Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down this week with author and adventurer, Markus Stitz to discuss his new book, Great British Gravel Rides. Markus explores gravel cycling in Great Britain through the eyes of local gravel cyclists to discover amazing routes throughout the region.
Gravel Cyclist has shared plenty of articles from Markus over the years, be sure to check those out below:
- Where Roads End – A Slow Journey on the North Coast 500 in Scotland: by Markus Stitz
- Explore your Boundaries: A Markus Stitz & Mark Beaumont short film – the joys of winter cycling around Scotland’s Capital
- Grenzerfahrungen: A film about a Bikepacking journey inside the former Iron Curtain
- Bikepacking & Photos inside the former Iron Curtain: Part One, by Markus Stitz
- Bikepacking & Photos inside the former Iron Curtain: Part Two, by Markus Stitz
- Bikepacking & Photos inside the former Iron Curtain: Part Three, by Markus Stitz
- Wild About Bikepacking: A 496km Route connecting the Argyll Island of Mull, Jura, Islay & Bute
- Explore Your Boundaries: Documentary – Gravel Routes following the council boundaries of Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Falkirk & Glasgow
- Built to Last: A new film from Bikepacking Scotland set in the Cateran Ecomuseum
- Unhurried – A film celebrating the experience of bikepacking Scotland coast to coast on the John Muir Way
Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)
[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: This week on the podcast. We welcome Marcus. Stets the author of great British gravel rides, a book of 25 routes throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
. That brings us through the varied terrain in great Britain, through the eyes of community members throughout the aisle each route was designed by a gravel cyclists from that region.
In an attempt to get the best. Gravel routes across England, Scotland and Wales. I enjoyed the conversation a lot and i enjoyed the approach to the book and i hope you will too
Before we get started. I need to thank this week. Sponsor truck travel and the Girona gravel bike tour.
Trek has been offering the Girona gravel bike tour for a number of years. And you may remember an episode I recorded with them about Yorona and what a gem it is for cycling in general, but more specifically gravel. I’ve been hoping and wanting to go over there myself for a number of years.
And I’m excited to say that I’m going to be joining the November 6th trip. And I’d like you to join me. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Take a step back. You can do this. Come join me and ride gravel bikes in Girona trucks. Got everything organized for us from an, a wonderful hotel, right in the center of Girona as well as access to track bicycles to explore the countryside, we’ve got local guides that have designed amazing routes for us. So we’re going to sample everything the region has to offer in this trip.
I can’t wait to get over there in November and I’m hoping you’ll be able to join me too. It’ll be so good to paddle with some of you listeners and members of the ridership community. I know we’ve got a handful of people signed up already and I would love to fill the hotel with people we know and love.
As a special bonus, truck’s going to give anybody who registers via the podcast or the ridership or free handlebar bag with their trip. So make sure when you go visit Trek, travel.com search Jarana gravel bike tour and mentioned the podcast during your registration process. There’s a number of dates this year remaining, but I will be on the November 6th trip.
So I’m hoping we can shape the demand and drive you to that trip. We’ll have a great time. And I look forward to seeing you there. Remember that’s www.trektravel.com. Search Girona gravel bike tour. With that said let’s jump right into my conversation with marcus about the great british gravel rides Marcus welcome to the show.
[00:02:28] Markus: Hello.
[00:02:30] Craig Dalton: It’s good to connect with you. I was super excited when I caught wind of this great, great Britain, gravel rides book that you penned and excited to learn a little bit more about your background as a cyclist, and what led to your passion to take on this project and do a great job kind of going throughout Britain and laying out some amazing roots for people.
[00:02:51] Markus: Yeah. It’s like, it’s been an amazing project to work on and especially like, cuz I guess people who live in Britain have, you know, have a better idea of the country. But if you, if you’re outside the country, it’s such a diverse place. Like it’s, it’s, you know, from north to south, I think I’ve been to many countries in the world and it’s like, it’s, it’s difficult to find a country, which is, which is gotten so many different places too, right.
In terms of the conditions, but also the people. So my idea was really to kind of look at the community. With all the different shapes and forms it comes and, and, and do a book about it and, and recommend roots to people. Pretty much as an inspiration.
[00:03:35] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think that was a super interesting approach and look forward to getting into it with. Before we get started. Why don’t we give the listener just a little bit about an idea about your background as a cyclist.
