Tag Archives: cycling

Winter fields

Back before the snow had melted I was listening to Bat for Lashes’ album The Haunted Man and was particularly taken by the lyrics to Winter Fields; a song that talks about Sussex. That same day I stumbled upon some photos by cyclist, photographer and friend Gavin Peacock. He’d braved the Sussex snow on his bike with a camera, and the result was beautiful. So I wanted to share both with you here.

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Hurtling through heavy snow, our hands are cold and the moon sets low
Little sister let your sharp teeth show, pass winter fields
Stop the car by the old wire post, skidding rabbits make good paper ghosts
They lick the salt off the Sussex coast and fall into winter fields

‘looking to the long man’

Rows of White, Spelled our escape in the old torch light
Oh Mother, I’m scared to close my eyes
In some winter dreams will make you dive and dive and dive down

In sub zero I can’t stand still, colors of absence flooding the hill
In wonderment I trip and spill through winter fields
Under the stairs taps the metronome, a diver suit that we’ve all outgrown
I need to get to where the wild things roam through all of my winter dreams

‘weald view’

Rows of white, spelled our escaped in the old torch light
Oh mother, I’m scared to close my eyes
Some winter dreams will make you dive and dive and dive down

‘ditchling beacon’

Photos by (and copyrighted to) Gavin Peacock

The full set is viewable here: ‘A Year In Sussex’

Lyrics:  Winter Fields, Bat for Lashes

Sunshine and sandwiches.

In wonderful contrast to the snow, sleet and rain that we’ve had our share of recently, this weekend saw some Winter sunshine for Sussex.

On Saturday I made the most of the weather and got out on my own for a few hours in the saddle. Having spent a fair amount of time of late spinning on a bike in a gym, it was lovely just to get out and RIDE. The downs were still dusted with icing-sugar snow – but it was nearly all melted from the roads. The beautiful views almost made Devil’s Dyke enjoyable. At the top I found myself grinning, and remembering that this is why I fell in love with riding a bike in the first place.

Edburton Road on Saturday

Melted snow & the previous day’s rain on Underhill Lane.

Sunday was a team ride, and being totally honest – I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’m still a bit nervous about cycling in a group, even though the guys in the team are great and I’m getting to know everyone. What if I fall off and look like a plonker…what if I get left behind on a hill…what if…SHHH Lois, get on with it woman, you’ll be fine.

And I was.

Clearly my bonking crisis on the last team ride made an impression, as I ended up with homemade flapjacks & sandwiches from Matt, and homemade bread pudding from John, all stuffed into my jersey pockets. If that’s not team spirit then I don’t know what is! I felt a little over-laden with essentially a packed lunch on my back, but 71 miles later – and only half a (very squashed) sandwich left, I was very grateful for my snack-filled pockets.

Breakfast. Not to be underestimated!

I won’t go through the route, because that will get boring, and you can see the map at the bottom of this post. What I will say is that apart from a few idiot drivers nearly hitting us, and one hill up to Friston which was hideously steep, narrow and full of traffic – I enjoyed every minute. And I didn’t fall off ;-)

Still smiling at this point…

These are going to be famous last words I’m sure – but I’m starting to enjoy climbing. Not the sort of hills that are so steep I wonder if I am moving at all, and unclip in a wobbly panic, but the longer, more gradual climbs. One such was the long climb up the zig zag road (Upper Dukes Drive?) from Eastbourne to Beachy Head. I’m not saying I sang my way up it with a smile on my face, but there’s something satisfying about getting from A to B, uphill, with only your legs and two wheels to thank. It’s the good kind of hard work, and, dare I say it, the good kind of pain. There’s a fine line there though..

I have never cycled against such strong winds as those on the top of Beachy Head that day. I had to lean my bike against the wind so that I didn’t get blown into the sea*. I’m looking forward to going back to those roads on a still day.

(*slight exaggeration)

So I finished my weekend with 105 miles on the clock, which is probably some sort of record for me. A few days later and my legs are politely reminding me of every one of those miles, by aching like hell. Still, there’s only one way to deal with that – let’s get planning the next ride.

Our route! Click map to see larger image

London Bike Show & Nocturne Series

There was a moment when I wondered if I’d make it to London at all, but I did, and it was well worth the snowy journey. I’m not going to bore you with exhibition talk, but here are a few of my highlights…

1. Surviving the snow. Not dieing is always a plus. There was a moment, when the snow was stuck to the windscreen and the screen-wash was frozen, that I did ponder on my chances.

2. Elite Women’s Crit – Friday. This was brilliant. It made me want to join in. And anyone who says women’s racing is boring…well you should have watched this. Clemence Copie of HWCC won the crit, with Alice Bahns of 23C Orbea in second, and Louise Mahe of Team MuleBarGirl in third.

3. Elite Men’s Crit – Saturday. I bloody love watching these guys race. First place was taken by Ian Bibby of the Madison Genesis team, which had been launched earlier in the day. Second place belongs to Pete Hawkins of IG Sigma-Sport, who came off his bike very early on, sustaining a nasty looking bit of road rash. All the more impressive that he placed 2nd.

4. Looking at all the pretty bikes. And talking to nice people. It was great to see some familiar faces, and a chat to a few new ones. I resisted (nearly) all temptation, and left after two days at the show only having bought two things…a discounted jersey, and a pair of socks!

5. I’m gutted that I had gone home by this point, and didn’t get to see the race, but despite that the biggest highlight has got to be seeing three Team ASL360 guys on the podium for the Juniors Race. The race was won by Dan Gardner, a local lad from Scaynes Hill. Smiles all round.

The bleak mid-Winter

The cold is ferocious. It bites through my layers and gnaws at my bones. Thank God for merino wool, and lots of pairs of socks. I keep going because if I stop I may just freeze. “Beneath this stone lies the cyclist who stopped pedalling.”  There is tea and toast at the end of my journey, and that keeps my legs turning.

