Archive / All Posts

RSS feed for this section

Hello, we missed you.

Claud & I disappeared for a while because we needed to. We’ve had a break, moved house, there are two new bikes in the garage, and we’re back… because we missed you.

Bookends

Monday morning: a rude awakening by my iPhone’s alarming alarm -  it’s 6am and there’s a coffee machine across town waiting for me.  Shower, tea, porridge, pants (hot off the radiator), jeans, the top t-shirt in the clean t-shirt pile. Socks. Chuck things into a musette, clip keys on to belt loop, lace up trainers, throw on jacket. Scruffle the cat’s head and yell “see you later” to the sofa, grabbing Annie by the handlebars on my way out the door.

It takes me 8 and a half minutes to get to work on this bike if I turn the corner before the number 7 bus does and time it right with the lights at the bottom of the hill. I can see my imaginary line drawn down the length of the hill, it skirts around the holes, bumps and the slippery-as-hell metal man-hole covers.

Road turns in to cycle path and every little bend is known like the back of my hand, probably better – who actually studies their hands? Avoid that pothole, go left around the tree on the bit where the lane goes narrow (otherwise you hit people going the other way), assume time trial position for 5 seconds where the low hanging leaves smack the faces of cyclists less familiar with the route.

Slow down just a tiny bit so that I catch the green man without putting my foot down.

Sharp left in to work – wave at the gardener – jump off bike – find bike lock keys.

Today Annie’s company in the staff-bike-bit is a tiny bike with stabilisers. I have no idea who it belongs to. Later there will be a fixie, a BMX and a hybrid joining the party. I wonder what they’d say if they could have a conversation.

A busy day, the happy kind of tired, weary legs. My bike is just where I left her, and she spins me back home.

It isn’t Epic – it’s barely a ride, but these moments bookend my days, and I’d go mad without them.

 

 

 

Put the kettle on – mine’s a pint.

I haven’t stopped eating for 3 days. Well, I’ve just stopped. The hunger has finally gone. After countless bowls of porridge, dishes of pasta, bananas, crumpets, toast, flapjacks, pints of water, pints of tea – I finally feel human again.

Every time my tummy has grumbled at me this week, I’ve thought back to Saturday’s bike ride – the reason for my hollow-stomached hunger. Each fork full of spaghetti has built back a bit of me that I left on a muddy bridleway in Surrey or a bit of gravel strewn lane in Sussex.

I want to feel hungry in my legs again.

Let’s go on a bike ride.

Dear Summer, I’m sorry.

Dear Summer,

I’m sorry.

I made a terrible mistake. Winter will never come close to what we had.

She promised me the world, Summer. She said there would be crisp, bright mornings and beautiful tyre trails in crunchy, frozen grass. She said we would see our breath in the cold, clear air. Bright blue skies would cover us, she said. She promised carpets of snowdrops, chirping robins, snuffling hedgehogs. The sound of dry twigs cracking underfoot.

Her promises were empty, Summer. She took everything I had and gave me nothing in return. It has felt like a constant battle against the elements, and my body is weary. We had a fleeting moment in the sun – and then it was over – replaced with black clouds. It has been dark for so long, but I never forgot your sunshine, even in the darkest moments.

Her embrace offers me no comfort. I avoid her, hiding inside. Making excuses. Lies and deceit. A bitter atmosphere lingers and seems like it will never leave.

Even the taste of water is better with you, Summer.

I long for long days with you again. For sunshine spilling through windows in the morning. For coffee on my doorstep, and beer in the garden. For scorching tarmac and dry, dusty paths. For salty skin and beads of sweat. For little patches of cool under trees. For short sleeves and smooth legs. For cold showers and open windows blowing curtains.

My heart is breaking for you, Summer. Please take me back.

x

Daughter, ‘Winter’: YouTube

 

Catherine Wheel

Water from the soaked tarmac collects with each rotation and the droplets, illuminated by my bike’s front light, spray like sparks from a dancing Catherine Wheel as they flicker upward from my tyres.

The last of the car headlights pass and a sudden, all-encompassing darkness descends. A fleeting moment of utter disorientation as eyes adjust and focus is found. There is nothing but what exists within my bubble of light. Complete concentration turns my whole body tense: I have to tell my muscles to relax: don’t make things harder for yourself.

Streetlights line the next stretch of road, and for a while another rider joins me. She is a shadow, cast upon the hedgerow, following every pedal stroke. Town lights stretch out ahead, and the faint outline of a Welcome sign is a welcome sight: food, friends and dry socks are not far away.

Cyclocross is for idiots

Here is a brief history of my experience of riding off-road:

  • Zipping across the grass at Hove Park  to use the public toilets after too much Leffe whilst watching the racing on a Friday evening.
  • Pushing an old bike up a big hill in Woodingdean, whilst swearing incessantly at my then-boyfriend whose stupid idea it was to go that way.
  • Slightly drunken 2am short-cuts across parks in Brighton.
Hove Park before a race

Hove Park before a race

Now that you know what an expert I am, let’s talk about all the top-spec bikes I’ve spent thousands on.

I’ve ridden 4 bikes in my adult life:

  • Lady Bike. Inherited from my mother. Used for shopping (it had a basket), and occasional seafront spins. Stolen from outside my flat in 2011.
  • Rust Bucket. Donated by a friend after my other bike got nicked. It didn’t much like changing gear, and eventually ended it’s days on that hill in Woodingdean.
  • Claud! My first proper road bike and the best thing that ever happened to me (no, really). Lover of Sussex roads.
  • Annie the Single Speed. A long term loan from my favourite bike mechanic. Rarely leaves the city.

So, as you can see, I’m well equipped for a foray into the muddy world of cyclocross……

Having been to my share of CX races as a spectator or helper, I decided it was probably time I gave it a go myself. There’s something about the atmosphere around cyclocross racing that appeals to me far more than road racing. Yes, it’s a proper competitive sport, and at a high level there’s nothing particularly light-hearted about it. But with the existence of events like Muddy Hell,  City Cross and races like White Chalk Hills CX, it’s obvious that there’s a really fun side to the sport. (Also, there often seems to be beer.)

Riding Cyclocross really is the best fun you can have on a bike. Road riding is all about style, finesse and panache, the history and the suffering. Cyclocross is about the fun, suffering, mud, friends and beer.

Mark Tearle, after Muddy Hell 2012

White Chalk Hills CX

White Chalk Hills CX (photo by Gavin Peacock)

White Chalk Hills CX (Photo by Gavin Peacock)

White Chalk Hills CX (Photo by Gavin Peacock)

The perfect opportunity presented itself in the form of a women’s CX rider development session, at Herne Hill. The session is aimed at novices, and you can even hire a CX bike as part of the cost of the day, which is only £6. BARGAIN. I booked in with my friend Monika, taking comfort in the fact that she is also a total newbie.

