Why I ride: Chase the Sun founder, Olly Moore

Chase the Sun is an annual event that takes place on summer solstice, but the founder’s love for the bicycle goes far beyond this one-day adventure

How far can you cycle in one day? This was the question that Olly Moore pondered while out on the bike. At the time, he was living in London, and he would spend many of his weekends heading out of the city's borders, riding under the M25, and into the countryside, either to Essex or Surrey, whichever way he fancied going that day. He would often cycle in a single direction as far as he could, or until he was completely exhausted, then jump on the train back into the city.

“I just enjoyed the freedom of being out in the countryside and moving across it under my own steam,” Moore, originally from Bristol, said. He didn’t plan to buy his bike to explore beyond the city of London – he actually purchased a road bike when he first moved to London as a graduate as a way to get around the city via a cheaper and more enjoyable means of transport. But what was simply a way of getting from A to B turned out to be much more meaningful to him, and as Moore started to explore the city, building a mental map in his mind, his sense of exploration grew bigger and bigger.

So, in a quest to find an answer to the niggling question in his mind of discovering how far he could go in a day, Moore came up with the idea of riding from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of the year – summer solstice. “I had heard of the Dunwich Dynamo, but I had never ridden it, and I didn’t really like riding through the dark, so I flipped it,” Moore said about his decision behind attempting the ride that would cross the country, from coast to coast, on midsummer.

But while Moore had plenty of miles clocked up on two wheels, he’d never ridden as many miles as his route from Minster to Weston-super-Mare would total. “I don’t think I had even ridden 100 miles at this point,” he said, reflecting on his first attempt at completing the 205-mile route. “So it was completely unchartered territory.”

Nevertheless, Moore and two of his friends set out on the challenge. In their first attempt, they never made it to Weston-super-Mare for sunset, instead, they ended up making their way through the rural Mendip hills in the complete darkness with no lights, reaching their final destination on the coastline much later than they had anticipated, “partly traumatised, partly uplifted, but mostly relieved we had eventually made it,” Moore added about the state of their arrival into Weston-super-Mare on that first attempt. It took Moore until his third attempt to make it to the other side of the country to successfully see the sunset, but by that point, the idea of the ride had piqued a lot of interest, and people wanted to get involved. Chase the Sun has now grown into a monumental annual event with four events taking place on summer solstice, across different locations: North UK, South UK, Ireland and Italy.

“I felt like an an endeavour, the ride also has a sort of artistic meaning, and so it has become a form of long-term art project to create this unique experience for people on a bike and to encourage and facilitate more people to be able to join and share that,” Moore said about the growth of what started as a ride for him and his friends. “I suppose epic is an overused word, but it feels like 200-miles plus is an epic thing to try and attain and focus on. When else would you be able to take the time to have the whole day from sunrise to sunset to be out on two wheels with nothing else in the way, no distractions? It is quite sensational.”

Being out with no distractions is what Moore loves most about being out on his bicycle. Not only is it a tool for exploration and experience, but also a way to "get away from your screen and the daily clutter," he said. The physical act of pedalling he mentioned feels also meditative for the mind, therefore helping displace the stresses of everyday life. “It creates space for thinking, and I think being on a bicycle, in the elements, is a good way of opening yourself up, re-attuning the sense to being surrounded by nature. It just allows you to see things that you wouldn't normally see, and you also notice the way that you're moving, and what your body is doing.”

Nature has always influenced Moore, and he noted that he is inspired by Richard Long, the English sculptor and one of the best-known British land artists – also from Moore's stomping ground of Bristol. The Chase the Sun founder wanted to channel similar concepts Long would document on his walks through nature by opening up his senses, drinking in the sights, sounds and sensations he was feeling on his bike. Wanting others to bask in the wonders of the natural world, Moore translated this into his annual event, helping people to see and appreciate the beauty and magic that surrounds them. Through Chase the Sun, participants have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the landscape, to feel the wind on their faces, to hear the rustle of leaves under their tyres, and to witness the changing canvas of the sky as the sun journeys across the horizon.

“Cycling just gives you a sense of one’s place in the world, and that is not some kind of grandiose or Herculean way, it’s more of a sense of feeling actually quite small in this huge landscape of nature that we live in. What could be a more elemental, powerful or pure experience than taking the longest day and tracking the movement of the sun by bicycle. I think it is a great way to put things into perspective," he added. 

