Cycling sucks. Well it used to for me – it was a self-destructive obsession.
I started cycling during a low point in my mental and physical health. I was underweight and had a hip stress fracture due to obsessive over training for an ultra-marathon. I couldn’t run, so I started cycling as an alternative way to beast myself to work off that imaginary fat that was piling on after every small meal – and to temporarily quieten the self-hatred dialogue that continuously looped in my brain. I didn’t enjoy cycling – it wasn’t for pleasure it was purely used as a tool.
I ended up racing in multi-sport events. Gradually my body got weaker and more injured as I tried harder and harder to push it as far as I could. I could feel myself heading for burnout but was too scared to stop the activity that I can come to rely on. I hated it and needed it in equal amounts.
Eventually it came to a head.
Racing across Scotland in sub-11 hours I was the 4th fastest woman, but something happened along the way… I stopped for a moment and looked up.
I saw the most amazing views and something clicked. I literally crossed the finish line and told my husband that I was hanging up my racing shoes for good. I wanted to be out there but be still and truly see the views.
To cut a long story short, next came burnout, Ehlers Danlos & osteoporosis diagnosis, therapy, slowing down and finally becoming friends with myself. Cycling has turned into a positive way of life. As I began to recover and gain strength I started to cycle again – but this time with no Garmin, no agenda and generally for a purpose and to replace travelling by car – going to the shops, seeing friends or getting to work. Cycling was a form of active travel which sat well with my eco-conscious way of living.
Cycling off road became a place of calmness rather than a battle ground with my body that it had previously been – appreciating the beauty around me and enjoying the journey rather than being destination focused. I found my happy place in the peace and quiet of the Scottish hills cycling slowly and quietly though nature. I am lucky to live in Perthshire with so much opportunity to ride off road in remote areas and I started bike-packing to explore further with the freedom of wild camping. The childlike pleasure of cycling makes me smile internally and externally. I can travel quicker than walking but with less effort than running. I do still walk with my dog and run a bit as I need some impact sport for my bones, but it is always cycling that gives me the biggest smile and the calmest thoughts.
My passion for sharing the experience led me to set up my Bikepacking guiding business to encourage people to try this amazing way of travel. I am particularly keen to encourage those who feel that there are barriers to the outside for them for whatever reason and create bespoke experiences to enable and promote inclusiveness in the outside industry – an place that has historically placed an emphasis on the harder/faster/more epic mentality.
I am very open about my physical health. It does not affect my ability to guide but it does give me an awareness of living with chronic pain and additional challenges. I hope that my openness encourages and inspires others to consider activities or adventure that they may not have thought possible.
Running women’s only trips as well as mixed groups, I find that both have their place – but there is nothing as special as a group of women supporting each other on an adventure. The companionship, connection and authentic open-heartedness in a shared experience with women is truly unique.
Thank you Rosie for sharing your story
If you want to find out more about Rose, follow her social media, or get in touch about a Bikepacking trip, everything you need to know is below.
- Website – www.rosiebaxendine.com
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RosieBaxendineBikepacking
- Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rosiebaxendine/
- Twitter (although I don’t do too much on there yet!) https://mobile.twitter.com/BaxendineRosie