Category: lifestyle

Christmas presents for cyclists #2: the adventure cyclist (plus epic Great Divide photos!)

A wonderful t-shirt or the Great Divide adventure ride across America? You decide!!

This fantastic t shirt was created by adventure cyclist Magdalena Schoerner *. Her designs celebrate cycling adventures near and far, and this one is dedicated to the Peak District (which, coincidentally, is near where I grew up and where I got my love of the great outdoors!)

Peak District Peace t shirt from Back of Beyond Cycling

Peak District Peace t shirt from Back of Beyond Cycling.

On a practical level, this t shirt is top quality and a great fit – no making do with men’s sizes here – and priced at a Christmas present friendly £20. You can see more of Madga’s t-shirts – and buy them – at Back of Beyond Cycling.

* Now, while researching this post Magda sent me a link to photos taken on her epic adventure this summer when she rode the iconic Great Divide bike route from Canada to Mexico – a journey of approximately 2,770 miles. Do have a look because they are fantastic, but be warned – they will have you itching to start planning your own trip. So, who fancies a plane ticket to Canada for Christmas…

Magda and the Great Divide

Magda and the Great Divide

 

Not the M25.

Not the M25.

 

A bit Thelma and Louise.

A bit Thelma and Louise.

 

Forests!

Forests!

 

Blue skies!

Blue skies!

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Mountains!

Forests and mountains

Forests, mountains and blue skies – all together!

 

Snow, obviously.

Snow, obviously.

 

Wildlife.

Wildlife.

 

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Roots – there’s always roots.

 

 

Hello!

Hello!

 

Mountains.

And another amazing view, just to rub it in.

 

This.

This.

 

Magda

Magda.

 

 

Tempting, isn't it?

Tempting, isn’t it?

 

Our conquering heroes!

Our conquering heroes!

 

 

 

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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

 

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.

 

Wine - Spanish, obviously.

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.

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.

vulpine-7rs

 

 

 

Look Mum No Hands Podium Pants

Women and the cycling media

Last night I joined the panel at a London Bike Kitchen WaG event to discuss the ways in which women are portrayed in the cycling media. This isn’t actually us, but it is a great way to get your attention.

Look Mum No Hands Podium Pants

The wonderful ad for LMNH Podium pants

 

It was a privilege to sit alongside eloquent and informed speakers Jools Walker (cycling blogger and presenter), Laura Laker (cycling journalist) and Chris Garrison (cycling marketing expert) on the stage (which was actually a very wide window sill!) in front of a packed room of cyclists at Look Mum No Hands! What followed was a truly inspiring debate. Here’s a quick summary of some of the key points I put forward (not because I’m more fascinating than everyone else – clearly I’m not – but because I’d be here all night if I included everything that was said!), followed by a link to an excellent post about the whole event which highlights more of the topics we discussed.

On the panel at Look Mum No Hands

On the panel at Look Mum No Hands. Pic credit Yoko Aokee

First, I’m as passionate about the media as I am about cycling. I’ve been a magazine journalist for most of my career and it’s been fantastically rewarding work. Because my background is in women’s magazines – where women are the focus of everything that’s written – I’d like to see women represented more widely in the cycling media too.  I’m not used to being an afterthought!!

“It’s not women’s cycling, it’s cycling”.

I’d like to believe we can reach a point where we no longer feel the need to discuss ‘women’s cycling’ in the media as if it is something separate from general cycling. Unfortunately our cycling media, on the whole, currently feels like it is an exclusive men’s club. This may not be deliberate editioral or marketing policy, but it is still the case.

“For me, mountain biking is about freedom, joy and mini adventures…”

Imagery or copywriting that objectifies women has no place in cycling either. I’ve written about this before for Singletrack World, when I wrote an open letter to Maxxis in response to some of their more sexist advertising.  As a mountain biker and road cyclist, I’d prefer to see brands use their marketing material to reflect how it is out there on the trails/roads where, in my experience, cycling is largely a friendly, supportive and inclusive community of people having fun. It would be great to see that celebrated across the media instead.

“Focus on the good…”

If we see media coverage that we like then acknowledge it, share it, talk about it and reward the brands with our hard-earned cash! Which brings me on to the fabulous advert for Look Mum No Hands! podium pants (above). It is fun and it works – brands take note, the pants sold out off the back of this ad. And then there is this film, below, by Sealskinz about the power of mountain biking: a beautiful and moving acknowledgement of the fact that we all ride for different reasons.  Both ads are a refreshing, exciting glimpse of what our cycling media could become.

“Ordinary women doing extraordinary things”

Women cyclists are not all the same: we don’t share the same levels of participation, experience or areas of interest within cycling. We don’t all want to read the same blog posts (one woman will want to know about getting started, another about training for ultra cycling) nor buy the same kit.  What we do want is to  celebrate our diversity by sharing our stories. We don’t have to be world champion to have a great story to tell.

“Onwards and upwards…”

I’m glad to report that the audience in the room last night were as informed and empowered as the panel!!  There was a wonderful energy and a shared passion for cycling. I came home to read a huge number of supportive comments on social media. This is such an exciting time for women who cycle and it is a joy to be part of the discussions to move it forward in the media.

Thanks for inviting me, London Bike Kitchen!

You can see and read more about the event here.

