be on sleek speedy road bikes? What if I was so slow that I couldn’t complete the daunting 175km first day and had to sleep in a bus shelter somewhere in the back-roads of Yorkshire? Knowing what Steezy were about I had reasonable faith that I wouldn’t be the only one turning up on Friday morning with these sorts of worries in mind, or so I hoped.
Thankfully I was proved right. Bikes with all sorts of tyre sizes and luggage configurations were leant up against the railings of Morecambe promenade, their riders standing in groups nearby meeting old friends and making new ones. There’s something about turning up for a ride where you see yourself reflected in the group that takes the pressure off too. The extra energy it takes to validate your place diverted for better use somewhere else: legs.
We soon discovered the variety of experience that was present, from seasoned tourers and ultra-distance aficionados to century first-timers. What was clear from the start was that none of us minded how fast we went; we’d all get to Bridlington eventually no matter how many snack stops it would take! Needless to say I left my array of bus-shelter-themed worries in the Irish Sea behind me.
I would describe the ride itself as having the vibe of a Saturday morning café ride, except that this was two days, entailed epic elevation and we weren’t going home until we saw the (other) sea! We spent much of the first morning leapfrogging another group on the ride, friendly greetings exchanged as we went past, and making our way through Charlotte’s cornucopia snack bag (complete with Mini Cheddars and all). This set the tone for the rest of the ride, one of support and camaraderie that I think is what draws so many people to a ride like this.
No more so was this seen than when our group rolled into York, arriving later than the other two after a decision to stop for some much-needed proper food in Ripon. After switching on the lights for a wee night-ride and battling through a fallen tree we rolled into the youth hostel to a cheering reception from the rest of the riders, slightly scaring the hot chocolate out of me as we emerged from the calm rhythm of the night. Nevertheless, it was much appreciated and we all finally put our feet up after a long day of riding.
Day two followed a similar theme, though this time with fewer hills and a bit more rain (and punctures). An absolute angel by the name of Matty bundled Taylor up with a lifetime supply of Tunnock’s teacakes and caramel wafers as our posse flew past his house, knowing exactly what we’d need after god-knows-what kilometre of the weekend.
All in all, it was an epic couple of days struggling up the Yorkshire hills and bombing down the other side with everyone. The friends made and the stories shared say a lot about the value of rides like this. Now that there’s an expanding network of people whose specialty it is to create inclusive spaces on rides such as Steezy, NFORC and Northern Roll to name a few, there’s never been a better time to collaborate. The smiles and fist-bumps shared as we zoomed down into Bridlington with the golden sunset on our backs is something I’ll take with me on the rest of my rides this winter.