How the Alpe D'Huez changed my life

Introducing Marcus Leach, ashmei’s newest ambassador. As passionate about the outdoors as we are and with a focus on living sustainably, Marcus couldn’t be a better fit for our brand. We’re all so excited to have him on board and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Now, we suppose you would like to know a little bit more about him and his many cycling adventures. Rather than telling you ourselves, we will leave that to Marcus himself. Enjoy.

How did you get into cycling?

I came to cycling reasonably late in life, and it wasn’t until I had just finished a year-long cover model body transformation that I discovered a passion for the bike and a world of adventure on two wheels. Even then it came about in unlikely circumstances. 

My wife and I were driving to the Provence in South of France for Christmas and had decided to break up the journey with an overnight in Le Bourg-d’Oisans. Having grown up watching the Tour de France as a little boy, the Alps and Pyrenees captivated me, and suddenly I found myself at the foot of one of the most iconic climbs in the sport, Alpe d’Huez. Despite it being the middle of December I knew I had to find a way to ride up and see just how hard it was. 

So, looking like Donkey Kong on a bike thanks to a year of weightlifting, dressed in cobbled-together kit and my wife supporting from the car I naively set off for the summit, unaware of just how hard it would be. Needless to say, weighing 105kg and without having ridden a bike in several years didn’t help my cause. I wasn’t to be deterred though, and as the snow fell I somehow managed to haul myself to the summit, collapsing over the finish line into the waiting car utterly spent. It took half an hour to recover and regain feeling in my hands, feet and ears, but in those moments my journey into cycling began. As I sat there I couldn’t help but think how many other climbs there were for me to challenge myself against, and so began a journey of discovery that continues to this day. 

Marcus wears: The Cycle Windjacket

What’s the life of a professional travel writer like?

(Non-existent at the moment) It’s funny as growing up I always read articles and books by famous travel writers and would often think to myself what an amazing way of life – to see the world, experience different cultures, meet all manner of people and share those stories with the world. I didn’t imagine that one day I’d end up doing the same, albeit through the medium of cycling. But, in its own unique way, that is what cycling has allowed me to do: travel the world, ride my bike, experience so much and be fortunate enough to share those stories with others. I feel fortunate to lead the life I do, and to be able to share it with my family as well, and look forward to many more adventures on the road. 

Tell us why you love riding your bike

I could write an entire essay on this question alone, but in essence it comes back to the fact that cycling still gives me that same thrill as it did when I was a little boy and I had my first bike. It’s the sense of total freedom, of being able to go wherever I want under my own steam, the rush of air over my face as I descend a big climb, the warmth of the sun on my back as I pass through quaint little villages, the escapism from the rest of the world riding high in the mountains, the meditative state I slip into on a tough climb and the happiness of riding next to my little boy. Then there’s my mum, who has belatedly discovered her own love of riding and treated herself to a top e-MTB, which means we can ride together and create some amazing memories. 

How the Alpe D'Huez changed my life

Marcus wears: The Cycle Windjacket and Padded Thermal Merino Bib Tights

Which cyclist do you most aspire to?

For me I think the rider who stands out as someone different and with whom I feel I can relate to, given what he has done away from mainstream professional cycling, is Lachlan Morton. I’m intrigued by his mindset and take on both cycling and life, and find it refreshing to hear someone speak so openly about his experiences on and off the bike. I have never stirred to be like someone else, either as a person or a cyclist, as I am happy on my own path in life. But Lachlan is definitely someone who inspires me to want to challenge my own limits further still. 

Which adventurer do you most aspire to?

Without a doubt it’s Wilfred Thesiger, arguably one of the last great explorers of the world before we started to see the onset of modernisation. 

Whilst there’s no denying the great benefit of modern day technology, I think a part of me belongs to a different era, as at my core there is a love for the simple life, a life free from the modern day distractions, which is why I have always been drawn to the books and life of Wilfred Thesiger. To imagine what it must have been like exploring the world when he did is truly fascinating, and inspires me to want to travel to the last remaining corners of the world relatively untouched by the hand of modernity.  

How the Alpe D'Huez changed my life

Marcus wears: 100% Merino Beanie

What’s the most important thing you look for in cycling apparel?

As someone who finds himself at the more extreme end of distances ridden, my main priority when it comes to cycling kit is comfort. I’m fairly used to taking part in races and personal challenges where I am covering hundreds of kilometres a day, often riding for up to eighteen to twenty hours at a time, so my kit has to almost be like a second skin. Hand-in-hand with that is durability, being able to withstand a lot of use in all manner of environments. 

Why ashmei?

As I have grown older, and even more so since I became a father, I have become far more conscious about the impact my life and the way I live has on the world around me, and that goes for my cycling kit as well. It’s important to know that not only is the kit I’m using driven by performance, but also by sustainability, something that’s integral to ashmei, and one of the main reasons I feel such a strong connection with the brand. 

How the Alpe D'Huez changed my life

Marcus wears: The Cycle Windjacket and Padded Thermal Merino Bib Tights

What’s your favourite place to ride?

Next to my little boy, Harrison. There’s no better feeling than having him by my side, seeing the look of wonder on his face as we explore, the happiness in his voice as he says ‘Daddy look at that’ or ‘Wow, that view is amazing’. Sharing those moments is genuinely priceless and it doesn’t matter where we are, so long as we are riding together. 

That said, my favourite place in the UK has to be the Cambrian Mountains, there’s something quite magical about it’s remote, rugged beauty that appeals to me both as a cyclist and a person. Outside of the UK I have had the privilege of cycling all over the world, and had some truly amazing experiences, but if I could only go back to one place it would be Morocco, riding in the Atlas Mountains again. 

What was your hardest day on a bike?

Whilst gravel Everesting is definitely up there, it would have to be the start of BikingMan Taiwan.

The race began at 5am in the morning in the heart of Taipei, with a total distance of 1150km to be ridden, totally self-supported and through a mix of remote regions, jungles and high mountains. I knew that to be competitive I’d need to ride through the first night without sleep, which is a real test of mental and physical resolve. I ended up riding for thirty hours, in which time I covered 540km; twice crashed in the middle of the night in a jungle rife with snakes; began hallucinating that I was being chased by giant ants and eventually convinced myself I would quit once I reached the second checkpoint. The last few hours were torturous, and to this day I’m not sure how I kept the pedals turning. Even more of a mystery is how, after just two hours sleep I managed to ride another 200km, sleep for five hours and then cover the remaining distance to finish in fourth place. 

How the Alpe D'Huez changed my life

Marcus wears: The Cycle Windjacket and Padded Thermal Merino Bib Tights

What’s your next big target in cycling?

I’ve always been fascinated by human potential and, as such, a big part of cycling for me is pushing the limits of what’s possible, both mentally and physically, so in many ways my target revolves around a continuation of that, with some fairly unique challenges and rides. Obviously there were not many events last year, which resulted in me coming up with my own challenges, something I really enjoyed as it gave me a lot more freedom to be creative, as well as involve my family. So this year is going to be a mix of similar personal challenges, as well as hopefully getting back to some ultra races and events, all of which I’m looking forward to sharing with the ashmei community. 

What would be your ultimate challenge, on or off the bike?

I have always been fascinated by the Himalayas and the draw of the eight thousand metre mountains, so in a dream world it would be to go and climb one of those. However, as supportive and loving as my wife and family are in all of my adventures, this is one that they wouldn’t be so comfortable with, and I could never go without their backing. 

So I would happily settle for cycling around the world with Harrison once he is old enough.


We will be documenting Marcus's adventures here on our blog page and also on our Instagram account, so make sure to follow us there also.