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An interview with Oli Broom, the Slow Cyclist

Cycling Blog

An interview with Oli Broom, the Slow Cyclist

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November 6th, 2015

This week we spoke with a man who’s traded in the Lycra and Strava segment record attempts that most of us are familiar with, and opted instead for a more relaxed and rustic approach to cycling tours.

Oli runs The Slow Cyclist – a touring company combining his skills and interests as a former charity director, author and prolific cycle tourer. Through The Slow Cyclist he aims to offer riders the opportunity to tour in destinations (and cultural backdrops) that may otherwise elude peoples’ attention. Their ethos:

We were founded on the basic principle that great travel experiences mean taking the time to get to know a place, its cuisine, history, customs and, of course, its people. The saddle of a bicycle is a wonderful place from which to do this.

The ‘slow’ in the name originally referred to Oli’s own appraisal of his ride from London to Australia (sounds familiar!) which took 412 days “which means that, by any definition, Oli is a bonafide slow cyclist”. The definition has shifted slightly now:

Slow Cyclists are curious, open-minded travellers with some juice in their legs. They love seeing the world change – often almost surreptitiously – under their wheels.

Much preferable to the usual connotations of the lone rider huffing and puffing at the back, trying to keep up with the seemingly-bionic riders at the front!

Where do the slow tourers go?

Currently The Slow Cyclist offers trips to Rwanda and Transylvania (the largest of four regions of Romania) – two destinations not usually on riders’ radars, but both of which offer stunning scenery, rewarding riding and opportunities to engage with the local lifestyle.

Rwanda on top, Romania on bottom. Images from The Slow Cyclist.

Oli describes Rwanda as ‘epic’ and tours here offer all off-road terrain with formidable but manageable elevation – nobody said not to expect a challenge! After having lived and worked for 2 years in Kigali, the nation’s capital, he has a real understanding of the way of life and type of riding you can expect. His knowledge is bolstered by that of two local guides – often members of the Rwandan national cycling team – who join each tour.

In Transylvania the climbs are less formidable, and the routes weave through landscapes that Oli describes as “beguiling and unique”. You’ll pass Saxon villages with fortified churches recognised by UNESCO as heritage sites, and be entertained by locals in the evening before nestling down for the night in Saxon houses.

Rwanda and Romania bike tours
Romania and Rwanda – not on many riders’ radars!

What can you expect?

An upcoming ride in Rwanda features a night in a nunnery, and a recent Transylvanian tour the group stopped to help an old lady pick grapes for an hour and ate homecooked meals in family homes. Shorter daily distances (anywhere from 15 to 40 miles) allow for more time to take in your surroundings and learn about the place, and to join in with ad hoc activities like bee-keeping, archery and wine-tasting.

For many of us in the west our perception of some countries (especially true of those in Africa) consists of outdated news snippets and clichéd shots from films. Connecting with a place on the level offered by The Slow Cyclist invites the opportunity for some real insights. This is reflected well in the testimonials from existing customers:

  • Of the guides: “truly local guides … sensitive enough to bridge the cultural divides”
  • Of the food: “quality food … so fresh, local and tasty, and was definitely one of the highlights”
  • Of the experience: “it was absolutely amazing, and exceeded my expectations in every way.”
  • And quite simply, “the best holiday I’ve ever been on”

What does the future hold?

In the immediate future (November 17th, to be precise) The Slow Cyclist is co-hosting an event at the Romanian Cultural Institute in London. This is a debate and photographic exhibition, more details about which can be found on their blog.

Next season The Slow Cyclist is running a number of private trips to both Transylvania and Rwanda, but also on the agenda are Rolling Through Romania, a ride through the Saxon villages of Transylvania with the Global Heritage Fund from 19-25 May, and Ride Rwanda, a ride from Kigali to the Congo raising money for a soon-to-be-announced charity between 24 September and 1 October 2016. Group tour dates with no charitable angle will be announced before the end of November.

To follow their progress, you can find The Slow Cyclist on all the usual social channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) or subscribe to the occasional newsletter on the website.

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