The Rapha Calling is our salute to women who ride. It is our commitment to inspire and support them to clip in for longer days, ride steeper climbs, and explore the roads less travelled. It is for women who try a little harder, dig a little deeper, push a little further. It is finding that little piece of magic in a day. It is not wanting to be anywhere but here, on this bike, right now.
This is the Rapha Calling. Join us.
Rapha asked some of its riders to ride from sunrise to sunset across the reaches of the world, from France to the United States to Japan. One film crew flew from point to point to document the rides and learned that no matter where a long ride takes place there are common elements that unite.
By Matthew Beaudin
At some point the La Sal mountains just went away
They were there, to the right of us as we climbed toward the Colorado-Utah state line up a long-forgotten road on the Dolores Triangle, and by the time we turned around to make our way back toward Moab, the storm had swallowed the range and the riders.
The sworn enemy of the cyclist. A constant wrapping on jackets, ears, eyes. The math stars running. Three hours and in and everything we have is wet and it will stay that way. Where does that climb end? How long is that descent? None of these things matter, but the rider’s brain wants to know them regardless. Information is both shield and sword.Continue Reading »
The rain turns to snow.
Moab is unique in that it has several climate zones stacked on top of one another rapidly; the layer-cake of red rock gives way to pine forests, which fade as the air thins. The domes of the gentle, alabaster peaks finish off the visual assault. The history of the earth peels before us, but now the flat grey of the storm has erased the sandstone spires.
When the storms come for us on our bikes like that everything becomes a matter of necessity. Thoughts we had just an hour before now seem indulgent. Potholes seem rougher, the wind caustic and biting.
Most of us squint and press on dutifully — we must remind ourselves of the cold so that we may truly feel the warmth, yes? — but one of us, Liz from Colorado, seems to get better the worse it gets. She is as wet as the rest of us but her face is one of revelry rather than utility. She smiles. Liz reminds us that this is all supposed to be fun.
I heard a saying once. You don’t have to have fun to have fun. My own addendum to that adds something to the effect of… this will all be fun when we talk about it later after showers with drinks in our hands. Time is relative in the cold; it seems long for a moment but somewhere in the wind the seconds turn into minutes, then an hour. We count switchbacks.
Eventually, the storm ceases. By the time the light begins to bend beautifully for sunset there’s enough room in the clouds for the sun to push through. Right on cue.
Snow? What snow?
We pass through the painting of Moab slowly. Most come here to ride mountain bikes but to behold the great formations from a road bike is no less spectacular or arresting. We descend the washboard dirt road toward town. Our teeth chatter and chains slap, but we are happy now. The sun ducks under the cover of the rock curtain above town.
We fall like stones, riding through millions of years in just minutes.
By Daisuke Yano
Boiled eggs. The air smells of boiled eggs.
The small volcanic mountain town of Kusatsu is located deep in the mountains a few hours northwest of Tokyo. Besides soaking in hot sulfur springs themselves, residents use the steam for cooking, and springs to boil vegetables and eggs.
Sulfur steams throughout the town center and in various places along the passes, raising a curtain of steam toward the sky.
The steam is so intense in places that the terrain is off limits. Warning signs dot the landscape. The mighty 2172 meter Shibu Tohge Pass access was limited due to high activity of the crater on the day we went to climb it. People live with the land in Kusatsu.Continue Reading »
Because of this unique field, Kusatsu provides views like no others in Japan. Barren mountain slopes and waist-high bamboo grasses make up the palettes.
It’s four in the morning. The sky is already starting to turn deepest of dark blues, entertaining us with the silhouette art on the ridges. It’s a rare scene in the summer with the sun preparing to peek at this hour. Japan does not have summer, so a day starts especially early on the longest day; we have to set our own summer time today.
White breath is thick from sipping hot coffee against cool morning air, warmers and giles on even though the forecast calls for a fair day. It’s hard to imagine that all these extra pieces will come off during the ride, and all back on most likely before the end of the ride. Not sure if it’s from sleepiness, or from anticipation of mountainous rides that few words except for “good morning” are exchanged. Conversation always relaxes me, but I’m still pretty silent myself.
I had a lot of reasons to be worried today. Some personal issues kept me from riding for a few months. When I got the call, I did my best to train but the body is honest. You can fake your mind, but you can’t fake your heart and muscles. Your body is only as good as you train, period. One month can only prepare me physically so much. Hour-plus climbs, never ending head winds. Usually I hit a wall mentally first and effect the physical, but today I knew that physically will hit the wall first and it’ll depend on how much I can pull through with mental toughness.
