1. Hey Ed, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
I am Ed Shoote, I am based in Peebles in the Scottish Borders and I have been riding bikes pretty much all my life. With my wife Marion we have cycled in around 50 countries and we’ve written and shared photography from these adventures. All of this has mostly been fitted in around a day job as an accountant (amongst other things) and with a few career breaks in the last 18 years! I am also now officially an author with my first book Gravel Rides Scotland being released on April 7th 2022 by Vertebrate Publishing. This is 28 gravel bike routes across the wild parts of Scotland.
2. How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I always loved the outdoors, in particular looking for wildlife and exploring the woods where I grew up in Suffolk, while there were few mountains I still found wild places to explore. When I was about 17 I swapped the road for mountain biking and I’ve not really looked back. I was exploring places further and further from home all my life, but the first multi-day trip was with Marion around the East Anglian coastline soon after we met aged 17 and I guess the next 22 years is history. We both have a huge love of mountains and I can’t imagine living far away from any hills now. It wasn’t just bikes as we managed to work or travel for 6/7 winter ski seasons split boarding and riding in Patagonia to Japan. I am just addicted to finding new wild places to explore, we rarely go back to the same place twice.
3. What's been your favourite trip or adventure?
My favourite were probably bike packing trips to the Altay or split boarding in Patagonia, both were eye opening in so many ways. A highlight from Tibet was the worlds largest Buddhist monastery called Yarcehn Gar, hidden at 4000m in the mountains with 10,000 monks and nuns (since cleared by the Chinese on ‘Safety Grounds’). Splitboarding 10 volcanoes in South America was such an experience, we slept in a van and toured between then, finding out 1 erupted shortly after we left!
In terms of writing Gravel Rides Scotland I have had some great adventures, I combined the research with bikepacking trips and found some amazing places close to home. I think my favourite was probably riding the Morvern peninsula and Loch Sunart near Fort William. I slept in a bivy bag by the shore all on my own after I went for a swim with an amazing sunset over the loch. The area was so peaceful and the gravel riding was amazing. The loch is a marine protected area and I could have picked shell fish for dinner but it didn’t feel right to disturb the area.
4. How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities, i.e. work and family?
To be honest working a day job, writing a book and two children under 4 all during the pandemic has been hard work! I have certainly struggled to get the same number of miles on my bike as something had to give.
I have always tried to balance life and work, I previously worked 8 months out of 12 in one job and I've been working 4 day weeks now for 6 years. Certainly my priorities have changed, originally I used my Fridays for more training and long bikepacking adventures but now it is all about adventures with my children.
Gravel rides Scotland was a great excuse to get out riding gravel routes for ‘work’ at weekends, however unpopular this made me at times! Gravel Rides Scotland really came about as I had less time for big trips and wanted to explore closer to home and make the most of my time off. To research it I headed away bikepacking and was trying to cover 3 or 4 routes in a weekend, it was always so frustrating when a route just didn’t work or wasn’t good enough for the book as it felt like wasting precious free time! This led to the book’s concept clusters or regions of routes rather than dotted all over the country and therefore means you are getting the most from a weekend away led to the book focusing on.
5. Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My dad was a great lover of the outdoors and in particular taught me to love nature and wildlife around us. He passed away in 2019 but he was always pleased that I got to see so much of the world. He was always surprised when I got an article published, so I think he’d be amused I’d managed a whole book just about riding my bike in the mountains.
6. Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your well-being and mental health?
It’s not really something I had ever thought about until so much recent publicity around mental health and the outdoors. I have always seen the positive side of life and always feel there is a solution to any problem and on reflection I am sure this is because I make time to ride bikes outside almost every day. It gives time to relax and think as much as anything. When I was in London I used to go urban mountain biking at night down steps etc. rather than out to pubs and sure even that helped! I think it is so important to focus our lives on what we really want even if this means we have less money to spend. Whether that is just a job with a good cycle commute or choosing to live in an area with what you love doing on your doorstop.
7. What is it about gravel riding specifically that you love?
I love gravel riding as it is just about exploring further and faster and I wrote Gravel Rides Scotland to have an excuse to keep doing this and to share it. When I started gravel riding it was just inherently the road surface on trips to far flung corners of the planet. Then when I came back to live in Scotland I carried on riding gravel tracks as I could cover distances faster than I could on my mountain bike and roads scare and bore me after a while. The book was a great excuse to explore more and into different areas. I hate riding the same place twice and the abundance of gravel tracks in Scotland lets me do this. I really wanted the book to get people deep into wild places as gravel riding is not just easy mountain biking, to me it is a surface that opens up adventures.
8. When did you discover FINDRA?
I first heard about FINDRA originally from a friend who worked there years ago and later through my wife Marion who became an ambassador. She has worn FINDRA kit all over the world on our adventures, in fact almost every bike picture she is in her FINDRA kit and she loves it.
9. What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I was watching the bikes while waiting for Marion outside a shop in Prague when I chatted to a Nigerian man dressed as a sailor selling boat trips, and I explained I was riding to China, he looked at me with surprise. I asked ‘Do you think I’m crazy?’ he replied, ‘No I think everyone else is crazy for not trying’. It really stuck with me.
10. On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more.
It’s so much harder when you’re not doing something. The doing part is actually the easy bit. This relates to getting out of the habit of riding through to planning that big trip you dreamt of but never put into practice.
WIN Ed's Gravel Riding Book and a pair of FINDRA Merino wool socks!
For the chance for you and a friend to win a copy of one of Ed’s ‘Gravel Rides Scotland’ books and a pair of FINDRA merino socks.
- Follow us on social media
- Like our pages and
- Tag a friend - so that you can both be in with a chance to win!
The competition runs from 7.30 pm on Sunday the 20th of March to 11.59 pm on Sunday the 27th of March.
The winner will be announced through social media
I think the quote that keeps me going on tough rides and adventures is from the late Mike Hall. He had the following taped onto his frame during endurance events: ‘nothing that's worth anything is ever easy’ and it sticks in my mind whenever I set out on some adventure and the going gets hard, but as Mike said it’s worth it in the end.
I am a fan of variety and change and while I have routes I enjoy near Peebles I am happiest exploring. I once went a whole year never riding the exact same bike route twice (other than my commute!) which says something about the number of trails but more that I am happiest somewhere new, exploring and getting lost!
I have so many songs that get stuck in my head from different trips. One of my favourites is BlitzenTrapper’s song Furr. Just a nice comforting song that inspires travel and adventures I think.