The ‘cross course at Herne Hill is being developed at the moment – and it’s starting to look brilliant. Whilst they’re still digging bits of it the mud is more churned up than usual, and thanks to the rain we’ve had recently the mud is also more….muddy. Getting muddy doesn’t bother me – in fact I really like it – but keeping my bike upright in the mud does worry me. Especially when the bike you’ve borrowed doesn’t really fit you, and the brakes are mostly there for decoration.

I am always a bag of nerves when it comes to new things. If you asked the me from 2 years ago if she would like to go on a CX training session, she would have laughed loudly, told you to piss off, and poured a gin (I will probably still do the third one of those). The 2013 edition of me is a bit better at trying stuff, especially if it’s on two wheels, but still gets just as scared.

It felt completely alien and unnatural riding a bike in thick mud, over bumps, down slippery slopes and through trees. After 5 minutes I considered running away and giving up (no change there). Then I thought about how terrified I used to get going down fast hills on my road bike, and that after doing it lots of times it stopped being scary and started being the best fun ever.

image

This mud is sponsored by Morvelo.

The first time around the course I stopped and pushed my bike countless times. “A BUMP? I CAN’T RIDE OVER THAT!”. The second time I got off the bike slightly less. I even rode a medium sized bumpy-humpy-jumpy-thing and squealed with excitement when I didn’t fall off. By the third time, I was no less scared, but actually starting to enjoy bits. The concentration involved in staying upright is far, far more than when riding on the road. I’m glad there were no cameras, because I dread to think what kind of faces I was pulling.

There is one very steep section on the course, it’s only a couple of metres, but it’s short, sharp and slippery in equal measure. Going up it was fine…with little to no grace I’d jump off the bike and run up it. Then the instructor said we were going to go around the course in the other direction, which meant going down it. I will save any build up or suspense – I didn’t ride down it. I was too terrified. Next time I will be courageous. Maybe. Monika rode down it and ended up on the floor. She is a braver woman than me, and I salute her and her very muddy arse.

My muddy arse. (Not muddy enough. Must try harder.)

My muddy arse. (Not muddy enough. Must try harder.)

I was very aware of how painfully slowly I was travelling 90% of the time. Had I been going faster I wouldn’t have had to get off the bike so much – hitting thick sections of mud when you’ve got some momentum going is always going to be easier than dragging the bike through it at walking pace. So, I need to get braver, which means going faster, which means riding more of the course, which means having more fun. Sounds simple enough – I best get practising.

Today I ache all over. It’s the good kind of ache, though – the kind that reminds you that you didn’t spend your whole weekend on the sofa.

So, in conclusion: cyclocross is utterly stupid. It’s really hard, and really scary, and you’d have to be an idiot to do it. And I think I’m going to do it again very soon.

mudhernehill

Me and my (not very) trusty steed.

 

(There is a second women’s cx session at Herne Hill in December, as well as a men’s one. There are details here, if you want to borrow a bike then you need to book in advance.)

Ride Like A Girl

We ride like girls. Try to keep up, yeah?

These reflective musettes were inspired by world champions, bike messengers, punks, losers, friends and every other girl who’s ever ridden a bike.

Designed by me – hand made and printed in London by the ever-awesome Mon, Ren and Esther at House of Astbury.

Each one is a teeny bit different, they’re totally DIY – just the way we like it.

They’re in the shop now, and shipping on Monday.

The bag

Shiny!

Burgundy version coming soon...

Burgundy version coming soon…

Bestie & The Bike: Things I’ve learnt whilst cycling

This month I thought I would share some of the revelations I have had about myself during my first 6 months of cycling. Some are rather dull, some are kind of gross but all are true.

1) I have a real potty mouth.

As I usually cycle by myself I have been known to have a little chatter to motivate myself up hills. This started out with the standard ‘you can do this’ pleasantries, but I quickly discovered that this form of self-talk does not work well for me. Swearing, however – does. So apologises to anyone who may drive past me with their windows open because on particularly steep climbs I will be dropping F-bombs with aplomb.

2) Sweat is strangely satisfying.

Despite my love of inappropriate footwear I am a little bit of a tom-boy at heart and have never been averse to getting a little dirty. A rather wise man once told me that sweat is a good thing as it means your body is working properly. I have certainly taken this to heart when I get back from a ride, so much so that I forget to take a shower for a bit. I am gross, I did pre-warn you.

3) I am just a big kid at heart.

I have been known to be a touch serious and often get called the mum of our group of friends. I actually pride myself on being the responsible one. Put me on a bike whizzing down a hill however and I seriously regress. Last time I let out a ‘weeeeeeeee’ for a full minute*. I cannot remember the last time I smiled that much.

4) The body is a pretty amazing thing.

I’ve suffered from some health problems the last few years and had resigned myself to there being certain things I can’t do, or didn’t think I could do. The power of the mind to retract as well as expand our horizons is hugely powerful. When I started cycling I believed there was plenty I would never manage and there are some things I still don’t think I can tackle, but I am learning that I am far more capable than I ever previously allowed myself to be. Every week I go just that little bit further, that little bit faster and it continues to shock me that these things are possible. A lot of people may say that the ability was in me all along, and of course this is true. Yet after I am done swearing at the top of a hill I like to thank Lizzie a little, and Lois too, as without them I am sure I would never have got this far.

 

* ED: not an actual wee, she means the noise.

From nowhere to nowhere, and everything in between.

Past the rows of parked lorries, taking their rest for the night – curtains drawn across windscreens to conceal sleeping drivers. One has its door a fraction ajar and a sharp line of light spills onto the tarmac…speed up a little.

The chip van that will provide polystyrene wrapped breakfasts when the sleeping drivers awake sits dormant, waiting to be useful again.

Spinning legs create a mesmerising hum: the only noise except for the wind, which is against me now but will be my friend on the way home. The straight road stays straight and thoughts wander to a ride last year when the ground here was coated in sea foam. Memories of Winter riding, and how all of that will soon be here again. Inhale the not-that-cold night and wonder how many days until breath is visible in icy air.

Violently jolted back to reality by a speed bump.

The straight road reaches its end, with a curve into the harbour. Clumsily negotiate barriers and gates to cross the water. The clank of pedal on metal.

One day I’ll have this down to an art.

The industrial road that offers nothing of interest. DIY stores loom tall and grey, the sinister light of Golden Arches illuminates a patch of pavement, and the stale smell of deep-fried food lingers in the air.

Oh, some life. Skaters and kids riding BMX in the dark.

Relief at reaching the river, and the bridge that always makes me smile.  Pause in the middle, and watch reflections dance on the water.

There is some odd comfort in the sound of traffic.

Arrive at the other side, and head for the fields where aeroplanes are sleeping.

IMG_5416

Past the multitude of warning signs, over some more speed bumps, past a parked car which I glance at, and then quickly away again. Lovers have found their spot for the night.

Speedily onwards then, and to a bend in the road. There are some steps over there, which ascend into nothing but a patch of darkness. It’s asking to be explored: bike over shoulder, upwards..