 

 

Review: Ride The Revolution by Suze Clemitson

Ride The Revolution, edited by Suze Clemitson, is a new anthology of writing that gives a brilliant insight into the world of women in cycling.

ride the revolution

 

The contributors and interviewees list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of women’s cycling. It includes World Road Race champion Marianne Vos, campaigner Betsy Andreu, Wiggle Honda boss Rochelle Gilmore, Olympic Gold medallist Connie Carpenter-Phinney, and UCI Vice President Tracey Caudrey.

It’s also one of the only books I’ve ever read where I kept thinking ‘I’ve met her…I’ve met her too…we follow each other on Twitter…and I’ve met her…” – Penny Rowson, Helen Wyman, Jessie Walker, Harriet Owen, Sara Olsson, Mel Lowther from the Matrix Team, Helen Wyman, Caroline Stewart who I met via Twitter and then through the Matrix Team, Ottile Quince, Chris Garrison from Trek, cycling writer Sarah Connolly – which only makes the book more engaging!

The beautifully written content represents so many different – but highly informed – points of view, from women who are fans to women who are World Champions, as well as photographers, key personnel, journalists and presenters.

It opens with a tribute to Beryl Burton. This down to earth Yorkshire woman (who famously once commented ‘Come on lad, you’re not trying’ whilst overtaking one of her male competitors) was a competitive cyclist in the 1960s and 70s – and became the best rider in her sport for an astonishing 25 years in a row.

There follows, in Beryl’s awesome wake, another 29 chapters, each sharing individual women’s experience in cycling.

It is a wonderful book with so many stand-out moments that it’s hard to pull out favourite chapters but I found Clara Hughes words on her life in professional cycling, her retirement and her battle with depression particularly moving:

“The goals I have now are small and most likely invisible to others…Goals of simply enjoying what I do, no matter how small the deed…Not simply moving forward like a freight train through all the beautiful moments, forgetting to stop and feel the wonder of it all’.

The contributions from women who work within cycling – Emma O Reilly who was Lance Armstrong’s personal soigneur for four years and Hannah Grant, team chef for Tinkoff-Saxo and author of the excellent Grand Tour Cookbook, for instance, make fascinating and insightful reading too (so, Alberto Contador ‘absolutely loves potato frittata’ – who knew?).

This is a book full of cycling adventures, struggles, successes and optimism : it is a joy for anyone who enjoys going ‘behind the scenes’ and finding out about the little details that make all the difference. It’s a perfect read to enjoy on dark evenings in front of the fire, and completely inspiring too.  I couldn’t put it down (cliched, but true!) and I 100% recommend it to anyone who loves cycling (although a note to mountain bikers: the content is largely road and CX based).

You can read more about Ride the Revolution and purchase it here.

 

 

World Bicycle Relief and Vulpine cycling apparel

Friday 4th December 2015 is the best day ever to shop with the cycling apparel brand Vulpine. Why? Because today they’re donating a BIG % of all sales to World Bicycle Relief, a charity that uses bicycles to enable economic and cultural empowerment across Africa.

Want to know more? Here is Ethel’s story. And if you won’t sit astride a bicycle unless its carbon, top spec and aero, then prepare to feel a bit humbled.

 

A major part of World Bicycle Relief ‘s work is providing bikes to students who live in remote areas so that they can travel to school safely and arrive on time, rather than having to walk for hours each day and being too tired to study. Student grades increase by up to 59% as a result.  70% of student recipients are girls: an education allows them to pursue their dreams and prosper. And there is also this: girls who are educated are less likely to get pregnant at a young age, which is fundamental in alleviating poverty.

Each bicycle costs just £95.

The World Bicycle Relief Buffalo bike

The World Bicycle Relief Buffalo bike

I did a talk at my daughter’s school about World Bicycle Relief’s work earlier this year*, and got the opportunity to ride one of the bikes. They are massively heavy, sturdy and durable – just as well if you’re going to balance your whole family on top of one or ride across rough terrain every day. There are no brakes: you pedal backwards to stop. I’m guessing you have worked out that there are no gears either. Each bike is built to be compatible with locally available spare parts, and local mechanics are trained to service and repair them so they are sustainable and reliable.

This is such is simple, effective and powerful story: £95 for a bicycle that will change a life.

So, back to Vulpine, December 4th and some maths.

Hoy Vulpine London Bike Show 2015

Vulpine’s Hoy Vulpine range launched earlier this year.

Vulpine are donating 20% of every sale on the 4th December to World Bicycle Relief. They will then match each donation via Pledgit, so it becomes a 40% donation. So, splash out on a Waterproof Utility Jacket and a pair of  socks and not only do you get some fabulous quality gear, but that’s one bike bought, just like that!  Grab a pair of Jinzu Raw Selevedge Jeans – and your matched donation will have paid for two thirds of a bike! Fancy some Cotton Rain Shorts? That’s half a bike! And if 10 people buy one Storm Cap each…that’s another bike bought, and a lot of comfy heads.

And what’s more, every time you step (or ride!) out in your new gear you feel happy in the knowledge that an African schoolgirl is shredding her way down a dusty trail, on the way to a better life, thanks to you. Clothes don’t feel much better than that!

*I’m pleased to report that the girls at my daughter’s school raised enough to buy 30 Buffalo bikes.

Find out more about World Bicycle Relief here.