Nicola is a member of the New Forest Off Road Club, which offers women-led group rides that are all about building community on two wheels – and having a great time doing it. The club believes that confident, empowered women improve all spaces they occupy and Nicola shares here what she’s gained by riding with other women and learning about their stories.
Hey Nic, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Hey! I’m Nic and I am part of The New Forest Off Road Club based in Hampshire. We are all about building confidence and community on two wheels and having a great time doing it.
We host women led group rides that are free for all to join and we also run mechanic classes. We believe that confident, empowered women improve all spaces they occupy. We have a group of 10 women who lead our group rides and they all have so much expertise and life experience to bring to the conversation. It’s majestic getting to ride with so many interesting women and learning about their stories.
We are an ‘off road’ club which means we only ride road to get off road. The majority of our ride leaders have ‘gravel bikes’. These bikes look like road bikes but have thicker tyres allowing you to tackle a wider variety of terrain and still be speedy on tarmac.
We want people to know that you can wear anything to join our rides and come on any bike. The New Forest has so much gravel track that it is the perfect place for newbies to come and grow their confidence.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors but three years ago I moved out of London to Dorset which was an incredible life decision. I now live 30 minutes away from The Purbecks and 30 minutes away from The New Forest. I have to pinch myself sometimes. The New Forest has over 1,000 miles of gravel tracks and stunning forest landscapes and then the Isle of Purbeck has all the history of the Jurassic age, incredible coves and swimming opportunities. It’s a pretty sweet place to call home.
My boyfriend, Jay, and I also have a VW T25 camper which means we get to go on weekend adventures. The van only goes 50 mph (faster if there is a tail wind 🙃) so we tend to stick to the South West for a weekend but we have enjoyed breaks in Wales this Summer.
What has been your favourite trip or adventure?
At the beginning of July, five friends and I cycled the King Alfred’s Way. It’s a gorgeous 350 km circular bike packing route around historic Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great. The route starts and ends in Winchester where Alfred is buried, and connects iconic monuments including Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle, Iron Age hill forts, Farnham Castle, and Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals.
We had brilliant weather and saw the best of the English countryside over the 4 days. We wild camped in bivvies and I can honestly say I hadn’t felt such a sense of adventure since I went backpacking round India when I was 18.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
All work and no play makes Nic a dull person to be around. I worked really hard in my 20’s and was away from home a lot so I’m really enjoying prioritising myself and my happiness. No one on their deathbed says they wish they’d worked harder. I’m glad I’ve worked that out at 31. Contrary to society’s expectations of a 31-year-old woman, I’m living a really intentional child-free life and it’s joyous.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My boyfriend Jay has been an amazing influence. He bought me my gravel bike for my 30th birthday and he plans amazing off road bike adventures all around Dorset. I’ve always liked cycling but finding hidden single track and bridleways has really helped me get excited about exploring new places on two wheels. The countryside is beautiful and the rich tapestry of bridleways around the country allows you to see more than you ever could by road.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
If I’m in a funk, I go on a bike ride. I never feel worse after a quick spin round Hengistbury Head and back. If I have a decision to make at work which is high impact, I’ll always try and get outside and have a think about it before writing an email or making a call.
I can get in a bad mood if I feel like I’m not capable of something so taking myself for a spin proves to me so much in a really short amount of time. It proves that my body is amazing and capable of powering me around. It proves that I have a good sense of direction and if I was to get a puncture (which happens a lot as I need new tyres) I can prove to myself that I am capable of fixing it.
What is it about bikepacking adventures that you love?
I love spending the night away from home with only the things I can carry on my bike. The simplicity of only having what you need. I love sleeping in a bivvy and going to sleep staring at the stars. I love going fast down techy singletracks. I love stopping for pitstops and the ritual of sharing your snacks with others.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I read about your Merino Base Layer in an article on advntr.cc written by Vedangi Kulharni. In a brilliant twist of fate, I realised Vedangi lived near me in Bournemouth so I asked her if she wanted to come on a bike ride with me. Vee is now our club steward of the Off Road Club ensuring we stay true to our mission. You could say FINDRA is responsible for our friendship!
I recently bought the Marin Merino Cowl Neck top and I couldn’t be happier with it! I’ve been wearing it on our night rides and on our bivvy adventures. It’s comfy, effective and looks so good!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Look after number 1.”
Globally, 75% of unpaid work is done by women. Caregiving often means that women don’t get the time to pursue recreational activities or centre their enjoyment.
You can’t look after or provide for anyone else unless your are in a good state of mind so intentionally carving out time for yourself is so crucial. I recommend reading Untamed by Glenan Doyle. It’s an amazing book that encourages you to centre yourself and not to settle.
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?
Find a bunch of women to ride your bike with. There’s something about the energy of a group of women exploring the world on a bike that is just magical. We have tips as to how you can find rad women to ride with on our instagram account:
Thanks Nic, nice to meet you!
The Bounty by Caroline Alexander
My favourite book is The Bounty by Caroline Alexander. I have read it so many times and still can’t believe it’s a true story.
It has everything I love in it. Historical facts, adventure, boats and excellent characters. There are so many accounts of this story but I find this book to be a balanced account of both Bligh and Fletcher’s involvement. I highly recommend it!
Sharma is Founder of The Stack World, a network that connects mission driven women. Sharma’s passion for women finding economic independence really helped us shape the New Forest Off Road Club’s mission.
My favourite trail to cycle is the ridge line from Swanage down to Old Harry Rocks in The Purbecks. You feel like you are going to roll into the sea and it is magical! The Bankes Arms offers you a pub pit stop at the end too so it’s a win win!
Concrete Schoolyard by Jurassic 5
Nic mentioned the exploring the Jurassic Coast in her post, so with a tenuous link, let’s have this laid back summer tune from Jurassic 5’s 1998 debut album.