[00:03:46] Markus: Yeah. So I, I think I generally came to cycling. I, I started cycling as a child. I grew up in Germany and you kind of know I’m cycling as default, I think. And I I’d never been in any cycling clubs and I wouldn’t call myself like a keen cyclist when I was a child. And then pretty much picked up a mountain bike in, in my years at the university, cuz I lived in a place which had like pretty extensive for is a bit like what you possibly.
Which comes really close to north American travel or the idea what we have, like big metal roads and, you know, loads of pine fors and all pretty straightforward. So it was a quite great location to, to be based and then do that. And then I finished university and went to New Zealand and. Think that spare really picked up the cycle, touring adventure, cycling mountain biking buck spent two years in Wellington, brilliant location.
New Zealand in general is, is just a, a fascinating place to ride and is also one of those places like. There’s. Yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s so much outdoor possibilities and you, you know, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t come to New Zealand. I would presume if you want like big city life or you want all the belts and visits of massive cities like New York or LA or whatever.
I think I really like the, the mixture between having an outdoorsy life, but also still having a bit of a city lifestyle. Wellington is a capital store. Yeah. We enjoyed it. There did loads of cycling over there. And then. In my time in Wellington, I also decided in some shape or form I want to do around the world trip cycling around the world.
And the initial idea was, was just a circus. So I finished my time in in Wellington and moved back to Europe. I moved to Edinburg. And while I was in Edinburgh, I had this idea, or maybe I could cycle from Edinburgh to Dunedin. Dunedin is one of the Southern cities in New Zealand. Then it’s the old name for Edinburg.
So there’s interesting connection there. A lot of settled in that part of New Zealand. So like I could a trip from Edburg to dun and then. At some stage, I think that developed further to say, look, if I’m doing half the world anyway, I might as well do the other as well.
[00:05:57] Craig Dalton: And when you, when you were approaching that Marcus, like, were you thinking at that point, like pedaling around the world is something I specifically want to do or were you more, I just wanna travel and experience different cultures and different parts of the world.
[00:06:13] Markus: yeah, I think it’s a travel aspect, which is which, which was the most important one. Like, and that’s like, I think this is coming. I think if you look at all my work so far, like I’m I’m, I would certainly say like, for me, cycling is an amazing tool to connect with people. Like if you look at. Any cycling community.
It doesn’t matter which one you’re looking at. I think they’re all slightly different, but I think what they all have in common people who ride bike, speak to each. This is, this is I thing it’s, it’s like, and they either speak about bikes or you, you know, you just happen to have the same mode of transport.
You talk about something else. And, and, and, and for me, that was the important one. I, you know, I was thinking about whether I’m gonna go this. I don’t think there’s, well, there is no single speed record for going around the world and I could have set that record. Like it would’ve been an easy task to do because there isn’t such a thing.
But that wasn’t important for me that never played in my mind. I was just like, you know, it will be, you know, it’d be an interesting thing to do, but it would take away from the trip. So for me around the world trip was to meet interesting people. I met so many. Amazing people in New Zealand simply by being friends with a couple of guys that worked in a bike shop and they kind of introduced me to the cycling community in New Zealand.
And when I back went back to, to Scotland, it was kind of the same. It was interesting. I came back to Scotland at night. Initially, didn’t bring my bikes over to Edinburg and it was the first thing I missed. I was just like, I want my bikes here. There’s such a convenient way to get around, but also to make friends if you place, that was the main, that was the main consideration.
So yeah, it was, it was like, and is possibly, I guess a lot of people ask why singles speak? Why, why do you take a singles speak bike? And. I guess the most important reason for that one is you don’t have to, you don’t really need to care about your bike. Like, you know, it’s got a chain which needs replacing every now and then there’s no F around the bike.
It was a pretty straightforward built. You know, everything was rock solid. Most of them were parts were steel. So, you know, like even, even transporting the bike by plane was super easy. Cuz it just Chuck it in a box. There’s no area that bends or any, any other expensive part. So yeah, I think that was the, that is the kind of, and yeah, that comes across very clearly in the book right now as well.
Like I’m, I’m always, there’s always people first, you know, it’s about. Is about the community and, and how I connect with them. And, you know, cycling is great. I really enjoy cycling. But I would, I don’t think I’d be enjoying just the cycling bit as much as, as I do with the people,
[00:08:58] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a big element that everybody talks about with our enjoyment of gravel. It’s twofold. It’s one just sort of getting off the beaten path and two, the community and the friendliness of it all. I think it’s just at least today it exceeds any other form. Any other side of the sport of cycling?
