Escape – Lee Craigie’s inner journey along the Caledonia Way

Escape – Lee Craigie’s inner journey along the Caledonia Way

When I was 13 I’d sit crippled with
insecurity in my standard grade French class. Unable to speak but the same
time knowing that there was more to life than this. I’d gaze longingly out the
classroom window at the Campsie Fells and fantasize I was out there in the
fresh air under my own steam, miles from petty peer expectations and social norms. I didn’t want to be, couldn’t be, the sort of girl who stood around gossiping about
other people, I wanted the world out there, with all its associated unknown
freedoms and excitement. I was bursting with untapped physical potential but had
no avenue opportunity or like-minded people they helped me express it. And
then I discovered bike riding. It became a secret I had. I could sit and standard
grade French or be at the receiving end of some snide comments from peers and
handle it all, because I knew something they didn’t. Because of a bike I had access to a world they didn’t even know to dream of. Back then before smart phones and GPS I’d follow a cycle route out of town until I felt
the tickle of apprehension from having traveled into uncharted
territory, turn around and ride back again but each time I did this and go
further. Five miles became 15, and then 30, and then 40 all on a fully rigid steel mountain bike. As I grew braver
I began following these signs for miles until my legs grew heavy and the
darkness would gather. I’d then hope on public transport to get home, my world
that little bit bigger than it was when I’d left that morning. The more tired I finished a ride the happier I felt. And knowing this is what
encouraged me to engage others this way. I left school and worked as an outdoor
instructor, then a school counselor. I watched other young people torture
themselves with the crippling weight of societal expectation, they expressed it
was antisocial behavior and it was my job to help them. And so we rode together
and cycle therapy was born, a project that worked one-to-one with young people
at risk of social exclusion because they find it hard to manage the very same
feelings I battled with and standard grade French class. At 26 I entered my first
mountain bike race and won, that followed by 10 years of getting fitter and stronger
until I was good enough to race full time for my country. Although I like the structure of the hard training, elite level racing was also so
so far removed from the freedom and exploration that tempted me into biking
in first place, that it might as well been a different sport. In fact, as I discovered,
the world of top-level sporting competition it’s not that different from
the snidey corridors of secondary school. And so I stopped and poured my efforts
into encouraging others, especially women, to challenge themselves and what they
think they might be capable of. Emily Chappell and I founded the adventure syndicate in an effort to correct the lack of inspirational genuine female
sport and role models out there. I often think that if the adventure syndicate
had existed, when I was a young woman trying to find my way, then life would have been that bit easier. A ride these days has to have an element of adventure and exploration to it. I enjoy carrying everything I need to survive on the bike.
Long distance back to back days traveling A to B now capture my
imagination. And I find I’m still discovering places I didn’t know existed
both geographically and within myself. Afterwards I love to come home and feel
better able to cope with the challenges of everyday life as a result of my bike
adventures. Fortunately these challenges are no
longer insecure peers telling me to be more like them or French teachers
forcing me to knuckle down, but life isn’t always easy just because I’m an adult now. When I’m stuck feeling low or bored or lonely it’s as though the
pedaling motion turns rusty cogs in my head. Riding my bike helps me explore so much more than the physical environment
I move through. It breathes new life into me and resets any emotional imbalance and I
want that for everyone. So grab your bike metaphorical or otherwise and
ride. you

About the author


  1. I had the same feeling about French at School – something that still haunts me to this day! Thankfully, I also had my bike to escape! – What a brilliant film, sums it all up perfectly!

  2. Brilliant film! A bike is the ultimate escape vehicle even barring campervans with strong bike racks. Well done. Great art!

  3. Beautiful scenery, excellent words, and a powerful story. Wonderful! Such a good reminder that not everyone is cut out for the "standard" life, school, desk job, etc. Seek out what makes you happy. I like my job, even though it's a desk job, but thankfully I come and go as I please, set my own schedule, and ride a bike to the office every day.

  4. It was a real pleasure to meet you briefly at the weekend. You're showing the way through my own crisis of confidence.

  5. Awesome vid, very inspiring!!! Makes me want to get back up north… I see that BB200 sticker #StopBeingSoft 😉

  6. So true, it is like I hear myself talking. Although the last few years I have been untrue to myself with almost no biking and gaining weight. A downwards spiral I am breaking now.

