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Christmas presents for cyclists #1: the mountain biker

Over the next few days I’m going to post some fab Christmas present suggestions for the cyclist in your life! Or yourself, of course!!!

Barry Knows Best - the T shirt!!!

Barry Knows Best – the T shirt!!!

First, here’s something for the mountain biker in your life (assuming that a full carbon downhill rig is out of budget!).

The team behind Ridden.CC are mountain bikers based in the Surrey Hills, and their new range of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, posters and mugs are a celebration of our favourite trails, both local and beyond – and of mountain biking in general. The t-shirt above is one of my favourites and is a homage to Barry Knows Best, the much loved descent across Holmbury Hill and down to Peaslake. It’s a trail I ride at least once a week so I feel fully entitled to wear it (and thank you, guys, for sending me this one!). I love the ‘tyre track’ trees and the suggestion of the trail running through them.

Btw, and as you can see here, the gear is not all Surrey Hills related…

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Story of my life.

 

…and so do check out the rest of the range if your gift-ee rides further afield!

 

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The Peaslake trail mug – all that’s missing is a biscuit.

This Peaslake trail mug would make a great stocking filler too  – with hours of fun to be had ticking off the trails you’ve just enjoyed, while slurping that essential post-ride cup of tea.

So, here’s the at-a-glance lowdown:

What: Barry Knows Best (forest) t-shirt £24.99 (t-shirts start at £19.99) and Peaslake Trails Mug £10.99

Who for: the clothes are probably for the male mountain biker in your life as the women’s fit options and kids sizes are currently limited. Mugs, of course, are fun for all.

Why: A win-win case of ‘Been there, ridden that, got the t-shirt’.

What else: At the time of going publishing, if you spend £25 or more at the site you can get a free poster worth £14.99!

Where: Ridden.cc

 

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La Rioja: my cycling, sunshine and wine tasting adventure!

A cycling adventure with sunshine, mountains, new friends and a lot of Spanish wine. What’s not to like?

Cycling by the Najerilla River

Cycling by the Najerilla River – this is one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever ridden

With the nights drawing in and everything getting a bit cold, damp and muddy, I’m looking back to sunnier rides!

Earlier this year I was invited to join Exodus Travels Cycling in Rioja  adventure – five days cycling (a manageable 250km in total, on and off road on sturdy 29″ hardtails) from Burgos and following the Najerilla river to the Rioja region and its vineyards, followed by a day in Bilbao.

 

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Empty roads, big Spanish mountains – a perfect combination and a truly awe inspiring ride. I never tired of this road!!

 

More empty roads, much sunshine.

More empty roads, hills and sunshine.

We joined a group of riders from the UK and Australia, and made some fantastic new friends in the process. To be honest before I set off I wasn’t  sure I wanted to go on holiday with a bunch of strangers – but any doubts I had had were blown away by the company of these lovely people. I also learnt some new words from my Antipodean mates – smoke-o (a tea break) and slippery-dip (a water slide) being the only two that are repeatable in polite company. Needless to say, we did a lot of laughing as well as cycling and wine tasting!

Learning to speak Australian.

Learning to speak Australian.

We also enjoyed the knowledge and support of our local (and rather handsome) guides, as well as staying in some beautiful family owned hotels.

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Our lovely guides and their very big map

 

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A big view

Northern Spain is blessed with a warm climate, lots of sunshine (though when it rains, it really really rains!), quiet roads and beautiful mountains. Consequently, as you can imagine, it was a joy to ride there.

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Vineyards, cycling, sunshine – a good combination🙂.

It was also a pleasure to sample the wines of the La Rioja region at the vineyards we visited. Some are small, some a little more showy – this one, for instance, was designed by Frank Gehry.

A vineyard designed by Frank Gehry.

A vineyard – designed by Frank Gehry.

 

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Wine tasting – just the one for me, thanks

I’m no expert on wine but some of my new Aussie mates were, and the penultimate night saw us enjoy a ‘taste off’ between one of the finest wines of the La Rioja region, and a wine of similar standing that they had bought over from Australia. That, I can assure you, was a good night (and I would note which wine won – if only I could remember).

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The Guggenheim Art Gallery in Bilbao – possibly the most beautiful building I have ever seen.

