Don’t be so hard on yourself: A few good things from the last 12 months

It’s a exactly a week before I turn yet another year older. The autumn light looks beautiful. Storm Brian is doing its best to make things uncomfortable but it’s quite cosy inside with a cup of tea and the cat curled up beside me.

Still, I often also struggle with this time of year. Diminishing day light making my working week feel like an eternity, feeling nostalgic about the end of the summer we never had and, above all, this urge to evaluate, over-analyse my life.

‘Have I been focusing on the right things? What about all these creative projects I promised myself to get involved with? Have I even been riding my bike enough?

It’s all too easy to obsess over the things that perhaps haven’t quite gone to plan (I can be quite bad for it!) or, as I found, simply forget about the amazing things which did happen. So instead I’ve decided to list a few cycling-related things from the last 12 months which I absolutely loved or am simply pretty proud of…

December 2016 – Working on the illustrations for Lee Craigie’s ‘Joining the Dots’ Journal

I was excited to finally meet Emily and Lee of the Adventure Syndicate in a small cafe in London almost exactly a year ago. Other than having quite a few friends in common from times gone by and when I was still making ‘urban’ cycling accessories and trying to mix in with the cool messenger kids, we had recently established contact through the blog platform of a big cycle retailer I help running. Once work chat was done, I couldn’t resist to giving them some Back Of Beyond Cycling t-shirts which quickly led the conversation to Lee’s upcoming project: A beautifully presented journal to tell the story of her HT550 experience (= The Highland Trail 550 is a self-supported off-road bike race in Scotland) from earlier that year. Stunning photography would come from the talented James Robertson and graphics and layout from Shand Cycles’ Russell but Lee was still looking for an illustrator to give the book a unique aesthetic so I put my hand up.

The cover image is an interpretation of the route and incorporating the title whereas each chapter features the addition of landmarks and other elements which played an important part in the experience Lee was trying to convey in the copy including place names, wildlife, food stops and broken technology. I used mainly Pro Marker pens and black fine liner.

Certainly one of the most creatively rewarding projects I’ve ever been involved and trusted with. I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed the process.

You can buy it from 18 Bikes.

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January 2017 – Girona Training Camp with the Adventure Syndicate

More creative (and physical) inspiration and overall feel-good company came in the form of joining a women’s-only training camp organised by the Adventure Syndicate in Girona in January. I don’t think I’ve ever started a year on a bigger high. Other than the practical tips, extra strength and superb scenery those few days riding brought me, it’s the gift of meeting a range of wonderful new people that’ll probably stick with me forever. Thanks for having me.

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May 2017 – Riding the South Downs Way in a Day

When you’re ‘training’ for a big event as I was earlier this year and long weekend rides become part of the ‘regime’ it’s easy to forget that some of these rides were pretty epic in themselves. There was that time I rode back from London off-road and solo and stupidly, on just one bottle of water, a couple of bars and dodgy GPX file but Richard and I also rode the South Downs Way in something like 11 hours one Saturday in late May. It wasn’t until recently and editing somebody else’s blog on how they were aiming to tackle the entire entire SDW (100 miles off-road from Winchester to Eastbourne taking in 3.5k metres of climbing) in just one day – but didn’t quite make it – that I was reminded it even happened! We may have ridden the entire Great Divide route the previous summer but living right on the eastern edge of the SDW and riding, running, walking in and finding inspiration from ‘the Downs’ on a daily basis, experiencing the full stretch of this local, impressive hill range by bike in a day was certainly one to tick off the bucket list. And what an amazing day it was..

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June 2017 – Transpyr 2017: Across the Pyrenees in 7 days

I’ve written about the unforgettable experience that was Transpyr Coast to Coast 2017 in a previous post in some detail already but it obviously had to make the list. 4 months on and admittedly having spent very little time on my MTB since and after a spring of training overload alongside working full time, it’s a great reminder of how much I learnt to love riding trails..and that I ought to sort out my bike!

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October 2017 – Securing a space at Bespoked 2018 – new shirts en route

No, to get back to one of my questions at the beginning, I probably haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to creative projects and Back Of Beyond Cycling itself as I had hoped to but I’m always working on ideas and new designs in the background. Having a creative goal is what I needed so I’m pleased to announce I will be exhibiting at next year’s Bespoked – The Handmade Bicycle Show – with our illustrated t-shirts and more.

Watch this space for updates and new designs. Rumour has it there’ll be a new shirt in time for Christmas!

See you there!

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