After the successful Lakeland 200 trip we’re excited to announce that we are heading into phase two – the FKT attempts. This weekend 4 riders will be heading out to attempt our first round of unsupported FKT attempts. To give them an idea of what they’re in for our resident wordsmith, Vanessa Lowe, has written up her experiences from the Lakeland 200.
*disclaimer* This is my first blog…… ever, bear with. I am usually a bit of a technophobe, but this trip with the Steezy Collective warranted a proper breakdown of how incredible it was.
I talk A LOT in real life and now I’ve scribbled down my thoughts, this has ended up mirroring just how much I talk but in text version. So I hope you have a cuppa or on a flight or something when diving into this extremely long novice blog!
Who even am I?
Firstly, my name is Vee! I’m a scientist by day and cycling enthusiast by night/weekend/any time that doesn’t involve work. A cycle to work scheme voucher in 2018 introduced me to the world of cycling. I cycled a lot with friends from my frisbee team, Iceni (@iceniultimate). We formed and mini cycle group called @bikeeni (hehehehe) and have been on so many incredible adventures together. It is with Bikeeni I learned how to use clip-in shoes and did my first bikepacking trips, I thank those ladies for introducing me to the world of and joy of cycling and for being so supportive.
Long story short, I ended up ditching frisbee entirely for cycling, one bike turned into about 6 and casual jaunts turned into full-on races or bike adventures. I’m now part of the wonderful Steezy Collective and was lucky enough to join the Steezy recce adventures of the Lakeland 200 route which this blog is all about!
The Lakeland 200 route:
To find out more about the actual route details head to bikepacking.com or komoot. Simply put it is an epic 200km MTB route around parts of the lake district involving LOTS of hike-a-bike and LOTS of awesome single track. There was no record of the fastest time set by a woman at the time on this route [there is now a record by Sally Ozane] and Steezy wanted to check it out to see if we could do a big Steezy adventure of this route. The off-road committee members did a recce in March 2022.
There were 6 of us (Kitty, Alice, Taylor, Jade, Pau and I) and also, @_Catherine_dunn, adventure photographer extraordinaire, was supposed to join, but that pesky virus got her just before we went, so unfortunately she couldn’t join. Luckily @davemacfarlane was available at short notice to take some sick snapshots for a day. The shots taken by Dave and the Steezy recce riders were edited by Catherine and made into an epic adventure film, find out more on the Steezy Collective website. We did a 5-day loop setting off from Wheelbase at Staveley. I’ll show snippets of the trip bullet point styleeeeee:
Where from and to? Staveley to Iron Keld (37km)
Highlight? The sunset at our wild camp spot
Challenges? learning how to handle my fully loaded MTB, my Garmin did not survive this adjustment. Also, camping at sub-zero was somewhat of a hurdle to overcome.
Snack stop of the day: Something good campsite food, Miso beetroot quinoa is a favourite
We left Staveley and immediately dived into beautiful mountains and singletracks, loving the sun glistening off the serene lakes, this route sets off to impress from the first 10 meters. We wild camped at the top of Iron Keld the first night, the sunset and the moon were almost photoshopped they were so pretty. This was my second-time wild camping, needless to say, I was unprepared and was pretty chilly overnight, Jade, my tent buddy, had to lend me some layers to keep warm. If camping below freezing, I would ask her the brand of her sleeping bag, she looked enviously cosy.
Where from and to? Iron Keld to Seathwaite via the Conniston Old man (43km)
Highlight: Pau finding her lost Wahoo in amongst a sea of fallen trees and Jade sprinting down a mountain with a flat tyre
Challenges: Not getting distracted by the adorable puppies everyone in Coniston owns
Next day, we peeled ourselves out of our frozen tents, made breakfast, packed up and set off. The route and weather stayed awesome, although at one point we ended up going through a fallen forest and hopping over several dead trees. The scenery never failed though. After eating all the snacks we could find in a corner shop we headed up the big climb of the day, the Coniston old man. Alice’s dad met us halfway up the climb and cheered us on. It was dark for the descent and Jade got a puncture. Whilst she sprinted down the mountain with a flat tyre, we deliberated how we would try make sure we don’t leave her with a flat on a dark mountain, clearly unaware how fast jade is, she was waiting for us as the bottom. We grabbed food at the Newfield Inn and found a cute river spot for wild camp night #2.
Where from and to? Seathwaite to Keswick via black sail AND Honnister pass (52km)
Highlight: Getting to the warm YHA before reception closed
Challenges: About 95% of the entire day was a challenge
Snack stop of the day: little village shop with the toasties.