I don’t think you just, you don’t get the camaraderie that you do on the gravel side of.
[00:09:20] Markus: Yeah. Yeah. And this, I mean, just on my, it’s interesting to look back on around the world trip, cuz I was on the mountain bike. So I was on a SERE, which is, you know, it’s a hard tail. You can, yeah, it’s a typical, hard to mountain bike built. Basically. You could put some, I didn’t have suspension forks, but it, you know, you could write a bit of suspension fork as well.
But if I look back now and interestingly enough, I went Toor in Kansas. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t aware of, well, now I’m going, but back then dirty. And I wasn’t really aware of that and impor and called Hedman and he introduced me to the whole Yeah, the Kansas travel community. It was awesome. It was amazing.
I think there’s still a, we picture in one of the pups of me and sitting, there was really sore on that.
Kansas is flat a pancake and it isn’t it’s, it’s just, that’s a trade lie because the east of Kansas is very, very. The for the west, you get the, you know, the, the, the fluter it gets, but yeah, cycling along the east of is no piece of cake at all, but it’s just the kinda thing. And so I kind got introduced to the idea of, I heard, you know, I had heard about bikes, but you could, you know, you might as well argue that I’ve a bike around the world is just, just to different bars.
They have Jones’s bars and instead of bars, like, and yeah, it’s the, I think it’s the least. There’s no real conventions yet. There’s no, there isn’t really anything that you kind of, you don’t have to have a certain thing to, to identify as Scrabble, cyclists, but you know, and that, that’s the nice thing about it.
It’s a bit like. It’s like, for me, it feels like I would’ve been, I, I, I would’ve loved to be there when mountain biking developed in Mo county. And, you know, kind of was literally about people kind of riding around on bikes, having a good time
[00:11:27] Craig Dalton: Yeah.
[00:11:27] Markus: doing some, doing some crazy things and not really caring about conventions whatsoever.
And I think we are mid travel cycling. It’s nice to be in the middle. You know, I think if I think things keep coming back, it’s like the early days of the tour farms as well, which I, I basically think later foundations of what you now call ultra cycling. You know, again, there’s people, you know, people just having a good time being, you know, also being ambitious about thing.
And you can, you can, you can say the thing about mountain biking as well. You know, those things develop. And I think we’re there with travel cycling at the moment, which is great to be right in the thick of it. No doubt. I think it will at some stage diversify as well. You know, we’ve got suspension forks.
Now we basically have mountain bike tires now onto level bikes, but that’s okay. You know, I think it’s, you know, this is, this is the evolution where things go, but just being there right there right now is quite.
[00:12:27] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it’s certainly one of the impetus behind this podcast, beginnings was it was just such an exciting time. I thought in the sport of cycling and someone, as you know, I’d been around cycling my whole life yet. I still made mistakes when I bought my first gravel bike and realized like, oh, I didn’t set it up the way I should, or I didn’t make the choices I should.
And I was like, if I’ve been around bikes and worked in bike shops and worked in the bike industry and I still managed to screw up this Purchas. There’s a lot of people and a lot of questions and fast forward three years, I, I still find myself having interesting conversations with product designers and seeing interesting innovations and new options that just allow people to personalize this equipment to wherever they call home or whatever they’re intending to do.
[00:13:11] Markus: Yeah. And, and I think it is, I think it, it has made pretty big leaps as well. If I, I think one thing for me, which sticks out is tires. Like if I, if I look back in. So I , I think if you wanna put an official day to it, when I started travel, riding was in 2017 when I had a LER and mapped the first bike packing route in Scotland.
And I know back then, I mean, your choice of tires was the 30 yard, the bike. And I could have gone for a Schal G one old round and there were a few other. Tires kicking around on the market. But if you look at right now, just 12 alone has seven different travel tires. Whoa. You know, and, and not speaking about any of the mountain bike tires, you can now, you know, if you look at a fast rolling waste tire for a mountain bike, you can stick that on a co bike these days cuz the, you know, the clearance is wide enough to, to ride those.
And so I think this is where you see like how much. You know how quickly the market or the, the, the industry has progressed in, in, in those kind of aspects. So a choice is, is, is huge right now. And yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s great. But I also think, you know, I think it’s interesting because I think one thing the book of working on the book has kind of like forced me to do, and I had a keen interest as well.
