Even chilly wee streams don’t pose a problem!
Sadly, but as expected, there were no other women in our group of 7 cyclists plus 2 guides, although I’d hoped there would be at least one other woman so we could wince together at the endless mansplaining and bond over a white wine in the evening. But I’m okay with being in a male-dominated environment – I’ve always enjoyed the company of men. They are simple, uncomplicated creatures on the whole – I am mother to two grown up boys, and my favourite childhood companions were a family of three boys. I am used to not being able to keep up, so I wasn’t bothered about invariably being the last in the group, but I was well-advised to ensure I was the first to be ready to push off. And I wasn’t alone. My boyfriend was ready to praise and acclaim my efforts, which boosted my morale to no end.
For at least the first two days, I clung to the reins of my ‘real’ life – my two precious iPhones were to hand and I checked them whenever I could for urgent messages. But they soon started to loose signal strength, and along with this came a relaxation of worry. I neglected the phones, sometimes for a whole day, other than to take photos.
Sometimes it was easier to carry the bikes!
I found my brain emptied of chatter, and all I could sense was the wind, the sound of my wheels, or my breath, or the shifting of light through the landscape as it rolled past me. It took all my focus to just pedal, and to go on pedalling for mile after mile, and the absence of petty worry, my endless To-Do list as well as the mental exhaustion of being drained at the end of the day was profoundly life enhancing. When I fell into bed, I was tired physically of course, but mentally I was incredibly and lucidly rested.
The mounting comradeship and frequent hilarity of the company along with the superb guiding from Neil and Tomo amid the wild beauty of our surroundings was the best tonic to my normal daily life, despite its glamorous appeal. To reach the end of the journey in blazing sunshine, to see the Small Isles bathed in endless blue was the proudest, most moving moment. The Coast to Coast mountain biking trip wasn’t so much an outdoor adventure as an inner journey.
I truly found out what I am made of, what I am capable of, and what’s actually important at the end of the day – quite literally.
Would I do it again? Yes!
Guest Post written by Jessica Cadzow-Collins, a traveller on the Coast to Coast Mountain Biking trip in July 2019.