How ‘ordinary’ riders like me can fly the flag for mountain bike brands – and why I’m going to be an ambassador for Cotic bikes in 2017.
I’ll admit that I’m not the typical choice for a mountain bike ambassador. Unlike most ambassadors that are specific to mountain bike brands, I’m not a man. I’ve only ever won one mountain bike race (and that was distinctly local!). I’m not particularly brave nor exceptionally skilled at riding. I’ve never ridden across America, or Siberia, or even Surrey (which is where I live) for that matter. In fact the closest I have ever got to being an ambassador for anything before was handing round Ferro Rocher chocolates at an office party. Ha, ha.
Instead I am a journalist and a middle aged mum who happens to love riding my mountain bike. I also love talking about it – as well as issues that surround women’s cycling – on Twitter, Instagram and in the cycling press (and on this blog, of course). I’ve spoken about women’s cycling at the Cycle Show and Look Mum No Hands. I’ve been interviewed about women’s cycling by the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times. Happily, other riders seem to want to share in my experiences. Someone who knows about such things told me that I have become an ‘influencer’.
I’ve kind of made my own mtb trail of life, if you like, and its fantastic that Cotic want to come along for the ride.
It’s really exciting that Cotic are prepared to step off the very well worn path of conventional mtb marketing and have me on board (alongside an ambassador team of far more able riders, I hasten to add!). And I hope that what I lack in spectacular photos of me ‘getting air’ off the top of a kicker will be made up for with lots of relatable, inspiring, and entertaining insights into my ‘ordinary rider’ life. You juggle your rides in-between school runs, work deadlines and emptying the dishwasher ? I’m your girl.
A DAY OUT IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
At the end of 2016 I was invited to meet Cy Turner and his team at Cotic HQ in the Peak District. Coincidentally this area already has special memories for me: I was born in Stoke on Trent and the Peak District was where my family would go on a Sunday to get out into the great outdoors, as well as into the tea rooms at Eyam (which is the village where the plague started, though that was way before our daytrips and the tea room, obv.). So, it was good to return and note that it really hadn’t changed that much.
I met with the guys from Cotic and over some very nice chips and a sandwich I discussed ‘the state of cycling’ until my food started to go cold, at which point I let Cy and Richard get a word in edgeways. I also got to look round the factory (being a small British company, this doesn’t take too long) where the bikes are designed and built. And then, over a mug of Yorkshire Tea, we discussed a plan for 2017 – which is to just ride bikes and talk about it, basically.
I also got to try the Cotic bikes that I would be riding in 2017 – the new Cotic Flare is a 650b steel trail bike with droplink suspension and 130mm travel, and the drop bar Cotic Escapade is a steel ‘life bike’ (more on that at a later date though).
NEW BIKE DAY!
Fast forward to the first week of February and Cy and Richard drove down to the Surrey Hills to drop off the bikes. My new Flare is indeed a thing of beauty, having been custom built with some very ‘bling’ Hope components, X-Fusion forks, rear shock and dropper post, Burgtec pedals , Joystick handlebars and stem, and WTB carbon wheels, tyres, Deva women-specific saddle and grips. The lovely Hannah at Flare Clothing has also sent me a range of fantastic mtb gear to wear too (always super happy to get to try new women’s mtb clothes!).
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.
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%.
I love the timeless quality of each image (and by the way, riders choose not to wear helmets in order to save weight).
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.
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.
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!!
I am really excited about the launch of Casquette, a new quarterly print magazine and website for the discerning female cyclist.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
FINDRA REVIEW: Muddy fun vs stylish cycling wear.
Performance sportswear brand FINDRA make stylish mountain bike shorts as well as innovative merino outdoor apparel for women riders. Their Ms-Mo Relaxed Shorts look great – but how will they cope with a mud-splattered soaking on a typical winter ride? There’s only one way to find out!
‘Just ride straight through the middle of the puddle”.
I’m halfway along one of my favourite trails, riding it as I have done a thousand times before – only this time I have a photographer in tow – and I’m trying to soak the shorts that FINDRA has sent to me in mud, in order to give them a thorough review. But despite the fact that conditions are distinctly wet, I’m not getting the result I expected.
Ride a slippery, muddy, puddle strewn trail without a mudguard and you end up with a bum covered in mud, right? Not in this case. While the bike looked as if it had been spray painted with sludge, the shorts seemingly refused to get as dirty. And any splatters of mud that did settle could be wiped away. No matter how hard I tried, these shorts resisted. Even by the end of the ride the water repellent fabric was still remarkably mud-free.
