Pete caught up for a chat about the Unpaved Podcast with Katherine Moore to see where the idea for a gravel podcast came from.
Gravel, adventure and bikepacking riding is growing massively and the Unpaved Podcast aims to look into why through the people that are helping push it forward. Pete had a catch up with Unpaved’s Katherine Moore to find out more.
Photos by Luke Douglas.
Who is Katherine Moore?
I’m a gravel and bikepacker, writer, host and guide working in the bike industry. I worked both behind the scenes at a bit on camera at Global Cycling Network for 2 years before following my freelance dreams last September to work on more off-road endeavours.
What’s your background in cycling?
A musical and arty kid rather than a sporty one at school, I picked up road cycling in my early twenties in an attempt to get a bit fitter. Immediately I fell in love, and it soon became an obsession to the point where I left my high-flying career in agriculture (cow nutrition, to be precise), dazzled by the bright lights of the bike industry.
I started out working for a cycling touring company and doing some guiding before discovering that I love writing. Gravel sort of happened by accident for me, joining a last minute trip to the Cairngorms with Pinnacle Bikes. Until then my only road bike crashes had been on gravelly corners, so you can imagine how that three day bikepacking trip started for me… with absolute terror.
A few days of incredible riding from Fort Bill and some encouragement of my riding mates and I was totally hooked. Three years on I don’t really ride road much at all anymore, in fact I think the gravel riding may have been a gateway drug for MTB…
What made you want to explore gravel, adventure and bikepacking riding specifically?
There’s a few elements. I think community plays a huge part in it. There’s a massive spectrum within this gravel and bikepacking ranging from the slow touring, carry-it-all vibe all the way to the fast and dusty gravel races like you see in the States or endurance bikepacking races like recent Atlas Mountain Race or Tour Divide. Through all the categories, I’ve only experienced a hugely welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, especially as the kinda stuff that I’m personally into isn’t as competitive. I’m not sure I always felt that vibe in road cycling to be honest.
The second part sounds cliché as hell, but it’s the escape. I love getting to places that are properly remote, geeking out on the wildlife (I’m a Zoologist by training so that really floats my boat) and being away from cars/concrete/other people. Finding new trails is always a really fun thing to do, whether you stumble across gold or a dead-end track to no-where. Having said that, I do spend quite a bit of time close to home in Bristol exploring urban off road, linking up parks and byways, bridleways and near-forgotten woodland trails and that’s super rewarding too.
Self-reliance would probably be the third major point for me. Sure, a light and nimble unladen bike is fast and fun, but there’s nothing quite like a bike loaded up with a saddlebag and barbag full of camping kit and spares plus a stem pouch full of snacks to say adventure to me. Knowing that you can support yourself, or at least in say 95% of situations, ride as you please, be able to camp where and when you’re ready and know where you can pick up resupplies en route.
Why a podcast?
I really enjoy a range of different podcasts from business and career development (sounds a bit lame, actually fascinating) to cycling-orientated ones. You can listen in so many different ways, for me I prefer it while I’m working at home or in the car, but I know a few people that enjoy listening on solo rides, especially when you get into long distance.
There are a couple great ones in the States called ‘The Gravel Ride Podcast’ and ‘Bikes Or Death’ which focus on off road and bikepacking, plus ‘The Broom Wagon’ in Europe but nothing like them in the UK. I’ve learnt so much from these about the characters in the ‘scene’ and the format is so much more relaxed and casual than say, a polished video interview. Perhaps it’s that the barriers to entry and costs are lower? Anyway, I love hearing the back stories to brands, artists, frame builders, and athletes… the perfect format?
Presenting video was nothing new to me, so I thought audio couldn’t be that different, could it?
Why not? I’m a firm believer in if you don’t see something that you want to see, make it happen. What started off as an excitable idea one day turned into a very serious proposal when I got Tom on board.
Who makes up Unpaved and what do they do?
Tom Bonnett is the mastermind of the show. We met at the ultra endurance Transcontinental Race in 2018, he was producing the podcast for the race organisers Lost Dot and I was doing some reportage for GCN. Knowing that Tom lives just down the road from me in Bristol and has a wealth of expertise both in podcasting and producing radio programmes for the BBC, I asked him out for coffee to hopefully gather some of his audio recording know-how.
Long story short, Tom got so excited about the idea (he’d been thinking along the same lines about producing a series on adventure cycling, exploration and wildlife) that after a weekend of thought he offered to come on board to produce the podcast. Of course I bit his hand off.