Snoozing and bonking.

Splash face with cold water, look self in mirror, tell self to wake up.

Put on socks, base layer, bib tights, jersey, jacket, buff and cap.

Put bread in toaster. 

Fill water bottles. Sound of running water makes you realise you need to pee. Take off jacket, jersey and bibs, pee, put them back on again.

Pack tubes, tyre levers, pump, cash, phone and keys into jersey pocket.

Locate shoes and overshoes from underneath pile of stuff. Put them on feet.

Put on gloves. Realise you can’t easily eat toast whilst wearing gloves. Take off gloves, scoff 3/4 of the slice of toast, put gloves back on.

Plonk helmet onto head. Do silly fast walk downstairs that maximises speed and minimises risk of slipping on cleated shoes. Jump onto bike, whizz down the road, arrive with seconds to spare….

Getting up ten minutes before you need to leave is never advisable. There are plenty of reasons why it’s a stupid thing to do, but today I experienced the reality of one in particular. I’d usually get up in time to eat porridge and drink coffee before setting off on a ride. This morning I didn’t even have time to finish a slice of toast, and in my rush to leave didn’t put any food in my pocket. This is a mistake I won’t make again.

I always thought ‘bonking’ was what middle aged people called sex, but it turns out it has a different meaning in cycling. And somewhere near Laughton on the team ride today I bonked. I bonked hard. Having struggled to get going and then struggled to keep going, I was soon struggling to cycle at all. Blurred vision, a spinny head and feeling like I was going to throw up. As my team mate beautifully put it: ‘you’ve barely had any food…your stomach is eating itself!’. I know plenty of cyclists who ride 50 miles on no breakfast, but that kind of routine is one you have to build up to, and I’m certainly not there yet. So, along with Matt (who was ill and after an excuse to do a shorter ride), we let the team go on with their full ride and took a turn off at Isfield for an unscheduled stop in the Lavender Line cafe.

A sugary drink and several carby snacks later I was back in the saddle and ready to ride home. It wasn’t a wasted morning – I still managed 34 miles and I definitely learnt a lesson: avoid the bonk – EAT.

(Oh, and don’t press the snooze button.)

Lavender Line Cafe

Night time

It is night time.

The dark outline of a woman appears in the hedgerows and I brake, violently. I blink and the figure has gone: I realise it was my own shadow, thrown across the greenery by the light on my bicycle.

The light I have seems only to illuminate the fog, not the road, and for a long while all I can see is mist.

Occasionally I hit a pothole with no warning, this is the only thing that reminds me I am on the Sussex roads, and not floating through some strange dream.

The climbs are fine, at a slow pace my eyes adjust slightly and I can make out the edge of the road – a vague, soft line which I follow on my ascent to the peak of the dark hill. A lone house sheds some light on the corner, another bend, and I return to the darkness.

Next the descent, and for a while I feel totally lost in the darkness and mist – blinking in the hope that when my eyes open I will be able to see more of the road. A branch catches my cheek and the sharp pain wakes me from my utter disorientation: I am riding. I know these roads. I will be there soon.

Drop the chocolate bar and grab the handle bars.

LAZY was the order of the day over Christmas, for which I won’t apologise. However this week it’s been back to work, back to not having excuses to eat too much chocolate (although I could probably still find some) and back into some kind of a routine.

The end of my holiday on Friday also meant a long overdue return to the saddle this weekend. I did cycle a bit over Christmas, but not much, so it was with some excitement (and some fear of how much my fitness had suffered) that I dusted off Claud for a ‘proper’ ride on Saturday. The lovely Gill joined me for 45 miles through the Sussex countryside: a nice loop from Brighton through Lewes, Offham, Ditchling, Steyning and along the seafront from Shoreham back home again. We rode at a good pace, catching up about Christmas, and the only truly unpleasant thing about the ride was the feeling of dissapointment on being told that the pub we stopped at wasn’t serving any food. 45 miles on a piece of toast and a bag of crisps might be easy for the pros, but it isn’t my style!

You can read a bit more about Saturday’s ride from Gill’s perspective, because she’s just started her own blog as part of a fitness challenge for 2013: you can find it here.

Spooning bikes…

Sunday was my first team ride with Team ASL360. Group riding is very new to me still, and I knew it was going to be a bit of a learning curve. I would like to publicly apologise to my new team mates for swerving, swearing and slowing more than I should have done. However, I do feel like I learnt more in those 3 hours than in the whole of the rest of the time I’ve been riding a bike – so it’s not all bad! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no better way to learn than to ride with a bunch of people who’ve been riding for longer than you have. Two hours in and my legs were starting to give up (despite the social pace we were going at) but I made it back in once piece with the rest of the group, and that’s good enough for me. 3 hours and almost 50 miles of riding later and I was well ready for my glamourous post-ride routine: drinking a recovery shake in the bath.

It seems my lazy festive fortnight didn’t do too much damage, but it’s back to business now; bring on the riding…

 

 

 

Let’s hit the ground running.

I’ve just had a look at my diary, and have concluded it is going to be a busy start to 2013…in a good way. If you’re thinking of heading along to any of the following events and rides, be sure to come and say hello to me and Claud! Leave a comment and I might even buy you coffee ;-)

JANUARY

Friday 18th & Saturday 19th – London Bike Show

Sunday 20th – Kent Velo Girls Race Training Day, at Cyclopark

Sunday 27th – Lewes Wanderers Reliability Ride

 

FEBRUARY

Sunday 17th – Kent Velo Girls Race Training Day, at Cyclopark

 Sunday 24th - Hell of the Ashdown sportive

 

MARCH

Sunday 10th – Puncheur Sportive

 Saturday 16th – Winter in the Park, Women’s 3/4 race

 Sunday 17th - Kent Velo Girls Race Training Day, at Cyclopark

 Saturday 23rd – Winter in the Park, Women’s 3/4 race

 

APRIL

30 Days of Biking!

I’ll be organising some fun, social rides in Lewes / Brighton area.

