Hi Sara! So, tell us, how did you get into cycling?
I’ve always ridden a bike as a means of transport and at one point – when my self-esteem was really low as a teenager – I realised that this is THE sport I really like doing and so I bought myself a road bike and slowly got into it. I have never considered myself athletic, even today, but I know that my body can display the endurance it needs for my adventures on the bike, and that I still enjoy it.
What cycling community do you belong to?
I don’t belong to one, as I have been living in different places and ridden different bikes (road, gravel, touring). But with the gravELLE club I’m trying to grow a female community here in Bern, Switzerland.
Tell us more about the gravELLE Club! How & why did you start this and how can women join?
The gravELLE club is still very young. I was certainly inspired by the first edition of the Komoot Women’s Torino Nice Rally, which I took part in, in October 2021. It was one of the best weeks of my life on the bike surrounded by 25 like-minded and really inspirational women. When I was back home after this adventure I knew that I had to start gravELLE club and try to give other women the opportunity to experience what I had, maybe just on a slightly smaller and more local scale.
I wanted to create a kind of safe space for female riders, who on the one hand don’t have much gravel and bikepacking experience yet, and on the other hand might be super experienced but want to keep to themselves from time to time. Having talked to other riders I knew that there is a demand for regularly organised gravel rides and smaller bikepacking adventures for women in the Bern area, where I live. The promise from Komoot to support me in my plans with the gravELLE club was very motivating and so I started with regular rides in spring 2022 and in summer we even had our first two smaller bikepacking overnighters. In August, the gravELLE club x Komoot Women’s Weekender followed; a 3-day bikepacking tour through Engadin, the most beautiful region in Switzerland.
Anyone who identifies as a woman, has some basic fitness and some sort of off-road bike is welcome to join our events. Our main channel to inform about upcoming events is certainly instagram @gravelleclub, but we also have a whatsapp group that is constantly growing.
What are the most memorable and meaningful experiences cycling has given you?
The most memorable experience cycling has given me is getting to meet all the different and wonderful people I can now call my friends.
The most meaningful thing I am still learning through cycling is to be grateful for my body, which is an insanely reliable and tough companion: it almost never lets me down and tirelessly goes on so many crazy adventures with me. It doesn’t deserve me constantly nagging it and being unhappy with how I look.
What has been your favourite cycling adventure?
That’s really hard to tell, there have been so many, from one-day adventures in Switzerland, week-long holidays on the bike in Europe, to a seven month bikepacking trip in Asia. I think cycling through really remote areas in Kyrgyzstan, riding the Leh-Manali Highway in the Indian Himalaya and doing the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal by bike are surely contenders.
What advice would you give women who want to go off-road?
1. Do it! No matter what kind of bike you ride, what clothes you wear and how fit you are!
2. Find someone to join you, or if there is such a thing in your area, a group of like-minded people, because it’s usually more fun together and you can cheer each other on and encourage each other.
3. Stick with it! The great thing about off-road cycling is that you can progress at many different levels and constantly move out of your comfort zone, from the condition of the surface to length of the ride to number of metres of elevation.
What does participating in events like bikepacking challenges mean to you and why do you think women should give them a try?
At organised bikepacking events, you as a participant usually benefit from a certain infrastructure and an already existing route that you “just have to ride”. That makes it much easier to go on an adventure, of course. In addition, depending on the concept of the challenge, you will meet many new like-minded people. This is especially attractive for beginners, but even as someone who has been cycling for a longer time you benefit from the lively exchange and the community, which is why I find challenges like this super and recommend them to everyone.
What do you love about IRIS cycling apparel?
That it’s a woman owned brand. And that this woman really knows what she is talking about. And that she loves colours and has a superb sense of style.