So it’s the two of us. Tom wanted to take more of a back seat on the hosting side initially but it’s actually worked out well with a bit of dialogue between us, especially as a lot of the recording is done on the bike, and riding three abreast with recordist, interviewer and interviewee isn’t always the easiest, especially not on singletrack.
Although it’s just Tom and I officially, it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support from our friends who’ve helped us out with design, cover art, photography and some coaching. Again another wonderful example of the spirit of off road.
How did you decide on the format for your podcasts?
So most podcasts are interview based I guess, and I knew that I didn’t want it to be about me, but rather about all these fascinating riders and people in the industry that we all want to know more about.
I think one of the biggest barriers in gravel or adventure riding for people starting out is knowing where to go. If you’re a newbie mountain biker, you head for a trail centre, or if you’re a roadie you join a club. The boom of off road in terms of gravel and bikepacking is so new (not the actual disciplines themselves, that is) that we don’t have the same structure in term of routes and communities. It was for this reason that I wanted to make it more than just something that you can listen to, but something that could help to break down this barrier.
That’s why with every episode you’ll find a route on komoot that you can pick up and ride which gives you a taste of the local riding to where we’ve been recording. We ask our guests to make the routes for us too, which means you’ll be spoilt with the very best routes crafted with proper local knowledge.
In terms of the format on the bike, it’s not a new concept. We took a lot of inspiration from Jack Thurston’s ‘The Bike Show’ and with Tom’s amazing audio wizardry we could make it happen. From experience, I think you can have some really amazing, meaningful conversations while out on a bike, and it certainly is less daunting for our guests than sitting in a white box studio room with a huge mic in their face. I love the ambience of crunching gravel, smashing ice puddles, chatter in the background, we hope that it makes the listener feel like they’re coming on a bike ride with us.
Did Unpaved come to you as the perfect name or was it a mission to find a name?
I almost don’t remember. It was possibly some awful joke about ‘unpaving the way’ and it kinda stuck. I’m not all that good with that sort of thing but I hope it’s indicative of that we’re into. Tim Wilkey who designed our logo made it look like a tarmac road crumbling into gravel. Possibly one of the best things you’ll see out on the roads, in my eyes at least.
How do you go about getting the right people on board to talk to?
I don’t know, just asked I guess. In our introductory series of four we wanted to really set the scene for people who perhaps haven’t delved much into gravel, adventure cycling and bikepacking much and chat about how it all started, what it means, how to get into it and what happens when it goes to the extremes and explain the racing side of it as well.
I think people understood the concept well and know that Tom’s a pro recordist so it wasn’t a hard sell. After all, it’s a great excuse to go on a bike ride.
Why four episodes?
We wanted to prove the concept before getting too carried away. Of course there’s LOADS more that we want to make and everyday we’re brimming with new ideas and people to visit, but we wanted to start small. For us, quality is far more important than churning out a lot of episodes that aren’t perhaps as good as they could be.
Oh, so many… We recorded episode three with The Racing Collective on a bivvy night just outside of Oxford. We were pretty tipsy by the time we left the pub to head up into the hills to camp and there was the beginning of frost on the ground. We gathered around a campfire and stayed up chatting until two in the morning (on the record, of course) before creeping to our respective tents/hammocks/bivvi bags. In the morning it was the most beautiful hard frost.
We giggled a lot in the Peak District with Pannier.cc and the guys behind Second City Divide, another chilly one with some snow on the ground. Halfway round Stef pulled out a whole Bakewell Pudding from his frame bag and brewed up some coffee for us to share at Slippery Stones, that was very much appreciated.
Visiting the Woods Cyclery in the New Forest is always awesome. We invited a few extra friends along to their Sunday shop ride and ended up with 54. A pretty overwhelming display of the off-road appetite down on the South Coast.
We’re off next week to the Bicycle Academy in Frome to chat with them and alumni Adeline from Mercredi Bikes. We’re super looking forward to geeking out about frame geometry, how drop bar bikes have changed to accommodate off road demands, material choice etc. That’ll be a really fascinating one.
None as yet. We did do a phone call recording with pro road cyclist Lachlan Morton (keep an eye out for him at Cape Epic this year) from Australia and he was ace. At the end of the interview which he was recording at his end on his iPad, he said ‘Aw sh*t, it didn’t record’! Thank goodness for that Aussie humour.
Anyone to thank?
Everyone that’s listened, shared, reviewed and supported us – the launch has been totally overwhelming and it’s mad to see your baby project trending in the Apple charts! We’re hugely indebted to the route planning and navigation app komoot for sponsoring the podcast, without that awesome team and their support we simply couldn’t have done it.