 

Racing & Resolutions.

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions.

The reason for this is that resolutions typically involve giving up nice things like alcohol or chocolate, and setting unrealistic goals for ourselves regarding diet and exercise. They’re never much fun, and we usually find ourselves failing to keep to them, and then feeling crap about it. A few years ago I started a little new year routine as an alternative to resolutions. Instead of making unrealistic promises to myself about things that, frankly, don’t really matter, I would use the start of a new year as an excuse to write a list off stuff I’d like to achieve/get done/try over the year. The idea of the list is that it’s full of stuff that I WANT to do, not stuff I think that I ought to.

There are lots of things on my list this year, but I’m just going to write about a few, which, funnily enough, involve Claud.

Whenever I write a list, I always put something I have already done at the top, so that I can tick it off right away and feel good about it (am I the only person who does that?) So, number one on my list:

☑ Join a cycling team

Yes indeed, you heard. I am the newest, most nervous, least experienced member of Team ASL360, based in Lewes. Thanks to them for having me…!

☐ Ride More Bike

Ride more. Ride Further. Have fun.

☐ Get others on their bikes

Probably my favourite thing about this blog is how it has encouraged a few people I know to ride a bike, when they never normally would. There was my friend George, who hadn’t ridden a bike for years and then had the most amazing day out on a bicycle, and my best mate Sabrina, who declared “I don’t ride bikes” and shortly afterwards was climbing Sussex hills on a road bike.

I’m already looking forward to 30 Days of Biking in April (the initiative that got me to start this blog back in September) and as part of that I hope to organise some more social rides.

☐ Race

I’m going to give racing a go. Who knows how it will go, but I have a feeling I may get hooked. Either way, I’ll be using the blog to document my progress, so look out for a post about my first race in the next few months.

Speaking of racing, yesterday I went up to Hillingdon with Jason and Matt from Team ASL360. Whilst the guys warmed up for their race I watched the women’s race. If I needed any convincing that I should try racing, this was it. Perhaps it was just because I was so cold standing and watching, but every inch of me wanted to jump on a bike and join in.

So, here’s to 2013: The Year of the Bicycle.

Women’s race (all Cats) – Photo (c) Huw Williams

Some of my phone photos from the day:

Women’s race (all Cats)

E123 race

Young supporters cheer on their dad

E123 race

Kidds Hill take two, and more cake.

On Friday night there was a last minute change of plan. Several friends who were going to be joining us for a ride on Saturday had to cancel (all with very good excuses!) leaving only two of us for the ‘Festive Ride’. Looking back, it may have been that we’d both had quite a bit of wine, but Gill and I decided that we’d get up earlier than planned and do 50 miles up to the forest and back.

My awesome friend Gill is a great cyclist, and competes in Triathlons, but the furthest she had ever gone on a bike before was 25 miles (with me, the previous week). I’m a little worried that I’m going to get a reputation for dragging people on long bike rides, but I would like to say that Gill was totally on board with the idea and didn’t take any persuading!!

Coffee consumed and many layers put on, we headed off with a vague plan for a 50ish mile loop from Lewes, with cake half way.

Compulsory Cake Stop. (At Burrswood, Groombridge)

It was a really beautiful day, and not nearly as cold as we thought it would be. Our route took us North out of Lewes through Newick and Maresfield to Groombridge, and then looped back in a figure of eight through Forest Row, Coleman’s Hatch and Maresfield again, through Isfield this time, and back to Lewes. As usual we passed lots of other friendly cyclists, but we particularly noticed lots of women out on their bikes, which made me happy!

The bikes have a rest in Groombridge.

You might remember my first attempt at Kidds Hill. I didn’t go into much detail, mostly because I sucked so badly. I think I stopped four or five times, and my companion’s bike broke half way up too. All in all, take two was more successful. We both managed to get two thirds of the way up without stopping, and only paused briefly once before finishing the climb. No one even threw up, which in our eyes was a miracle.

Just taking a little break after Kidds Hill….

Despite the fact that it nearly killed me, it felt good to know that I must be a little bit stronger, a little bit fitter and a whole lot more determined than the last time I attempted that same climb. I suppose all this cycling is doing something.

“It Doesn’t Get Any Easier, You Just Get Faster”

Greg Lemond

Gill surveys the sunset we were treated to at the end of our climb.

Why you love to ride your bikes…

Some of the replies I had on Twitter to #whyilovetoridemybike

The train leaves without me, and always takes too long – my bike leaves when I start pedalling, and is as fast as I can make it.

The loudest voice in the playground this morning loves riding their bike because ‘IT FEELS LIKE FLYING’!!

When I snap my cleats into the pedals I am melded to this graceful machine that makes me better in untold ways; and being in that moment, being intimate with the world around us becomes easy.

Because it’s fun and I love the feeling of freedom.

The smells. I love the different aromas I encounter as I cycle round the city, in my head there is a smell map of the streets.

I love to ride a bike for the pure joy and the freedom of 2 wheels in a busy city.

It’s always up for adventure, doesn’t suffer from headaches and never gets tired – I love it!

Exercises, nice surprises, natural highs and gentle rises: countryside in all its guises, aching thighs, wife sympathises.

Why? To relive my younger days & help overcome a long term disability to become stick free after 20yrs. What better way to do it?

Mulled Cider Festive Ride

Saturday 8th December at 12:00

We ride our bikes, and then we drink mulled cider and eat mince pies. Simple. What better way to get in the festive spirit?

Photo (c) Josh Thornton

We’ll meet at the Peace Statue on Brighton Seafront at midday and ride a loop that finishes back in Brighton. We’ll be riding at a sociable pace.