It’s just kind of, and, and this is, I think this is where Britain is really interesting is to kinda look back to. You know, what, what you can now call pu writing, where, where did it start? And if you look at Britain, like it started in the 1920s here, cause there’s been the rough. So there’s been an organization called the rough stuff fellowship.
And that that’s, if you wanna sum it up, is people starting to ride bikes? Off the beaten track in, in rails, in England and Scotland and various things. And you know, back then, there weren’t really any Tomic roads. I don’t think, you know, I don’t think they had the intention. Like there, there weren’t deliberately riding off road, but there they did ride them off road because there was literally no other network.
To use there weren’t any Timex cycling paths. You know, there were a few roads back then, but not nearly as much as you have these days and they just simply rode their bikes wherever they’re placed to go. And I, I think like, I have that in the introduction of my book for me, that’s kind of like where it all originates.
And then you look at Australia, you look at the Overlands who, again, like this is like possibly the very early stages of bike, you know, who went from a to B I think it’s tricky, cuz I think what we have now is modern crab bikes. They are definitely much more advanced I’m riding at the moment. I’m riding a 1970s club Butler bike.
So it’s one of those bikes, you know, that, that people potentially took when there were rough stuffing and. It’s awesome. Fun to ride. I’m really enjoying it for a challenge, but you also see, you know, if you’ve got a modern gravel bike gear, I mean, this is much more forgiving. Like I was talking to a friend about that, this breaks, for example, whoa.
Like they made such a difference, especially if you ride in Scotland, you know, if you’ve got wind breaks and you’re going down the long downhill, you have to. Three times on the downhill, because otherwise you just, your, your ribs are afterwards. So, you know, things like this, which I found is super like you, I think the concept, I think there’s also two, there’s interesting.
Two things to clever writing. I think there’s clever riding as a concept of off. And then there’s bikes, you know, which. Possibly are what we, what we have now as clever bikes, truck bars, you know, a geometry, which is possibly closer to a road bike than it is to a mountain bike. Tie with, I don’t think you can define that any longer, because it’s been going up and up and, you know, I don’t think we’re far off having, I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get the tweet inch tiles on the bike we might do.
Who knows, but I think it’s kind of in my book really much picking up on the idea of travel writing as a concept. It’s why, when I, when people were asking me, well, like, oh, do I need to have a travel bike? Then it was like, Take whatever bike you think is suitable off road. Bear in mind that the people who will be reading this will potentially be riding this on a 45 millimeter tire to bar bike.
So, you know, there shouldn’t be any, any severe to above or whatever in there. But if you ride that on a clever bike, or if you take your full as mountain bike or whatever bike, your, your thing is suit. Please do that. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna restrict anything to that concept.
[00:17:56] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I thought that I saw that note at the beginning of your book and I think that’s spot on. It’s like ride. What you have, gravel is more about the sensation, the community. Exploration, all these different ideas above and beyond the type of bike you actually are throwing a leg over.
[00:18:13] Markus: Yeah. Yeah. And this is, and yeah, and, and that, especially in Britain, this , there’s many terrains. You can ride your bike over,
[00:18:22] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So just finishing your, your sort of backstory, you finished the round of the world trip, and then obviously like you continue to be inspired by the sport. Of mountain biking and did some other big adventures.
[00:18:36] Markus: Yeah, I think that, so, I mean, if you look at my career, if you want to call it such, I’ve always been a person who’s been, I’ve been, always been inspired by many things. Like I, you know, I can’t, I didn’t have a straightforward career path. I did a multitude of things in my life. And when I came back from the round the world trip, but basically I had a, I had a decision to make what I’m gonna do right now.
Am I gonna go back to a nine to five? I never had a nine to five job as such, but, you know, am I gonna go back to to employment and let someone else paying my wages and I’ll do my fair bit, or am I gonna use all the experience I have from the, around the world trip? Cause I think what the around the world trip has really taught me is to.
You can take so much stuff out of a year on the bike, into, into the life afterwards, you know, it’s about leadership. It’s about decision making. It’s about adapting to new environ. And so I had all of, you know, all of that came with the trip. It wasn’t, it wasn’t just about riding a bicycle. And I felt like, you know, you can, it’s gonna be a tough one to start something new.
