Ever since my vision for the Transcaucasian Trail took shape, I’ve been wondering how to get the adventure cycling community involved in bringing it to life.
Exploring new places on a bicycle is, after all, where I cut my teeth as a traveller. Long-term readers will remember that it was a bicycle that brought me to Georgia and Armenia, way back in 2008. The experience of pedalling across the region created a deep connection that continues to this day.
Well, I think I’ve figured it out!
Next week I’ll be getting back on the bike to ride the length of Armenia off-road, accompanied by 7 riders from the Tom’s Bike Trip community.
This charity fundraising ride, born out of a couple of Facebook posts back in February, will help raise funds to complete the hiking trail, but it will also help me adapt the route for bikepackers and mountain bikers, and publish a parallel version of the trail with these riders in mind – something people are asking for with ever-greater frequency.
It’ll also satisfy a long-standing personal ambition.
I’ve been wanting to do this ride for as long as I’ve had a connection to Armenia. The privilege of leading a fundraising ride in the company of cyclists who’ve been supporting my work since the beginning will make the trip all the more special.
Finally, an expedition-style fundraiser like this – short, ambitious, and with a classic “will they make it?” story baked in – is a sure way to draw attention to a place’s adventure potential. I hope that #BikepackingArmenia will go beyond just raising funds, creating social media content and pioneering a new bikepacking route, and convince more of you to come and ride in Armenia and the Caucasus region as well.
I started this effort by setting up CyclingArmenia.com, and by pestering Cass and Logan from Bikepacking.com to come and ride here (which Cass did in 2017 and Logan and his partner did last year). Now it’s time to shine the spotlight on what a journey along the route looks and feels like. Because this is a place with endless overlooked potential. Armenia deserves to be better known – and hopefully the story of this challenge will help it become so.
Riding for a cause is not something I’ve done before, and I have certainly held some skepticism about the concept in the past.
That’s because I’ve seen too many high-profile rides with a charity tacked on as an afterthought; a kind of guilt-induced justification for dropping out and going cycling somewhere, as if such a justification was needed.
The picture is very different when the charity or cause occupies a central role in the rider’s life.
The Transcaucasian Trail now does so with me. Above all else, beyond any of the expeditions I’ve done, blog posts or books I’ve written, or films I’ve made, it will be the thing I look back on and say: “that’s what I spent my time on Earth bringing into existence”.
Though I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, it doesn’t particularly matter whether anyone remembers my involvement. What does matter is bridging the gap between vision and reality – a gap which in four short years has already diminished by an astonishing amount.
If we reach our fundraising goal of $10,000 (a little over £8,000), we’ll be able to close the gap completely, bringing into existence the first fully waymarked border-to-border trail across Armenia by the end of 2020.
As with all charity appeals, the effectiveness of this campaign will be a cumulative one. Though it may sound trite, it really is true that no donation is too small.
So please give what you can – and know that you’re helping make a positive change in the world.