Category Archives: Twaddle Stories

Customer Stories from Skedaddle Holidays and UK Weekends

A Guide’s Perspective: Why We Love Climbing Mountains!

Riding a bike up a mountain, resisting gravity at every turn of the pedal, is not easy. But it is possible, for everyone, no matter how fit a cyclist you are. You might just be cutting your teeth on a gentle diet of one col a day on our Alpine Introduction. Or feasting on a five course banquet of climbing in Colombia as you pit yourself against Alto de Letras, the world’s longest climb, but whatever your level there is a mountain for every rider.

“Why do cyclists want to ride up mountains?” this is a question I am frequently asked, writes Hannah Reynolds, and there are as many answers as there are bike riders. The easiest answer is in the words of George Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Everest “because it’s there.” When we see a sinuous thin strip of tarmac snaking its way up to a cloud shrouded peak the urge is to follow.

Everyone can climb a mountain but, regardless of fitness levels or experience, it is seldom easy. The stronger we are the harder we ride; the desire to accelerate out of every bend, to push over the top of gradient changes, to reach the next corner faster is in every rider. We are chasing sensations as we pedal toward the summit, feeling our way to the red line where hard becomes impossible, careful always to stay the right side of it. The day we become arrogant enough to believe that climbing a mountain is easy is the day we forget to drink or eat enough. A lack of care for the challenge leads to blowing-up; reaching the summit at a crawl, a spent and humbled rider.

What makes a climb special? The view, the companionship, the scenery or the challenge? I may have gently climbed a beautiful hill in spring, breathing easily, on a dry day with a light temperate wind, looking around at the view, but I don’t remember it. The days I remember are the ones where the sun was searing hot on my back, where I had to talk to each leg to keep them turning round and where every corner was a choice between stopping and carrying on. Or the days when your body sings; when you can’t hurt your legs, however hard you try, and the sweat pours down and stings your eyes and your breathing comes in deep rasping gasps but every corner you go faster and faster. Like a surfer waiting for the perfect wave, those are the climbs you dream of.

But why do it? We gain something every time we reach the summit of a col; a sense of achievement, that we have taken on a challenge and succeeded. That we heard the impulse to stop and resisted. It could be the view, to stand at the top of a pass and look down at the valley and savour the panorama of the mountain-scape around you. It could be fitness; this climb is just another training notch on our way toward a bigger goal. Whatever it is we gain from the experience, we have earned it the only way possible, through physical exertion and the mental will power to keep pedaling inexorably upwards.

This may seem hyperbolic to some, but as a guide and a rider I have seen people pass through many different emotions on a mountains trip. I have seen bikes and tantrums thrown by grown men and women. The mountain doesn’t care who you are or what you do, it doesn’t care if you get to the top or not, but we do. I listened to a rider swear at me, swear at his bike, swear at the mountain in rotation for two hours solid as we slogged our way up the Col de Madelaine. I have seen the pride in being able to purchase a simple fridge magnet with a col sign on it. We have had tears on trips, many tears. Tears of frustration at how hard it is, tears of relief when it is over and finally tears of joy when the achievement sinks in. Mountains are not every day things and our responses to them are not everyday emotions.

Mallory also had a longer answer to why he wanted to climb Everest, but the essence of it is there in every cyclist tackling their own, all be it more minor, mountain. When we climb a mountain, when we sweat and toil, and dig deep in our legs and mind the sensation at the top is euphoric, “If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live.”  And that is why cyclists climb mountains, to live.

Got your sights set high? Check out our range of Mountain Challenges and achieve your cycling dreams of conquering iconic mountains from the world of professional cycling.

Celebrating women and cycling

Looking back one hundred years to when the first women were given the vote in the UK, it is worth recalling the famous words of Susan B Anthony, the US suffragist and abolitionist:

“I’ll tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”

At the time of the women’s suffrage movement the bicycle was a relatively modern machine and it played a huge role in the developing freedom of women. Thanks to the bicycle, women were able to travel further and faster with independence.  Women got out of the heavy layers of clothing and claustrophobic stays they had been trussed up in, as female cyclists supported the ‘rational dress’ movement and the inspiration of Amelia Bloomer and her vision for ‘divided skirts’.

For female cyclists today, the bike is still a symbol of freedom and adventure. It might not be our heavy skirts we are discarding, but embracing the joy and feelings of freedom when you can escape the office, or even the home, for a few hours of pedalling. This feeling of escapism is as strong as it ever was. The number of women cyclists in the UK has been steadily increasing, from grass roots innovations like Breeze Rides from British Cycling to the work of The Adventure Syndicate encouraging women to explore by bike. It seems there is a ground swell of inspiring women looking to share their love of cycling with others and get more women on their bikes.

Empowering women at Skedaddle…
We love hearing the stories from our many female Skedaddlers, taking on the toughest Colombian climbs, putting skills into action on the biking trails, enjoying active family holidays and cycling thousands of miles on our epic iconic journeys. We also have a great team of female guides who love getting out on their bikes and sharing their passion.

So, let’s hear it for women who ride, all around the world. Long may the bike be a vehicle for freedom, independence, friendship and adventure!

Guide Profile: Laura McAuley

Laura joined Skedaddle in 2014 on a trip to the Scottish Highlands, and since then, she has guided this trip at least once every year with us! You can also spot her in France if you join one of our French road cycling holidays. In an effort to share more about our talented team with you all, we caught up with Laura to hear more about her time at Skedaddle and some of the top guiding tips too…

Full name: Laura McAuley

1. What do you like most about Skedaddle?
The enthusiasm, camaraderie and humour among the staff and customers. Through Skedaddle, I have met some of the nicest people. The staff very much know what they are doing, which helps! The customers really make each trip so unique and interesting.

2. Give your best piece of pre-trip advice for customers…
Don’t forget your chamois cream – generally speaking, people don’t like to share…

3. Which trip are you most excited about in our holiday range?
Mountain Biking in south of Spain – Sensational Sierra Nevada. It looks like a real challenge and is a trip I couldn’t do myself without the expertise of a guide who knows the trails. One year, maybe…

4. What would your chosen superpower be?
Definitely teleporting! Imagine the bike itineraries you could put together… and without having to negotiate Ryanair’s booking system!

5. What is your favourite power snack and why?
Flapjack. With the filthy butter and syrup version, you can kid yourself on that it’s healthy. OR you can actually get healthy ones. Chia Charge are doing an awesome cranberry flapjack containing no refined sugar. Great slow energy, tastes good with plenty of bang for your buck calorie-wise.

6. Item you can’t be without on a cycling holiday?
Paper maps of the route. That’s not to say I don’t embrace technology, I just love the aesthetics of seeing the whole route laid out in front of you. Especially pleasing if the holiday is a coast to coast or a raid. AND folded up and waterproofed, maps can’t run out of battery, break or fall off bike and get lost on descents of super rough bits of Scottish mountains (true story).

Want to know more about our Guides? Check our our Guide section on the blog to get to know our team a little bit better and for some expert advice on everything cycling!