Gravel Culture: Chasing the peloton

Posted By Gravel Union On 22 April 2021

Peter Halliwell is a UK-based podcaster with a love of endurance gravel racing events. We talked to Peter about his podcast, Chasing the Peloton and his focus on the Migration Gravel Race, which is very close to the hearts of the Gravel Union team.

GU - Can you introduce yourself to the Gravel Union readers please?

Peter - I'm Peter Halliwell, I live in Manchester in the north of England and I’m a cyclist, musician, sometime Management Consultant and the host of the podcast ‘Chasing the Peloton’.

GU - Where, when and why did you start your cycling journey?

Peter - As with many people I have ridden bikes for as long as I can remember, but for most of my life it has simply been a hobby or a mode of transport. My lifestyle has never been particularly conducive to maintaining it as more serious pursuit – I’m constantly travelling, living in various countries and cities, as well regularly staying in hotels. This hasn’t allowed much space for long, consistent hours on the bike. However, I’ve always been an athlete, playing second division Rugby in Germany and competing in the US Nationals for Australian Rules Football, and when I have had the chance for some sustained bike training I’ve taken it seriously. Highlights have been riding the London-Paris-Rotterdam solo to raise money for charity, some UK bike packing trips and a few visits to Mallorca.

With my cycling mate Tom (with the beard) in Mallorca, the last time I was in race-shape!

In 2020, CV19-related lockdowns and the suspension of team sports brought me and my bike back together. Sat at home with YouTube as my only way of experiencing travel and adventure led to, like many people I’m sure, daydreams of what I would do and where I’d go as soon as I had the chance. Watching the exploits of people like Josh Ibbett (Episode Three of the Podcast) and Lachlan Morton grabbed my attention the most. Soon, I had a shiny new gravel bike, was cycling most days and putting in entries to gravel & bikepacking events left, right and center!

With all the uncertainty of the last year, cycling and training has given me a sense of purpose and it’s something I can control. The gravel bike too has opened up a new world of experience - away from the tarmac and cars, getting lost in nature, it’s much easier to find peace and tranquility.

GU - What was the inspiration behind setting up the Chasing the Peloton podcast series?

Peter - The original idea came about when a friend suggested I document my journey of training for, and competing in, these cycling events (The Migration Gravel Race, Badlands and some UK-based events like The Dirty Reiver). What I found to be a more compelling concept, and something that would appeal to a broader audience, was finding out what other people were doing to prepare and sharing the stories of why they cycle. Also, I had some insecurities about how I would perform on the bike at the Migration Gravel Race, so I saw it as a way of offering something other than my cycling ability to help make the event a success!

GU - What’s the overall aim of your podcast series?

Peter - To show that cycling offers something for everyone, and to motivate people to get out and ride. I hope by presenting a broad, diverse range of personal stories, listeners will hear something compelling that connects with them and inspires. Cycling can appear inaccessible to many - whether that’s the cost, finding a cycling community, technical knowledge or concerns about safety. It doesn’t have to be that way though - with a little bit of know-how and the right inspiration, cycling can open up a whole incredible world of opportunity and experience.

Take the episode with Iman Kagumba (Episode One) - her story of teaching other adult women to ride for the first time during lockdown in Kenya is going to do a much better job to inspire, connect and grow a new group of cyclists than podcasts, videos and Instagram posts covering European riders, elite races or bikes worth thousands of dollars will ever do. Not that these don’t have their place too!

GU - Where would you like to take your podcast series in the future?

Peter - I have lots of ideas! But I want to stay consistent with the philosophy that we can inspire others to ride by sharing the stories of people and places, with cycling simply a tool that connects it together. For the time being I’m focusing on those taking part in The Migration Gravel Race, there’s already a super diverse group of riders taking part, all with amazing stories to tell. The purpose of the race, organised by Team Amani, is to put a spotlight on East African riders and cycling in East Africa. This fits really well with what we want to achieve with the podcast, and travel-restrictions permitting, I also hope to record some conversations on-the-ground at the race in June.

Going forward, the goal will be to continue to seek out and share the stories of a wide, diverse range of cyclists - focusing more on the inspiring, unique and underrepresented areas of our sport. Maybe at some point we also venture into making a video series!

GU - What got you first interested in the Migration Gravel Race?

Peter - It just looked like the coolest cycling event around and if you have seen any of the pictures from the organisers, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree. It wasn’t until I, somewhat unexpectedly, got a place, did I find out more about the background of the event and Team Amani, then I realised it was exponentially cooler than I had originally thought!

GU - How is your preparation going for the event?

Peter - Mixed! Thanks to an inconsiderate driver rear-ending me a month ago, my (not so shiny anymore) gravel bike has been out of action, and thanks to what seems to be an endless global shortage of certain parts, it might even be a tight squeeze getting it ready for Kenya. But in doing the podcast I’ve been reminded of my privilege and how fortunate I am, so I can’t complain. I wasn’t injured and I still have my road bike and a turbo trainer I can train with and I could source another suitable bike with relative ease if it came to that.

It’s the first time I’ve really implemented a somewhat structured training plan and tracked my fitness. In my professional life we say ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ and using data has made me more aware of how my body behaves under various stresses on the bike and opened my eyes to developing my cycling in a more targeted way. Data also helps you compare yourself with others, although this is not necessarily a good thing when you can see the numbers the competition are capable of on the Team Amani Thursday night group ride!

Manchester and Kampala connected. A snap shot from the recording of an upcoming episode with the twins from Masaka Cycling Club in Uganda - Wasswa Peter and Kato Paul along with their coach, Sam.

Thanks to Peter for taking the time to chat with us. If anyone reading has an idea or a story they think would be worth covering, please get in touch with him! Instagram is the best way to get hold of him @chasingthepeloton.

If you would like to donate to the Gravel Union crowd funding scheme for the Migration Gravel Race, you can find details and make a donation here.

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