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12 January 2015 5 comments

My Top Rides Of 2014

Correspondence Friends Events Heritage Travel & Adventure Cycling Stories
By Juliet Elliott
My Top Rides Of 2014

I must be getting old. Just like that, 2014 is over. I remember when I was a kid, the summer holidays lasted forever and Christmas always seemed an eternity away. I always hoped that those who told me ‘school days are the best of your life’ were far off the mark. Endless hours of maths, PE in sub zero temperatures wearing gym knickers and an airtex shirt; how could that be the best life had to offer? PE even made me think I wasn’t ‘sporty,’ but that’s another story for another time. Now I’m free from the horrors of netball, drinking at bus stops and GCSEs, I’m having more fun that ever and life seems to fly by.  So they were wrong. I bloody knew it. School sucks and being a grown up rules. So just where did the year go and what made it so great? Taking a rainy day to look back, I’ve picked my personal highlights – my top rides of 2014. Eroica Britannia The original vintage cycling event, L’Eroica sees thousands of cyclists make a pilgrimage to Tuscany’s Strade Bianche (gravel roads) for an exuberant ride through vineyards and hills on for the most part, extremely dodgy antique bikes which may be the death of you. This year, Eroica Britannia was launched in Derbyshire, and the organisers successfully managed to create an event that kept the true spirit of the original whilst giving it a thoroughly British twist. And if you’re thinking that means bad weather and crap food, then you’d be wrong – Eroica Britannia took place on a gloriously sunny day and the food stops were delightful with hundreds of happy cyclists in plus fours drinking Pimms and nibbling sandwiches whilst admiring each other’s mustaches. The only inauthentic aspect of the event was the fact my bike had two working brakes. [caption id="attachment_14012" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo: John Watson"][/caption] Rad Race 2014 was also the year of the Rad Race. Established by a group of guys in Germany, the idea was to organize a bunch of bike races with unusual formats in unique locations. But what really made the races different was the fact they were fun and light-hearted but also kind of serious enough that you wanted to try and actually win. I entered the first ever Rad Race in Berlin, which took place on a go-kart course packed with super tight corners. And I enjoyed every minute of it, even though I’m not fit enough and was gasping like a drowning monkey and dry-heaving by the end of it. [caption id="attachment_14013" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo: Jonas Klock"][/caption] Japan Bikes and tents are two of my favourite things so I took both to Japan for a three-week adventure.  Oh, and I took my husband too – another favourite. Rather than rabbit on about the trip, I’ll leave you with this video whilst I go and make a pot of tea. http://vimeo.com/107257696   Stelvio Pass An absolute cracker of a climb, Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy is famous for its never-ending switchbacks and views that make you pinch yourself. If you’re a keen cyclist, this is definitely a ‘bucket list’ ride, whichever side you choose to tackle. I was lucky enough to summit Stelvio from the Bormio side the last weekend it was rideable before snow set in for the winter. I loved every thigh-burning turn of the pedal. More about the strange appeal of Stelvio, high mountain passes and rides that make you want to puke in this earlier blogpost. [caption id="attachment_14014" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo Dave Noakes"][/caption] Bluegrass Enduro Ireland My philosophy tends to be ‘try it, you might like it, so with the 2014 Bluegrass Enduro Tour making a stop in Ireland I signed up for my first ever enduro race with absolutely no idea what to expect. When I turned up, I found out we’d be racing ‘blind,’ which seemed like a slightly odd and frankly dangerous way of riding a mountain bike down a hill. Luckily ‘blind’ turned out to mean you didn’t get to check out the course in advance, not that you were given a blindfold in your registration pack… The format of enduro means you ride several timed downhill stages, making your way between them with the rest of the field whilst sharing wisecracks and energy bars. To me it seemed like a really fun and sociable day out on the bikes with a few races chucked in for good measure, and was a great way to see the best of a new area - the organisers had arranged it so that we’d hit up all the best trails surrounding Dublin. If you’re into riding mountain bikes and you’ve never entered an enduro, I’d highly recommend that you try one. [caption id="attachment_14016" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo: Action Pictures Ireland"][/caption] Red Bull Hillchasers Going all the way to Edinburgh just to ride up a really short hill once or twice seemed like a bit of a weird idea at first, but then quite a lot of things that I do seem odd if I overanalyze them. Anyway, Hillchasers took place slap bang in the middle of one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, and seemed like a good opportunity for a laugh. I took my fixed gear bike to see how I’d fare against some of the UK’s fastest riders, including Olympian Shanaze Reade. As we lined up in the starting gates, I decided to ignore the freaklishly fast and powerful Shanaze and just let her do her thang, which she did in her usual speedy manner. The real race was for second place, which astonishingly I managed to grab for myself. So that was 2014 and what fun it turned out to be, so now I’m on to making plans for 2015. What are your must-do rides or events? What should I be adding to my calendar?   www.bikes-n-stuff.com
I'm trying the further instead of faster thing and doing the London to Newcastle ride 24 (24 hours to do 300 miles). As i get older i need events that don't take up whole weeks so this seemed ideal... at the time. I'm hoping this year will be all about the long one off rides just as last year was about learning to be a triathlete.
Dominic 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Perth - Albany - Perth 2015. :D
Bagus Gowes 23 May 2016 at 17:06
What a great year of riding! Thanks for sharing. Loved the Japan video -- it is on my bucket list.
Norman 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Hope to see you in Bakewell this June!
David 23 May 2016 at 17:06
Juliet, how do manage to fit in so much cycling into your life, you are very inspiring.
Simon 23 May 2016 at 17:06