Sudden intake of breath. The other side of the river stretches out under a huge railway bridge, and to my left I can see where I’ve come from. Beauty when you’re not expecting is perhaps the most beautiful. For several minutes I stand on the same spot, and feel utterly content.

IMG_5417

The deafening sound of a Brighton-bound train shakes me from my dream-like state.

I’d forgotten that other people existed – that there was anything but this.

IMG_5421

Homeward via a path that definitely isn’t suitable for a road bike. Bite lip in concentration, zig zag paving slabs threaten to bugger tyres, but somehow avoid a puncture.

All I am to anyone else is a stuttering light.

A near intimate moment with a wall that jumps out of nowhere, and back onto a sensible bit of road.

Riding back into town like an excited child who’s in on a secret. Little people in windows watching televisions who’ll never know where you’ve been.

IMG_5431

You and the bike, in your little glowing cocoon, going from nowhere to nowhere.

Bestie & The Bike

This is the first of what will be a series of posts about cycling in London from Sabrina - recent cycling convert, lover of high heels, and my long-suffering best friend. 

———————————

I would like to start with a little confession: I am somewhat of a control freak.

I have always suffered badly from anxiety and will frequently avoid situations where the outcome is not (seemingly) within my control. Of course this means it makes perfect sense for me to choose to live in our bustling capital city, working a corporate job, rather than a peaceful existence in the Sussex countryside like most other normal folk I know. This poses a multitude of problems, but my current predicament is this: how do I get to work without feeling like I am going to have a panic attack. Public transportation is anathema to feeling calm and I will avoid it like the plague if I can. Having recently returned to the world of work after a break, I quickly discovered any tolerance I had built to the tube over the years had mysteriously evaporated; routine is key to managing my worries. The thought of getting back in the tunnels filled me with dread.

Those who know me well will tell you of my love affair with my car. I actually drive the most boring car ever manufactured, but I take it everywhere with me like a steel security blanket. Knowing the car is near makes me feel safe in the knowledge I can escape if necessary. London, however, does not love my car as much as I do, and attempts to bankrupt me every time I leave my own borough. With the Congestion Charge standing at £10 a day and the average central car park at an eye watering £30 for 8 hours I would be better off staying unemployed.

photo (21)

Steel security blanket..

The solution was obvious of course; my rather lovely red bicycle Lizzie. Those who may have read my last post on this blog over a year ago will recall that the only bike I had ever previously owned was a 2 tonne hybrid that the salesman is probably still sniggering at the thought of me attempting to move. I never rode her, and my increased exposure to the world of cycling through Lois and some wonderful new friends made me feel a little like a groupie who could only play the tambourine. So in June, I decided it was time to rectify this problem with a visit to my friendly neighbourhood bike shop Bittacy Cycles in North West London, where I was united with a wonderful Raleigh road bike whom I soon christened Lizzie – after England’s first steely red head.

On a ride with Lois (who apparently likes eating iPhone cases)

On a ride with Lois (who apparently likes eating iPhone cases)

Despite having taken Lizzie for many a spin in the Hertfordshire countryside, up until recently, I had yet to use her as a means of commuting anywhere very much. Examining the map from my house to my office in Soho I decided that the 12 mile route each way was perhaps a little much to try right off the bat. My anxiety has taught me to do things in stages; don’t do nothing but always do something. So I decided to take the car half way and cycle the rest. This was roughly 6 miles each way and would use a mixture of A roads and designated cycle highways.

For those who have never cycled in London, or any major city for that matter, it is a pretty scary venture. Everyone is in that much more of a hurry and the highway code is pretty much thrown in the bin. One way systems are my particular foible and I did accidentally head the wrong way on several occasions (although a friendly taxi driver will notify you of your mistake pretty swiftly if you do the same). On a positive note, the strength of cyclist camaraderie between those on the commute is palpable. We are small fish in a very big pond but growing in numbers everyday – 2% increase on last year’s official figures for those of you who enjoy statistics. I could get into a long discussion about infrastructure in cities and provisions for commuters but I won’t bore you with that here (and Lois wouldn’t let me). Needless to say though, as cities get more crowded, getting on your bike is making more and more sense and the provisions are gradually being put in place to get us riding.

As for my own commute, I plan to ride a little further every week and hopefully will be able to do the journey in one fell swoop. In the mean time however I feel calm when I get to work and am excited to get back on my bike as soon as the day is done – which, if you ignore the actual work in-between, makes for a pretty good day indeed.

Adventure is free.

Adventure is free.

It doesn’t need a ticket, or a license, or a health and safety audit.

It doesn’t come with a goody bag, or directional signage, or a medal at the end. It sometimes goes wrong, but it’s worth it for the stories.

It’s all over the place. Probably where you weren’t planning to find it. At the bottom of the garden, or the top of the hill. Or down the lane you took by mistake, when you meant to go the other way. In that bit of forest you haven’t been to since you were a kid. The ‘short cut’ that went the (really) long way. On the other side of the ‘oh-shit-it’s-deeper-than-we-thought’ stream.

Do things. Go places. Turn off Strava. Sing loudly. Go a different way. Get delightfully lost. Lose track of time. Plan less, do more.

I don’t know where you’ll find your next adventure, but it probably isn’t sat here.

 

Bike fuel flapjacks

After much experimentation, and many dodgy batches, here is my perfected flapjack recipe. Screw expensive energy bars – cling film a couple of these and stick them in your jersey pockets.

They last a pretty long time if you keep them somewhere cool and in a sealed container. They’re also vegan.

photo (19)

100g vegan margarine

110g smooth peanut butter 

80g agave syrup (or honey)

120g soft brown sugar

20g hemp seeds

50g chopped dried apricots / raisins / other dried fruit

225g porridge oats

1 large banana

………..

- Melt the margarine and peanut butter in a large saucepan.

- Mix in the agave/honey and sugar.

- Stir in the oats, hemp seeds and dried fruit.

- Mash the banana and add that to the mix too.

- Make sure it’s all mixed up, and then tip it into a greased dish/tin to go in the oven for about 25 mins at 170 celsius – ish. Depends on your oven – so keep an eye on them.

- When they’ve cooled down a bit but are still warm, cut them up into pocket sized bits. Eat one immediately. Store the rest for your next bike ride. Or midnight feast.

photo (18)

 

 

 

Just ride.

Right then.

Which shoes, which socks?

They don’t match.

Is it too warm for arm warmers?

Is it too cool for sunglasses?

Am I too cool for sunglasses?

My lights are out of batteries.

My legs are out of batteries.

The tyres are soft.

I probably should have some food first.

Shut up.

Are you wearing some clothes? Do the wheels go round?

Off you go then.

Sometimes, you just need to ride.

 

Here in my car, I am safest of all.

