At the heart of G!RO, and even in the very early planning stages before we opened for business, we have celebrated and championed the synergy between coffee and cycling. In order to create a local hub for local riders, of course, coffee had to be an integral part of that. It seems so synonymous now that cycling and coffee are all part of the same experience. And beyond cycling, coffee has found its way into the very core of our everyday. This luxurious, exotic, rich dark liquid that is the centre point for meetings, catch-ups, dates, working from home, and more to the point - the start and end of a cycle ride. G!RO has based its very being around a cup of coffee.
But the reality is that the coffee is a vessel. A vessel that enables these personal interactions to take place. The catch-ups, the meetings, the pre-ride chat, the post-ride debrief of the sprint back to the cafe that was surely just as quick as Cav’s sprinting to victory on the Champs Elysee. All of these human interactions over this special commodity we call coffee.
Fast forward 5 years and G!RO has teamed up with Workshop Coffee as our coffee roaster and speciality coffee partner. Since day 1 of working with Workshop, they have not only supported but also shown the same passion and excitement for coffee and where it sits in our everyday. In one of our many catch-ups with Richard Fraizer (Workshop Coffee CMO), we started to explore the opportunities of how we could showcase that special and unique synergy between coffee and cycling. Our close partners at Curve have very much set the tone for the adventures that you can have on two wheels, with Jesse Carlson and Sarah Hammond regularly leading a number of rides out into the wilderness for a night or two. So came to be the conception of this weekend. Let's take a small crew of mates, grab our bikes, go off the regular tracks, and explore the ways of making speciality coffee in the wild: The G!RO x WORKSHOP x CURVE FLASHPACKING WEEKEND was born. A weekend devoted to exploring how to brew speciality coffee in remote locations, taking any and all equipment you need with you, off the beaten path with a crew.
So what is flashpacking? Basically, its bike-packing off the main roads, with pubs, plenty of stops, coffee, overnight, with a lot of fun thrown in. You load up your bike with everything you need to sustain you for the two days held in a variety of saddle, frame and bar bags. The bike of choice was the Curve GXR (aka Kevin), loaded up with Apidura bags. My personal choice was the Curve Belgie Spirit, set up in full Rhino Sani Pass mode … 35mm Panaracer Gravel King tyres, ready to shred some gravel! Curve has adventure in its very DNA, and this weekend showed just how capable and enjoyable these machines are to ride.
So off we went. Meeting place, G!RO 8am. Coffees & Breakfast. The crew was Richard Frazier (Workshop Coffee), George Galbraith (Jam Cycling), Jon Skinner (Curve Ambassador), and myself Jordan Addison. Final checks to the bikes and off we went. The route was largely off-road, winding its way through the Surrey and Sussex countryside, taking in some breathtaking views … Perfectly appropriate for the style of riding with pack laden bikes, bib shorts, cameras and T-shirts!
As the primary purpose of the ride was to explore methods and means to brew speciality coffee out on the go, whilst riding these trails and paths we were keeping one eye open for a suitable location to park up and get the first brew underway.
The equipment was fairly simple... Packable Camp stove, water, jugs to heat and pour, brewing equipment, mugs to drink from, and of course Coffee. All of which were attached to our bikes in one way or another, in addition to clothing and supplies for the evening and next day.
The first park up was a clearing in dense woodland. Suitably positioned along the route to warrant the coffee stop, and suitably impressive to act as a striking backdrop for a brew (and the social media content to follow). Out came the stove, other bits, and so started Brew #1. Workshop Coffee provided the coffee, and Richard also surprised the crew with some camp-style dangle mugs, branded up with Workshop and G!RO. Lovely touch that added to the occasion. The Brew #1 Method: V60. The Coffee: Githembe AB (Kenya).
It was striking to see the level of excitement amongst this small group whilst waiting for the water to boil. It wasn't just the fact that we were riding our bikes, nor brewing the coffee, nor the backdrop. But rather there was an excitement that for the first time (for us at least), we were doing all of these things at once. A childlike excitement of a new experience, shared by some mates is a feeling sadly all too rare.
Water boiled, coffee brewed and shared around the 4 of us. Verdict. Bloody good. A moment to sit and enjoy the company and the coffee.
Then, pack bikes, carry on.
We followed the trail out of the woods, along ridgelines and paths heading out towards Sussex. The riding was made very enjoyable as the weather Gods had shone favourably on us. Warm weather, clear skies, and no rain!! At times the gentle paths gave way to more technical sections, having to negotiate rocks, narrow lines, and oh so many stinging nettles. One such section seemed to be a gauntlet of brambles, nettles and a variety of flying creatures… head down, close your mouth, ignore the nettles, and just go!! A very welcome feeling of relief when the path cleared and we could carry on as normal. Again, another experience shared with mates that were far removed from the day to day but found only off the main road, down a country path.
