Rapha announced the 2021 Pennine Rally, a self-supported bikepacking ride, predominantly off-road with 520 kilometres (323 miles) of riding and around 9,000 metres (29,500 ft) of climbing. The challenge was always meant to be about exploration and understanding everything that the north had to offer, it was most definitely not a race.
This was the perfect challenge for me to take on a fully self-sufficient trip that pushed my limits but also allowed me to explore some of my favourite parts of the world more carefully. I roped in my fellow Steezy friends Alice and Taylor and also had Dalila coming along with us for the first two days. We were ready to take on the challenge at what we later called 'Steezy pace'! Taking in the views, eating all the food and camping whenever we could. Dalila bumped into us on the first day and we managed to rope her in with good vibes, hot food and a warm bed on the second night but her hotel stop in Burnley meant we lost her to the horizon on day three.
The route was beautiful, meandering well off the beaten track from Edinburgh to Manchester. There were places for wild swims, wild camps and wild descents all whilst taking in the most beautiful scenery that the UK has to offer.
We loved every minute of it, but it was a lot more challenging that first expected. Make no mistake, this is not cat-litter gravel. With lots of chunky boulders, harsh cobbles and steep climbs it takes a lot from you. But every difficult moment is always rewarded with something. If I were to repeat the route, I would either pack lighter (for those steep sections) or take my time and fully explore all the places that we sped past and wished we could stop at.
The route was mainly based on the Second City Divide, devised by Luke and Christian from Outdoor Provisions. Check out that route, which links Manchester to Glasgow here: komoot.com/collection/898918/rough-stuff-of-the-north-second-city-divide