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Small Discoveries: Finding Adventure with Trash Mile

As part of our Small Discoveries Series, we're sitting down with inspiring friends, over a beer, as they share small (but mighty) wins they’ve discovered during lockdown life. We begin by Finding Adventure with Trash Mile, London's coolest and friendliest cycling group and racing team. We talk about the unifying bond a shared love for sport has, the power of exercising for your mental health and the many inspiring ways they've stayed connected with their community.

Ben and Jon are two of the people who run Trash Mile, an inclusive cycling group and racing team inspired by the desire to enjoy the sport through a more welcoming and laid back approach. Originally, Trash Mile started as a hashtag to sum up the joy of getting lost in cycling off the clock, with no PB, intervals or training goals in sight. It’s since snowballed into an incredibly impressive side hustle that serves a growing community of cyclists that pedal through miles for the pure love of it.  

SB: Has there been a memorable moment of adventure that you've experienced in lockdown?

BEN: For me, an experience that was really striking was when I headed to a friend’s bike shop on Regent Street. It was during the first lockdown and I needed to drop my bike off for a service. Cycling through the beating heart of London when it was totally dead was insane. You could hear a pin drop, there wasn't a single car or bus on the road and no one was walking around. Nothing. It was like that scene in 28 Days Later when he wakes up in the hospital bed and walks across London Bridge with no one on it. For me it was just pretty surreal, but also such a peaceful experience.

SB: How have you managed to stay connected with the cycling community?

JON: We’ve been pretty active on our Instagram throughout all the lockdowns. There’s also Strava and another app called Komoot, which we can plan routes on to keep everybody motivated. Even though we might be riding on our own, using the different platforms still makes you feel part of a group.

BEN: We ended up using #trashmilelockdownroute from pretty much the beginning. It snowballed from a #viaductchallenge that started after someone rode out to a viaduct one day, stopped for lunch and took a picture in the sun. It looked quite scenic and made other riders want to do the same route. Soon we just had loads of people posting stop offs at random viaducts to share the experience and the whole team started dishing out different routes for other people to do.

It’s kind of redefined the love of riding on your own. It’s how a lot of us started riding, but being in a group has loads of benefits if you aren’t personally familiar with a certain route or just want to use it as a way to hang out with other people. But lockdown has taken us all back to why we love the sport so much in the first place, which is pretty cool.


SB: What is the best thing about Trash Mile / cycling that even a global pandemic can't destroy?

JON: I think it’s the cycling community in general. It’s made up of people who are really into the sport and live and breathe cycling. We like talking about cycling, bikes, what rides we’ve done, finding good routes, new bike parts, everything. None of that stops even if we’re not able to actually ride together.

We’ve got group chats for the Trash Mile cycle club and racing team and they're always active. Indoor cycling has really taken off over lockdown and a lot of us have stayed in touch through that. We all like a bit of healthy competition, so virtually taking on the same routes still gives us a personal challenge to beat the others to the top of the hill or end of the route in the fastest time which is pretty fun.

Even in lockdown the community still manages to find ways that we can share our rides with each other.

BEN: Also, the number one rule in cycling is that you wave to other cyclists no matter who they are, what they're riding or what they're wearing. It’s a nice sort of etiquette and I think that’s ended up being a really important aspect of the community during lockdown when we’re all keeping our distance from one another all the time.

SB: Have you thought about what you'll do once things open back up again? Any tips of upcoming events / rides to look out for?

JON: Well, we don't have anything specific in mind just yet, but we’re always thinking of ways we can come back together once restrictions ease after the current end date of 21st June.

Our cycle club group ride can have more than 50 people turn up, so we need to be careful with how we make plans so that it’s done responsibly. As a cycle club we feel like we kind of represent cyclists and if you're doing something that's against the government regulations, then it sort of gives all cyclists a bad name.

But we’ll definitely plan a good ‘welcome back’ route for the race team and for the cycle club to celebrate getting everyone in the same place again.

BEN: There will be a lot of pink (with everyone in their Trash Mile kit). It might even be a ride that ends in the Small Beer Brewery! That would be really cool.

JON: We're also desperate to plan training rides to get the wider community involved in that side of cycling. Lee Valley Velo park has a closed road circuit, which we're going to try and get people to have a go at if they haven't necessarily raced before. There are a lot of rules in racing and it can be quite dangerous, so it’s pretty daunting to just jump into your first race. We want to find ways to share that knowledge and help more people get into it.


SB: What has been a 'small discovery' of lockdown that you now can't live without?

BEN: Well, I think a lot of us have rediscovered the sort of joy of cycling without any purpose. It’s like we mentioned at the beginning, we spend a lot of our time getting up really early and grinding through a specific set workout that’s part of a structured training program for racing.

It’s all about trying to retain your fitness and there’s such a fine line. If you don't do it properly, your fitness drops off and then you lose the competitive edge and that can be quite stressful. So, as soon as racing was off the cards we all just got more into going out and riding bikes for fun. It takes us back to where Trash Mile started in the first place, without all the data and heart rate monitors.

JON: It's such a good way to get a bit of time to yourself and to find that headspace to think things through with very few distractions. It's just you on the bike and you're just riding.

SB: Have there been any innovations in the industry that you would like to see continue long after lockdown?

JON:Well, the social side of cycling is so important. So when group rides couldn't happen, we all moved onto a software called Zwift, which is sort of like a computer game where you use your bike as the controller. It’s got a chat function and you can talk to each other, so group rides became virtual instead. The pick up was phenomenal and it’s something we can see carrying on post lockdown.

SB: What advice can you give for people to discover the sport during this time?

BEN: Honestly, it would be to get out there and get on a bike. My little brother really struggled when the second lockdown hit. He was having a hard time and his mental health and I told him to just buy a bike, whatever he could afford. He ended up getting one through the cycle to work scheme. It literally changed his life. Like it did for me. It just gives you time to either get into your head and think things through or the complete opposite, where you can just let go of everything.

JON: It sounds so obvious, but there's nothing else you can do when you're riding a bike, you just ride it. So, just get stuck in and try not to overthink it too much. Just talk to people, find a club, come and join Trash Mile. Everyone’s super friendly and taking the plunge is how we all got into cycling in the first place, so we know how it feels.

Helpful resources

Trash Mile's favourite London bike shop: Pinarello on Regent street – Ask for Tris, their head mechanic.

Trash Mile’s recommended starter bike if you’re not overly confident on the road would be a cross / gravel bike with chunky tyres and a more relaxed position.

A great starter road bike that will last you a lifetime.

One of Trash Mile’s favourite rides.

Recommended starter kit for those looking for some lycra (from beginner to pro).