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Audax Barley Saddlebag with badges and patches

Fergus Coyle's Audax Saddlebag Stories: Rory

As part of his study into the world of Audax, photographer and cyclist Fergus Coyle interviewed a fellow Audax Club Bristol member, Rory Stuart.  He also photographed Rory and his Carradice Barley Saddlebag

Fergus: Can you give a little info about your current tour and the thought behind fitting a
race in en route?

Rory: I grew up in Oxford where the largest peak around was Brill Hill (not very tall). Going to Cardiff University, I was exposed to more substantial short sharp climbs of the Valleys and of smaller mountains in the Brecons. Since then I've had an affinity towards more rugged mountainous areas.

After graduating and being in work for a year I had a f**k it moment. If I didn't do a big tour now then I never will. Where better to go than the Stans where I'd be guaranteed with big bergs and remote landscapes! The route would take me down to Morocco then back through Europe, Turkey, across the Caspian and to the Stans.

The idea of The Hellenic Mountain Race came about while suffering with a chest infection up in the High Atlas Mountains. I wanted a closer goal to set my sights on to boost morale and to do my near annual 1000+km ride. I emailed the organiser for a late entry and was accepted!

Fergus: Could you shed some light on some of your more abstract badges? Do you have a fave?

Rory: My parents cycled the prime Meridian a few decades ago and with Lockdown
number one ending but no events restarting yet, I took it as the perfect route inspiration to do. The party parrot probably is one of the favourites, I'm not one for impulsive purchases but I bought that one on the spot.

I had done a couple Audaxes before university but during my time studying I properly
started completing them on the regular. I was pretty introverted back then and no one else in the Uni Cycling Club did them so I did a lot as solo DIYs. As part of a motivation tactic I started a tally on the SR patch so whenever I felt rough on a ride I could look at it and tell myself I'll cross the hurdles.

Fergus: What attracts you to a life on the road? Does it get lonely at all?

Rory: I enjoy the simplicity of it. I can zone out and be immersed in the landscapes and watch them change at a near imperceivable rate. I wouldn't say it's lonely at all. Sure you're alone, but never truly lonely.

It makes you not take little interactions, like buying something at a shop or a wave back from a farmer, for granted. And even without humans about there's sheep or cows to say a cheery hello to!

Fergus: Have you had any particularly tough challenges touring?

Rory: Going along a desert track in Sahara (Morocco) was one of the hardest bits. Sandy tracks were nigh impossible to cycle on with my traditional pannier setup on my touring bike. I worked out that I could've ran the 80-odd kilometres faster than going by bicycle.

Resupply was incredibly limited. Accommodation was uncertain. And the level of walking I may have had to of done meant I had to carry a hideously large amount of food and water in case of sleeping multiple nights out there. But, the reward of it was worthwhile. Watching camels fade in and out of view in a sandstorm and the calm desert landscape was something I'd never seen before. Absolutely insane.

Fergus: Any moments of gratitude where people have helped you out along the way?

Rory: I've had numerous times where people have given me food and drink. The most
impactful was on my first few nights of the tour. These days I'm a lot less shameless with where I wild camp but on arrival to the mountainous areas surrounding Bilbao, Spain, I found it hard to find a suitable spot. On the very first night I thought my luck was out with people sending me further and further along the road when asking if I could camp close by. I got to the next town and asked at a restaurant and after deliberation I was directed to an unlocked sports hall. The guy later returned with a huge chicken sandwich and a beer, despite me saying I had dinner covered, and then again with another sandwich for the next day and the offer of a coffee. It was a sign the universe was confirming that people are fundamentally good and I shouldn't worry about where to camp - it'll all sort itself out in the end!

Fergus Coyle Photography

Rory’s Instagram

Fergus' Instagram

Audax Club Bristol's Instagram

Rory has a Carradice Barley Saddlebag - Ideal for day rides and the commute to work with enough room to hold essentials and a bit more. This saddlebag design has stood the test of time and with a durable construction and clever detailing it won’t let you down - traditional style and unsurpassed quality.

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