Getting ready to roll – stylishly – into autumn thanks to FINDRA!
<Just so you know…the top and shorts in this post were gifted to me by FINDRA>
Autumn is the best season. All blackberries and apples, crunchy leaves and golden sunsets. Nights drawing in, fires in the hearth, Strictly on the tele.…and now new season cycling gear in which to enjoy the mists and mellow fruitfulness (and the sequins).
The Oransay top with 3/4 sleeves that I am wearing in the image was sent to me by FINDRA (It’s no secret that I am a big fan – I have ridden miles in their gear, and visited the HQ in Innerleithen last year.) It arrived mid-summer so I got to try it out during that ridiculously hot spell (here trying out a new Met helmet as part of a review for Singletrack, hence the goggles!) as well as more recently in into autumn. Don’t be put off by its lightweight look – this is a durable top that is well able to withstand the rigours of a hard ride – and keep you comfortable pretty much all year. Its so comfortable that you can wear it when you’re not riding too.
It’s made of in a ‘merino-lite’ blend (87% merino, 13% nylon!). Merino is the softest and lightest of any sheep wool (it’s more expensive rival, cashmere, is sourced from goats) and has long been considered to be the finest natural fabric for performance sportswear because of its ability to regulate your body temperature. It does this by absorbing any water vapour (sweat!) from your body and moving it away so that it evaporates in the air. This ‘breathability’ helps regulate your body temperature – in short, it keeps you cool when the weather is hot, and warm when its cold. The fineness of each strand of merino wool and its natural elasticity makes it comfortable to wear and good at retaining its shape during exercise. It has less bulk than other wools whilst being just as warm, so you can layer it easily.
What’s more, merino absorbs the odour molecules from sweat so you won’t need to wash it as often as other fabrics (though when you do, it is machine washable).
I love this top – it looks great, and is super practical for cycling with its dropped back hem and wide neck for ease of movement, as well as mesh panels for extra ventilation. Also – and don’t judge me here, the colour matches my bike (if this grenadine shade isn’t for you/your bike is a different colour, FINDRA also do it in Eggplant or Loch Blue).
I am also looking forward to putting in the miles in these FINDRA Padded Leggings. I usually wear loose shorts on a mtb or bib shorts on my road bike and its a while since I’ve worn a ‘legging’ style – but these beauties work equally well on either bike. Made from technical four-way stretch fabric, they are slightly thicker than bib shorts and are a great fit with an ample pad for all-day comfort in the saddle. I like the waistband too, which has an adjustable tie and sits comfortably round your middle, even if you are tall. The soft grey ‘Nine Iron’ shade is a welcome alternative to black, and I think the 3/4 leg is really flattering – even if it does break all The Rules on what to wear on a bike.
As a ‘which bike shall I ride today?’ sort of rider, I love their versatility too. On road rides, they will be great on those days when full length tights are too warm, but it’s a bit nippy round the knees for shorts. On the mtb I will wear them for XC rides when I won’t need knee pads but I do need comfort, breathability and stretch to help conquer the climbs!
I love the snow – and I love mountain biking in it too.
So when I woke up to a winter wonderland in the Surrey Hills this morning I didn’t waste any time (because let’s face it, British snow can’t wait to melt).
Not that I got out of the door first thing as getting dressed for a snow-venture takes so long. Two pair of socks. Leggings. Shorts. Four layers on the top (three merino, one fleece lined jacket). Merino neck warmer. Superwarm gloves. Helmet. Fivetens. And the bike – it would be foolish to forget that.
Then I rode/walked down the road (v.v. icy) shivering and wondering if I should have worn another jacket, before mounting and starting the first climb…and immediately over heating, of course.
Wardrobe issues aside, the creaking of the fresh snow as the wheels break through it is quite wonderful to witness, and its surprising how much grip you have too (“You’re brave to be out on a bike!” commented a passing walker, clearly no expert on the properties of mountain bike tyres).
There wasn’t enough snow today to get the true “I’m skiing…on a bike!” sensation going down hill, but it was still a lot of fun that was not to be missed.
So if anyone wants to fly me out to Finland with a fat bike, just get in touch. 🙂
Photos: Paul Mitchell
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!)
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…
A cycling adventure with sunshine, mountains, new friends and a lot of Spanish wine. What’s not to like?
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.
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!
We also enjoyed the knowledge and support of our local (and rather handsome) guides, as well as staying in some beautiful family owned hotels.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. 🙂
I am really happy to report that, as well as writing here, I have been invited to contribute to the Velovixen blog each month. Velovixen is a UK-based women’s cycling site. Founded by Liz and Phil Bingham a couple of years ago, the site champions women’s cycling as well as selling some great kit. I am really looking forward to working with them.
Here is a link to the first post I have written for Velovixen, on a subject which is very dear to my heart – outdoor exercise! Enjoy, and don’t forget to add your own reasons for working out outdoors (I am sure there are more than six!).
The wonders of working out in the woods (and some awesome mountain bike skills).
I’m a huge fan of exercising outdoors. A gym full of mirrors is every shade of wrong when you could be gulping fresh air into your needy lungs and plugging into the delicious power supplied by the sun on your back. When you’re so fixed on nailing the next berm on the trail that you forget what your thighs look like or how many calories were in your breakfast: that’s a good place to be. The trails that I ride with my girlfriends may be less than forty miles from London, but you can forget about mirrors. Come to think about it, you can also forget about mobile phone signal and sign posts. So every ride is a little adventure, as well as a workout.
We found this jumps section recently. Despite being a few metres away from a trail we know well, we’d never spotted it before. We dismounted our bikes to have a closer look (you don’t get to do that in a spin class!) and discovered a series of ‘tiger trap’ pits built beneath it. It looked truly terrifying.
Before long, two riders approached through the woods and, without even slowing down to look, soared over it. They pulled up ahead, and walked back past us to have another go. Now, we’re not really in the habit of talking to strangers in the woods, but this is outdoor exercise so you can talk to anyone, so long as they’re doing of a version of what you’re doing. We asked about their bikes (Specialized Enduro, quite heavy – no wonder they were pushing up hill.) We asked them if they found jumps scary (‘to be honest, yes’). They jumped again, I took some pictures on my phone (above and below), said thanks and we went our separate ways.
I will never ride this jumps section for a trillion different reasons that mostly revolve around being a complete coward. That doesn’t matter. What counts is being outside on my bike, and being open to whatever experience the trails choose to throw at us. Which, in this case, is happily acknowledging that some riders are far more awesomely skilled than I will ever be, and that’s fine.