Video: “E-biking is as challenging as I make it.”
16.12.2020 | Travel & Adventure
Rufus Exton, 43 years old, is a film-maker. Three years ago, he decided to leave London to return to the countryside around Stroud, Gloucestershire. He retrained as a psychotherapist, specialising in the healing power of nature and spending time outdoors. When his film-making goes quiet, as was the case in lockdown, he fills his time with forestry and gardening work, hiking and now lots more cycling.
"When people say to me, that having an electric bike is cheating, I just think: well, I’m not competing against anyone.
In my twenties I was a bit of a bike adventurer. Packing panniers and setting off whenever I had time. But then I got a bit older. Maybe a bit out of shape and lazier. When Alba came along, I put the bikes away and became a hiker. That way she could come with me.
And then one day, I saw this bike and I just thought: what madness. A bike I could put her in and ride out to a mountain trail. And I could chase her. She could chase me. Maybe we could run together. And ultimately, having electric power, helps by giving me a little push up the hills. I can pack a bigger tent, maybe take along a bit more wine.
But it certainly doesn’t make it easy. It’s as hard as I choose it to be. But it does mean, I get to take Alba along with me."
– Rufus Exton
How did the collaboration with Dan from EDEMO come about?
I had started riding my old Cannondale mountain bike again but I was not enjoying the steep hills outside my house, nor the fact that I had to leave Alba, my dog, at home. I had passed Dan’s shop and been intrigued by the Packster he had in the window – could I take Alba with me now? Then when I saw the Load 60 with off-road tyres, I had the idea of attempting this new off-road trail that cuts through the middle of the UK and up into Scotland. Alba could then come with me and we could camp along the way. I remember Dan left me a voicemail saying ‘that’s one of the stupidest ideas I’ve heard in a while, let’s do it!’ We hadn’t even met at that point and I just knew we were going to get along well… Then we met and it turned out that Dan was looking for a local film-maker to create adverts and films for him, so I guess it was meant to be!
EDEMO Electric Bikes is an independent bike shop, located in the Cotswolds, solely for the sale and support of Riese & Müller electric bikes. The business was started three years ago by Dan Radford, when he was unable to choose which Riese & Müller he should buy. But he was sure he needed more than one! So he became a Riese & Müller partner and started sharing his boundless enthusiasm for these bikes with others. Dan now supplies Riese & Müller bikes in the UK, offering expert product knowledge to assist customers in finding their perfect bike.
Rufus contacted EDEMO having seen the Riese & Müller cargo bikes in the showroom. They agreed to swap a Load 60 in return for him sharing his passion for adventure through his incredible film-making.
When do you prefer the Load to your car?
Now I only use my car for long distances. I’ve found that what would be a 20-minute trip here by car takes 30 minutes on the Load. But I get to give Alba a run through the woods so she’s exercised and tired when we get there. I know I’m saving money, my carbon footprint is more eco-friendly and invariably I get somewhere happier. I was leaving work recently and it started raining and I found myself thinking that I wish I’d brought the car…but then I started cycling, Alba hunkered down under the tarpaulin and I just loved it… I was getting wet but I wasn’t cold. I knew I’d be home in 20 minutes for a whisky and a hot shower, and I just felt like a teenager again. It was one of those moments when you have a choice: you either enjoy the situation or hate it… and I do think that comes up a lot in life. You can’t choose whether it rains or not, but you can choose to laugh at it or be grumpy about it…
Why is the Load really ideal for you and your everyday life?
I live in a part of the Cotswolds, known as the Five Valleys. It is incredibly beautiful but, as its name suggests, we have some killer hills here, so electric bikes are really growing in popularity. My dog Alba comes everywhere with me, so I need a bike that will carry her, lots of shopping, logs, tools etc. However, I also need a bike that I can ride along the forest trails and common land here with her running behind me… and finally I have a history of crashing bikes so I need something strong. The Load has not let me down. We did a 320-mile off-road adventure recently, complete with the mishaps you’d expect. After all that, my bike had a cracked mudguard and I’d lost one of the rubber feet on the stands; but apart from that it was unscathed. I really can’t get over how well made it is. It’s obviously quite an investment but it feels like it’ll last forever with a little maintenance here and there….
In the video you ride the Load on trails where you would expect to be riding a full-suspension mountain bike. Do you have a MTB past?
When I was a teenager I was really into MTB and that’s what’s been so rejuvenating about the Load. It’s got me back out onto those trails. In my twenties I got into skateboarding when I left the country for the city, but then recently I’ve been riding off-road motorbikes. Actually the Load feels much closer to one of those than my old mountain bike. On a dirt bike you have so much travel on the front forks and so much power you can fly over huge ruts and boulders. In a way the Load is similar - the front wheel is so far ahead of your centre of gravity that it jumps over most obstacles. I’m honestly blown away by how it handles those trails. The video really doesn’t do it justice. When I take my old mountain bike up there now I get quite scared by it all and definitely can’t do the route as fast as I can on the Load.
What has been your best experience with the Load so far?
Ah that’s hard to say, as I’ve had so much fun with it. Riding home through the woods in the pitch black, with that huge headlight, Alba running behind me, felt pretty wild and exciting. That 300-mile off-road adventure we did was epic, wild camping every night. During the day I had to ask people to let me recharge, which meant that I met some wonderful people who normally I would have just cycled past. I’ll never forget the fried breakfast in a pretty rough pub while I recharged the batteries. Then the landlord saw the bike and started telling me about how he’d cycled the length of the UK and how it had been the hardest and most brilliant experience of his life. That was really special, a conversation and meeting that would never normally have happened. In fact, on that trip the combination of the bike and the dog became a bit of an issue in that people were constantly stopping us. By the end of it, I had come up with an idea: if you’re lonely, get yourself a dog, and if you’re lonely and depressed, get yourself a dog and a Load. Then everywhere you go you’ll meet lots of people who just want to be your friend… it certainly makes people smile wherever you go. And recently I went up to Snowdonia in Wales to visit my creative partner Steve. Dan lent him a Supercharger2 and we set off for 3 nights of wild camping to shoot the movie above. It was basically a big shoot that normally you’d do with crew and cars and hotels, and we just did it all together on a couple of Riese & Müller bikes. I think it’s a better film for that. We were up at 6 a.m. every morning, so we got the best light and we had a really fun holiday at the same time. Carrying drones, cameras, all our camping gear and food on those two bikes.
How does the infrastructure for riding a cargo bike need to be improved in your hometown?
Oh wow. Stroud is the home of Ecotricity, one of the UK’s biggest green energy providers but I haven’t even thought of an infrastructure for electric bikes. I guess that for me it’s a reason to stop at a pub and have a small beer? But I know that Dan at Edemo is starting the conversation with local coffee shops and pubs to engage them into offering charging points. But it feels like we’re a long way off anything close to a proper infrastructure. That said, with the hills we have here, people need e-bikes and they’ll be needing charging points so let’s see what happens.