Finally a day and night in beautiful Bilbao. The incredible Guggenheim gallery (again designed by Frank Gehry) is a must-see, and I really enjoyed the very moving Louise Bourgeois exhibition that we saw there. We also spent several hours exploring and drinking coffee in the old town. It’s quite a small city so you can see a lot in a day, either on foot or by hiring a bike.

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And the views in Bilbao are pretty good looking the other way too.

We spent the evening by the river too, enjoying a Festival of light and a lot of delicious Pintxos (the region’s tapas!) – this time washed down by lots of Spanish beer!  By the way, the food here is amazing and, compared to the UK, eating out is relatively inexpensive.

What a wonderful adventure, stuffed with so many great memories: if you haven’t ridden in this area or visited Bilbao, I recommend that you do.🙂

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Festival of Light, Bilbao

 

The Guggenheim in Bilbao at night.

The Guggenheim in Bilbao at night.

Photography by Paul Mitchell, holiday by Exodus Travels, enjoyment of Spain, cycling and wine by me.

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The dangerous allure of the new Vulpine trenchcoat

The new Vulpine women’s Luxury Winter cycling collection will have you pedalling hard down the road of retail temptation.

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I may be a former fashion journalist with something of a fondness for shopping but this season, with an eye on my somewhat squeezed budget, I thought I had finally got my occasionally rampant spending habit well under control. Admittedly there was a slight slip up when I happened upon an Alexander McQueen tux in a second hand shop, which would have been a bargain had I not then bought a new pair of stretch leather trousers to go with it, but it was my birthday so, obviously, that doesn’t count.

But now it’s all gone horribly wrong. For just one glimpse of the new Vulpine Luxury Winter collection has induced a raise of my fashion eyebrows, a quickening of my heart rate (think 20% hill climb and a very strong coffee) and a deep sigh of longing. The reason? This trenchcoat.

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Now, unless you’ve been locked in the shed with your turbo trainer for the last four years you will be well aware that urban cycling is both HUGE and very fashionable – so much so that even the staff at Vogue cycle to work – so creating a cycling version of an absolutely classic coat and labelling it luxury is a very smart move by Vulpine.

vulpine-5rsAnd this one is a cycle-friendly corker – so much so that, over in my fashion fantasy world, I have convinced my easily swayed self that ownership of this coat would go hand in hand with a glamourous job in South Kensington, should someone like to offer me one.  I can wear it for my cycle ride into the office every day and be the girl in these pictures. “Love your coat, honey” they’ll say as I swan into the office with perfectly coiffured non cycling-helmet hair and a chai latte. “Is that from Vulpine’s iconic 2016 collection or is it another vintage McQueen find…oh and by the way Mario wants to know if you’re still okay for lunch”. I HAD THAT LIFE ONCE, YOU KNOW.

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Why is this Vulpine trenchcoat so fabulous? It’s super-chic, cut for ease of wear on a bike (shorter length, pleated shoulders for reach), made from showerproof fabric by Lancashire based British Millerain, features a reflective tail split, corozo (a nut!) buttons, snap closure pockets, and a rear flapped pocket for your phone. It’s available in classic stone or equally classic dark navy, both with a tartan lining. It’s made in Britain. Need I go on?

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Oh, why not.

I would, of course, accessorise my Vulpine trenchcoat with the new Vulpine British silk scarf (see second image) –  as Vulpine say, it is ideal for graceful city cycling superlight, breathable, quick drying and warm. And, as I say, you get to look a bit like an air hostess without having to hand out hot towels.

When it gets really cold I would switch to a Vulpine merino winter collar (below), Vulpine merino socks and even Vulpine merino pants for the ultimate ‘luxury bottom’ experience. Mr Hussey, you are truly spoiling us with your luxury fashions!

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Unfortunately for my aforementioned budget, this trenchcoat of my dreams costs a super spendy £395. It is what fashion folk like to refer to as an ‘investment piece’. And alas, I already have a trench coat – sadly it’s just not quite this lovely. But stop weeping everyone because I’ll get through this and be fine, honestly. If I say it often enough, I’ll be okay. Really, I will.

However if you don’t have a trenchcoat yet and you do want a really versatile and smart luxe urban cycling coat that you can GUARENTEE will never go out of fashion – then here it is. I’m jealous already.