No doubt about that. But. I’m in a good position to be there. So I started working freelance and, and I have designed a route around Edinburg before I left the world. And the feedback for that was great. And I felt like, well, I’m just gonna up there and this, you know, try to establish myself as. Yeah, offering something else in a tourism industry, tourism back then in Scotland was basically bikes didn’t happen, you know, bike route.
Didn’t really happen either. And I thought like, you know, if I can, if I can make a living out of, of, of really pushing Scotland ahead in terms of cycling route and whatever, then that’d be a great thing. And my, my background before I was marketing so if you combine around the world, trip an interest in developing new roots and having the marketing background, because in the end of the day, You know, a roots only interesting if people know about it and, and actually write it, there’s nothing, nothing worse in designing a great route and no one knows about it and no people are not using it.
So I kind checked that all in one goal and then also found myself cause I wanted to have a little bit of financial acuity. So I accepted a two day a week marketing role at the book festival. Back then we we’re going back then. And with the idea of writing it, because I always thought like, cool.
If I ever gonna write a book, it will be, would be quite good to have some, some connections in the book trade and in the book world and kinda do that. So that job paid to rent and the, the other work was kind of like, whatever focus I make that direction is gonna be great. And those were the early days of bike in Scotland and, and yeah, that’s pretty much progressed since 2017 and yeah.
I don’t know, my, my life’s taken some interesting turns. I think right now I’m sitting here possibly quite a few people know my films, which is, which is great when I started that. I would’ve never thought that I’ve written the book now I’ve worked with several councils and destination marketing organizations in Scotland to really help them to understand cycling and understand cycle tubing and then, and developing products for them that they can actually put to people and say, look, if you wanna come to this part of Scotland, this is what you can do.
And we help you doing this. And, and that’s kind of in a nutshell, this with bike packing Scotland, and this it’s not just. It’s not just mood planning. It’s not just filmmaking. It’s not just bike, you know, it’s like, there’s a mixture of, of all the different things and yeah, it’s been a, it’s been a great journey.
[00:22:13] Craig Dalton: Amazing. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the book. So you, you, you’ve sort of endeavored to kind of cover Scotland, England, and Wales, and give gravel riders a view of the entire country, the landscape through not only your eyes, but the eyes of, of very diverse set of athletes, which, as I mentioned earlier, I thought was a really refreshing approach.
Because one of the things in, in my mind, these roots that we find online, they lack personality, right? You’re getting a GPX file and you’re, you’re seeing where something goes, but it’s very hard to understand what that’s going to feel like. It’s very hard to get data on, you know, what kind of bike tires do I need?
What kind of equipment do I need for these. Or even more importantly, like what are the communities gonna be like when I go through them? And, you know, part that’s part of the reason I started a community called the ridership, because I just, I wanted an online forum to be able to connect with riders around the world and just get that real world beta, you know, so if I’m going to Scotland, I wanna talk to someone who’s ridden these roads and trails and just give you a few of the inside tips about what’s going on.
So I’d love for you to just kind of talk about. Why you decided to approach it that way and what it meant to you and how you connected with the, the numerous athletes that helped you design roots throughout the country.
[00:23:34] Markus: Yeah, so I think there’s this, this, there there’s two basic thoughts I had on the back of my head when I started researching a book, I think the nice thing about clever writing that it seems to be attracting much more women into this sport than, than other. Than other sports in general do. I, I do think that road cycling, although this is changing and it’s a good thing to see it changing, but I still feel that road cycling is such a male dominated domain of cycling, you know, and, and, and mountain biking is more diverse.
I think by its very nature, but you know, still I was looking at many cycling magazines and thought like, why is there, why is there always a male, a man in his forties with white shoulders looking angry on the form of the cover? You know, it’s just, it didn’t really like, it, it didn’t appeal to me. And I felt like, you know, I think I, I think it’s particularly hard and, and, and I guess it’s the same in the us.
We’ve seen. We’ve seen cycling, attracting quite a lot of new people, thankfully. And there was mainly two to, to, to the COVID restrictions and people, all of a sudden recognized I can’t do anything, but I can still jump on a bicycle and have a good time. So it was possibly one of the, it was one of the good things coming out of a pandemic, but.
I always feel like we didn’t really cater for the people who are new to the sport. And, and, and we also didn’t really cater for, for, for people of a different ethnic background. It’s, you know, is just like, I, I think it was always a bit too narrow and one thing I’ve found on around the world trip.