This is the route. 25 miles: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/157104001

All types of bikes and types of people are welcome, so long as you are nice :-)

Oh, and it’s free.

RSVP here.

Wet weather and wobbles…

Today I bit the bullet as I decided to finally get over my self and road-test the new shoe/pedal combo. I have joked liberally about falling off due to said shoes/pedals but this is all an elaborate cover for the fact that I was genuinely petrified of my first ride wearing ‘clippy’ shoes.

My lovely shiny black & plum Giro shoes have been sat beside my bed for almost a fortnight now. They have been much admired, used as a coffee cup holder, sniffed, etc….but before this morning had yet to make it out of the front door. Being the cautious soul (there’s a shoe joke in there somewhere) that I am, I first attempted the clip in/out movement whilst sat on my bike in the lounge, with my flatmate holding the bike in case of disaster. Turns out this is quite a difficult exercise, which just makes you more nervous, and it is better just to harden up and get on with it.

The pretty new shoes before being worn outside

So, this morning I donned my cleated footwear and clip clopped down the road to start my journey on the flat seafront. Readying myself for embarrassment in front of the homeless chaps sat on the bench beside me, I got on the bike and….clip, clip…..success! Off I rode. I even managed the first 12 miles without so much as a wobble.

Flooded roads

I did have one moment where I almost didn’t unclip in time and thought I might go over, but I avoided disaster.

Of course it was a rather wet morning, and I got completely soaked, along with my shoes. Next thing on the seemingly endless shopping list that comes with this new love of mine: overshoes.

Sheltering in Steyning

My beautiful shoes after 20 miles

After not very long I had decided I was never going back to cycling in dodgy trainers. In contrast to what I’d anticipated, I actually felt more secure and confident with the new pedals, not less so. I could push harder on the hills, I didn’t have to worry about my feet slipping off the pedals in the rain (that’s happened to me plenty in the past) and I knew my feet weren’t going to move out of the right position.

On top of all that, I totally look like I know what I’m doing now. Until I fall off ;-)

Childhood Memories – part four

A guest post from Mark forms part four of a series on Childhood Memories. You can see the rest of the posts by clicking on the ‘memories’ category at the top, under the title.

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My closest shave

After my Claud Butler mountain bike was stolen, that’s a whole other story, my Dad arranged a new bike from the house contents insurance.  We went to Halfords together and I picked out a bright red Saracen ‘Sahara Elite’ – complete with front fork suspension and all the trimmings.  By 1993 standards this was an expensive bike at nearly £500, even if it was from Halfords.

My only mode of transport when I was 15/16 was my bike – most of my friends lived 3 miles away or more.  One night, at nearly midnight, I cycled back from a friends house in Oakridge through Popley to Chineham – in those days lights were considered optional, and besides I was careful where I cycled which was usually away from the road – I always had to summon up all my bravery to pass under the railway bridge at the bottom of the Reading Road as it was in pitch darkness; the scene of many sexual assaults and a popular haunt of the flashers. Nothing ever happened to me but there was always that threat.

The Reading Road has a slight ascent, at the top of the hill was the old Q8 garage (no longer there), where we used to steal sweets on the way home from school, 50 or so yards beyond the garage was an alleyway that left the Reading Road to connect by foot to Mattock Way – caution usually made me stop at the end, Mattock Way was a busy estate road and the narrow alley was shielded either side by 6ft garden fences, but on this night I threw caution to the wind…

…as I shot out of the alley, with a bunny hop and half twist off the curb, a Ford Fiesta was travelling at speed along Mattock Way.  I collided with the rear bumper of the Fiesta, tearing it off, and I was hurled from my bike landing 30 or 40 feet away from the scene of devastation, my stunt roll was 10 point perfect.

I was shaking but I wasn’t hurt.  When I got to my feet, for some reason, I picked up the bumper – the young lady, in her early 20′s perhaps, who had been driving the car had stopped and had got out, she was visibly shaken.  I handed her the bumper and she put her arms around me and asked if I was OK - “God, you shit me up” was the expression that she used, she was kind, reassuring and she smelt nice.  Out of embarrassment and guilt I made my apologies and sheepishly collected my bike together; the front wheel was crumpled beyond repair having borne the force of the impact, but the rest of the frame seemed intact.

I carried the bike the last half mile home.  Through fear of my Dad’s reaction I hid the bike in the conifer trees by the side of the house rather than putting it away in the garage.  I didn’t really know what my plan was.  My memory is somewhat hazy about what actually did happen, though I remember having to walk most places for a year or so.

It was a foolish thing to do and almost 20 years later my cheeks still blush with shame.  I was lucky.  I still feel absolutely awful for frightening that poor woman, I doubt she will ever forget the incident.  I sorely regret that I didn’t take her name and details to apologies properly.  Other than the recent incident with a car nearly hitting me from the rear this has been my closest shave with serious injury or death whilst riding a bike – the lessons learnt have been invaluable.

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Mark also posts some rather good stuff over at Vélo Morphē.

The best thing ever.

When I set off with Claud this morning it was dim and damp, but by the time I was half way through my journey it had turned into the most beautiful of November days.  I cycled from my home in Brighton to Uckfield, with a quick coffee stop to see a friend in Lewes. I got rather muddy cycling down the country roads (mud guards are now on my shopping list), but that’s all part of the fun I suppose.

I’d not been in the best of moods, and had started the day by sleeping through my alarm and leaving the house in a massive rush. But by the time I’d done a few miles, all was forgotten.

It is my honest opinion that if all days started with a bike ride and several cups of excellent coffee, nobody would ever be sad. If only we could throw out all the watches and clocks and deadlines and rules so that all we had to worry about was getting home before the sun sets.

Do you want to know what the best thing ever is?

- Riding a bike.