I was riding along the cycle path that runs the length of the A27 this week, like I often do. On turning a bend I saw a car had half pulled up onto the path, and had it’s hazards on. Naturally, I slowed down, and when I reached the car I asked the driver and her companion if they were ok. It conspired they had broken down, and had no phone signal, or any clue where they were! At this point they had already been on the path for some time. They thought the radiator needed water, so we emptied my water bottles into it, only to see it leak out the bottom and onto the road. Breakdown services it is then. My phone had signal so they were able to call the AA, and I was able to tell them exactly where the recovery vehicle needed to come. At this point I left them to wait for the AA, and rode off in search of water for my now empty bottles.

The fact is that even if I didn’t want to stop and help – I would have had to actively avoid eye contact and ride pass the driver, who was stood outside her car, with less than a metre between her and myself. I would have had to slow right down to squeeze past her anyway. Stopping wasn’t a decision – it was instinct, common sense, the only option.

Somewhat weirdly, it was almost the exact same spot that I came flying off my bike a couple of months ago. By just a few metres. I had been riding in the dark (with lights, of course) and a fox ran in front of me. Cue slamming on the brakes and hurtling over the handlebars. I wasn’t very hurt, but I was shaken up and freaked out. I stayed lying in the spot I hit the tarmac for about 2 minutes before getting up, and during that time I lost count of the number of cars that went past me. There’s no way they can’t have seen me – the lights on my bike were still flashing. The fact is, it’s difficult to stop suddenly when you’re driving along at 60 or 70. You’d probably cause your own accident. But if someone was concerned they could have pulled up at the lay-by just ahead and walked back. Anyway, whatever, I was fine – a friend came and rescued me – I had a cup of tea, laughed at my stupidity and was grateful that I wasn’t badly hurt.

It just makes you think, doesn’t it?

I’m not making a statement about ‘motorists’ or ‘cyclists’. But as a person in a car, you can hide. Pass on by without feeling bad. Pretend you haven’t noticed. And that’s just not the case on a bicycle.

—————————————–

(Apologies if you now have Gary Numan stuck in your head)

Claud et moi

Claud has been to France before, just not with me. Unlike myself he is a seasoned pro – having ridden London to Paris with his original owner, Kim. If you don’t know the story of how Claud ended up in my life then you can read it in this post from August last year.

I was very excited to take Claud on a little trip to the Vendee with me. My dad works in that part of France, and so I took the opportunity to stick my bike in the car and get a free lift over the channel, for 3 days of uninterrupted riding. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks: getting up early, having espresso and pastries for breakfast, riding all morning, stopping for a baguette, riding all afternoon, getting back to the mobile home for dinner and red wine. Then do it all again the next day.

Of course, this being me and my luck, the day that we set off to travel for France I woke up with a horrible cold. By the time we had made it to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Saint Marlo, I could barely breath. I hardly slept at all, and used up all of Brittany Ferries’ toilet roll to blow my nose. Lovely stuff.

As we arrived at our destination, and I brought Claud inside, I was worried that this would be where he was going to stay for the whole trip. Determined for that not to be the case I dosed up on every drug available, like all the pros do (sorry – just kidding), and ate a big bowl of pasta.

Claud enjoying the accommodation

 

The act of putting on my cycling kit made me instantly feel a little better. I contemplated getting a cyclist’s tan by sunbathing in my kit rather than going for a ride, but my desire to pedal won, and I left the campsite for the pretty castle town of Apremont – armed only with two pages torn from a road atlas and a French vocabulary of around seven words. 15 minutes into the ride I realised I had failed to pack any tissues, and not feeling ambitious enough to attempt the ‘cover one nostril and blow your snot across the road into a bush’ tactic that I have seen some riders employ, I found myself looking around for an appropriately sized and textured leaf. The things we do…

Creative nose blowing tactics aside, the ride was very enjoyable. The roads from the village I was staying in to Apremont were smooth and offered some beautiful scenery. I remembered which side of the road to ride on (something I was a bit worried about) and got used to it very quickly. It was really warm and the vast fields that take up so much of the Vendee looked even greener than normal under the bright sunshine.

Remember to ride on the right…

 

I stopped in Apremont to admire the castle and check the map. I can’t remember the last time I have ridden on such a hot day, and soon found myself with not much water left in my two bottles. After a little rest, Claud and I got back on the road and looped our way back to the campsite for a cold shower (just me, Claud wouldn’t fit.)

A rest in Apremont, to check the route back

 

The following day I rode a 30 mile loop, partly on the huge network of cycle paths that the Vendee has to offer. They are well signposted and mostly well paved – the paths are only used by agricultural vehicles and cyclists, and I did not see a single vehicle. It was lovely to not have to worry about cars, and enjoy the scenery on some of the quietest paths I have ever ridden down. I met more cows than people that day.

At a certain point on the cycle path it began to get a lot less smooth, and whilst the terrain would have been fine for anyone on a CX or mountain bike, or even a hybrid, Claud’s skinny tyres were not at home. Not knowing the French for “excuse me, I’ve used up both my spare inner tubes by attempting to ride a road bike on a bumpy gravel path, could you please direct me to a bicycle shop”, I decided to find my way back onto the road for the remainder of the journey.

That’s a cycle path, not a road.

 

The final day of my trip was largely spent asleep. My cold had got worse – I felt like I might cough up a lung, and it decided to rain. It was a shame, but I made the most a bad situation by eating lots of pizza and drinking lots of red wine. It’s medicinal, you know.

Sign on a post box

 

Over the three days I was in France I rode less than 60 miles (rather than the 180 I had planned) but every mile was beautiful, and worth it’s weight in gold. I didn’t ride on a single busy road, the views were stunning, and I didn’t have any bad experiences with motorists. The only conflict I had was being wolf-whistled at by a bunch men outside a cafe. Obviously I responded graciously, as ever, with a two fingered salute (I was going downhill – a speedy getaway..)

Good food, good coffee, good wine and good roads: France really is a place for cyclists, and I’m sure that both Claud and I will be back there before long –  next time in better health.

Failure is cool

The internet is a weird place. We can choose what we share and what we don’t share; we filter the information that goes public, as is our right. We share the photo of our healthy lunch, but not the massive bar of milk chocolate we ate afterwards. We don’t publish that ride to Strava where we gave up half way and got the train home. People see the nice new bike, but not the credit card bill that we can’t afford to pay. We only get half the story. The good bits, usually.

Anyway, to the point – because there is one (for once.)

This week I went on a bike ride after work. I rode a route I ride lots – out to Steyning – but this time I decided to take a little detour, involving a bostal climb. I’m not entirely sure why. That’s kind of the point of bostals I think – the futility of climbing them just to come back down again.

As soon as I turned into Bostal Road I wish I hadn’t bothered. My legs could take it, but my head was telling me to give up. Bad day – bad mind set. I keep going anyway, spurred on by hearing another cyclist behind me – and not wanting to be seen giving up. I turn the bend and the gradient increases significantly. The road is bumpy and horrible. Another minute of pounding the pedals and I look behind me – the cyclist I heard was imagined – there is nobody there. Both legs and head want me to give in at this point, and I do. Feet on the floor. Fucksake. Head on handlebars. Idiot. No Lois, you are not giving up – clip back in and get on with it.

