Updated: Sep 28
WORDS & PHOTOS | Nick Archer
As the nights draw in, what better way to see out the end of summer than a 170 mile ride across Lancashire and Yorkshire? Nick discusses the butterfly effect of one small comment and how that led him to become part of the Steezy Collective, at least for a weekend.
It started with a conversation. A vague concept, almost abstract in its conceit, beginning as all adventures tend to; nothing more than a drifting thought, verbalised with whimsey and desire.
'Do you want to do the Way of the Roses?'
Chris Hall, a seasoned long-distance rider and founder of the brand Zero Lemon, had never done the entire 170-mile route spanning the width of the country between Morecambe in Lancashire and Bridlington in Yorkshire. He came up with the idea whilst racing between the UK's most western point, Land’s End, to Ness Point in Lowestoft, the most easterly for his Nut's & Bolts challenge raising money for Testicular Cancer.
'I’ve never done it before but have ridden some bits of it. So it was nice to see some of the bits I recognised' - Chris
So, as all good ideas are in these digital days, the question was posed quite innocently on Instagram, and it turned out that long term cycling buddy Toby Cummins had not either. He'd mentioned that always meant to, that they could do it for charity, in this case, Women's Aid and that he'd help to organise it.
With Chris' Zero Lemon brand joining forces with Toby's Cold Dark North, word spread quickly and what started as a small jaunt across the Pennines from one sea to another, rapidly snowballed into something far larger. It was then that they began to understand they had created 'a thing'.
'I felt that Chris and I didn't offer any authentic inclusivity' -Toby
'We aren’t exactly the best example of diversity and we were keen to open the ride up to everyone. So we reached out to Steezy' - Chris
The Steezy Collective is a woman, trans and non-binary cycling collective that includes talented riders from all over the country. Toby started a conversation with Charlotte about how to be more inclusive that led to the collective getting involved. The result was Steezy becoming involved in a big way, and completing a triad of cycling talent that would promote inclusivity across gender and confidence.
Now 60 riders strong, it was broken down into 3 groups based on nothing more than how the riders wanted to encouter the route.
Zero Lemon was the fastest group and Cold Dark North was the middle posse, with Steezy focussing on the principle of non-drop Party Pace and regular snack stops. There were mixed genders throughout all three groups, and I had been fortunate enough to join Steezy for the weekend (something I had long desired).
Perhaps the most daunting aspect of the 170-mile trek was the fact that it would be completed in only 2 days. The first day would take the groups from Morecambe, starting at 7.30 am and completing the 107-mile route over the Pennines to arrive in York for an overnight stay at the YHA. Day two saw all the groups setting off around 10.30 am to ride the remaining 63 miles, this time on much flatter terrain, to finish in Bridlington just as the sun was setting.
For some people, this was just a standard weekend ride, but for many people in all of the groups, this was a far larger endeavour than they had ever attempted before. Even the incredible people I spoke to who had cycled thousands of miles over the course of months, had never attempted the mileage or the elevation in such a short space of time.
Many would be completing 100 miles in a single day of riding for the first time, including myself.
Being part of a group who stuck together and got everyone to the finish, no matter how much they struggled physically or mentally, was a deeply inspiring and moving event to witness.
From it's conception, through development and execution, the final result of Chase the Last Long Days, was an event that should be not only remembered but repeated again and again. What was achieved was a wonderful example of what can happen when respect is put before pride. In place of archaic social norms and expectations, the freedom to be who you are, and enjoy and appreciate our kaleidoscopic differences gave the ride greater meaning.