Childhood Memories – part three

This is the third in a series of posts on childhood cycling memories, collated through Twitter. Thanks to everyone who has contributed, you all rock!

If you want to read the other posts in this series, click on the category title ‘memories’ at the top of this post.

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 Me on the commando, my bestfriend on his striker wishing we could be like his brother on the grifter with the beer mats!  I can still hear those beer mats flapping off the spokes.

From @rentonukmi

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The day I learnt to ride a bike my Mum took me to the local park at Worlds End and I spent what felt like hours riding up and down the path beside the school. I still remember the sense of independence, speed & the sheer joy of riding along that I had. Thanks for being so patient Mum.

From @LukeBurstow

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My “shining” period. Nice sandals, sure you’ll agree…

From @scottydug

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I had a grifter! Big, heavy & often caused me injury from it breaking, missing gears & chain slip! Fortunate but I hated it!

From @G4Z_P

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So many! Knocking teeth out going over handlebars, snapping forks on my bro’s grifter, bombing round the woods on a bmx… Stripping down, respraying (badly) and rebuilding bikes on the driveway, trying to do a wheelie the length of the street.

That thing kids do when you race into your garden, jump off bike, run into house, & sit at dinner table, all in one seamless move. And not forgetting ramps made from bits of wood & bricks, and getting your mates to lie in the street to jump/bunnyhop over them.

from @themanfromicon

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 Spent most of my childhood either trying to be a BMX Bandit or pretending my bike had an engine. VROOM!

From @nc_velolove

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Late 70′s when I was around 8, my parents had bought me an old bike for Xmas & had repainted the frame red with gloss paint. Probably looked awful but I didn’t care, it was my 1st bike. Once I learn’t to ride I rode it around the estate & in our cul-de-sac, roads weren’t very busy then. I even remember fixing (or attempting to) a tyre puncture by wrapping sellotape around the tyre & rim, yeah I know bad idea but back then I didn’t know.

Next memory is Xmas ’83, I’d worked my first w/e job in my dads shop filling shelves to save up for a BMX & I loved the Black/Yellow colouring & cost me about £65. Was a cool bike, it hummed as I cycled & I called it ‘Bumblebee’. This BMX even got me from Farnborough to Windsor to see old friends via Windsor Great park. That was an interesting ride with just one gear. I rode it on & off for yrs & eventually had to sell it in ’94 when I couldn’t cycle any more due to disability.

In Summer of ’86 I got hold of an old 5 speed racer, not sure if I bought it or was donated from an old school friend, but its life ended in October when the chain jumped of 5th gear & locked up rear wheel on wet leaves & resulting me sliding into a parked Ford Cortina knocking me out for a bit & bent frame & forks of the bike, I just was bruised a bit & concussion but all ok. Tried to fix the racer but couldn’t sort it out.

So for my Birthday & Xmas of ’86 my parents decided to buy me a new style of bike my mate had got that Summer, the new Raleigh Maverick. The 1st mass produced mountain bike from what I recall and even now I still think that is still the best most awesome bike ever. It was a solid bike & I put it through its paces, I lost count how many crank bearing replacements it had under warranty. I spent the rest of my school days with my mates riding around. I rode it up until ’94 where I had to also sell it & was deeply gutted it went. If I knew I would ever cycle again, I would’ve kept it in storage & now trying to get another on eBay if I ever can.

From @Dark_Wolf

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“I don’t ride bikes”

In a turn of events that surprised us both in equal amounts, I convinced my friend Sabrina to join me for a bike ride through Sussex yesterday. Big thank you to George from Future Cycles in Lewes for lending Sabrina a bicycle for the day.

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I don’t ride bikes. Best put that out there as a starting point. I live and work in london but I have never used a Boris bike, I don’t take advantage of the cycle highways and I refuse to put flat shoes on to walk to the tube. I am the worst kind of city girl.

Lois and I in more usual circumstances (eg: not in Lycra)

My only real memory of cycling as a kid involved me falling into a car (the car was parked and I was stationary). My brother constantly enjoys reminding me of this incident 12 years later. I do actually own a bike, but it appears I buy bikes in the same way I buy my shoes; pretty, but completely unfit for purpose. The thing weighs an absolute ton and so has been used approximately 3 times as a result.

So, why yesterday did I find myself riding (nearly) 20 miles on a road bike through the Sussex countryside? Well, one Miss Lois May-Miller is my best friend and she promised me cake. I was putty in her hands.

Seeing Lois on a bike was something I never thought that I would see. When she first mentioned she would be taking part in 30 days of biking I had my reservations (perhaps don’t tell her that). The only things I had seen Lois stick to for more than 30 days was her love of gin, her distaste for poor grammar and her hatred of Nigella Lawson. However, as we all know, Lois has found a true passion in cycling and it has changed my friend for the better in more ways than I can recount here.

Coffee in Steyning. I can get on board with this cycling tradition.

The route we decided to take was along the Brighton seafront from Lois’s flat, through to Shoreham and up into Steyning (where the aforementioned cake would be found, at Steyning Tea Rooms). The flat seafront was much appreciated as I found my balance on a new bike with some rather fancy breaks and gears. I drive an automatic car: gears are a foreign language to me. Soon though, there were hills…many hills. I swore and cursed Lois’s existence several times but I am a stubborn woman and refused to give up. Slow and steady wins the race and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually do it. The sense of achievement is absouloutly huge when you reach the crest of a hill and realise that neither did you stop but you did’t fall into a bush either.

Moments after cursing Lois’s existence at the top of a hill

Amazing views from the road at Coombes

After the going up, comes the going down. The sense of liberation you get speeding down a hill is something I have never experienced before. Bugs in the mouth aside, it was brilliant fun and made me feel like a kid again, the kind that doesn’t fall into parked cars.