Start with singing, I’m left alone anyways for anybody to laugh at my off-toned songs. Run out of songs to sing. Then start talking to ...something. I run out of topics. Then the counting starts. There’s endless trees to count, cracks on the tarmac, hash lines...not sure which is dreadful at this point, counting or just straight face the pain. As I finally reach the top, I then realize that what kept me pedaling was the assurance that friends are waiting for me with big smiles.
Big smiles, and the ever-increasing numbers I roll up in my head.
By Beth Hodge
The mountain stands alone above the landscape, two environments, three approaches, four seasons in one day: The Longest Day.
The Mont Ventoux takes no prisoners. Whichever way you approach it, whichever way you think about it, to get across it you must climb. One pedal stroke after the other. A mountain demands respect. Mont Ventoux is no exception; it is the rule. Geminiani has warned us. "Be careful Ferdi" he warned on the second Tour de France visit in 1955, "the Ventoux isn't a climb like any other.” But there can be beauty found here for those with respect. And that we had.Continue Reading »
Passing through Ventoux's gates in the village of Malaucene a simple nod is given as we pass by its instructions.
Twenty-one kilometers. Up.
We climb steadily at first, weaving through the dense green forest as our lungs and legs settled into Ventoux rhythm. The fragrance of Provence overtakes the senses as the bike becomes one with the rider. Upward we pedal.
One two, one two, one two.
Just when we find our peace with the road it wakes us up again, forcing us out of our saddles and into the breathless grind. Roadside markers might as well be ignored. The 12 percent gradient that seems to go on on for longer than painted.
Eventually, the forest clears and the second personality of Ventoux emerges: the white, barren desert revealing the light after the darkness of the forest. The mountain is exposed and we are exposed with it. Time has passed yet we are content in the moment. Time is but a number, and we are at one in this moment with the hill.
The Ventoux relieves our tiring legs for a brief second as the gradient eases ever so slightly, and at this point, the prize comes into sight. The all seeing white and red weather station stands on the summit like a trophy — watching us watching it, jutting unapologetically into the Mistral whipped clouds above. The last few kilometers to the station play tricks with the mind, the summit so close but not quite in reach.
One two, one two, one two.
We allow ourselves a moment of glory as the wind wicks away the sweat. The windy mountain lives up to its name. The skin starts to chill as the adrenaline wears off and we look down the long descent to the valley floor. Wrapped up and mentally set, we allow the wheels to roll on the second half of the Longest Day.
This road is physically etched in history, its scars now painted with fresh lines of tar, creating the road map of Provence along its way. Crudely painted names flash underneath us. Pantani. Simpson. Merckx. We fly where they flew. The corners come, one after another after another as we crouch to cheat the wind, eyes straining under stiff caps to drink in the rapidly disappearing view.
The warm forest greets us and its twisty roads guide us on. The gradient eases and we ease with it, sitting up to share a smile, laughter and a stretch of our stiff backs. Rolling back onto the flat plains we spin past immaculate vineyards, enjoying that feeling of our pedals turning in perfect harmony, the station still watching us from its heights.
Together we have ridden, from sunrise, to sunset. Together we have shared moments that will never leave us on this, the Longest Day. Mont Ventoux has cast its spell.
We are bewitched.
The longest days on the bikes to me are always the ones that are hardest physically, no matter how long the race is. Whether it’s an hour or whether it’s all day. But when you’re feeling bad and you’ve got to do it, you’ve gotta race; you’ve got to put the effort in — those are the worst, hardest days on the bike. It’s hard to do physically because you hurt. But it’s also hard mentally and emotionally. You hear how great riding your bike is when you feel good. And then you’re in for a long day when you’re suffering, which is never fun. But most bike riders don’t like to quit, either, so you just put yourself in that spot and hope to finish sooner rather than later. My longest day on the bike was a training ride in Colorado Springs with some friends of mine. I think it ended up being like a six or eight-hour ride. And it was a really good ride. It’s just by the end, the last two hours, everything just hurts. You just wanna be home. And you find a little bit more energy because you just want to be done with it. You dig a little deeper because you can finally see the finish. I think mentally preparing yourself — you’ve just got to keep pedaling regardless of what hurts, how tired you are.
Rapha Cycle Clubs hosted Longest Day rides on 19 June 2015, and Rapha encouraged others to ride and share their ride adventures using the hashtag #raphalongestday