Janapar Grant Other People's Adventures

Safe roads & tailwinds to Janapar Grant winner Jess Hargreaves!

A little over a year ago, I was having a chat with a small group of friends who all made a living – one way or another – from adventure.

We’d been having these irregular meetings for a couple of years. Ideally they took place down the pub, but often – the lifestyle of the nomadic self-unemployed adventurer being what it is – they’d be conducted via Skype or somesuch technology, all dialling in from a constantly changing series of locations worldwide.

The reason for these group chats was to soundboard new ideas, figure out if they had the potential to become anything more than fleeting whimsies, and then to hold each other accountable for following through with them.

On this occasion I put two such ideas to the group for mirth and demolition.

The first was to try and create a long-distance hiking & mountain-biking route the length of the Caucasus Mountains.

The second was to create an annual grant that would allow a young person from the UK to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure by bicycle.

Much to my dismay, it was the opinion of all present that I could – and should – try to do both of these things.

So I tried.

And now, a year later, it would appear that I’ve succeeded – if you’ll excuse the pun – in putting all of those wheels in motion.

The Transcaucasian Trail, as it has become known, is fast becoming a reality. The core team now extends to 13 people from 8 nations, not to mention the dozens of part-time volunteers who’ve contributed their time and energy so far. Since April I’ve been leading a full-time expedition – supported by the Royal Geographical Society with the Land Rover Bursary – to explore and map possible routes for the trail in Georgia and Armenia; this enormous undertaking is the reason the blog has been quiet this year.

But more the more immediate news is that Jess Hargreaves – the recipient of the ‘Janapar Grant’ I set up and launched earlier this year – sets off today on what I have little doubt will be a once-in-a-lifetime bicycle journey.

I wrote on the grant website that my aim was to support the practice of open-minded exploration for its own sake, for it is this approach that I’ve always felt offers the greatest potential for personal growth through the experience of life on the road.

And when Jess’s first written dispatch landed in my inbox for publication a few days ago, I knew that we’d made a good choice. You can read her pre-departure thoughts right here.

Beyond the one successful recipient – who benefitted from equipment donated by Oxford Bike Works, Carradice, Polaris, and Porterlight Bikes – we made the last-minute decision to extend the mentorship component of the grant to all of the shortlisted individuals. The result is that several other applicants have already hit the road under their own initiative – which, if I’m honest, was my underlying hope all along. And I’d like to thank the mentors – Al, Emily, Tim and Leon – for volunteering their time to help these young people get out exploring.

Jess has a long and bumpy road ahead of her, of which today’s ride is only the beginning. And I look forward to hearing – just occasionally, for the journey is the reward, right? – all about how her adventure pans out.

Her future despatches will be published through the Janapar Grant website, as well as through the Facebook page.

But today, let’s just all wish Jess Hargreaves – 2016’s Janapar Grant recipient – all the very best for her journey, wherever the winds of travel may take her. Safe roads & tailwinds!

Equipment Janapar Grant

What Does The Ideal Cycle Touring Clothing Collection Look Like?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel I’ve ever quite solved the cycle touring clothing quandry.

Walk into a bike shop or outdoor store and it isn’t quite as simple as finding the ‘cycle touring’ department and taking your pick. I inevitably end up wearing garments – such as trekking trousers, merino or bamboo T‑shirts, hand-made linen slacks, tailored cotton shirts, etc – that were never designed for cycling at all. These are generally supplemented with only a few cycle-specific accessories such as padded shorts, riding mitts, Buffs, waterproofs, and perhaps socks and shoes.

I get the impression that the market for clothing specific to the nuanced requirements of cycle touring must be so tiny – at least in the eyes of the manufacturers – as to not be worth bothering with. It’s a shame, because I really do feel that the industry is missing a trick. Most of us seem to get by with what we feel is sub-optimal clothing because we have no choice. It’s either functional but far too down the ‘sporty’ spectrum in appearance, or is more casual-looking but tends to fall apart once subjected to the rigours of the cycle touring lifestyle.

