Stories From The Road: Kasia's Komoot Women's Badlands Rally 2024

The Badlands Rally marks the 7th edition of the komoot Women’s Rally within the span of four years. This initiative was launched to inspire greater participation among women, trans individuals, and non-binary riders in cycling adventures, fostering camaraderie and mutual support throughout the journey. Participants often arrive apprehensively yet emerging as leaders after a week. They return home to form riding groups, launch podcasts, and share their experiences within their communities. They plan future trips, extend invitations to friends and family, and occasionally venture into competitive races. These stories of empowerment are uplifting and help fuel peoples motivation.

So we caught up with our very own Kasia, Head of Community here at Label Collective, on her experience from the trip. 

  Photo Credit: pamo.gif

Kasia, this was your first Komoot rally but not your first bike packing trip, what was the event like? 

It was everything I imagined and more! I’ve been enviously lurking at the previous editions but never really trusted myself to fill out the application for the worry of not being selected, of simply not being good enough. But something has changed recently and since I’ve been involved in community building and activations in the last year, I thought it is important for me to be there - to meet more like minded people but also to show my friends and audience that such epic adventures are within their reach.
There is something magical in FLINTA* folks coming together, and this magic also happened during the Komoot Rally.
My friends from The Female Explorer have asked a few of us for one word to describe the trip and mine was “togetherness”, as it truly is an experience when we all come together. There’s encouragement, laughter and tears. The Whatsapp group was buzzing with offers of sleeping spots for the night, sharing tips for places to refuel or get a drink, gear assistance and general moral support. Even if you came by yourself, you never felt alone.

Badlands is not just a race but an amazing bikepacking route, quiet roads, spectacular views, welcoming communities, open space, rolling terrain, and camping. What was the route like? 

In Badlands, the game is in the name ;) The views are stunning to look at in photos but you need to earn them. The track we covered (or were supposed to) is an adapted track for this year’s 2024 edition of the race, and David, the organizer, didn't spare the spicy parts. On the first day, from the first meters we had a big climb of about 20 kilometers. For someone living in Berlin that’s my annual vertical meter allowance! And we had one like this every day. One long climb followed by further ups and downs. The weather was also slightly unpredictable, and we were advised to take a few detours and even a day break due to thunderstorms in the high parts of the Basa Region, going to Calar Alto. So we had the full spread of weathers, temperatures and landscapes - from scorching deserts, to windy alpine fields of… nothingness, to wet and muddy riverbeds. The whole landscape is as breathtaking as it is demanding!

  Photo Credit: tatiana.myk & pamo.gif

It sounds tough. Were there parts you enjoyed and some you hated? How did you get through those times? 

As in a classic case of type 2 fun, I will now say I loved everything! But what was the hardest for me I think, was the resupply opportunities. If you’ve ridden with me you know I’m a huge fan and propagator of the concept of ‘Cola Pause’, which was very limited, if not near impossible there. Having to drink my warm sugary water with a refreshing hint of chloride, I got myself quite dehydrated on day 2. Luckily I also had a small thermos, so for the following days I got some icy fresh water to carry around for emergencies. Another difficult aspect were the long climbs. My new bike makes going up feel like a dream, so my legs were fine, but mentally I got extremely frustrated. I am not a fast rider, but spending 3 hours on 17km is a little much. When you see the numbers are not changing it's rather hard to feel the instant gratification we’re all so used to these days. But being on top was… a top feeling indeed! 

Knowing it's all about inclusivity, what was the overall feeling at the Women's rally? How inclusive do you think the term ‘women’ is here?

The official name of the series is “Women’s Rally” but I feel that the crowd was rather representative of the FLINTA* community. The description says ‘welcome to everyone who identifies as a woman’ and there were quite a few trans and non-binary folks, people from different walks of life. It is not my position to speak of their experience, but seeing for some of them it was not the first rally, it seems that Komoot is doing something right there.

  Photo Credit: pamo.gif

What was the most useful thing that you learnt from this event?

To not refill with the Spanish tap water! Honestly, the strong taste of chloride made it hard to drink properly. Otherwise I think I just confirmed my view on FLINTA* spaces being much more welcoming and relaxed than mixed or men dominated events. From a cycling perspective, I also confirmed I am still very much terrified of descending!

Everyone loves a kit set up, what was yours and is there anything you'd change in the future?

  • Frame: 8bar Drachenberg prototype
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XR 1700 from 
  • Suspension fork: dtswiss F 232 One 100 mm
  • Tyres: Schwalbe tires Racing Ralph/Thunder Burt   
  • Groupset: Shimano Deore XT 12 speed
  • Suspension seatpost: BBB Action post with Specialized Mimic saddle
  • Steering bar + stem: 8bar
  • Grips: SQlab

Custom bags from Berlin-based company @gramm_tourpacking, huge shoutout to Tine who encouraged us to run wild with the designs of our custom, ultra light bags for the upcoming season! This was my first trip on this bike and so far, I don’t think I need to change anything. I’ll add an aero bar though for longer rides!

Closing thoughts, what would you recommend to someone thinking about doing this for the first time?

As with everything - just give it a go! The rallies seem to be based around world’s famous races (Torino-Nice, Badlands, parts of the TCR) so they’re not easy. A good level of fitness and experience handling a fully loaded bike are definitely needed and, I believe, Komoot asks about it in the registration form. Otherwise, it’s wise to bring a good mood and a good level of openness to people and adventure. Even if coming alone, groups form naturally during the rides or at the dinner table. Everyone is kind and supportive so you won’t be alone for long! Oh, and don’t go crazy with pre-booking the accommodation. I’ve missed out on some stunning sunrises because I had a non-refundable booking. Securing a spot at the rally is not guaranteed, there is still some sort of a selection process to ensure the participants will fit together with regards to mindset, worldview and fitness level, so make sure you fill your application thoroughly and never hide your true colors!

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