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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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.