That’s the cool thing. If you go to different countries, you see how a diverse cycling actually is, you know, how like how, how, how it switches. And that’s one thing I wanted to have in there. And then the other thing I was really keen on as well is. It’s public transport. Like you gets a really bad reputation in Britain most of the times, and it’s nowhere near ideal.
I was, I was born in Germany. And my girlfriend dips in Norway. So there’s this, this, this, this country is in the world, which do much, much better at that, but it, I also think that. We’re still doing okay. In this country. so I felt like, right. Okay. I want people to get to those places, ideally by train or by bus.
So they don’t have to own a car. If they own a car. That’s fine. There’s nothing, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be a pre-condition of riding your bike, having to get to those places by car. I want to have a nice mixture of mood. So I want some easy ones in there. I want also some really gnarly ones in there because you know, whoever’s gonna buy the book.
They’ll be at different stages in their cycling thing cycling career or whatever you wanna call it. And I also want to have landscapes in there, which are where you representative of Britain as such a diverse country. And you can kind of imagine there’s a lot of logistic. Kind of like, so I came up with this metrics of kind of like, ideally.
This is kind of what I feel the book should be looked like. And then, and then, and then I feel like, well, I know a few people already Jenny and mark Beaumont and a couple of other people featured in the book. So this is gonna be a great starting point, but then I really want to reach out to people, which I don’t know, you know, but to wide travel byte is the only.
Or not even ride travel bikes, you know, they, you happen to be riding off road. I would ly keep it as, as, as, as far as that. And yeah. And then with the help of, of My connections with the sponsors of the book, I was just building this list of people and then the other, I think the additional challenge was also that I kind of needed to slot them in.
So I did the book research within other projects as well. So yeah, and, and, and it, it turned out to work pretty well. Like I was, I was fascinated by the thing and I guess the, the big takeaway for me was. It kind of felt a little bit being transferred back to the process of the round, the world trip, you know, I think around the world trip.
Very much. So the, I, I did ride my bike during the day. And then in the evening I was really looking forward to speak to people, have a conversation. And, and the nice thing about this book research was so there were some people I knew and you know, we rode our bikes together and, you know, it felt like, you know, being out on a great ride with a, with a friend, you unseen for ages.
And then there were the new people in the book, which I didn’t know much about it. And it, that was quite as well because, you know, Takes five to 10 minutes. And then you kind of know roughly what you wanna talk about. You know, you wanna talk about the roots and, and the nice thing about this poetry. It really felt like they are taking me on their favorite roots.
And they’re really showing me their neck of the roots, not from a tourist perspective, but from a local’s perspective, this is where a white. This is a cool cafe. You should be going to cuz they’ve got amazing priorities. This is the proper we should be stopping at. And, and I think that made the whole experience so much richer.
And, and ultimately also I think for the reader, you know, they, I think one thing I always miss like not so much cycling guidebooks, but if you look at places guide books like lonely planet or, you know, one of the big ones. I think with lonely planet, you used to get a really authentic experience.
You know, it is debatable what the world authentic actually means, but you don’t get these days. I don’t think so. You know, you’d be shuttled into a range of accommodation and some places, and it’s a bit hit or miss some places are good. Some of them. Not so much. , you know, and I think with this approach, I was kind of my, my, my pitch to people was just like, show me around your negative woods.
Take me to the cool places. You know, like take me around as you would have a great ride that it is for you. And that also came up with very different approaches. You know, I had guy who speaked guy Kek. He’s super fast so we kinda went fulling to the, to the tee shop, had an iced tea, and then we went fulling again.
It was great. You know, it was like, there was a thing, whereas there were other approaches where everything was a bit slower and, and a bit more relaxed and, and yeah. And yeah, I really lost the process. It was just really personable.
[00:30:09] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it’s super interesting. I remember in the early days of the pandemic, when a lot of the big gravel events in the United States were getting canceled, one in particular, put a call out to kind of friends and people in the community to do a virtual event on the day of their race. And what I thought was the output of that exercise is that all around the country, you have these routes created by people who absolutely love the sport and absolutely love where they live.
So it was just basically, I described it as sort of a, a love letter to the gravel cycling community
[00:30:43] Markus: yeah.
[00:30:44] Craig Dalton: this route. And it sounds like you got a lot of that out of this experience and this process that you entered for this.