So I do. Another minute or so of climbing. You’ve climbed worse hills than this – just keep pedalling – it’s easy. There’s a twist in the road and I can see it’s getting steeper. My head wins over my legs. Screw this. I crunch to a stop in some gravel, regain control of my lungs, turn back around and fly down the hill.

The air turns blue with muttered obscenities as I descend. I know I’m going to be in foul mood for the rest of the ride because I didn’t get to the top. I feel stupid for getting two thirds of the way and then bailing. Especially because I know I’m capable. And then I have the wisest idea I’ve ever had… 

“I’m going to go back up the bostal, and this time I’m going to do the whole thing in one go! With renewed vigour! I will use my self-loathing to pull me up the hill! That will make a great blog post, won’t it? It can be all inspiring and about not giving up and stuff! ”

So, around I turn. Superwoman on a bike: ready to defeat the bostal. Just look at me go…

I get 50 metres and cramp takes control of my right leg. I stop, unclip, turn around… and go home. The easy way.

coombesroad

The easy way home

I can’t remember the last time I read a blog post about someone going on a really horrible bike ride. Or coming last in a race. Or feeling anxious about a big sportive. Maybe that’s because people want to read nice things – which would be fair enough. Or maybe it’s because nobody else ever screws up – but I doubt that.

It’s easy just to share the successes and the wins. And we should share those things – and be proud of them. But the not so good bits deserve some air-time too.

I’m not advocating doom and gloom – just suggesting we revel in our failures a bit more. They’re what make us human, and they make the good bits even better.

 

Racing by the seaside. And a bit of a moan.

Sunday was Eastbourne Cycling Festival. It was brilliant – the sun (mostly) shone, and there were plenty of people who came down to the seafront to enjoy the weather, ride their bikes, and watch the racing.

There was a sportive event in the morning – I’ve had a look at the route and have one word for you: hilly. There were also a charity mountain bike ride, some running events (*raises eyebrows*), and a duathlon.

Then there was the racing. There were some junior races, the South East Regional Youth Champs, 4th category, 3rd category and E12 races. A quick glance at the sign-ups for the E12 race shows you that there were some big names racing – it was a fast paced race that took no prisoners! Cornering on this circuit looked…fun. I’m genuinely surprised there weren’t more crashes. I forget these people actually know what they’re doing.

The results of the racing will soon be posted here, if you’re interested.

As well as the crit racing there was some fun stuff going on for families – including a children’s Go Sky Ride course which looked like it was at about my level. You could make a smoothie by pedal-power, race your friends on a WattBike, watch some amazing BMX stunts – or just eat far too much ice cream. I had a brilliant day watching friends race their bikes, talking too much, and chasing balloons that were blowing away from the Team ASL360 tent.

jpeg-4

3rds race

jpeg-2

Team ASL360 tent

jpeg

Chris McNamara wins the E12

Now that’s all very nice, but I’m afraid there is a moany bit. And it involves two words which often strike up debate: podium girl.

It was hardly the Giro D’Italia, so whilst there weren’t rows of podium girls in tight dresses, bouquets of flowers and bottles of champagne, we had our own South Coast spin on the idea: an attractive young woman in denim hotpants to present the prize money – and a kiss. I have no idea if this woman was being paid, or whether she was part of the Harley Davidson sponsorship deal. She looked pleased enough to be involved, if a little out of place and awkward. So what’s my problem with her being there? I’ll try to sum it up, briefly…

Let’s discuss how many women were involved in the racing on Sunday. There was one girl in the youth race. There was one woman in the 4th cat race. And there was one podium girl. Without going into the reasons why there weren’t more women and girls racing (I’ll do that in a minute) – just think for a second about what message that is sending out, especially to the crowds of children who attended Sunday’s event. Women’s place clearly isn’t in racing – why else would they be so under-represented? But if 33% of the women involved with the racing were there to be an ornament and to kiss the men who won a race…well, maybe that’s a more fitting role for a girl.

There was no women’s race organised on Sunday. Had there been, I believe we would have seen a decent number of women on the start line. It would have been a smaller race than the men’s – but until the races are there, they cannot be filled. It is a viscous circle that needs to start with event organisers giving female racers an opportunity.

We are seeing an amazing rise in the popularity of women’s cycling in this country. The line up for the women’s races at events such as the Johnson Health Tech GP and London Nocturne serve to prove that. I know of more and more women locally who are taking up racing, or thinking about it. There’s lots going on – but the fact remains that there is still a huge inequality in women’s cycle racing. At a professional level, the difference in pay and prize money is often appalling, and at a more local level, many women’s races are still E1234 – first timers racing against the top level athletes. Things are improving, and I’m really hopeful about the future of women’s racing – but we still have a long way to go.

I don’t have anything against people wearing hotpants. In fact, I encourage it. But for as long as women’s racing is very much second place to men’s, I will continue to be insulted by the use of podium girls at races.

jpeg-3

Team ASL360′s Pete Morris wins the 3rd cat race

REVIEW – Velobici Van-Abel Jersey

velobici2

I’ve had my Velobici jersey since before Christmas, and it continues to be one of my most worn bits of kit. My first thought on receiving the parcel from Velobici was how beautiful the packaging was – it did feel like Christmas. Fancy gift wrapping comes as standard with all Velobici orders – and whilst that might seem unnecessary,  I love it (that’ll be the designer in me.) The good news is, this attention to detail is consistent in the clothes themselves.

The fabric of the jersey is incredibly soft, comfortable, and a little thicker than usual. This garment is knitted in Nottingham and made in Leicestershire – there is a lot to be said for keeping the whole process within the UK, which Velobici do with all their products. Admittedly this means prices are at the higher end of the spectrum – but you are getting the quality you pay for.

In terms of features, the jersey has a full zip to the front, and a drop back hem. There are five pockets, two of which can be zipped shut (and kept my phone dry on a wet ride). I rather like the different, asymmetric design of the rear pockets, though it may not be to everyone’s tastes. The sleeves and rear hem are edged with reflective piping, and the cuffs and hem have silicone grippers (helpful for keeping up my escapee arm-warmers). The jersey is made from a Meryl/Lycra mix which must be what makes it really soft and comfy. Having been through my washing machine loads of times now, the fabric is just the same as it was when new. I have an crap washing machine that only washes at 40, and it hasn’t been a problem.

The jersey is unisex, though the Velobici website doesn’t make it too clear that this is the case.  I would say an XS would fit a 6-8, S a 10-12 and so on. A size small fitted me perfectly (I’m normally a size 10) with a close fit but not ‘race tight’ – after all this is more of a Sunday jersey than something for competing in.

I’ve worn this out on countless rides now, and feel very comfortable wearing it for a cafe stop – it’s certainly the most stylish bit of cycling kit in my wardrobe. So much so that it gets hung up with my dresses and shirts, instead of living in a drawer with the rest of my kit.

