Jenny Graham holds the world record for cycling around the world unsupported – that’s 18,000 miles in just 124 days. She lives in the Highlands, and describes herself (on Instagram!) as an endurance lovin’, earth huggin’, fist pumpin’ dirtbag.This week we are very excited to catch up with world record breaking round-the-world endurance cyclist Jenny Graham. A long time friend of FINDRA, she shares her motivation, inspiration and why she loves bikepacking and cycle touring so much.
Hey Jenny, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Hey I’m based in the Highlands of Scotland where I spend my days riding bikes and being in wild places. I work with The Adventure Syndicate where I develop and run projects which encourage more people to get outdoors – particularly woman and girls. I also work with Global Cycling Network as a presenter on their new documentaries channel! Lastly, I’m trying really hard to write a book about my Round the World adventures but have found that sitting in front of a computer is my least favourite thing to do . . . so it may take me some time!
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I’m from the Highlands so outdoor play is embedded into my DNA but it was in my early adult years that I found a way into outdoor sports. Through a course at my local college . . . that was 17 years ago and I’ve never looked back!
What has been your favourite trip or adventure?
Jeeezo! That’s like picking a favourite bike – SO HARD!!
Ok I need to cheat and give you a little summery of my top 3 . . .
Round the World – for obvious reasons. Living for 4 months on my bike whilst I circumnavigated the planet as fast as I could. That was such a privilege!
SaasFee – My very first Alpine trip with my pal Katy. We laughed so hard. Climbed our first 4,000m peak and spent our days climbing in the sunshine and drinking the budget beer in the alpine field we camped in. It was blissful!
Dornoch – As young mums, my two best friends and I, plus our five children boarded the bus to Dornoch for a two week camping trip. We had no cars, no fancy equipment (unless swing ball counts) and no particular plan. It was such a great summer of beach, parks and BBQs. We were there for so long our families even came to visit for a few days. Such simple fun and magic times!
How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
This has changed over the years. When my son was younger it was way more of a juggling act, but there was something about the time pressure of squeezing activity in that I thrive on. I realised fairly early on that physical activity is much more than a hobby, it’s actually a necessity for me to be my best self. That mindset helps me make the time but equally remembering that not every outing needs to be an epic – a 20 minute burst is better than none.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My good friend and mentor Ron Woodwark. He taught me so much when I was finding my way in the outdoor. He was patient and generous with his time. I’d listen with wide eyes as he shared stories of bumming about in the Alps, sleeping under rocks, stealing food from bins and climbing all summer long.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely, It was a standing joke that when I was getting a bit grumpy at home I just needed to get into the mountains for a bit. I think, after a year of lockdown, that more and more people are appreciating those outdoor spaces to help clear the head and regain perspective.
What is it about bikepacking specifically that you love?
Bikepacking for me has it all. The freedom the bike gives you as you travel through wild places at pace, the simplicity of living with minimal possessions as you need to carry everything you take – up every hill! And the friendships you build along the way.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I first met Alex at Kendal Mountain Film Festival. She had supported Lee & Emily from The Adventure Syndicate and we hit it off.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“If not now then when?”
My work friend and another great inspiration in my life Simon Coker would call me out if I was backing off scary descents on my bike. I’d have been 30 at the time and he’d gleefully point out that I was only going to get older, so if I didn’t try it now then when would I?
I often think that when I’m about to take the easy option!
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?
I think there are many different ways to enjoy outdoor spaces, I’d encourage people to find their own. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Hiking a hill, sitting by a loch, riding hard through the night or a picnic with friends. There really is something for everyone. Don’t assume it’s for other people.
Thanks Jenny, it was an inspiration to chat with you!
RECIPE / BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Cycling Chef: Recipes for Performance and Pleasure
I love absolutely anything from The Cycling Chef books, but a particular favourite is chocolate brownies made with a chickpea base – how can something SO yummy be that healthy!
Chocolate Brownie Recipe
Ingredients (makes 24 x 35g pieces):
- 400g chickpeas, strained
- 250g Medjool dates
- 120g crunchy nut butter
- 90g coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- 50g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp good-quality instant coffee (optional)
- 30g cocoa nibs
- 60g walnuts
- Fit a food processor with the paddle attachment and into the bowl add the chickpeas, dates, nut butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract and salt. Beat until fairly smooth.
- Gradually add the cocoa powder, coffee (if using) and the cocoa nibs until the mixture forms a paste.
- Finally, add the walnuts and whizz for 20 seconds max to ensure the texture of the nuts is retained.
- Transfer the mixture to a 22 x 22 cm tin and smooth with a knife or spatula. Place in the fridge to set for one hour, then slice into bars. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
My friend sent me this quote years ago as we booked our travel to the Alps. It still resonates with me today. It’s a quote from W H Murray when writing about a climbing trip to the Himalaya in the 1950s.
“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money – booked a sailing to Bombay.
“This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
“I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free by Nina Simone
Awww this is tricky, but I’ve gone with my most listened to song of 2020, Nina Simone – I wish I knew how
it would feel to be free!