After a delightful night’s sleep, we set off on our toughest tour day. We really enjoyed our morning in the sun, some muddy bits provided great entertainment at Alice’s expense, we even found a little village shop that made us toasties at lunch. All of this whilst blissfully unaware of the 3 brutal climbs in store for us. At times during the climb through Black Sail I took a look back on how far we’d gone and was as proud as I was delirious that we’d hiked fully loaded bikes up that far. We trekked 2 mountains and across a mini waterfall, of which, most (slightly more reasonable people) do one of these mountains in one day, without a bike and with hiking boots. After about 6 hours of hike-a-bike, and the most stunning sunset, we were met with one soul-dropping final road climb, Honister pass, in the dead of night. After a lot of determination, we made it to a YHA in Keswick, but I can hands down say this was the hardest ride……………..of my entire life. Literally still have the occasional flashback.
Where from and to? Keswick to Brotherswater (56km)
Highlight: the winding pass that doubled back on itself in the valley
Challenges: Eating too much for breakfast and making myself nauseous
Snack stop of the day: Brotherswater Inn campsite pub – DELICIOUS
From hands down my most difficult ride ever, to hands down the most fun I’ve ever had off-road. Day 4 delivered and changed my whole mentality after my spirits being thwarted by the ass-kicking of day 3. It was stunning, the route was almost entirely rideable and every turn was a delight. I want to do this like another 10 times this year, 10/10 would recommend day 4. It ends with a punchy hike-a-bike, but Kitty put on her most motivational cheesy pop music tunes to power us up the hill. The climb was conveniently timed to see yet another stunning sunset from the top of a mountain. Worth every second.
Where from and to? Brotherswater back to Staveley
Highlight: Jade beasting it up High street with her bike and mine. Badgers stealing Pau’s food.
Challenges: My Achilles decided it was done with hike-a-bike
Snack stop of the day: outdoor provisions nut butter in my morning porridge, a revelation I waited far too long to discover.
The final stretch, pretty sad for the journey with these rad Steezy members to end, my Achilles however, was very ready for this to be over yesterday it turns out. Getting out of the tent in the morning I hobbled over to the toilet barely able to walk as my Achilles tendonitis reacted to all the hike-a-bike. Temporarily distracted from the discomfort when we discovered Pau had been robbed by a badger overnight, it clawed through her snack pouch and took everything she had. We headed off up High Street, the name is very accurate, on a very long, very high climb. I really couldn’t put my Achilles through that again, every step was stabbing and painful, but the legend that is Jade saved me for a second time on this trip and shuttled mine and her bikes up a mountain whilst I slowly side stepped up. Again, the lakes make the challenges way more digestible with the stunning mountain views, we were certainly spoiled this trip with landscape! Admittedly, Alice’s dad came to save the day for me and take me back in his van whilst the others finished the ride, and we all met up back at wheelbase. Honestly what a trip, so awesome!!
Absolute legends, inspirational Steezy off-road committee. I learned SO MUCH from them over these 5 days from being an anti-fafflete to the mental toughness you need to get through these challenges. Forever grateful to be a part of the Steezy Collective and absolutely here for its mission. The trip was 1000X better with buddies who enjoy type 2 fun as much as you. I’ve been part of the collective for under a year, but it feels like they’ve all been super close buddies for so much longer than that. I can’t wait for more Steezy adventures!
Top 3 tips:
- Bring a warm sleeping bag
- Pack as light as humanly possible, you’ll be thankful up those hills
- Never give up. Honestly what your mind tells you and what your body can actually do are worlds apart, it’s a mental challenge as much a physical, YOU GOT THIS, I BELIEVE IN YOU!!
Diversity in cycling:
A topic I often see and welcome having those slightly uncomfortable conversations about diversity. It is not exactly rocket science to see that there is a lack of diversity in cycling, although noticeably improving and heading in a positive direction, it’s still a particularly inaccessible sport due to a plethora of reasons. None of the issues surrounding lack of diversity can be solved overnight or with a one-step answer, and everyone’s image of equality and equity are subjective and vary, but I hope most can agree, that we haven’t reached that yet. I sometimes feel like a bit of a sore thumb in the activities I do. Similar to when I played frisbee and the profession I am in, I am usually the only black woman. When I bike pack, I can’t help but notice that other bikepacking cyclists we see en route are very rarely other women, very rarely black and certainly not black women. The case was similar on the Lakeland 200, not only were there very few women out on the trails or people of colour I saw exactly zero other people that looked like me on a bike the whole 5 days. I’m used to it but would love to one day not be phased by seeing other black women on trails serendipitously. I’m fully invested in the movement and promotion Steezy and several other incredible collectives are doing to increase the visibility of minority groups in cycling. Just seeing someone like you when you know you are usually the odd one out makes a huge difference and gives you that boost and reassurance that you should be doing what you’re doing and you’re not alone. I don’t mind at all being the only black woman in an event because I hope/know that being visible you may have that ripple effect on others and give them that boost 🙂
Hope you enjoyed the read and happy bike adventures!! 😀
TLDR: you can watch the adventures on the Steezy YouTube channel, phenomenal images by Dave MacFarlane and the Steezy Collective, film edited by Catherine Dunn.
Acknowledgements: Huge shout out to all the sponsors of this trip and film!!