So how do I feel about cycling the morning after? Well, some unusual parts of my anatomy are a little sore but that aside I feel bloody brilliant about it. From the personal sense of achievement to the obvious community spirit which pervades the sport (we said hello to so many other cyclists en route), I can see why I have lost my friend to a bike named Claud.

Proof that I rode a bicycle!

A discerning illustration

You’ve probably realised by now that I love illustration and design, especially if it has anything to do with bicycles and cycling. So you can imagine that I was very excited when Ste Johnson from The Discerning Cyclist blog asked if he could do an illustration of Claud and I. I’d seen Ste’s designs on the blog, and loved his unique style, so was really looking forward to seeing what he’d come up with. 

In case you don’t already know, The Discerning Cyclist (DC) is a blog written by cyclists that reviews and showcases stylish cycling clothes. In their own words:

“We don’t want cycling clothes, we want stylish clothes that we can cycle in.”

Since starting this blog back in September the contents of my wardrobe has changed somewhat (there is a whole lot more lycra in there now..) The concept of wearing clothes for their function, not appearance, is not one that has been familiar to me for very long. It’s great when you can find clothes that tick both of those boxes. That’s the spirit of the DC blog.

Hanging out with Claud, in Brighton

I love how cycling seems to bring together all sorts of different people together – united by bicycles! Ste and his co-founder are based miles away in Liverpool, but in the age of social media and blogging, that doesn’t mean much. With a love of both design and bikes in common, Ste and I found plenty to talk about. So, after many exchanges of emails, I sent Ste over a photo that he could work from, and before long he’d sent me back this brilliant little sketch.

Ste’s initial sketch

You can read the profile on Claud & I here. Check out the rest of the site while you’re at it.

This is the final illustration:

Ste’s final illustration of myself and Claud.

 

Childhood Memories – part two.

Back in September I wrote a post about childhood memories of riding a bicycle. It talked about the reasons I loved to ride a bike as a child, and how they haven’t really changed to this day.

After asking people on Twitter if they had childhood bike memories of their own, the response was overwhelming. I’ve had some really wonderful replies: thanks to everyone who tweeted and emailed. I’m going to post a few at a time, so keep an eye on the blog for more parts in this mini series.

………………………………………

 My (t)rusty Raleigh was ‘really’ a Harrier Jumpjet, I would zip down driveway to ‘land’ on aircraft carrier at side of house. That to me is the joy of bicycles, they transport you not just physically, but mentally too.

From @blackdogcycles

………………………………………

Riding my Raleigh Striker (weighed ~600lbs) no handed down a slope = 2 black eyes battered child chic. I had to go to a party a couple of days after. My mum nearly died from embarrassment. I was 6ish I think. It was nice being that fearless on a bike.

From @anthony_casey

………………………………………

 1970 I think loving my wee bike with a big stick in my hand – big stick essential at that age. I can still smell the creosote on the fence I was whizzing past.

From Cal @siemprecafebar (www.siemprebicyclecafe.com)

………………………………………

Racing outside the shops only for mate to forget his new grifter wasn’t reverse pedal to brake. Yep, straight through the window. He walked out of the shop unhurt but crying.

From @jonno2323

………………………………………

Part three coming soon :-) If you’d like to contribute, please send me a tweet through @ClaudAndI, or if you can’t fit it in 140 characters then you could email me.

Cycling cures (nearly) all ills

Last night I went to bed feeling pretty awful. I set my alarm to get up for a ride, but it was 50/50 if I’d make it out, or stay in bed.

The alarm went off and I had the usual argument with myself. Get up, go on, you’ll be fine once you’re up. Oh but it is so warm under here and you’re really not well. Etc etc. Eventually I hauled my sorry arse out of bed, under a shower, and put it on a bicycle saddle.

And what a beautiful day it was! Definitely better than staying indoors. A cold, crisp morning – the sun was shining and there were bright blue skies.

The guys I rode with today were previewing the route that the PUNCHEUR sportive takes. I met Morgan, a thoroughly nice bloke and the person behind the event itself, in Brighton and we rode to meet Mark from Cyclosport, who will be previewing the ride on their site, and James from RPM90, who support the PUNCHEUR event.

I knew that I was going to struggle to keep up, let alone with being a bit ill. I fell behind a few times but my companions were kind and slowed down for me (..thanks guys). It was a great experience to ride in a group, and to pick some things up from more experienced riders. If you get an invite, don’t turn down the chance to ride with people who are ‘better’ than you, however good you might be. It is a great way to be pushed a bit more, and there is nothing wrong with a slice of humble pie every now and then. Goes nice with custard, I hear. (Humble Pie is in fact savoury and goes better with mustard than custard. Ed.)

The route itself was beautiful, especially on what was one of the nicest days we have had in weeks. There are some fantastic small roads through Barcombe, Cooksbridge and Fletching, and the views across the Ashdown Forest are the best for miles and miles. I’ve said it before, but there really is nothing more rewarding after a hill than a lovely view.

When I was sick at the top of a (not very big) hill I decided that a shorter loop home might be a good idea, so I let the guys carry on with their longer ride and I hung a right to enjoy the long down hill to Maresfield. From there it’s only about 4 miles to my parents house – so I turned up, sweaty and muddy, to gatecrash their Sunday lunch. What else are parents for?

I’m afraid to say the bike ride didn’t cure my cold – and yes: I threw up, but the important thing is it cured my bad mood, and was infinitely better than staying in and feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got 30-something miles under me and next time I’ll go a little bit further, and a little bit faster. And not be sick.

 

[P.S. The Puncheur looks to be a great event, and one I intend to ride. Book in here.]

“I am a visitor here”

Last night I rode home from a friends house on the other side of Brighton. It was a far flung corner of the city that I had never been to before, so I rode some new paths. I like discovering new places that are hiding within somewhere that I think I know so well.