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5 amazing images: women’s cycling & the National Hill Climb Champs 2016

I’m always on the look out for ‘good news’ stories that promote the joy of women’s cycling – and these amazing images fit the bill perfectly. They were shot by photographer Dan Monaghan and capture the agony and ecstasy of The National Hill Climb Championships, which took place last weekend, in a stunning photo-essay.

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Fiona-May Aylward photo: Dan Monaghan

The event was held at the appropriately named Bank Road in Matlock – an 834m slog with a maximum gradient of 20%, and an average of 14%.

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Holly Carter (and her mum!) photo: Dan Monaghan

I love the timeless quality of each image (and by the way, riders choose not to wear helmets in order to save weight).

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Holly Flannery photo: Dan Monaghan

I also love the total commitment on the face of each rider, capturing their absolute effort as well as the total exhaustion that these incredible athletes experience as they push themselves to the limit.

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Nicola Soden photo: Dan Monaghan

These women are a wonderful reminder that this is how we are when they ride a bike and give it our absolute all: 100% awesome.

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Yasmin Marks photo: Dan Monaghan

Thanks to Dan for allowing me to share these images – and I recommend you take a look at the rest of the images from the event,  including the male riders, at Cadenceimages.com – there is some serious self-inflicted suffering going on!!

P.S. Initially I was unable to find out who these riders are – thanks to everyone who helped out with comments here or on Twitter so I could amend the captions!!

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Casquette – a new women’s cycling magazine

I am really excited about the launch of Casquette, a new quarterly print magazine and website for the discerning female cyclist.

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I’m always keen to report good news stories about women’s cycling and the media. I also love magazines, having spent much of my adult life working on everything from Just 17 to Marie Claire as a beauty editor and, more recently and at a complete tangent, writing about mountain biking for Singletrack.

So, I got my hands on a copy and also had a quick chat with editor and founder Danielle Welton.

“The content is a balance of inspiration, good humour and style and includes the fun, sociability, coffee culture and freedom that comes with cycling.” Danielle Welton, editor.

Danielle tells me that she set out to create a magazine that she wanted to read but that did not exist – and crucially it is one that she believes there is a readership for.

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It is aimed at women who ride and those who would like to, and deliberately puts a decidedly positive spin on the whole experience.

The theme, aptly, of the first issue of Casquette is #JFDI (Just F***ing Do It!). There is a choice of two covers – Emily Chappell or Nicole Cooke – and the Emily cover kicks off with a boldly placed quote ‘ Back yourself: How to look fear in the face and win’. The editor’s letter on page 3 – on what motivates female cyclists to make stuff happen – includes the words ‘peeing it down’. So, it’s not Woman’s Weekly then.

Instead Casquette is kind of cycling’s version of Stylist or Glamour – a slick, pro-women lifestyle read with aspirational photography and a clean, confident design. This is, however, most definitely a cycling publication – so when they refer to ‘Brad’ they mean Mr Wiggins and not Mr Pitt.

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This issue kicks off with a Lust List spread of cycling accessories – basically a cycling centric mix of everything from the fantastic Grand Tour Cookbook to a limited edition Ass Saver.

There follows an interview with blogger and cycling girl-about-town Jools Walker, before moving on to contributions from and interviews with inspirational women who ride including Alicia Bamford of Queen of the Mountains, Kimberley Coats of Team Rwanda, Emily Chappell, Nicole Cooke and British Cycling coach Holly Seear. There’s also a piece on Drops Cycling with some great photography by JoJo Harper.

The features are interspersed with more usual women’s magazine content, although all of it skewed to cycling: style, recipes, fashion and beauty and travel all get a look in, as do lots of lovely road bikes.

It’s not easy or cheap to get a magazine off the ground so its good to see the following advertisers supporting this new venture: Assos (yes them, the brand who have gone from bad to badass!), Neals Yard (I use their rose facial oil to make my own moisturiser, but that’s another story), tokyobike, Chapeau!, Brooks England, Vulpine and Condor Cycles.

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If you love women’s cycling then I urge you to get your hands on this first issue before they all get snapped up. It is a good looking magazine, a great read and a great big confident leap forward for women’s cycling.

Casquette is available for free at selected stockists or by post with a small p&p charge. Check it out on line or find out where to pick up or order a copy of Casquette here.

 

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Positive light: women’s mountain biking and the media

Portraying women’s mountain biking in a positive light – three great media campaigns you have to see.

