‘Bikepacking home for Christmas’ — it sounds like something out of a Hallmark holiday movie, right? Well, this year, two friends in the UK are taking this story fit for the screen and turning it into reality. Claire Davis and Rosie Baxendine will be biking the Second City Divide, from Glasgow to Manchester, over the 19th-23rd of December. Long-time cycling pals, the pair will be doing the ride in festive attire and are planning to make it home just in time to deck the halls with their families. Relying on the kindness of strangers to help provide shelter along the way, they’ll also be raising money for charities near and dear to their hearts.
The two friends are both active Breeze ride leaders and when they discovered there was a bike trail linking Glasgow and Manchester, they couldn’t resist. The trip was Rosie’s idea but as Claire explained to We Love Cycling, “we both wanted to ride it and thought, ‘why wait for the spring when we can ride it for Christmas?’”
There was a little apprehension in the initial planning stages and Claire explained that she didn’t think they would go through with such a crazy plan. But then Surly offered to supply a bike for the trip, the Midnight Special, and as she said, “I really couldn’t turn down the opportunity to test the bike out on a holiday adventure.”
Claire claims that she’s not naturally a very sporty person but that she loves the outdoors and cycles as a way to escape to remote areas, “for me cycling is all about the journey, so I love to do long distances and visit a lot of places along the way.” Proving that she is certainly one to jump in with both feet, two years ago —despite never having done a long-distance cycling trip — she booked flights to Hanoi, Vietnam, where she bought a mountain bike and cycled 3,000 km to Bangkok. She told us: “I was solo and just making up the route as I went along. It was a challenging ride, crossing 4 countries in extreme temperatures, but it was an amazing experience I would love to repeat.”
Clearly no stranger to life on a bike, this time the trip she’s doing is especially near and dear to her heart. She’ll be raising money for the Lupus UK charity. Claire explained that a few years ago, her cousin Katie died at a young age from Lupus, after fighting for years. “She is my inspiration to try and live my life to the fullest and to constantly challenge myself and find out what my limits are.”
Claire also thinks of Katie when she needs a little extra motivation to push herself through a challenge, “when I find myself in a difficult situation or think that I can’t push any harder, I’m reminded of Katie and others who are faced with struggles in daily life. I remind myself to be thankful that I am able to do the things that I do.”
With the motivation to raise money so they can help others, the women will also be keeping their spirits high and hearts warm by embracing the festive theme. “We are planning on decorating the bikes, and ourselves,” Claire explained. “A friend is making me some wearable LED Christmas lights to make sure I am nice and visible and I have made waterproof fork bags out of Christmas stockings.”
Making the most of the short days they’ll be facing, the pair will be setting out early and will be putting in some long days to avoid getting cold when they stop. “The weather will potentially be our biggest challenge and it’s still a bit early to predict what we will get.”
Hoping that the folks they meet along the way will also be feeling the holiday spirit, they’ll be mostly self-supported but are also relying on help from various online groups that they belong to. They’ll be carrying sleeping and bivvy bags and are grateful they’ve also had some offers of barns and stables they can use. As Claire said: “A lot of the support we will be getting will come from strangers, which we feel really encompasses the true spirit of Christmas.”
They plan to celebrate their arrival in Manchester with a hot shower and a bottle of bubbly before heading off to spend Christmas Eve with their families. Not keen to take much of a break from her bike, Claire assured us that she’ll be back on wheels by Boxing Day, as she’s planning to complete the Rapha Festive 500.