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Decathlon Summer of Cycling winner’s wild ride

When Joss Winter conceived her ‘tour of friends’ bikepacking jaunt last year, she had no idea just how far it would take her around our green and pleasant land

Gravel adventure

Joss Winter was one of our Decathlon Summer of Cycling winners in 2019. After spending two years at a desk dreaming of bike adventures, Joss embarked on her ‘tour of friends’ ride, cycling around the UK on a Triban Women’s RC 520 to visit friends and family, camping along the way. Here Joss tells the story of her adventures on the bike.

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My ‘tour of friends’ last summer was partly about riding my bike more, and partly about reconnecting with friends and family, and it was a fantastic experience, like no other.

My goal was to visit the people that I felt like I’d neglected over the past two years as work got in the way. No more excuses of trains being too expensive to travel on – just me and my bike and a whole load of adventure.

Since picking up my Triban bike from Decathlon earlier in 2019, I’ve managed to explore a lot more of the country than I was expecting!

I have loved having the freedom to stick to the road, or switching it up and going off-road for a chunk of my ride, and the bike has also helped me reconnect with friends who I haven’t seen for a long time.

Cyclist riding Decathlon Triban road gravel bike through tunnel
Interesting-looking, impromptu turns helped to make Joss’ rides more varied.
Joseph Branston

My favourite ride to date on the Triban was my journey home from the Northumbria coast on the scorching August bank holiday weekend last summer. I had a rough plan of places to see but I also wanted to follow my nose and take interesting-looking turns instead of just sticking to a set route.

My first stop was the Drift Cafe on the east coast of Northumberland for the best veggie haggis breakfast and to meet family friends, who told me about a military road through the Coquet Valley.

On the bike, the journey was spectacular – and I was lucky to have some of the best weather of the summer

They were right – it really was the best road in the county, following the Cheviot Hills to the Scottish border, where I followed a fire track to Kielder Forest with no end of gravel tracks to navigate.

Having passed Hadrian’s Wall, I bivvied close to the dark-sky observatory near Alston, and was treated to a few shooting stars. The next day, I made it to Carlisle to meet a friend for a McDonald’s breakfast.

The ride from here took me across the Yorkshire Dales, following National Cycle Network routes 68 and 71 down to the village of Malham, where another friend met me for dinner.

Blue Decathlon’s Triban road gravel bike, showing logo
Decathlon’s Triban bike is designed and tested in Flanders.
Joseph Branston

Having the bike has actually reacquainted me with friends and family more than I thought. I would never consider driving or getting the train between Carlisle and Malham, but it seemed to make sense on the bike, and the journey was spectacular.

I was lucky to have some of the best weather of the summer, too, and had the good fortune to bivvy in the dry, as I did through south Wales earlier in the season.

Gravel adventure
As well as sticking to the road, Joss also went off-road – just to mix things up.
Joseph Branston

Since getting back from that Northern England trip (and a journey on the Triban to the Purbeck peninsula to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday), my plans changed slightly as I found a new job working for cycling charity, Sustrans.

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I have now converted my Triban into a beastly commuting machine, ideal for my silly near-50km commute. My summer of cycling might be over, but my riding won’t stop!