[00:30:51] Markus: Yeah. Yeah. And it was like, I mean, the pandemic pandemic played. I mean, it played a key role in the book because it was, I mean, the whole idea was, was based out of, I don’t know, I’ve stopped counting how many lockdowns we went through in the process. And cause I initially thought like I didn’t. I wouldn’t say I had an idea of a book in my head and when the whole thing kicked off, I was just like, maybe this is exactly the right time to do a book.
Because for me writing a book was always, there was always taking, there was always something else that was taking priority. Cuz it’s a big daunting project, you know? It’s like I spend about it. Yeah. Like a good part of a year doing this book. If. Count in all the things and it’s, you know, it, it does take, especially the writing.
It really takes you. You really need to sit down and kind of write. I’m just gonna concentrate on that. And it’s, you know, it’s just like, it’s, it’s easier to do smaller projects, no doubt. But yeah, when it all kicked off, I was like, okay, if there’s something good about this, You possibly find time to do this now because you’ll be less distracted by other stuff you can’t, there’s no such thing.
And, and also when you, when I, I think the interesting thing about bikes is that when we were sitting in our living rooms or in, you know, in the best case scenario or with our garden and having a bit of nature around us . All the bikes, all the other bikes are quite difficult to ride from your front door.
You can ride a road bike if you happen to live in a place that has some nice roads and is not too busy. You can ride a mountain bike if you happen to live next to mountain bike trails. But. I would say for the majority of people, like there was always something, you know, for roads, either the roads are too busy or the mountain bike twelves they’re okay.
But you, you know, they’re not great. And with travel bikes in a way, the travel bike is a, is a perfect pandemic bike because you can take it off on roads. So you can ride all of those mountain bike trails, which are okay to ride on a gravel bike. But you possibly get a little bit bored on your full assess.
and you can ride those cycle paths and you can ride those quiet roads, but, you know, it’s just, it’s such a, it’s such a lovely mixture. Like you can get so much out of, of gravel bikes without. You know, having to push for one thing or the other. And, and that became very clear. And then there’s one, one interesting story in the book.
And the from Trumper cycles who basically had this idea of building a wooden travel bike, and the idea kind of got shelved initially. And then when lockdown kicked off, that was basically what he focused on and came up with this beautiful piece of work. And, and is all of those little stories I tried to, you know, I think we are all getting a little bit tired of what happened in the last two to three years and you know, it come of a dire consequences for some people as well.
But I also. If, if you’re looking the positives to take out of like being forced to reconnect with nature, being really seeing the value that if it all fails, you can still go out there and have a bit of an adventure. And even if it’s, I dunno, 10 kilometers away from home, that’s, what’s coming to quite clearly in the book.
And, and that was an interesting thing as well.
[00:34:19] Craig Dalton: As you thought about the book. And obviously there was a, there was this notion of guide book as a concept, even though you strayed away from that and made it much more personal, but as you thought about great Britain, And across Scotland, England and Wales, presumably you had some notions of like, these are, must have areas that I need to cover.
My question is how much of that drove? What ended up in the book versus people you got connected with and the roots that they were saying, you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta put this route in the book.
[00:34:51] Markus: It was, yeah. So I knew Scotland. Well, you know, and I there’s, obviously there’s some, there’s, there’s some bits of Scotland I really want to have featured in there. So I think Scotland, if you look at it it was. It was a bit like looking around my personal environment and you know, this is a cool place to write who do I know in that place?
And, you know, do they fit in there? For the other parts of Britain, it was pretty much applying canvas, you know, I and and I think this is, this is, this is quite interesting. I guess there was one another. Bit of a guiding principle behind it is like I’m. If you look at all my work in the UK especially in Scotland, I’m a, think I’m a firm believer in that.
The best places to cycle are actually the places that don’t get a lot of tourism that are not overwhelmed by people. Because I, I think. Like the popularity of some glaciers, especially in the last five years with channels like Instagram and TikTok and whatever. Like, I, I, I could name a few people in Scotland places in Scotland.
I wouldn’t want to travel to these days because they are just like, It’s for me, it’s not an authentic version of what Scotland is. Like. It’s a very fabricated and, you know, kind of like influencer kind of based version of what the country is like. And, and, and my, especially in Scotland, my vision, my, my picture of Scotland has always been a very different one, you know, a country which has super friendly people who are actually really, really grateful about you being in a.
And, you know, visiting them, whatever. And the other thing I also felt like we, I, I, I do think, you know, I was looking at, so where are people actually living in the UK and, and you will often not find London or Milton Keens or Newcastle upon. In a guidebook because they’re big cities and I think your vision of a country to travel to.
