Meet our groups: OutdoorLads
When and why was the group formed?
OutdoorLads started in Manchester in 2006. It was set up initially by a group of friends who enjoyed outdoor pursuits and wanted an alternative to the bar scene for making friends and meeting new like-minded people.
As the group developed over time, OutdoorLads was registered as a charity – our aim is to ‘improve the physical and mental state of gay, bi men and trans guys through a range of outdoor activities on a not-for-profit basis’.
We cater for a range of members, whether novices or experienced, and our events are an opportunity for members to enjoy the company of others, doing some physical activity, mostly outdoors, and always with a spirit of friendship and mutual support.
What challenges, if any, have you overcome to maintain the group’s success?
OutdoorLads, like many organisations, struggled in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus.
During the pandemic, and the ensuing series of lockdowns across the UK, it was far from ‘business as usual’. However, our volunteer leaders stepped up and initiated a series of online activities that kept our members active, engaged and connected during a period that was extremely difficult and isolating for everyone.
These activities included trivia nights, film nights, online games events, camping by Zoom, and of course regular (and very competitive) Zwift meets for our cyclists. Through these online activities, new friendships were created that were strengthened and enriched post-coronavirus, once our regular activities recommenced.
These online events also helped maintain our membership base during coronavirus lockdowns and has enabled us to further develop and thrive post-coronavirus.
What are you most proud of as a group?
We are proud that we have been instrumental in changing so many people’s lives for the better – providing a safe, supportive, friendly and welcoming environment for gay, bi men and trans guys to pursue their interests and challenge themselves while making friends and having a laugh too.
How do you continue to attract diverse people to your group?
Although OutdoorLads is focused on gay, bi and trans men, in reality we are open to others who don’t necessarily fit into one of these categories and everyone – LGBTQ+ and allies – are all welcome.
OutdoorLads events are friendly affairs and welcoming of people with different abilities and backgrounds. We strive to ensure that barriers to participation are minimised as best as possible.
We have a particular focus at the moment on attracting more young people to join, and we offer a heavily discounted concession membership for under 30s to support this.
Separately, the OutdoorLads Foundation has been set up to assist members who want to join our events, but their personal circumstances may prove limiting. The Foundation’s mission is “to ensure OutdoorLads members who are experiencing physical, mental or financial challenges are supported to move their lives forward through access to life enhancing outdoor opportunities”.
We want everyone to have the best possible access to our events and to all the benefits they bring.
Finally, OutdoorLads takes whatever opportunities that come our way to promote the organisation in the community. We have a presence at most major UK Pride events each year, we have advertisements on Gaydio (the LGBTQ+ radio station for the UK) and a very active social media presence.
When and where do most of your rides take place?
We have active ride leaders and rides across the UK, but predominantly in the north, the Midlands and the south-east of England and in Scotland. Our rides usually take place on weekends or over longer periods if cycle tours are planned.
What type of rides do you offer?
OutdoorLads offers group road rides, cycle tours, city and leisure rides and mountain biking.
What are some favourite routes?
Our rides range from groups of road cyclists chasing KOMs in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes, to touring cyclists taking on Hadrian’s Wall, the Way of the Roses or the Shropshire Hills. We also offer leisure rides for beginners and for those who just want a quiet day out cycling along canal tow paths and rail trails.
We also have an active group of members who love the thrill of technical mountain biking, and they’ll often be seen taking on Jacob’s Ladder and similar challenging routes in the Peak District, Wales and beyond. Some of our members are also keen to organise a tilt at the Cape Wrath Challenge over the summer.
Do you offer any other types of event or social activities?
In addition to road cycling, MTB and leisure rides, OutdoorLads offers a range of outdoor activities such as hiking/hill walking, indoor and outdoor climbing and bouldering, camping, canoeing, scrambling, running and sailing, as well as purely social events.
Tell us a bit more about your members and volunteers
We have a diverse membership base and volunteer leaders across all four nations of the UK. They tell us that OudoorLads has had a transformational effect on their lives, providing opportunities to try new activities and to build new and enduring friendships.
Not that OutdoorLads is in the business of match-making, but there have so far been 18 marriages between members who met on one of our events!
Our ability to put on the range of events and activities we offer is down to the motivation of our volunteer leaders. We provide leader training and support to lead events, so our volunteer leaders always have that support framework behind them.
And why should people want to join the group?
OutdoorLads cycling events offer our members all the benefits of cycling, together with making new friends with a similar interest, learning new skills and discovering new parts of the country – all in a ‘safe’ space that enables them to be their authentic selves among other gay, bi and trans men.