What I like most about it

The elegant design and soft fabric (which has been through the wash a LOT and not been affected).

What I like least about it

The price tag

The details:

Price: £140.00

Material: meryl/lycra knit

Colour: black and red

REVIEW – Giro Monica Gloves

monica-black

Giro say that the Monica is the most full-featured glove in their range; designed for high-performance and high-mileage riders. I’ve worn them out on a couple of 50+ mile road rides, and haven’t been disappointed by their performance. The gloves retail at £34.99, and I was a little worried I might be paying for all style and no substance – but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wont lie, the thing that attracted me to these gloves was how damn good they look. And the fact they match my shoes. I love the mixture of black ‘lace’ and leather. Bad ass? I think so.

Before getting these gloves, I’d been riding either in my SealSkinz Winter gloves (far too hot) or some fingerless merino gloves with no padding. After a long ride in the unpadded gloves I ended up with really painful hands, and a very odd pins & needles sensation running through my palms. Clearly I was in need of some decent summer gloves – and these from Giro fit the bill. The upper part of the glove is a lace-effect mesh, which lets your hands breath, and the palms have a number of well placed micro-gel pads which take the pressure off. I have a size medium pair, and they fit perfectly. The fit is tight, which is comfortable, but means they are a bit tricky to take off.

Overall, these look and feel like a pair of high quality gloves, and they have been comfy and breathable on long rides.

What I like most about them

The way they look and the incredibly comfy padding on the palm.

What I like least about them

That I can’t be lazy and throw them in the washing machine with everything else: they’re hand-wash only.

The details:

Price: £34.99

Material: Pittards® vented leather palm, mesh upper, microfiber wiping surface

Colour: black and dark pink/purple (available in other colours)

Spin Up in a Brewery

Saturday saw the second ever ‘Spin Up in a Brewery’ event, hosted by Dark Star and supported by Kinesis Bikes and Morvelo Bicycle Apparel. They had me at ‘bikes and beer’, so when I was asked to come along and have a stall at the event, I was pretty chuffed.

Sadly I had to drive over (the options for transporting a table full of bike-art goodies by bicycle are limited) but two groups of cyclists rode over from Brighton to the brewery in Partridge Green – one by road and one off-road. The hoards of thirsty riders were greeted by free beer and a huge BBQ – there was also plenty of coffee, crepes and homemade cakes if that was more your thing.

That’s my ‘I’m having fun’ face. I’m also modelling my new Morvelo tee.

Once people had filled their bellies there was still plenty to do. Of course the ideal activity post BBQ and beer is to spin your guts out (hopefully not literally) on a bike: that’s where South Coast Sprints came in with their roller racing. Prizes and shouting galore! I am massively gutted that I didn’t get a go – it was so popular that by the time I went to add my name to the list, it was full. Next time.

If you didn’t particularly fancy sweating your arse off on a bike, you could instead plonk it on a hay-bale and watch some live music…

David Osborne, aka ‘Puncture Kit’

For those with a bit of pocket money weighing them down, there were lots of other nice things to buy including bicycle clothing and some awesome up-cycled jewellery and accessories. I bagged myself a Morvelo t-shirt and some bike chain link earrings from Judy, aka Beer Babe.

Wisdom

It was great to see some familiar faces, as well as lots of new ones. It’s always fun playing the ‘match the face to the twitter profile picture’ game. Thanks everyone who came and said hello.

A big thank you to Dom, James and Oli for their work organising the event, and to my partner in crime Leesi for helping me out all day. All in all, an ideal way to spend a sunny Saturday. My only regret was not trying to steal a Kinesis Race Light bike (just kidding…).

Oh, and since quite a few people have asked, I’ll be putting some badges on the online shop very soon.

The Claud & I swag pile

There’s a first time for everything.

I’ve decided that there is a reason why nothing ever seems to go to plan for me, and that’s because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to blog about.

You may have read my tale about missing a time trial last week due to an impromptu dog rescue. (If you haven’t, and you want to, it’s at the end of this post.) This week, I tried again. I made it to the TT with plenty of time to spare. The 12 mile ride from home was lovely and sunny – and no stray dogs in sight. I signed up, pinned on my number and rode to the start line. Chatting to some friendly riders in the queue, I admitted this was my first time trial – “But you know the course, right?” was their response. Well, if “know the course” means have looked at it on a map, seen it goes 5 miles in a pretty straight line, turns around, and comes back 5 miles on the same road, then yes – I knew the course. How hard could it be?

A kind chap from the club organising the TT held my bike and gave me a push start. Looking back at my Strava stats, I rocketed straight up to 30mph but slowed down quickly after my speedy start. It was unforgivingly windy – I kept on the drops and tucked myself in as much as possible but I still felt like a giant kite trying to go the wrong way. As the guy who set off after me overtook me within the first couple of miles, I told myself that it wouldn’t have happened if I was wearing TT kit and riding a fancy bike…

I deliberately hadn’t set myself any kind of time target, I was just keeping in mind the advice of a friend: “if you’re not sick at the end, you didn’t go hard enough.” I pushed myself pretty hard, but I could have pushed much harder (..next time).

Another couple of riders overtook me in the second 5 miles, having looped around the last big roundabout and headed back up the road we’d come down. Despite that, I was feeling pretty good – it was fun, “I could do this again”, I thought. You may be wondering where the ‘not going to plan’ bit comes into play in this particular story. Well I wasn’t sick – which for a change was actually my aim, so I suppose that is a fail. But you’ve yet to hear the best bit…

I took a wrong turn.

Yes, I went the wrong way. On a time trial. When I had already cycled the same bit of road in the other direction.

I straight away realised what I’d done, did some swearing, pulled into a small road, turned around, ignored the cramp in my leg which had kicked in the minute I stopped pedalling, and went back to the roundabout – this time taking the correct exit. I’d guess it cost me 2 minutes max, probably less. Up until that point I’d been feeling really positive. “Lois you f***ing idiot” I muttered to myself, but kept going, and finished in one piece. A result of sorts.

Next week I’ll go the right way, and faster.

 

Spring has sprung (I think)

Six ways to know that Spring is here:

1. The bright white legs are making an appearance

I rode without leg warmers for the first time in a long time yesterday. Apologies to anyone passing me on the road who was blinded by the glare shining off my bright white legs.

2. More insects than normal are flying into my ears, nose, mouth and eyes

We all know that feeling: 35mph down a hill and a fly decides to make for your eyeball. Mostly blind, you’re suddenly aware of how fast you’re going and a lot of panicked blinking ensues. Now that Spring is here, there are wasps and bees competing for a space in your face, too. I’m very grateful for my sunglasses.

3. The roadsides are colourful

Daffodils. Lots of daffodils.

4. The fair weather cyclists are out in force

Suddenly there seem to be lots of Team Sky members riding around. I hadn’t realised there were so many of them! I thought I saw Wiggins yesterday – he’s getting a bit of a beer belly I tell you.