So would someone who travels to put and necessarily travel to Newcast possibly not. You know, would they, would they choose London for riding a bike? Maybe not. you know, so I thought like, I want to have some, some, I want to have some odd places in there. You know, I think Oakwood around London is amazing.
Cause you know, this is, this is where like people sit on top of each other. This is exactly the place where people need to go out, have an adventure.
[00:37:24] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I think that approach, it, it sort of serves two masters, right? It, it, one inspires people in London of this idea that they can be a gravel cyclist living in London. And the second thing is, you know, many travelers may find themselves in London. And see that as an opportunity to ride in a place that they never thought they could ride.
I, I think about in the United States, I always loathe going to Las Vegas. And then I learned about this mountain bike terrain rights out outside of Vegas that’s world class. And all of a sudden it’s like, okay, maybe I, I will accept a trip to Vegas because I can go sneak off and do that and get my feel of the outdoors and then experience the Zs of, of, of Las Vegas.
[00:38:05] Markus: Yeah. And I guess I think the approach that kind of like, I always found, like you can basically move to any place in the world, as long as you have cool people there, you can do stuff with, you know, you, you, you, you might be in the best place in the world to ride bikes. If there, if you know, if you don’t know anyone there and, and, and you, you can’t connect to the people.
I just, I just think the people are first and, you know, they’ll show you. I don’t know. And, and then I think you, you get, you get quite, and that’s the thing I love about clever riding, you know, you can. There isn’t really any, like, there is no such thing as a gravel trail in, especially in Britain, like we don’t have those big metal roads.
We have some of them, but is the majority of riding over here? it’s I would say varied. You know’s. Expect some odd things, you know, expect a bit of single trail expect the odd bit of road or whatever. You know, we, we don’t have hundreds and hundreds of miles of long, you know, really, really extensive travel roads as such.
But I think this is also that, that thing that makes it such a unique place, you know, and it’s also, it’s also, I. What you find when you come to here, it’s the oddity of the place, you know, that any place, the thing. And, and that really came through when I traveled to the places and rode there, especially the places I hadn’t really been beforehand. Everyone’s proud of the place they live in, which is quite like there hasn’t been a single place where people say, oh, you know, it’s a. You know, mixed? No, no, they were super, you know, they were, they were, they were, they were. Super passionate about the places they live and, you know, they accept it in some cases, you know, if you wanna go riding a new car, so yeah.
You need to go to some areas which are, you know, they’re not tourist destinations, but it’s, I always find it fascinating. Those are actually the places where you meet some really cool people, some, you know, and you get a really interesting experience. And, and, and that’s the thing I. And one thing for me on the political things, we had some, some pretty interesting years in this country of, of division people voted for and against Brexit and Scottish independence were.
So there was loads of stuff that, you know, where people. Pitched against each other. And I, I, I, so one thing for me that came, came across in the whole research is there’s actually so much more in the country that kind of unites people than it is that it’s. Dividing them, you know, and, and, and, and, and the culture over here, like wherever you wanna go, just find a pop , you’ll find some interesting people from all walks of life will happily share, you know, beer with you or whatsoever.
And, and, and, and, and kind of like, that’s the thing I loved. And there was only, it was, it was, for me, it was kind of back to the initial reasons why I moved to, to Britain, to Scotland. Cause people were welcoming. The love it. Good chat. The love to help you. And yeah, it’s, it’s all really welcoming. And that, that hopefully comes across in the book.
[00:41:24] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it definitely does. And again, super interesting approach. I’ll put a link to everything in the show notes that people can find this book and some of your other work. And I think it’s, it’s a fascinating way to explore what gravel looks like in great Britain and get to know a bunch of interesting people along the way.
[00:41:42] Markus: Yeah. Yeah. And and it’s also, I think one thing I’ve forgot, which is probably a bit of improvement. Like it’s, it is also, I’ve always found that like the people featured in the book, they’re also really happy to share their knowledge, you know? So, you know, just, yeah. Like yeah. If you happen to see them and meet them, speak to them
[00:42:02] Craig Dalton: absolutely. Cool. Thanks Marcus. Thanks for the time.
[00:42:06] Markus: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you.
[00:42:08] Craig Dalton: That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Marcus for coming on the show. . I loved learning more about gravel riding in great Britain. And I hope you enjoyed it too.
Until next time here’s to finding some dirt under your wheels.