The ride home was at first through sleepy suburbia: passing big houses and empty schools, then through the busier centre of town that I more frequently pass through. Dodging the odd drunken stranger who staggers into the bike lane, faces in greasy cafe windows, kamikaze seagulls looking for their dinner in the road…

I love Brighton but when I ride through it at night, in the cold, all I want is to be home. It’s strange how a place takes on a whole new character in the dark. Riding through the city at night I am ”in it but not of it”; an observer. Wrapped up in layers to protect from the chilling wind, I feel separated from the streets, like a visitor here.

This morning on my way to buy coffee I walked down those same streets, and now lit, they are familiar again. 

 

There’s nothing more simple than riding a bike.

Cycling for me is an escape. Sometimes an escape from ‘real life’, and sometimes an escape deeper into it.

I’m sure everyone has their own reasons for riding. To be thinner, fitter, faster, stronger, happier, calmer. Whatever the reasons for starting out, I don’t think we’d carry on it if it wasn’t for the the simple pleasure we get from riding a bike.

The more I ride a bicycle, the more ‘cycling people’ I know, and the more cycling I watch, I realise there is a whole lot of fluff around the edges of the sport. Most of it is good stuff: when you really like something, you get swept up in every element of it. There’s nothing wrong with being obsessed with something, but how long before it turns sour? How long before we favour staying in and getting angry over a documentary about a certain disgraced cyclist above that evening ride we had planned? Or writing an essay on the politics of a certain governing body over meeting friends for a cafe ride? Those things may be important, but I don’t want to forget how I got here. I got here riding a bike, with a smile on my face.

Whatever happens out there, they can’t stop me cycling.

There’s nothing more simple than riding a bike.

Cycling belongs to those who love it

Ride a bike.

Cycling brings an exhilarating sense of freedom and self-mastery as well as a very enjoyable sense of not spending money. You coast through the city, in it but not of it, living it and not controlled by it. On buses and trains you are sitting targets for the advertising hoardings. On a bike you can simply sail past them. People cite ‘danger’ as a reason to avoid cycling, but this is a pathetic excuse… So what if there’s a little danger in your life? That’s good. Wake up!

The Freedom Manifesto, Tom Hodgkinson.

Damp and muddy, but still smiling.

When I woke up this morning, the last thing I wanted to do was go outside. I could see the rain on the window from my bed, and getting out from underneath my cosy duvet took a vast amount of effort.

Eventually, fuelled with espresso and porridge, I made it out the front door and onto the road with Claud to meet a friend in Lewes. It was drizzly, damp and grey…and these continued to be the themes of the day. We had coffee in Lewes before setting out (putting off the inevitable, us?) and then headed out of town through Offham.

At this point I was still wishing I’d stayed in bed. Before my legs warm up everything seems like twice as much work. Most of my rides start like this – I keep telling myself I must be mad: why do I ride a bike?!

10 miles in, and I remember…

Legs warmed up, I’m free to enjoy the views. The hills are a challenge, but they don’t make me want to give up and go back to bed. The rain still falls and I’m covered in mud, but it’s invigorating – not disheartening. I’ve remembered why I ride a bike, and it’s making me smile.

The route we took went through Plumpton, Streat and Chailey into Barcombe. Having cycled through this bit of Sussex for Cycletta a few weeks ago, I wanted to go back and explore a bit more. Much of the ride was on single track roads, with vast fields either side and framed by cloud covered hills. We didn’t see many cars, just a few horse-riders, dog-walkers and cyclists.

It wouldn’t be a perfect Sussex ride if we didn’t go to a pub – so we headed to The Anchor in Barcombe for a pint and a roast dinner. We’d covered 30 miles by this point, so we were ready to wipe the mud off our shorts and rest our soggy legs for a bit. It is Sunday, after all.

Another 12 miles or so and we were home and (not very) dry. I made it back to busy Brighton: damp and muddy, but still smiling.

Coffee, cake & Kidds Hill

A long day of cycling across The Ashdown Forest.

One cold, crisp, bright day

Countless beautiful views

One puncture (mine)

One major mechanical issue (not mine)

Several coffees

(…and cakes) 

A *few* hills.

=

One tired, achy but happy woman.

 

Claud & I on Kidds Hill (aka: The Wall)

We all shave our legs…

We all shave our legs, but that is where the equality stops.

You’ve probably heard a bit about the problems faced by female pro-cyclists. If you follow me on twitter, you certainly will have heard me talk about it. Women’s races have lower prize funds than men’s races, female riders are often unpaid, and many riders have to pay for their own transport to races. Here are some facts for you:

The first prize for the Chrono des Nations is €5785 for Elite Men. Elite Women? €379. The women’s race is shorter – but they still race 43% of the distance for a prize equal to 6.6% of the men’s prize!

In the UK, there have been only three women’s road races on TV all year; the Olympics road race, the UCI World Championships and, very briefly, the Halford’s Tour Series. Compared to men’s races that is an embarrassingly small amount of coverage.

The ProTour men are paid $264,000 on average a year. Marianne Vos, Ranked the World’s number 1 female elite road cyclist – is estimated to be paid $60,000 a year.

There is no minimum wage for female cyclists set out by the UCI. Men have a minimum wage of €30,000.

And to prove it isn’t just road racing that faces these kinds of gender differences: For all the Trials World Cup events the UCI has a minimum prize money amount of €3’336 for Elite/Junior men, compared to €590 for women.

Several female cyclists have spoken out recently about their disillusionment with the situation as it stands. Emma Pooley is the first person to come to my mind, as she has spoken this year about the possibility of giving up her cycling career. These were some of her words to Cycling News in January:

Frankly it’s a bit depressing that year after year you see teams and riders disappearing. All the while you see the governing body regulating saddle angles and what colour overshoes you’re allowed to wear. They could be doing more. …It’s a hard climate…I appreciate that but it’s a lot less to run a women’s team. You can do that on less than a quarter of what some men are on.