With the Chase the Sun events becoming increasingly popular, Moore hasn’t been able to ride the event over the past few years, having to focus on the logistics and making sure the event runs smoothly instead. However, five years after his last active participation, in 2024 Moore will be tackling the Chase the Sun North event from Whitley Bay in Northumberland to Ayr in Scotland – 200 miles and 3,200 metres of elevation. He admitted that “training has started”, but with a young family and a busy work schedule, finding the time to train has been hard. Cycling for him over the years as his family has grown has become more of an escape and more about mindfulness than fitness, but having this event as a goal has helped him get back out on the bike. Focusing on his speed or average watts has never been a top priority for him however, and his love for exploration has always outweighed the numbers of cycling. 

“My favourite place to cycle is probably the next place I am cycling. It is that sense of always wanting to go and find somewhere new and explore. I am a bit of a maps nerd, I use them to imagine and explore. I am always looking on Google Maps at different routes and Ordnance Survey maps, looking at places I could cycle and planning the next route. When I am composing a Chase the Sun ride, I am alaways truing to expose a narrative of a route, uncovering stories of the places and the people that riders will pass,” he said.  

That’s why he is keen to see how the full Chase the Sun North will feel. As with each of the event locations, he has curated the entire 200-mie route, from researching key landmarks and facilities at waypoints, plotting it on the map to riding each section, and now he is set this year on conquering the route in its entirety. “I think it may be the best route of the set. It just feels so wild and open and empty up there, and I find the Northumberland and southern Scottish border landscapes so beautiful. The forests, the lochs, yeah, it is just spectacular,” Moore said, before quickly adding how demanding the route will also be. 

One thing about Moore, though, is that he is not competitive, and this was extremely important to him when he was curating Chase the Sun. He is a big advocate for cycling in all its forms and wanted to ensure everyone felt included when opting to ride his event. “There is no timing, no ranking, you set off, and you either make it by sunset or you make it after, or you make a proportion of the route, and that is still an amazing ride,” he stressed. “You’re only riding this for yourself. You’re not against other people – those you meet just add to the experience of the day.”

This was reaffirmed when he introduced a team relay option into all Chase the Sun events, further reiterating that this event is for everyone and anyone can do it. People have the option to enter as a team, giving those riders the ability to split up the 200 miles into smaller chunks between them, riding 35-65 mile sections in turn with rest breaks, rather than pedalling non-stop all day. Moore is just keen to encourage people to get out on their bikes and reap the benefits that he has enjoyed while cycling himself. And he is helping others to do this from a young age alongside his wife Emma, who is an avid campaigner for active travel to help tackle climate change and bringing other benefits through congestion and pollution reduction, mental and physical wellbeing and even community joy. 

“Emma runs our local school bike bus,” he said, speaking about one of the many things that she does to promote cycling in their local city and community. “Just getting kids together on bikes to ride to school at least once a week is such a lovely highlight. It’s such a great sight for me to see that freedom and joy that the kids get from riding their bikes together, it's healthy and empowering them, and I just hope they never lose that.”

This weekly highlight also reminds him of his why, why he creates and continues to encourage people to ride an event like Chase the Sun. It's not only a huge accomplishment seeing the sunset after a day in the saddle, but enables people to reap all the other benefits that come with cycling – nature, mindfulness, addressing climate change, joy, hard work, fresh air, fostering conversations, stories, communities. 

In the end, it is not about how far you can cycle in one day but about the boundless opportunities that await in every ride – big or small.

Chasing the Sun documentary 

Olly Moore's Chase the Sun event has recently been the focus of a new feature-length documentary from two-time BAFTA-winning director Michael B. Clifford, supported by Bosch eBike Systems and Trek, titled Chasing the Sun

The film follows Chase The Sun riders as they cycle coast to coast, sunrise to sunset, as well as uncovering how the bicycle can help tackle climate change – the film itself was filmed using e-cargo and e-bikes – and bring communities together. It also features contributions from broadcaster and ITV’s voice of the Tour de France Ned Boulting, author and blogger Jools Walker, Turner Prize-winning artist Sir Richard Long, and 4x Mountain Bike World Champion Tracy Moseley.

Chasing The Sun kicks off its UK Q&A cinema tour on April 18, beginning at the Ritzy in Brixton, London. Find out where you can see Chasing the Sun, here.

Interested in participating in a Chase the Sun event this summer? Register here.

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