5. My instagram feed is even more full of photos than normal

When it’s warm and the sky is bluer and the grass is greener it’s hard to resist the urge to capture it all in a photo. Plus nobody likes stopping when it’s cold and rainy.

6. I can’t stop grinning

This can cause problems with swallowing flies (see ’2′) but other than that is no bad thing. Cycling with the sun on my back is enough to cheer me up on the worst of days. Pure simple joy.

Day 21 of 30DOB

Crashes, sunshine, foxes & dogs. (30 days of biking so far)

Things have been a bit mad here since the start of #30daysofbiking but I’ve finally found some time, so here is a little round up of the first sixteen days…

Day One - Riding without stabilisers.

Ride: A 40 mile loop through the Ashdown Forest.

Bike: Claud.

Rode to Groombridge where I ate lunch and lots of easter eggs with my family. I also rode half a mile with my cousins Josie (who can ride without stabilisers and has a dolly seat on her bike) and Tom (who is very nifty going over speed bumps on his micro-scooter).

Josie looking Pro in my helmet and glasses.

Days Two, Three, Four and Five- Riding to work, mostly..

Rides: The short ride to work, and a couple of lunchtime errands.

Bikes: Claud and Annie

The good thing about no longer working from home is that my studio is now a 5/10 minute ride away. That little bit of time on the bike is the perfect separation between work and home.

Annie, at the studio.

Claud, at the studio.

Day Six- Coffee, cake and an eclectic collection of bicycles.

Ride: A seafront ride to Shoreham and back.

Bike: Annie.

7 of us rode to Shoreham for coffee – two road bikes (belonging to Sid and Gill), one single speed (that would be Annie), one mountain bike (John’s), one Isla bike (Fynn’s) and one bike with a trike on the back (the combined leg power of Mandy and Cain). Love it.

Some of our bikes, at the cafe stop.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

Day Seven – Vulpine collisions and crash-filled racing

Ride: Night ride and a trip to Chertsey (by car, sorry) to help out at the racing

Bike: Annie

All the best lessons are learnt by making stupid judgements, in other words: the hard way. I missed a train and ended up riding to Lewes in the wee small hours of the morning. I was riding Annie, who is kitted out for city riding, and as such doesn’t have the kind of lights which illuminate the pitch black cycle path on the side of the A27. The end of this story is that a fox ran out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and…ouch, over the handlebars I went. Luckily I was rescued by a sensible person who told me what a wally I was. Lesson learnt.

After some sleep I woke up only slightly bruised from the vulpine incident, and headed off to Chertsey to watch some friends racing. I ended up in the passenger seat of the Assistant Commissaire car, which was fun. The only bad thing about the day was that there were a LOT of crashes. Highlight: Team ASL360′s Anna Railton winning the women’s race :-)

Women’s race…that was a nasty hill.

Days Eight, Nine and Ten - If only I was one of those people who can cycle in a pencil skirt and heels.

Work was really, really busy until day 10. I had some important meetings and stuff that meant I didn’t get much riding in, other than the short trip to work. To make up for this, I took Thursday off for a day of bike……

Day Eleven - A love of gears and afternoon beers.

Ride: 32 miles of Sussex roads, with Monika.

Bike: Claud

Mon came down from London for the day, with her swanky new Genesis bike. We had lots of fun despite a few clippy-pedal-fail moments (not mine) and some wrong turns (mine). Mon’s been riding way longer than I have, but this is her first geared bike. What better way to celebrate than to find some hills to go up..and down :-)

We ended our Sussex ride in a Sussex pub, naturally.

The post-ride pint.

Days Twelve and Thirteen Just the short commute, again.

Day FourteenGood Lord, is that the SUN?!

Ride: 52 miles of glorious sunshine

Bike: Claud.

There are fewer things better than making new friends – especially if they ride a bike! Carine had read the blog and spotted that I was organising a road ride – having recently bought a new road bike and rediscovered her love of cycling, she joined Claud and I for our Sunday ride. We had coffee, and tried not to get too over-excited about the blue skies. It turned out we needn’t have contained our excitement – because it turned out to be a stunning day.

We avoided the crowds of the Brighton Marathon by riding over Devil’s Dyke to Henfield, out to Partridge Green and then East through Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks to Ditchling, where we stopped for coffee and food. I think I had a grin on my face for pretty much the whole ride – you just can’t beat a sociable ride on a sunny day. Once we’d conquered a few last hills and got back to Brighton, I decided to make the most of the day and headed out for a few more miles on my own.

Coffee stop at Ditchling Tea Rooms

Carine (who regretted the long sleeves!)

Day Fifteen - Ditchling Beacon has expanded in the heat.

Ride – Lewes to Brighton the painful way (over that hill people go on about)

Bike – Claud

I was pleased to find that I could still get over the Beacon in one go without the promise of free food at the end (the last time I rode it was for the Puncheur Sportif). Having said that, I am sure it has got longer and steeper since then.

Day SixteenThe dog ate my homework.

Ride: The 24ish miles to Steyning and back, with good intentions.

Bike: Claud

Dogs often feature in excuses – so here is mine:

I rode to Steyning last night to compete in my first time trial. I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited. On my way there I came across a very sweet looking dog wandering up the road on its own. Naturally I stopped and had a little chat with the creature, she was very sweet, and after knocking on some doors we reunited her with her owners. The conclusion of this tail (see what I did there?) is that I got to Steyning 5 minutes too late to enter the TT. Still, I had a very nice ride home again, and feel like I have now balanced out my karma after the fox incident.

I missed the TT, so I took a photo of my feet instead.

Here’s to the next 14 days!

30 days of AWESOME.

At the weekends I like to hang around in industrial estate car parks in particularly dull bits of greater London. Actually that’s a lie, but that is what I spent this last Sunday afternoon doing. Claud was in the boot of my car looking rather sorry for himself, and me, well, I spent the best part of an hour staring blankly at the Sainsbury’s sign looming over me. I had one of those very odd days where nothing goes to plan and you think your world is going to end, but then you end up having an epiphany. Or is it just me that has those?..

I was meant to be in London for race training but I was late, forgot to bring cash, and then proceeded to have a big-arsed panic attack because I’m an idiot. Post-panic-attack my legs were all shaky and I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car and onto my bike.

If sitting in your kit eating carb filled snacks is training (I have been informed it counts), then I did a lot of training. And then I had a coffee. And then I drove around the industrial estate, and then I had another coffee.

Why am I telling you this? The conclusion of this dull tale is that I realised I’ve been getting my knickers in a twist over a load of stuff that doesn’t really matter. I haven’t ridden my bike much recently, partly because of the cold, but mainly because whenever I do ride I am worrying about whether I’m working hard enough, and whether I’m going to be ready for my next race. So I have made a decision. For now… no races, or race training, or time trials, or competitions of any kind. Because even though those things are awesome, it isn’t why I ride, and it isn’t why I write this blog. I started this because I really like riding a bicycle. And recently I’ve been less than enthused by that idea, which is sad. So for the next 30 days, I’m on a mission to remember why I ride. I’m going to have as much fun as is possible, and if the sun shines, well… that would be a bonus.

