Mantova | 7-9 giugno 2024

Mantova | 7-9 giugno 2024

Way too much marsala in a camp-mug tiramisu: Stefan Amato’s punk journey

venerdì, 21 Aprile, 2023

Escape artists, outsiders, bikepackers. No rush, and there’s place for everyone….What was the idea behind Roamer?

Hey guys. You’ve summed it up pretty well there 🙂 Yes, ROAMER are supported stage-bikepacking journeys over three glorious days; an evolution of the various bikepacking trip formats we’ve hosted over the last decade, with the main idea to discover new places by bike, connect with like-minds, and act on any pressing local environmental issues. ROAMER balances the feel of a small-group guided bikepacking expedition with the adventure/impact of a large-group self-guided bikepacking event, and seeks to remove both the pressures of racing and any barriers to bikepacking. We’ve coined them ‘rendez vous’ to show off the nomadic and social aspects to ROAMER; I’d like to say sporadic too, but these things take a fair bit of planning and organising 🙂 

How are the destinations thought out?

Three factors, really. First up, ROAMER destinations are places we want to ride ourselves – naturally tending to be lesser-discovered regions, with ace mixed-terrain options and an alluring aspect or two, be it: food, drink, people, history … or warm turquoise seas! Then, being able to travel overland to ROAMER – accessible by bike, train, vehicle, or boat from the majority of mainland Europe to start with – is important, especially long-term. And lastly, on a similar thread, the presence of NGO projects or local activist groups needs consideration for the ‘act’ part of our mantra. On Sardinia, we are working with MEDSEA.

Set-up for those who want to participate: just to be a wanderer and you take care of the rest?

You can choose! Which we feel makes ROAMER unique. Turn up with your full bikepacking bike and setup, or just a backpack and sleeping bag – hire a bike and bags, and have us take care of everything you need to camp under the Sardo stars. Pedalling off and arriving into the same camps each day, how you choose to roam in between is up to you. Stop to sketch a cork tree forest, seek a local amaro, pause for a swim. In terms of ‘infrastructure’ we’re keen to keep the riding days light-touch to celebrate the nomadic and roamer spirit – we’ll have some guided riders amongst the herd and a cucina checkpoint around lunchtime – but offer home comforts and communal dinners/drinks at the two hosted evening camps.

Who is the perfect “Roamer,” in your opinion?

Anyone with an open mind, who wants to escape, discover new places and meet others! Our previous bikepacking trips have been a super mix – everyone from experienced bikepackers wanting to join and ride with a group, to outsiders that have never been bikepacking riding before and want to give it a go within a supported environment. Everyone is welcome.

In short, a true wilderness community. Next steps? 

Hopefully it is the start of something special, yes. The first edition is on Sardinia 19-21 May 2023 which has our full attention at the moment(!) But, we then have an MTB/trail-focused ROAMER edition almost ready in the northern border regions of Slovenia, for the end of September this year. Beyond that is a job for another day, but we are always on the lookout 🙂

Now we’re going to get into your personal business a little bit….tell us about Pannier and how it was born and grew over the years

Pannier is 10 this year, which is crazy to think. I started Pannier with two friends to blog about our touring adventures, and plot cycle-friendly places to stay along major routes on our own mapping interface. Our aim in 2012 was to ‘make cycling-touring cool again’; little did we know we’d witness and be at the forefront of a whole shift in the industry towards bikepacking and such a growth in cycling participation. What a decade it has been – we’ve gone from the original blog, to bikepacking e-commerce, to curating and hosting our own bikepacking trips, to producing story and media projects for brands in our golden, small niche of cycling. ROAMER is the latest evolution of these experiences, which we’ll host  alongside a growing series of small-group bikepacking expeditions in the world’s wilds.

You are a creative one: what is your way of telling a journey, between photos, drawings and words?

Cycling and journeying by bike sure attracts creative people. It must be the free headspace; discovering new places, tastes and people. All good ideas are born on the bike, right? I’m not a natural writer or videographer, but have enjoyed crafting words and making films (Rainspotting etc) about trips over the years. For me, a camera (even if phone) and sketchbook/pocket-watercolour set always has pride of place in my bar bag or hip pack. I don’t always get the time to live doodle – in the UK, the weather is too fickle to be able to rely on sitting outside! – but retrospective sketching in the evening is a useful way of mentally flicking through moments and memories from the day, and cementing a couple of highlights. I especially love doing this with groups; it’s interesting to see what people pick to sketch. With an architecture background, I am automatically drawn to buildings – especially remote rifugios.
If it’s not on strava watercolour paper, did it even happen?

Pannier reflects Stefan’s way of biking: in a nutshell, tell us what is the ideal biking experience for you?

Escape, journey, challenge, shared experience, food and drink. Having started out travelling by bike solo, Pannier and everything it has enabled over the years has made me realise that bikepacking is about people, and, ultimately, off-the-bike time: paused somewhere special that a bike has enabled, sat around a couple of tasty one-pot meals and conversation slowly simmering away, drink in hand. I’ve tried ultra-racing, but even that was in a pair with good friend and colleague at the time, David. Through my experiences at Silk Road Mountain Race in 2019, I’ve come to realise that a lot of people are entering bikepacking races without the will to necessarily race at all, but rather to be part of ‘something bigger’ with a purpose for riding bikes in wild places. There aren’t any alternatives for intrepid bikepackers, which is another of the rationales for ROAMER. 
Social journeys by bike for the win.
Hosted, stage-bikepacking for the win.

What does it mean to you to be punk? (That’s the BAM’s claim of this year. In our opinion all cyclists are punks).
Way too much Marsala in a camp-mug tiramisu.