“If you hit a summit and see another peak ahead, you’re probably climbing up that too!”

The first gravel bike to cross the finish line, and taking 4th position (and only 1 minute behind the 3rd place finisher), we caught up with Friend of MASON, and Bokeh owner Steven White about how he got on at the Further Journal Perseverance 'Further Pyrénées'.

Photo credit: Rupert Hartley

The race begins at 2,185m high in the French Pyrenees at Refuge du Rulhe, to even get to the start of the race is an achievement in its own right. With a hefty A road climb up, then at least a 2-hour hiker bike to the Refuge, Further’s perseverance begins before the race even begins.

Further’s pitching location was definitely the first beautiful-brutal-attraction to my entry of this race, secondly was the roughness of its routing; I was more than happy to take my bike for a long walk… and so I did.

4 weeks before the start of the race Camille (the race mastermind) in his illusive fashion sent out a race manual which covers the following; details on how to not get killed by electric storms, bears, boars, Pyrenean mountain dogs, and ticks. 2 weeks before the race Camille sent out the 10 Parcours, in order of completion and direction to be followed, we then had the freedom to plot the route between them. The last-minute secrecy of the routing and the unknown territory really made the Further Journal Perseverance the perfect ‘rough stuff’ adventure. The race covers approx 550km with approx 18,000m of vertical climbing.

Here’s how my Further race unfolded:

En Route to Refuge du Rulhe (2,185m), my routing was a little bit of an oversight, to say the least… I ended up taking the ‘scenic route’ cycling up and over a 2,400m peak with then a 4-mile hiker bike through a horrendous boulder field, instead of ascending up to the Refuge like every other rider, I descended into camp just in time for the group dinner. A sweaty mess of a man, my feet already blistered and my lower back in a world of pain, I was finally at the start line of Further Journal Perseverance and my first ever bike race, gulp!

The race doesn’t specify what bike to take, with the flex of off-road and on-road sections… ‘the perfect bike is the one you already own’ springs to mind.  

The race took off and so did our bikes. Bodies and bikes flying everywhere on the first sector from the Refuge (people trying to find their positions I guess). Myself included, with a flying bike, my sunset rider, the Mason Bokeh was my weapon of choice – within the first 2 miles of the race I went straight over the handlebars bending the rear shifter and losing my back brake for the rest of my ride. Just my luck… I cracked my neck and carried on moving from sector to sector. Still on day 1, after the first checkpoint when descending Mt Fourcat I hit a rock, puncturing my tyre in two places and smashing up the rim… Tyre boot, inner tube, and a forgetful mind, my bike and body rolled perfectly in harmony then on with no issues.

The sectors that Camille had crafted for us to follow allowed you to feel every contour of the Pyrenean mountains, linking the old networks, crossing borders from the French side, into Spain, Andorra, and then back into France. You feel like a cattle drover, but instead of coos’ to move, you’ve got a bike and a pair of willing legs.

The Bokeh’s performance was commendable, It’s the Godfather of gravel bikes for sure and much much more. After 3 days of racing through the hills, I arrived back at the Refuge taking 4th position, only 1 minute behind 3rd place! The Bokeh was the first gravel bike home and has setup my mind up for a list of future races, the second of which is set to begin early next year…

Photo credit: Rupert Hartley

To summarise: Further was everything I expected it would be. It was a wild wild ride! If you hit a summit and see another peak ahead, you’re probably climbing up that too. The theme of perseverance was refreshed in my mind at every hurdle of this race, and en route to the start is where I felt I captured the essence of what Camille wanted us to seek. I will be returning to the 2023 Further race with a new motivation, and only a few tweaks to the setup.

Thank you Mason, and thank you Further.


Photo credit: Steven White and Rupert Hartley