"It's just yourself, two wheels and the space around you, it's an all-encompassing, immersive kind of experience."
Growing up in South Cornwall, with one of the most breath-taking coastlines our planet has to offer right on my doorstep, it’s no wonder that I’ve always felt a deep attachment to the outdoors and have considered it a part of me for as long as I can remember. As a child I became captivated by the rugged, mystical landscape that surrounded me, and spent most of my time out exploring, uncovering all the different ways I could connect to it.
As I got older, my love of exploration only grew and I became consumed by wanderlust, so much so that I spent all of my University summers working as a beach lifeguard in order to save up for my first ever round-the-world trip. It was this trip that opened my eyes even further to the sheer beauty of the natural world, and, through navigating distant shores via boat, van, bus, and my own two feet, my love, respect, and sense of guardianship for planet earth was cemented. From seeing the Lupins in bloom at Lake Tekapo on New Zealand’s South Island, to the dizzying granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park, I gleaned a new appreciation for nature's unique ability to evoke a deep sense of inner peace, away from a world constantly in a rush.
In 2018 I bought my first road bike. It was during the summer of the World Cup and of course Geraint Thomas’s iconic Tour De France victory. I was living in Oxford at the time where I had landed my first ‘proper’ job working in Local Government working with vulnerable communities. Oxford’s a cycling city. You need a bike to throw yourself into the rhythm of the place, and, just from being on two wheels, you’ll soon find yourself becoming an embedded part of what makes the city so captivating. So it was no surprise that during my daily commute descending Morrell Avenue past the iconic South Park, that I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of freedom cycling gave me.
However, after two years In Oxford my longing to be by the ocean soon got the better of me, and I relocated back to Cornwall. I missed surfing too much and the ability on a hot summer's day feel a sea breeze and jump in the sea before or after work. Little did I know the pandemic would hit soon after.
During the first lockdown I really kicked my cycling up a notch. I was living in a largely empty St. Ives, surrounded by the wild Zennor roads that so many thousands of visitors just overlook as they make a sunburnt beeline for the pasty shops and beaches. Owing to this I had some of the best cycling roads in the UK to myself (and a few cows for company). Along those roads the granite tors which make their statement along those roads against the backdrop of the Atlantic are enough to rob the breath of even the fittest athletes.
Cycling in such wild, rugged areas offers me so much freedom. It removes me from the rushed, the frantic, the mundane, and the uninspiring. It instead gifts me the opportunity to muse away deeply about who I am and where I am going, as well as moments which demand all of my attention and focus right there in the moment as I speed down the descents.
I wasn’t the only one who discovered a new-found passion for cycling during lockdown, as a few of my friends I used to surf with were also taking advantage of the empty roads. It soon became just like surfing to us; in that it acts as a kind of meditation allowing to get out on the road and forget everything else and embark on a new adventure for a few hours.
We decided to start a cycling club and christened it “Hayle’s Angels”. It’s very, very chilled, with people of all ages and abilities, you don’t have to be really keen, an athlete, or massively into cycling, it's not like that. We ride, get coffee, eat cake, have conversations, laugh, and explore somewhere nice and just share an experience as a community.
Community to me is a group of friends with a shared interest, shared passions, a shared vision for what they want to do, how they want to experience the world, and how they want to leave it. In the case of Hayel’s Angels it's people who share the same love for being out and about in the amazing place that we get to call home.
Every ride in Cornwall is so unique there is always a route you haven’t done, or a view you haven’t seen, and it can forever throw optical curveballs your way which take you aback as if it were the first time you had ever set eyes on it. I will never tire of exploring it, and will always be chasing the next adventure.