Time for coffee. The dense woodland gave way to a clearing overlooking the south downs and beyond. Park up, stove out, brew up, V60, sit, sip, enjoy. There was a sense that all of us were taking in the views, taking a moment to enjoy and be present. For most of us, our everyday doesnt lead to views like this, so we savoured this one along with the coffee.
Then, pack bikes, carry on.
We found ourselves on a disused railway line that has now been made into a cycling and walking trail called the North Downs Link, that leads you out of Surrey into Sussex. Stomachs rumbling, we pulled off the path for lunch and a couple of beers at the lovely Firebird Brewery. Sun shining, cold beers, and food. Life was good! Stomachs full, we pondered the next leg of the journey that leads us to our final destination of the day.
The destination was Corcovado. A remote area of woodland in the heart of Sussex, that over the past two years has been set up by a very close friend Dave Erasmus. His journey has been fuelled by the desire to explore what impact of what one can learn from the natural world. What happens when we remove ourself from our saturated digital life and learn to be present in the moment, in nature with no ties to the outside world. Complete with a couple of cabins that Dave has built over the past two years, we were excited to turn off the beaten track and immerse ourselves in this private woodland, away from the distractions we have come to accept in our everyday.
Nearing Corcovado, we turned off the country lane into the woodland that we would be calling home that evening. It felt very surreal riding our bikes through thick trees, following no clear path. It was evident that not many have made this journey and none before on bikes. Nature’s stillness and cleansing calm surrounded us, and sense of adventure rose as we saw the huts through the trees. Destination reached.
We dismounted our bikes, leaning against the closest tree we could find, and took a moment to drink it all in. We were in the middle of thick, remote woodland, with no running water, no electricity, a couple of lovingly crafted huts, and the still of nature all around. Corcovado is a special place. Nearly as soon as we arrived, we set about preparing the fire for another beloved coffee and made preparations for dinner. For this brew, we made ‘Cowboy Coffee’, or Steeped Coffee. A process of putting the coffee in with the water, and bringing to the boil. So simple and so striking seeing this bright red pot in the coals. Reminiscent of many Spaghetti Western films. The roast of choice Dely Suyapa - Hondouras.
And that started the tone for the rest of the evening. The fire became a grill and we cooked a feast fit for royalty (sort of), and as the light in the sky lessened the conversation amongst the group grew and developed. Some cold beers, nice wine, the backdrop of fire, a handmade table under a leafy canopy made the perfect setting for this adventure of ours. It was so simple, yet so striking what an impression it had made on us. No music, no phones, none of the norm. But our sense of being there in moment was so strong, infectious and lasting. We were joined by Matt Falconer and Paolo Mariani later that evening and for the return ride the next day.
The next morning, we awoke to more of the still and calm of the nature that we savoured the previous evening. Quiet murmurings and stirrings from the group grew and soon we were all awake preparing Breakfast and of course, Coffee. Start the fire once again, boil the water, and stick the porridge on the grill. Breakfast done the only way G!RO knows how.
Then, pack the bikes, leave the woods as we found them, and start the journey home. Our route home took us back into Surrey, across the Surrey Hills, and returning to G!RO… with of course another coffee brew stop on the way! We returned to Esher with a sense of achievement and reward. The achievement was setting out on this weekend riding, brewing in the wild, and discovering new routes, lanes and experiences. The reward was the realisation is that the bikes and the coffee opened up an opportunity that we wouldnt have found if we weren't looking for it. The woods and the trails led to adventure, new experience, and a sense of connection with the people along for the ride. And it was only on our doorstep.
It is so easy to get lost in the business day to day of life, and yet it is so difficult to go and get lost and just be present in the moment. The truth is that at any one time this weekend we were not too far from the normal infrastructure of roads, shops, reception, and the other safety nets we have around us. But we choose to get off the main roads and explore our unknown. This weekend was special. It was more than just coffee and riding bikes. Those who joined connected with each other, with nature, as well as adventures and interactions that life can bring if you simply allow yourself to look up and be present. It's amazing where riding a bike can take you. Looking forward to the next one.
Check out George's behind the scenes blog HERE
Dely Suyapa for the steeped coffee: https://workshopcoffee.com/collections/coffee/products/dely-suyapa
Githembe AB for pour overs: https://workshopcoffee.com/collections/coffee/products/githembe-ab
(In the interest of protecting what Dave has built and is building at Corcovado, we will not be sharing its location.)