By her own admission Elaine Burroughs suffers from Obsessive Cycling Disorder. The affliction started in her late 30’s when a friend took her mountain biking and although she fell off her bike more times that she stayed on, she got the bug. “With all the gear and no idea” Elaine started her love affair with off road cycling. After joining her local Berkshire based club ‘Berks on Bikes (BOB)’ she began racing and then she started winning. “I’d been shit at things most of my life so winning was a revelation.”
With racing accolades tucked into her jersey she progressed to 24 hour endurance events like Sleepless In The Saddle and Mountain Mayhem. From there, she bagged herself a German sponsor and started downhill racing alongside the cross country. Together with her partner Jenn Hill (nee Hopkins) they became a formidable pair.
The summit came when she and Jenn entered the Megavalanche, a crazy downhill endurance event. The start line is 3330 meters high on a glacier and then you let rip till you reach the finish line 2600 meters down the mountain. “I put the saddle as low as it would go and prayed” said Elaine “I spend most of it on my arse with my bike beside me but I did qualify.” She then received news of a friend’s devastating and lifelong injuries due to a car crash and saw this as a sign from above. “I left the race, came home and sold my full face helmet and body armour.”
But this didn’t stop her from pedalling ……
When Jenn tragically passed away her husband wanted to celebrate her amazing cycling legacy with a bike packing Memorial Ride. “I borrowed all the gear and made all the mistakes.” said Elaine “I rode an old mountain bike and wore a rucksack as I didn’t have enough bike bags. I was riding with Jenn’s husband but he was so much faster than me so I found myself on my own from the get go.”
This rocky start cemented Elaine’s new passion “bike packing is almost not cycling, you are a vehicle to be self-sufficient. Just like when I was a child, I had my sandwiches and orange juice, I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. It’s that feeling of freedom and escape. When I’m bike packing I don’t have to think about anything, it’s just me and my bike. Being on my bike is where I am most comfortable, my body has adapted. When I am on a trip and I’m lying in my sleeping bag it is no way as comfortable as being on the bike.”
The latest trip was the brand new West Kernow Way a spectacular 230km circular route around Cornwall. “There were a few hiccups we were following some Russian cyclists who had annoyed a farmer by leaving his gate open so we had to smooth the way but other than that it was great.”
Elaine takes her Reilly Gradient on her adventure trips. “I bought it blind in 2019 to do the Torino Nice Rally and it coped with it really well and I think I only got one puncture. The Gradient is great as I can fit all my bags on but still I have a good riding position. I never thought I’d be able to own a titanium bike but the Gradient is my Go Anywhere bike. I ride it for sheer pleasure and joy.”