stories • happenings • adventures

Bekka Mongeau
September 18, 2023

Creating Community with Annie Le

Posted by in Ambassadors

Words and photos by Revelate ambassador, Annie Le

As a van living freelancer, travelling all over Scotland for work, community was a distant thing. Something other, more settled people could create, but something that felt unattainable for my lifestyle, but also something I didn’t think I needed.

And then covid hit and forced us all to pause and take a big, long look at the life we had chosen and gave us time to consider if it was what we really wanted. Since covid I have lived in one place, got a small and amazing friend group and work much more regular hours, mainly for the same workplace, although I haven’t given up the freelancing entirely, it is way too much fun!



But what I didn’t have was any sort of regular riding community. And I had no idea what one might look like. There is no shortage of folk who ride in the highlands. But it felt like you had to fit into one group or another, lycra clad gravel gurners, ladies who ride for the café or be shreddy and put on all your best body armour to go smash some descents. The riding I enjoy, old school cross country/endurance riding in the mountains, doesn’t seem to feature much.

Fast forward to December 22, I was bikepacking in Arizona and had gotten in touch with John Schilling, who I met through the AZT bikepacking races, he invited me to one of the Arizona Endurance Series rounds. The AES is a grassroots endurance race series aiming to inspire people to ride. No entry fee, no prizes, just a great route and a start time. I didn’t join the races but saw the start and hung out whilst people finished. Arriving dusty and sweaty to a car park with a picnic bench and cold drinks, riders came in to swap stories of their rides. No one really cared who was fastest, but the joy in the shared experience and trails was amazing to see. This is what I had been missing!



Inspired by this dusty Arizonan community, before I even got home, I had set up an Instagram page for the brand-new Stravaiging Series. Stravaiging is a Scottish word meaning to wander or roam aimlessly. I wanted to bring a disparate group of riders together through the worst months of the year. It can be hard to feel motivated to ride through a highland winter, so I felt this could be just the thing.

Attempting to emulate the AES, albeit with a lot more rain, darkness and mud, I decided to organise one race/ride a month through the rest of winter. Who would turn up, I had no idea. I was pretty scared about the whole thing, not being a hugely extroverted person, but was fairly sure anyone willing to come ride in the grimmest months would probably be fun.

Our first round was in January, I was terrified. Plan A routes were thwarted by a last minute dump of snow. I debated whether to cancel, but opted to shorten routes, carry a leader pack and ride at the back so I could scoop up anyone who had bitten off more than they could chew. Assuming anyone turned up that is! We ended up with 16 riders and one trail pup, all slithering in the wet snow, riding through snowdrifts and having a very social time. We all piled into my LBS, Backcountry Scotland, at the end to eat pizza and share stories of frozen toes and who survived the big, icy descent. It was perfect.



As the days grew longer and weather improved, the routes became more ambitious, more riders joined, often travelling from all over Scotland to ride. It was amazing to see the same faces coming back and learning to push distances and terrain and find new riding buddies. Some people came to race, others for a much more social experience. I aimed to have at least two, if not three route options so everyone could find the right level of challenge. Over the series of 4 rides and including the Cairngorms loop group finish weekend, we had nearly 40 different faces come to ride.

As summer is now over and up in the highlands, we have woken to the first frosts of next winter, I’m about to start putting dates together for the next lot of Stravaiging series rounds. This time I’m not so scared about organising, instead I’m looking forward to sharing trails and seeing new and old faces, even if they are hidden inside waterproof hoods. The weather is about as far from that Arizonan dust as it could be, but they would feel at home with the shared riding experience and joy.



Starting a community was really daunting for me. Aside from the fact that I’m not a social butterfly, I was worried about many things. Would anyone turn up? What would happen if the weather was awful? Could I trust folks to make good decisions and look after each other? Would anyone have fun? Would my time commitment, recycling routes, and giving up my weekends be worth it? I’m happy to say that it all far exceeded my expectations. It’s been amazing to watch an idea flourish, to see people meet new friends, to make new friends myself and to be able to bring people together to ride through our long, miserable winters. I highly recommend taking the plunge to set up your own community, if you are struggling to find one that fits you.