#30daysofbiking Day One – 40 cold but bright miles through Sussex.

Day Two – the very short ride to work (IN THE SUNSHINE!)

Day Two – Blue Skies

 

Twenty minutes with Jo Tindley

On Friday I went up to London for the team launch of Matrix Race Academy. I had the pleasure of talking to Jo Tindley for a while about her place on the team.

WITH PERMISSION OF ANDY WHITEHOUSE

WITH PERMISSION OF ANDY WHITEHOUSE

Jo Tindley joins Matrix Race Academy for her second season back after 5 years away from racing. In 2012 Jo finished fifth in her first race and then went on to win her next two at Thruxton before taking 10th place in her first National Series Road Race. Last Spring Jo rode the Johnson Health Tech Tour, the Women’s division of the Halford Tour Series, and finished the series seventh overall, finishing second in the sprinter’s competition – just one point off the lead.

Jo is looking to have a big season as part of the Matrix Race Academy. I chat to her about the world of women’s racing and what it’s like to balance her cycling career with four jobs.

————-

What is your day-to-day lifestyle like? Do you have much time for anything but cycling?

We [the team] spend a lot of time together. I’ve got four jobs – all shift work. I’m constantly working! I don’t really have time to go off and do other things unless it’s a race.

How do you cope with balancing your jobs and cycling? Is it difficult?

I was working all through the Winter, it was horrible. I was on the bike at 5 or half 4 in the morning through the middle of the Winter with all these lights on and stuff – it’s changing now, and I’m down to three jobs…I’m slowly petering them off so I’ve got enough to earn money through the season but still have commitment to the team. At the minute I’m coping fine. Beforehand when I was a junior and an under 23 I struggled, even just with school stuff. But now I manage everything really well. I want to be a bike rider, I want to race – so I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve got rid of my car and I ride to all my jobs. So instead of going to work all day, coming home and thinking “oh god, I’ve got to train now”, I’m like – well, I’ve done two hours training because I’ve ridden there and back. I fit everything in – everything is about cycling.

If you were a male cyclist in the same position, do you think you’d still have to work those jobs or could you make it work full time as a cyclist?

I don’t know. Personally, I think it’s a lot harder for men. You’ve got to be performing and you’ve got to be doing really well.

Is that just because there’s more competition in the male sport?

Yeah, that’s it. It’s a different league, you can’t really compare it to the same. I think there are more opportunities for men. But, because of the Olympics, women’s cycling is going in the right direction. I’m on the road commission for British Cycling, and I’ve seen the great developments that are coming through. From where I’ve come from as a Junior, there was nothing. There were no races – you’d have 30 women turn up, now you’ve got 80. It’s not going to be long before women are thought of as the same. It might not be until the next Olympics, but it’s on it’s way. We’re getting more credit, things are changing, and Stef [Wyman, team manager] is doing a fantastic job. This team…it’s going to be good this year.

Obviously you love cycling, but are you a fan of the sport? Do you follow any specific riders or teams? Does it interest you to watch races?

No, not really, I’m very single minded and I want to ride my bike. I’m not really that bothered by what everyone else is doing, it’s none of my business and I can’t be bothered unless I’m in the race with them. If I get time I will watch races, like the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive cycling geek…I don’t buy Cycling Weekly, I don’t look at the BC site. The only person I really follow is Mark Cavendish: ‘cause I just think he’s cool.

You started racing at the age of 12. When you were a junior were you very aware of the fact you were a girl, did it hinder you at all or did you just get on with it?

Back then being a female you were a second-class citizen – this was 2002, 2003 sort of time. There wasn’t much opportunity for women to race and there was never a tour series or anything like that. You get stuck with that stigma of being a girl: you’re not strong enough, you can’t ride a bike very well. As a junior, I always rode with the men so in my eyes I rode like a man and I got treated like a bloke. You’ve just got to get on with it, it is a male-orientated sport, and that’s probably never really going to change. Yes, there’s a divide, obviously, but it’s getting there. I think that everything that’s happened in the last 5 years is so positive, it’s just brilliant.

It does seem to be the case that women’s cycling is on the up. I’ve just got my 4th cat license and have a diary full of women’s races, but I know that just a few years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. It seems the sport is getting more popular and receiving more credit that it ever has before. Why do you think that is? Is it just down to the Olympics, or are people’s attitudes just changing over time?

I think the whole build up of having the home Olympics is the main thing…the women’s road race was just spot on – you couldn’t have written that any better. That’s how it started…but it’s the whole build up, and everyone putting all this funding into sport, I think that’s what’s done it. I think probably the Olympics was the main catalyst…how well Lizzie did and how well the girls did on the track…people have realised that actually you can still be girly.

So do you think it makes a big difference having feminine role models in the sport?

It makes a massive difference. Back when I started no one ever had their nails done, whereas now they’re all getting that stuff. That’s not me, but it’s all part of it. I think that’s what really appeals to the girls, that they’re good bike riders but can still be glamorous. The whole stigma has changed, and it’s just going to get better.

Do you know much about the #fanbackedwomenscycling initiative that Stef and the team are involved with? What are your thoughts on it?

I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea. All the reports I’ve had from these race training sessions…have been brilliant. It’s another way of finding new talent to come through. I’ll be a bit blunt…I understand [beginners] have got to start somewhere, but I don’t want them starting in my race. Giving the 4th cats their own races is a brilliant idea and has made such a difference to our racing.

Matrix RA are supporting the Bedford 3 Day in May. Do you think there are enough women’s races in the UK? I do. I mean, I race a lot with the men so it doesn’t really bother me, I’ll just go out with the men. But I think there are plenty. Bedford’s going to be great this year.

What races are in the diary, and which are you most excited about? This season I’m very excited about the Johnsons Health Tech tour again, I would like to wear the sprinters jersey again and also have a stage win. Another race I’m looking forward to is the National Crit Championships and the Road Champs. I also hope that we get a chance to ride as a team in Europe in some stage races.

What are your goals for the season? What are you most looking forward to and what do you want to achieve?

What I’m most looking forward to is working as a team. I had a great come back year racing with VC St Raphael, they were an amazing help, but I am looking forward to riding for a more structured team. [Matrix RA] have got some of the top girls in the UK – whatever my role will be, it will be done properly.

My goals: just to keep progressing forward in my sport and getting better and better all the time. Ultimately I would like to turn pro one day so this to me is a stepping stone. The opportunities are there, I’ve just got to grab them.

——————

You can follow Jo on Twitter at @jltindley and follow the team’s progress at @onthedrops

 

Team - Matrix Launch - With Permission of Guy Collier

WITH PERMISSION OF GUY COLLIER