Why I Ride: Adventure athlete, Sophie Storm Roberts

Taking on epic adventures has helped Sophie Storm Roberts uncover her potential and she is on a mission to help others see the same in themselves 

Do you ever find yourself sitting and thinking, “is this it?”. You get up, you go to work, you come home, and go to bed, ready to do it all again the next day. You wonder whether you expected life to be more exciting on a day-to-day basis. This was the thought Sophie Storm Roberts had during her career managing the commercial division at the UK’s fastest growing tech start-up in London. She was enjoying success in her role, but had a feeling that this wasn’t the path she wanted to take, believing that there was a totally different way to live. So in 2013, at the age of 27, Roberts quit her job, deciding that she did want to pursue a different path. 

“I just started putting myself out there,” Roberts told Rouleur about what her next steps were after she left her job. “I had no idea how to create a business. I had no idea how to do anything. But I did believe in this concept of challenging yourself so strongly and how it has changed my life so much. It’s given me so much confidence, courage and tools, that I just thought I am going to go out into the world and start talking about it.”

Roberts is now an adventure athlete, mindset coach, personal trainer, and motivational speaker, having conquered many incredible feats. But before she made the decision to cut ties with the corporate world, Roberts had always been into different sports and activities having grown up in the countryside, however, she never saw herself as ‘sporty’. “I loved being active, but I didn’t feel like I was one of the girls who was naturally good at sport. It was something I had to work really hard at. Then, when I was at university, I did rowing and had a bike to cycle around, and then when I left uni and got my first job in London, that was when I really started to get into this type of stuff because I needed something outside of the office walls that was going to be an outlet for all the energy that I had and the drive to figure out who I am, what I am capable of doing and what my identity is,” she added. 

Starting out with a simple commute to the office, one day a tube strike forced her to ride the full eight miles. “This opened a whole new world to me,” she said about that ride to the office, which before seemed completely infeasible to her. But after that, Roberts then went on to complete her first triathlon, enjoying the cycling element in particular, and accomplishing this just pushed her to think bigger. 

“I wanted to ride from London to Paris in 24 hours,” she said. “And five months later, I went off and did it. I had very little cycling experience – I think I had only cycled 40 miles once before – but I just wanted to do it. I didn’t even know who I was going to do it with or anything. I just started googling and a couple of guys were talking about it, so I contacted them out of the blue. I met with them in a pub in Soho and they asked how much I had ridden and I was just like not very much and I can’t even change a puncture. They told me it was fine and we should just do it. I think, in the end, what I always lacked in experience or skill, I always made up for in drive and motivation and they loved that.” 

Roberts said this ride in 2009 changed her life. It made her realise what was possible in 24 hours, then got her thinking about what she could achieve in a week or in a month or even in a year. Her quest to find out saw her complete Ironmans, climb Mont Blanc, and cycle between the Three Peaks and climb them all in three days. But a bigger challenge was on the horizon for Roberts. 

A year after leaving her job, Roberts completed the Alpine Coast to Coast, a never done before cycling and mountaineering challenge. The route consisted of 17,000km on the bike, 151km on foot, and 45,500m of climbing, in a total of 32 days. “Throughout all my challenges, I have been building physical and mental strength, confidence and building skills, and it was always leading up to a multi-day [event] on a much bigger scale. I did the Three Peaks challenge and then I was ready for something bigger and that [the Alpine Coast to Coast] was really big,” Roberts said about her desire to complete the challenge. 

Roberts has always been “fearless” she said, but not in the sense that her activities are dangerous or crazy, instead, it’s more of a curiosity to see how far she can go with a challenge. “I have always had this huge awareness of potential and ambition to explore that potential and to believe in this greatness that is life and that everybody has. Even as a child, I would read books of stories about heroes and there was always a part of me that thought ‘well, if they can do that, what’s my thing like that?’,” Roberts explained. 

As the saying goes, your mind gives up before your body, and Roberts believes that the mind is such a powerful tool, and credits her own mind for helping her achieve her incredible feats of endurance so far. Even for her Alpine Coast to Coast challenge, she didn’t do the gruelling training you would expect someone to do if they had such an enormous challenge on the horizon. “I genuinely didn’t do any training for it, maybe one or two bike rides, but that was it,” she admitted. 

“I started to figure out how to use my mind to get the best out of my body. What I see a lot of people doing is thinking of a target and then the whole purpose of training is constantly to get personal bests and to place your whole focus on that target. Then, if you don’t achieve that, you almost have an identity crisis. My strategy was never to aim for a goal and that just works for me.” 

However, she knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park and explained that it “was incredibly hard. Even when you’re doing something that is your dream, the reality is that it is still a slog and it is hard work but you do it. You find ways to get your body and mind to do it and for me, that is magic.” 

This is what Roberts loves about completing challenges such as those she has done, and she believes that if she never took that leap of faith to find her why a few years ago she wouldn’t be the strong and confident person she is today. “I wanted to be able to call on that part of myself, whether you call it courage or self belief, in the same way you would your best friend or someone you would call in a time of crisis when you do big things. Not only has it taught me how to cope with adversity, but it has given me the opportunity to back myself no matter what happens in life,” Roberts said. 

Roberts wants to help people realise their own potential and the confidence challenges like this can bring. The London to Paris ride in 24 hours, which changed her life, is now going in to its eighth edition having begun in 2015, bringing together hundreds of people each year to ride alongside her. She also founded Trailblazers, an initiative she created to show young girls and teenagers that adventure can be used as a vehicle for transformation and for building confidence and courage. “I want people to be thriving in life, not just surviving,” she stated. “I think that often most people just go through the motions of life, not really daring to believe in themselves.”

Fear, she said, is why most people don’t take on challenges, but she believes that everyone must face them head-on. “A year later, you’ll find yourself on a completely different trajectory,” she said. “We only get one life, live it.” 

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