While this may be tricky for photography, it is a bonus for mountain biking in wet conditions. A soggy bum is a sure fire way to spoil your ride and it was lovely to be able to get round in comfort instead. So, thumbs up for that – unless, of course, you regard a muddy backside as a must-have badge of honour in which case, and from personal experience, I suggest you try lycra shorts.
Performance in mud aside, I also love the look of these shorts – and not just because the orange contrast zips coordinate with my bike (actually that’s not quite true – it’s a major reason why I love them!). I also love this navy blue shade – a really nice alternative to black. They are also available in Chocolate (the colour, not the confectionary!), and Indigo Denim with white contrast stitching. The branding is subtle but stylish, which makes a welcome change compared to the gear offered by many mountain bike ranges.
The two-way stretch fabric feels quite lightweight but is plenty tough enough. I will layer these shorts over tights in the depths of winter, and then wear them as they are for the rest of the year. The stretch makes them very comfortable to ride in and there is plenty of room to pedal.
The cut is streamlined – they are not all baggy, so no chance of looking like a 12-year old school boy in them – and shaped at the hip for a more tailored look. Lengthwise they finish at the knee but fit over my knee pads easily. Finally a word about the tailored waistband: it is super smart compared to an elasticated version, but, thanks to the stretch, just as comfortable.
Like many mountain bike shorts, Ms-Mo Relaxed shorts are not padded. I wore mine with padded pants (link) but you could just as easily wear a padded liner beneath.
Verdict? Best looking mountain bike shorts I’ve seen, with performance to match.
£90, exclusively from Wiggle.
Read my review of Findra’s merino range (and see more images of the shorts!) here.
Photos: Paul Mitchell
Why best selling Betties are putting the sexy back into cycling pants.
(This post originally appeared on Total Women’s Cycling but is now updated here).
What’s a girl to wear ‘down there’ cycling? Lets face it, ordinary pants soon wipe the smile off your face, especially as it’s impossible to adjust wayward elastic at a red light when surrounded by commuters. And no one wants to ride with bulky cycling shorts beneath their J-Brands or Whistles work skirt.
Delve deeper into this dilemma and imagine you have secured yourself a cycling date with the man of your dreams. A couple of circuits of the park and a few beers later, then its back to yours and the realisation that it’s impossible to remove a pair of cycling shorts in a seductive fashion (this applies to both genders, by the way), especially when they leave a non-too fetching imprint of a gripper band on your thighs.
And then there’s your birthday: your other half secretly wants to surprise you with something a little bit ‘va-va voom’ – but needs the comfort man-blanket of knowing that he’s also getting you something practical for the bike. Surely there is an alternative to receiving a fluffy red g-string and a bottle of Muc Off?
Or what if you just like wearing nice pants and riding your bike? Or want something discreet but effective to wear beneath workout gear for your spin class?
Hurrah! Here comes Bettie to solve every one of these pressing women’s cycling issues!
Created in Texas, Bettie is, basically, a really nice pair of pants with a slim (think panty liner) cycling chamois inside. The pad is flexible, breathable, quick drying and moisture wicking. It’s also invisible beneath clothes. And, while I wouldn’t recommend these pants for a day on your road bike, they are brilliant for any other type of riding: I’ve worn mine for mountain biking many times. Hey, I’ve even got QOMs in them (though frankly my legs are taking ALL the credit for those). The pants also feature extra stretch round the leg openings to avoid chaffing. They are easy to wash and quick to dry (much quicker than conventional cycling shorts!)
They are also quite beautifully to behold: silky fabric with mesh side panels and a ruched detail mid-back gives them a lingerie look and feel. There are ‘sister pants’ too: The Brigitte is a hooped black and white design with a bit more of a vintage look.
At £42 Bettie is, price wise, a world away from an M&S pack of five. However wear them as an alternative to cycling shorts and they start to look like a bit more of a bargain: so much so that I’m reliably informed that they are now a best seller at Velovixen.
In short, if you’re a lingerie lover and a cyclist, then they’re a bit of a must have. Buy them here:
* Further update, prompted by a friend who failed to realise that you need to wear shorts over the top of your Betties …. You need to wear shorts over the top, you really do.