Marianne Vos, World Champion, spoke out about the lack of a minimum salary for female riders:

I think we all do as much for the sport as the men do…Of course, it’s a younger sport than the men’s sport, but it’s getting more and more professional and with a minimum salary it can only be more professional.

Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany had something to say on the matter of minimum salaries too:

I think that’s total bullshit… We’ve seen in the last number of years that it’s getting more and more professional. The level is getting harder… We’re living in the 21st century so there should be equal rights for everybody.

I can think of only two reasons why anyone would think that the current situation with women’s cycling is not grossly unfair. The first: women do not deserve equal opportunities and rights to men. If you fall into that category, then I am not going to even attempt to win you over. The second reason: women’s cycling is not as professional, popular or developed as men’s cycling. I have marginally more sympathy if you fall into the second category. It is true that the history is not there like it is for men’s racing (the reasons for that could fill another whole post), but we cannot allow that to stop the sport from progressing to a level playing field.

The important thing is, that whatever the history, women’s cycling right now is incredibly exciting. The sport has had a fantastic year. In case you had forgotten…

The Olympic Road Race, London 2012.

The Olympic Road Race, London 2012. GB’s Lizzie Armitstead, shown centre, went on to take the Silver. First time I ever screamed at a sport event on the telly.

Marianne Vos, Olga Zabelinskaya and Lizzie Armitstead head the Olympic Road Race.

Marianne Vos after winning the World Championships.

Marianne Vos (Netherlands) on the podium with Silver medalist Rachel Neylan (Australia) and Bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) at the Worlds.

World Championships Junior Women’s Road Race. Lucy Garner wins World Title for the 2nd time, Irene Brustad takes 2nd and Anna Zita Maria Stricker in 3rd.

The talent is there, that is very clear. I believe that the supporters are there too. We need to make it clear to potential sponsors, the UCI, British Cycling and everyone else, that there is a massive fan-base for women’s cycling, and that the sport deserves equal attention to the men’s.

Throwing money at the problem will probably help to some extent, but that is unlikely to happen, and won’t help in the long term. What is needed is grassroots change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m optimistic that we will get there. This is where you come in!

Watch women’s cycling. Noisily.

Go to the races if you can. When you’re there, make lots of noise. Hell, you could even make a banner. Drag all your friends along – they will love it! When it isn’t televised, write to the broadcasters and tell them that it should be. When it is televised, watch it, enjoy it, and tell everyone how bloody fantastic it is. Annoy all your Twitter followers by going on about it. Yell “THIS IS BRILLIANT!” at the cat in a particularly exciting moment. Blog about it…

Support #fanbackedwomensteam  

Back in early September, Stefan Wyman (director of Matrix Fitness – Prendas Women’s pro cycling team) wrote an article for cyclismas.com on the Role of Fans in Women’s Cycling. As well as encouraging general support for the sport, he mentioned the idea of a Fan Backed Women’s Team. “Is there the support for this kind of venture? Who knows?  You tell me.” It turns out there is.

Dave Smith (former Olympic Coach and sports performance advisor) tweeted in response to Stef’s article, saying he would pledge £100 toward a women’s team if 500 others could also make the pledge. Soon momentum built and #fanbackedwomensteam was becoming a popular topic on Twitter, with 200 people pledging to be involved in just over a week. “Not all of us have £100 to pledge” I hear you cry! I fell into that category, so I messaged Stef to suggest that I would be happy to pledge a skill, rather than cash. After an exchange of emails I ended up designing a logo for #fanbackedwomensteam. If you want to help, whether it be with cash or with your time, expertise or resources, then you can pledge your support via Twitter using the #fanbackedwomensteam hash-tag. You can read more about the idea as it stands here.

A Fan Backed Women’s Team is starting to look like a reality – something which I think is incredibly exciting, and goes to prove that there is a whole lot of support for the sport. There is no quick fix for all the problems facing women’s cycling, but this is a bloody good place to start. So spread the word, and get involved.

Ride your bike…

At the end of the day, all of this is for the love of cycling, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. The more of us there are riding bicycles, the more voices there are for cycling as a whole and therefore for women’s cycling. We’ve got nothing to lose from getting more people on bikes!

I have only starting following women’s cycling this year, but I now fully intend on making up for lost time. And I think you should, too.

 

 

Thanks due to John Orbea (@Cyclopunk) for helping me out on some of the facts

Credit for Olympic photos to Alexander Baxevanis and massive thanks to Bart Hazen for the World Championship photos.

Ride to the beat…

Music and riding a bike go nicely together. Obviously you have to be careful; a loud iPod when negotiating busy roads is not a good plan!

Sometimes a bloke singing “it hurts because it should” in your ears can drown out the screaming of your legs telling you to stop pedalling. And resting at the top of a hill to admire a beautiful view with some beautiful music in your ears: well, that’s one of the nicest feelings in the world.

So, for a bit of fun, here are some tunes that I like listening to whilst I ride. It’s a rather random mix of stuff, and definitely not intended as a playlist!

Jimmy Eat World – Carry You

“It hurts because it should”

 

Massive Attack – Safe from Harm

“You can free the world, you can free my mind”

 

Portishead – Mysterons

“Refuse to surrender…”

 

Radiohead – High and Dry

“Kill yourself to never, ever stop”

 

Levellers – 15 Years

“It’s too late now to turn around and find another way”

 

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle

“Girl, you’re in the middle of the ride”

 

Jack Penate – No One Lied

“Heaven is a place, no one lied. It’s rushing through your veins, and flooding your eyes.”

 

Kings of Leon – Holy Roller Novocaine

“Don’t look back keep your eyes ahead”

 

The Smiths – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

“I crashed down on the crossbar…”

(The video even has Morrissey riding a bicycle…)

 

Amber States – Pointing North

“Let’s run for the hills”