I’m always on the look out for ‘good news’ media that understands women’s mountain biking and portrays it in a really positive light.

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The latest to drop into this happy file is this short film by British mountain bike component brand Hope. Its part of its #Hopetechwomen project to inspire women to push their boundaries and get together to ride.

This new, spectacularly beautiful short film made me want to jump out of bed very early indeed and greet the dawn on my mountain bike (and believe me, usually I like a lie in!!).

Hopetech Women are also running a series of women only mountain bike rides around the country, coordinated by brand manager and enduro rider Rachel Walker (who also features in the film above!). The rides are fantastically well organised and lots of fun, whatever level you ride at – I urge you to go along even if you’re a bit nervous (I can virtually guarantee you won’t be the only one with butterflies!). Read my review of the one I joined in Peaslake, Surrey here and find out where the next rides will be held too.

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#IAMENDURANCE

I can’t write a post about women’s mountain biking media without mentioning Sealskinz #iamendurance campaign. Featuring rider Traharn Chidley, it is a powerful story of this athletes journey from darkness to light, in part thanks to mountain biking. Be warned – it may move you to tears.

 

ENDLESS BIKING: MOTHER HUCKERS

Finally, from the archives, I come back to this photo post on Pinkbike from 2014 – Endless Biking: Mother Huckers documents the lives of a group of mountain biking mums, the importance of taking care of yourself and the value of friendship.

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It really struck a chord with me when I first saw it because it was so unusual to see women mountain bikers – never mind mums – portrayed in such a real and aspirational way. It continues to be ground breaking and I recommend you read it – link is here

I’ll continue to update on really amazing, positive portrayals of women who ride. If you know of any great examples, let me know!!!!

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Remarkable Women Who Ride

I’ve been working on an ongoing project for Evans Cycles Coffee Stop blog recently, for which I am interviewing a series of women who inspire us to ride. I’m thrilled to be part of it because I believe that highlighting the positive energy in women’s cycling is as important as discussing the not-so-good stuff that occasionally knocks us back. Every single one of these cycling athletes is awesome – and each in different ways. These are my favourite quotes from each interview (although to be honest it was very hard to choose!).

 

My first interview in the series was with former The Hour world record holder Bride O’ Donnell who told me:

“I wish we were braver in our 30s and 40s, and worried less about ‘what if?’ – our children need to learn that women’s bodies are strong, capable, resilient and fast; that being a mother or a wife doesn’t mean your physical and mental health and wellbeing needs to be discounted.”

You can read the full interview with Bridie here.

Next in line is British and European CX champion Helen Wyman:

“I have basically given up my career as a physio and possibly the whole family thing, possibly the expensive Bahamas holidays, newest car etc. But I don’t really see this as much of a sacrifice. Sure I have had moments when I have had to sell stuff to pay my rent or when I didn’t know how much money I have to spend on food that week, but I have also had the most amazing experiences a person could ever have.

Right now I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I get to ride my bike every day, travel the world, meet incredible and inspiring people – and do all of this alongside my husband – while calling it my job. Seriously who wouldn’t want that? My life is hugely rich in experiences and for that alone I would say I haven’t really sacrificed anything just switched philosophies!”

You can read the full interview with Helen here.

I spoke to British Downhill Series champion Manon Carpenter who gave this excellent piece of advice on braking (and yes, I am certainly guilty of this when I ride!!):

“Have fun and, once you are confident in your skills, trust yourself and let go of the brakes: comfort braking will slow you down, tire you out and make the ride rougher, so only brake when you need to.”

Read the full interview with Manon here.

Paralympian Lora Turnham gave a fascinating insight into her life as a professional athlete, as well as her relationship with her tandem pilot Corrine Hall:

“As soon as Corinne and I got on a bike we just clicked. We’re similar I guess but we also have slightly different strengths which compliment each other. She is an extremely good bike handler and also very good in a race environment as she has done it all her life. I sense her confidence and this reassures me.

Although we are good friends it is important to confront any problems we have straight away so that it doesn’t become an issue. We spend so much time together that we are like a married couple at times: we can finish each others sentences and also at times will say exactly the same thing. It’s also good to respect each other and recognise when we just need a little space or sometimes a good talking too and I think we’re both good at this.”

Read the full interview with Lora here.