I’m Will, and the first time I went wild-camping without any adults around was when I was around ten years old, while growing up in South Africa. Since then, I’ve gone wild-camping genuinely more times than I can remember. In the early 90s, I went solo backpacking around the Drakensberg mountains for several weeks. I used to do a great deal of backpacking in Africa. I grew up on a military base, and started going on live-firing exercises from a young age. This lead to a whole heap of mischief that regularly landed me in a spot of bother, but I was also taught valuable skills, like tracking. In the South African bush, I know what creatures to be wary of, but that didn’t stop me, as a young boy, from catching snakes, spiders and scorpions on a very regular basis. And yes, I was bitten and stung a fair few times!
I have a military background, having been conscripted into the SA army, which involved a great deal of camping, always without a tent or bivvy. In fact, before around 2005, I never owned a tent! I have advanced map-reading and navigational skills, and a long history of using those skills. I was taught how to navigate using a map and compass, even at night, at a young age, and that’s a skill I’ve maintained. I’ve always been a map geek, and with digital mapping I’ve found new ways to enjoy a passion of mine. Maps aren’t simply a representation of the landscape – they tell stories. Once you learn how to read the stories, you’ll probably be as hooked on maps as I am.
Cycling and cycle campaigning
Pre-COVID I cycle-commuted 15 very hilly miles (I live in Devon!) each way, practically on a daily basis, pretty much regardless of the weather. I regularly go cycle-touring, and I’m a trained and very experienced British Cycling Ride Leader. In fact, I led hundreds of incident-free rides, during which participants greatly enjoyed themselves. I had the great pleasure of, over a period of years, watching some of those start out as nervous novice riders, and go on to eventually become confident, competent ride leaders themselves.
I have been nominated by Devon & Cornwall Police’s Roads Policing Unit for the Cycling UK Cycle Campaigner Of The Year award, and I’ve been instrumental in D&C Police doing a U-turn on acting on videos of close passes submitted by cyclists.
I chose to stop leading rides for British Cycling, as it was time for something new, but I continued leading my own rides, many of which I listed on the Let’s Ride site. I also organised an annual 100-mile, all-night bike ride over Dartmoor, appropriately called Darkmoor, I invite people along on Ghost Rides from time to time, plus my Travelling Ouballie rides are usually open-invitation. Travelling Ouballie rides involve cycle touring and wild-camping, and almost anyone is free to join me. In addition, from time to time I also offer guided wild-camping experiences – ask me if you’re interested.
I rather strongly believe that life is better with more adventure in it, and that adventure doesn’t have to mean solo trekking barefoot across Antarctica, dressed only in beachwear. In fact, there’s adventure all around you – all you need to do is look out for it. In fact, I have a long track record of doing things just because I could do them. I probably still have scars on my bottom from bobbing down the Crocodile River in South Africa, in a truck inner tube, over a series of rapids. I’ve sat on top of a mountain peak, alone and butt-naked, playing guitar to the setting sun and I shuffled around the outside of the 7th floor of a block of flats in Pretoria, along a ledge that was around 20cm wide. I play guitar poorly (but once played to a whole troop of highly appreciative monkeys, in a mountain gorge nearish Pretoria) and I had a poem published before.
There’s an embarrassingly long list of stupid things I’ve done in my youth, including jumping out of a car travelling at 40kph, on a dirt road, to try and catch a hare that was running alongside. And no, I never caught it. These days, I still do silly things, but I’m no longer reckless. I also mellowed to the point that I carry a decent sleeping mat when going camping. I still enjoy adventures, but nowadays they are more gentle adventures. My adventures are also better planned (a trademark of my GoCycle route guides are that they explicitly tell you where the escape points are, in case something goes wrong).
The name of the site was easy: I’m Will, and I like to cycle, but it’s also a play on words, as in “I will cycle”. The site started as a blog over on Blogger, purely just as a place to hold my musings, but it’s grown since then. Crucially, I belatedly realised that I have a particular set of skills that is of value outside a military environment. I went many years enjoying the fact that I had these skills, but thinking they were skills that everyone else also had. That’s obviously not the case, though.
I’m on Instagram as Willcycle, though I confess I’m still a bit of a newbie with it. Give me a follow there? Also, please follow the WillCycle_com Twitter account? Finally, do make sure you sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter, The Spirit Of Adventure. I also appeared on the Road.cc podcast, where they asked me about cycle touring and wild camping.
I love cycle touring and cycle camping, and try to share that with people new to either. This is why so many of my posts focus on giving people the basics. It’s working, as there’s a growing list of people who thanked me for inspiring them to go cycle camping and cycle touring, and I’m enormously happy about that! If you’re one of those, please do tell me in the comments?
I have a growing series of posts, called SheCycles, which highlights a range of perfectly ordinary, and totally amazing women that cycle. This is leading to a growing female support base for my blog, which is something I’m particularly proud of. In a male-dominated world, we all need to do more to promote women, and fight for a more equal world.
Cycle route guides
I also have a growing collection of highly detailed cycling routes, most of which are available for free download, though multi-day route guides are paid-for. I created my Drake’s Trail route guide, the first guide I made, specifically because, when I got back into cycling, I was looking for route guides like that, and couldn’t find any. That route guide has had many tens of thousands of views over the years. I’ve since added to my guides, and split them into shorter day rides, called DayCycle, and multi-day routes, called GoCycle. (You can see a theme developing, can’t you?)
I sell GoCycle guides, because I spend weeks creating them, and as is the case for all my guides, I go cycle them myself, to ensure the guide is accurate and useful. A distinguishing characteristic of my guides are how detailed they are, and that they’ve been tested – you know you can trust them. The feedback I’ve had from my Somerset Circle GoCyle route has been absolutely positive.
Approved by Will
If you look at my background, and my skillset, I’m sure you’ll agree that when I give a route guide, or a wild-camping experience my Approved By Will stamp of approval, that it means you can trust it! The route will have just the right amount of challenges to make it an adventure, and take you just far enough outside your comfort zone to ensure you love it.
The photo of me right at the top was taken by Daniel Groves, during Darkmoor.