One British manufacturer bucking the trend is Janapar Grant sponsor Polaris, whose long-standing brand will be recognisable to many. Based on input and feedback from some well-known long distance riders, they’ve been developing a line of adventure cycle touring clothing, and this spring will be putting out the first of their new offerings, as well as outfitting the grant’s lucky recipient.

Their new lines will include a merino riding jersey and a windproof shell jacket designed specifically for touring use, as well as arm-warmers for nippy mornings, a Buff-style tube, and merino socks, with more to come for autumn/winter and for 2017. I’ve been trying out the jersey and jacket over the last few weeks and I’m pretty impressed with the balance they’ve struck between comfort, functionality and low-key appearance.

(These and future lines are available through their online store, which you can check out here.)

Traverse Jersey Lime - Background2

In the meantime, I really wanted to ask you what you’d like to see in an ideal clothing range for cycle touring.

Because the way I see it, there are some major gaps to be filled in this department. The most obvious example from my experience is a lack of trousers which are simultaneously comfortable and practical to ride in, socially acceptable to walk around in, and durable enough to last the long haul. I’ve lost count of how many pairs of ‘trekking’ trousers I’ve had either wear through on the backside or split at the crotch seams through the act of pedalling. The pockets empty their contents onto the asphalt with each pedal stroke, and there’s always a draught up my back because they’re not cut for the task at hand.

This hasn’t ever actually stopped me touring, of course. But if clothing designers such as those at Polaris are eyeing up the cycle touring community for size, fit and functionality, then to me it makes sense for us all to get together and let them know what we’re currently missing.

So let’s have a massive brainstorming session. Got ideas for the cycle tourist’s perfect wardrobe? Let’s have them in the comments, and I’ll pass them on to the people who can do something about it!

Janapar Grant News

Your Frequently-Asked Questions About The Janapar Grant, Answered

The response to the announcement of the Janapar Grant has been overwhelmingly positive – but then with £2,500 worth of bikes and equipment up for grabs, that’s no great surprise.

What’s been interesting is the questions I’ve been fielding about the specifics of the idea. Some have been obvious, some not so much. They’ve certainly got me thinking.

In response, I’ve put together a selection of the most frequently-asked, and done my best to answer them.

What are the dates for application submissions and winner announcements?

The 2016 Janapar Grant will open for applications on Monday the 29th of February, and will remain open until Friday the 15th of April. The successful applicant will be announced on Tuesday the 3rd of May.

How can I make sure I don’t miss any announcements?

The best way to stay informed is to subscribe to the mailing list. You’ll get an email every time an announcement is made.

Why is the grant only for 18–25 year olds?

In the years between 18–25, young people in British society generally remain free of such responsibilities as marriage and parenthood, as well as of pressing financial and professional commitments – conditions conducive to spending an extended period of time making such a journey.

However, a lack of first hand experience to plan such a journey, coupled with a diminished ability to fund the upfront costs of equipment, means that for many in this age group the barriers to entry seem high.

A more universal reason has to do with personal development. There is significant scientific evidence to suggest that 25 is (on average) the age at which our previously malleable beliefs and behaviours solidify, in the sense that neural pathways physically harden. Before this age, our views on the world are strongly defined by experience. We believe that exploring the world independently is one of the most valuable experiences a young person can have at this formative time.

As well as the large body of anecdotal evidence to support these views, there is a strong precedent set by existing institutions and organisations who encourage journeymaking and exploration in a similar age range. Examples include the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, Outward Bound, Raleigh International, and the Bonderman Travel Fellowship. Similar institutions involving cultural immersion include the Peace Corps and EVS, among others.

We’ve taken into consideration all of these factors while narrowing down the focus for the Janapar Grant, which is represented in the criteria for eligibility and the qualities we’ll be looking for in applicants.

In summary, the aim of the grant is to provide encouragement and support to those who’ll benefit most from it in the long-term, and we believe the 18–25 age group represents this.

Head on over to the Janapar Grant website to continue reading the F.A.Q.