  7. i feel the same about cycling, i feel totally free on my bike , love to have everything with me to but cant get my stuff down as small as you have, i must try harder 🙂

  8. Oh this is so beautiful! Thank you Lee Craigie for being so authentic and inspiring! Shared to "eBike Smile" and "MTB Divas" fb groups.

  9. Lee loved your video and your mentality about life. Scotland Tourist Board should use this as a promotion advert and hopefully you go into schools and talk to youngsters about your experiences to encourage them, particularly girls, to do the same. If only YT had existed back in the 60s when I was at school. Keep enjoying life Lee.

  10. I enjoyed French….Great film and having competed at decent levels in sport, I'm the same. There's always cliques in organisations and groups that think they are superior, showing off about "latest build" on facebook or similar. Then they get outraged when their five grand bike gets "whipped" overnight and never seen again. This film reminds us to just get out and enjoy ourselves. Very inspiring…

  11. i did that this year ( well the great glen way ) and loved it :), off to do the outer hebridese next year and cant wait 😀

  12. Travelled along part of this route with similar motivation. Great to know there are other fellow travellers who feel the same!😎

  13. Hi Lee I sstruggled the same as you when I was at school but got out of that struggle to but when i took to cycling all those struggles disappeared and I felt I could be myself when I'm cycling and have never looked back since I am 44 now and I am still cycling yet I am about to take trip on my bike in July 2018 it's first I have taking a cycle ride to the Angus Glens I was just wondering do you have any tips on this

  14. Lee, what a great video, thank you.
    your lucky to have that backyard to play in and blow the cobwebs away.
    Your words beautifully capture what cycling does for me too,
    I’m getting on my bike to go for a ride that now!!

  15. Inspirational but slightly aggravating as i can no longer do such bike rides (me/cfs), would love to do such a ride. I do now have an ebike and do get out on short rides, but this tortoise does occasionally dream of being a hare 🙂
    Cant help but wonder why three people did not like this video ?

  16. Wonderful job….. I miss my trips…….. and my old home in the Fort from years ago – sadly got COPD now so stuck with an ebike

  17. Beautiful Film Lee full of heart!! I rode route 78 a couple of years back!! Cycling literally got me back on my feet after learning to walk again!! Love the work you do!!

  18. Scotland is losing its heritage culture and identity. Plenty of Muslims and Africans will change this jewel of a country into something else. I don't want this to happen but it surely will.

  19. Why so serious?!
    Want to make biking accessible? A wee smile now and again is the difference between a face of determination rather than one of intimidation. Biking snobbery is a real joy killer!

  20. What a journey.
    Glad you're insightful enough to garner the wisdom from it and leave the earlier bitterness behind you.
    Peace ✌.

  21. Thank you Lee – a beautifully shot and narrated film.Inspiring,questioning and re-affirming whats important in life.Its all in our heads.The next journey is the next adventure.All on two wheels.

  22. Brilliant, really makes me want to ride my bike. Adventures can be found on our doorstep. Just need imagination and inspiration.

  23. “The tickle of apprehension…” I love that. I know exactly what you mean, standing at the foot of a mountain, on my own, inexperienced, just wanting to get away from everyone and everything. Nearly forty years later after a lifetime in the hills and feeling very much at home among them. I miss that feeling. But I certainly haven’t forgotten it.

  24. Love this video. Every ride for me is a mini holiday/adventure. I always try to mixed road and trails in my rides. Having a MTB you can literally go anywhere. It's so therapeutic.

  25. that was lovely she's thinking what we've all been through when I'm down or tired or depressed I get on my bike and come back and it's gone she really hit the spot well done Lee 🚴‍♂️🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️

  26. I love everything about this short but solid documentary packed with amazing videography and excellent narration. Most importantly is the passion that you pursue while still at that young age and of course the inspiration you impacted on others who want to follow theirs. Keep going.

  27. Don't mean to offend anyone, but I've found that dialog of any kind in YouTube videos inevitably leads to attempts at selling us something. Just ride and play music. If done well it speaks for itself.

  28. Cycling is great for getting rid of the brain fog…also, when you cycle out to the Countryside from the noisy City, stop & listen to the birds chirping, it's so peaceful!.🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *