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Cycling in God’s own country – we ride out with Yorkshire Velo Tours


If you’re suffering delusions of grandeur about your climbing abilities from nailing Box Hill in the big ring, it might be time to take a reality check on a cycling weekend with Yorkshire Velo Tours.

Let me be frank.

We’d had a gruelling working week in the day job, finished late at the office on Friday night and had to leave for a conference in Geneva after the weekend. A five-hour drive up the M1 for a hilly Yorkshire ride was, in all honesty, not sounding appealing at 10pm on the motorway somewhere outside Mansfield.

But boy oh boy, the long drive, late night and early start was worth the pain. Our weekend outing with Ilkley-based Yorkshire Velo Tours was memorable for all the right reasons.

Yorkshire Velo Tours – CS2, Lancashire & Wharfedale

We awoke on Saturday morning to bright blue sky and glorious sunshine. Our spirits lifted, we loaded the bikes into the car, filled our pockets with snacks and inner tubes, and set off to The Wheatley Arms in Ilkley where we met the ride leader (and founder of Yorkshire Velo Tours) Charles for a pre-ride coffee while mechanic Chris gave our bikes the once over.

Happy that our brakes were sound and tyres pressure good, we coasted out through Ilkley. And within minutes, hit the first steep climb. Ten minutes in and I was already gasping. Had I made a horrible mistake, agreeing to this ride?

But then it was over, and we were crossing Cringles, and spinning out along the hillside to the villages of Kildwick and Farnhill.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

We descended to cross the valley, pedalling through the pretty village of Cononley and along a winding, undulating lane to Carleton in the dappled sunlight. Cycling doesn’t get much more picturesque than this. But as I sighed with happiness, feeling relaxed and in control, I heard:

“There’s a bit of a climb ahead…”

A local girl, it dawned on me which hill we were about to climb. Cocking Lane in Carleton.

I girded my loins and dropped down a couple of gears to begin the ascent across to Lothersdale. I dropped down a couple more gears. Into the small cog. Dammit! No gears left. Ok. These legs are just going to have to work…

Finally, we were at the top, and the mechanic’s van pulled ahead of us. We crowded around as Chris opened the back doors to reveal a hoard of flapjacks and bananas. Fully supported rides are awesome.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Energy levels restored, we set off again and the uphill slog was rewarded with a swooping descent I’ve always wanted to make on two wheels. Utterly exhilarating.

We crossed the border into Lancashire and, after a brief dose of urban reality in the town of Colne, we were heading back into the hills via Blacko on our way to the glorious Ribble Valley – birthplace of my dear dad. My heart soared when we rolled into the village of Chatburn which I used to visit as a child, where the ice cream shop Hudson’s – which I thought would have long since closed – still stands on the corner.

Yorkshire Velo Tours
It made me so happy to cycle through the village of Chatburn which I used to visit as a child. The old ice cream shop, Hudson’s, still stands on the corner.

Relief: lunch time

38 miles in (and a hell of a lot of elevation), we heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at Holden Clough Garden Centre for lunch. The Garden Kitchen serves excellent food and to sit outside in the sunshine while we devoured hearty sandwiches and cold drinks revived us for what lay ahead.

Yorkshire Velo Tours
The route took in some of the best climbs and scenery in the Ribble Valley and the Yorkshire Dales

Another long climb after lunch was hard work, weighed down by sandwiches. But, as any cyclist knows, a tough climb is always rewarded with an exhilarating descent. And despite a brief shower which saw us all don our waterproof jackets, in no time the sun was out again as we coasted toward Tosside and Hellifield.

Dammit! No gears left. Ok. These legs are just going to have to work…

But I’ll admit it. By this point, my energy levels were waning and I knew there were plenty more climbs ahead. At 60 miles, I waved the white flag and accepted a lift for the final leg in mechanic Chris’s van. As we trundled up the next steep hill behind the rest of the group, it dawned on me how wonderful it was to be on a fully supported ride… Several more hills, including the Cat 4 Burnsall climb, and we were homeward bound. The heavens opened, but with less than 10 miles to go, it didn’t matter. (Certainly not to me, in the comfort of the van!)

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Finally, we were back in Ilkley. I’d ridden 60 miles, with 6,000ft of elevation; the rest of the group had managed the full 77 miles with almost 7,000ft of climbing. Gruelling? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely! There was just time for a celebratory pint in The Wheatley Arms before we headed off for a warm bath and hearty supper. Lord knows that having burned 3,000 calories apiece we’d earned it…

About Yorkshire Velo Tours

Yorkshire Velo Tours was launched by Charles Oxtoby, who has been organising cycle tours and trips in the UK and Europe for a decade. Charles was a founding committee member of the Ilkley Cycling Club which was re-established in 2011. A highly experienced cyclist and guide, Charles and has been riding the roads of the Yorkshire dales for decades – there are few people better qualified to escort you around the county on two wheels.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

Designed for keen cyclists of all abilities who want to challenge themselves on some of the best roads and climbs in Europe, Yorkshire Velo Tours showcase the beautiful scenery of Yorkshire – the training ground of Lizzie Armitstead and Scott Thwaites. If you want to become a world-class cyclist, you could do worse than train in the county.

Yorkshire Velo Tours rides are fully supported with a back-up vehicle and qualified cycle mechanic, and every route includes a carefully selected cafe stop – we at never underestimate the importance of a good lunch on a ride! With support and experienced ride leaders, all you have to worry about is getting up those hills.

Yorkshire Velo Tours

The tours typically split into 2 or more ride groups of around 8 riders per group, all covering a similar route. Group 1 will be the faster ride and typically average over 15mph. (We know, right? That doesn’t sound very fast! But just you wait until you see the elevation…) Meanwhile the slower groups will average 11-14mph.

And for those labouring under the misapprehension that the weather is always shit in Yorkshire – we enjoyed bright sunshine and 25 degree heat for ¾ of the ride before it finally clouded over and began to rain.

If you haven’t yet cycled in God’s own country, don’t you think it’s time you did?

Cycle ClothingReviewsWomen's Cycling

Svelte London bring British Heritage to cycling with the Long Sleeved Jersey

The Long Sleeved Heritage Jersey from Svelte London

It’s no secret that Matt and I are not shy of bold colours and prints when it comes to cyclewear. We embrace floral emblems and jaw dropping hues – but that’s not to say we don’t also appreciate a subtle palette and classic styling.

A subtle palette and classic styling is precisely what cycling clothing brand Svelte London have delivered with their range of Heritage cycling jerseys. Svelte sent us the latest incarnation to road test, the Long Sleeved Heritage Jersey in a wonderfully seasonal shade of dark green.

Made in England, the Heritage range is a three-season jersey for Autumn, Winter and Spring cycling. It contains merino wool for warmth and moisture wicking and has three pockets, including a button down pocket for valuables. The jersey retails at £110.

The muted shade, dull brass button and natural fibres make for an elegant bit of kit that doesn’t scream “WE CYCLED HERE!”

Both Matt and I are wearing size Medium. I won’t lie: it’s a snug fit, and if you’re planning to overindulge at Christmas, you should definitely order a size up. It’s a very athletic fit with extremely narrow arms which looks fantastic – sleek and flattering – but won’t allow much in the way of extra layers underneath. Given the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing in the South East this winter, that hasn’t been a problem: we’ve both teamed the jersey with the Isadore Apparel sleeveless merino baselayer which has been providing just the right amount of warmth on 10-12 Celsius days. On chillier outings, a gilet over the top has been enough to keep us warm.

The Long Sleeved Heritage Jersey from Svelte London


We both love the look of the Heritage jersey. The muted shade, dull brass button and natural fibres make for an elegant bit of kit that doesn’t scream “WE CYCLED HERE!” when you meet friends for a drink in the pub. Worn with cycling jeans rather than tights, it’s a jersey which could even be worn in the office without raising an eyebrow making it a useful addition to the wardrobe.

Both jerseys have been machine washed with a gentle wool detergent at 30 degrees and air dried – they’re spot on post-laundering.

The Long Sleeved Heritage Jersey from Svelte London


Svelte London have produced an elegant and useful piece of cyclewear with the Long Sleeved Heritage cycling jersey. We wholeheartedly approve of the styling and functionality, but would recommend going up a size.

You can purchase the jersey from Svelte London for £110.00.


FeaturedNewsWomen's Cycling

UnitedHealthcare Pro Team announces 2016 women’s lineup


Following a successful second season, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has announced the roster for its 2016 women’s racing team.

A number of riders from the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s debut season will return for 2016, including team captain Lauren Tamayo and track and road racer Cari Higgins.

Coryn Rivera returns to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Blue Train on the back of several sprint victories in 2015, including a stage three win and the sprinter’s green jersey at the USA Pro Challenge where she earned a place on the 2015 World Championship road race roster.

Katie Hall will return following her breakthrough season with the team in which she took 2nd overall at the Tour of the Gila. That success was followed by a high-profile win in the opening stage of the Women’s Amgen Tour of California.

Rushlee Buchanan, Abby Mickey, Laura Brown, and Linda Villumsen will also return for the 2016 season. Villumsen will sport the coveted Word Champion’s rainbow jersey throughout 2016 in time trial events with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.

Speaking about the 2015 season, General Manager Mike Tamayo said: “When I look back at the season, I see wins from many different riders, in many different types of a races. As a director and general manager, a record like that shows depth, adaptability, and most of all, effective teamwork. That makes us at the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team immensely proud of these riders and this program.”

The team is also set to welcome five new riders in 2016.

Reigning British national time trial champion Hayley Simmonds (pictured below with Vamper’s Victoria at a recent VoxWomen event) boosts the team’s time trial lineup for 2016. Simmonds commented: “I am incredibly excited about starting my professional cycling career with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. The team has a very strong roster and an extremely professional set-up which I think will provide me with the perfect environment in which to develop further as I make the move to full-time rider.”

Hayley Simmonds (right) pictured with Vamper's Victoria and fellow pro cyclist, Sweden's Sara Olsson.
Hayley Simmonds (right) pictured with Vamper’s Victoria and fellow pro cyclist, Sweden’s Sara Olsson.

All-rounder and former two-time junior Canadian National champion Annie Ewart joins the team from Optum Pro Cycling following her breakaway victory on stage two at the Tour of the Gila and her win at the Dominguez Hills Criterium in 2015.

Former Dutch national champion and veteran racer Iris Slappendel will bring years of high-level racing experience to the team. Slappendel has wins at Thuringen Rundfahrt (2010) and Route de France (2014) under her belt.

Colombian rider Diana Carolina Peñuela, who was victorious at the 2015 Criterium Manizales Fair, will bolster the team.

Finally, American cyclist Shawn Morelli, 2014 UCI Para-Cycling Road Race World Champion and 2015 World Championship Para-cycling Track Pursuit Bronze Medalist, will complete the 2016 lineup.

 2016 UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Roster, Women

  • Abby Mickey
  • Annie Ewart
  • Cari Higgins
  • Coryn Rivera
  • Diana Carolina Peñuela
  • Hayley Simmonds
  • Iris Slappendel
  • Katie Hall
  • Laura Brown
  • Lauren Tamayo
  • Linda Villumsen
  • Rushlee Buchanan
  • Shawn Morelli
Cycle ClothingReviewsWomen's Cycling

Feelin’ fine in Fierlan’s Three-Quarter Cycling Tights



Only a year ago, I vowed that I would never be caught wearing Lycra.

“I’ll never be a Lycra road warrior!” I cried. “I’m perfectly happy to ride in my regular clothes. I want to look like me on a bike!”

How times have changed.

I only bought a road bike in April, after being somehow mind controlled by Matt who convinced me to sign up to the Prudential RideLondon 100 miler. I still don’t understand how he did it. But I’m glad he did, because taking up road cycling has been one of the best decisions of my life. And it made me realise that, while it’s perfectly possible to ride a bike in jeans, it’s much more fun to ride a bike in dedicated cycling gear. My bum certainly thinks so.

As a woman, I want kit which has been designed with women’s bodies in mind.

But that is not to say that I don’t still want to look like me when I’m out riding. I want chic kit. I want kit that is well designed, well crafted and high performance. And, as a woman, I want kit which has been designed with women’s bodies in mind.

Fierlan is a new player in the women’s cycling apparel market and they’re acing it with their focus on stylish performance apparel which is designed in the UK and crafted in Italy from the highest quality fabrics. I tested Fierlan’s Three-Quarter Length Cycling Tights on three rides of 15 to 20 miles each.


From one extreme to the other... My transition from dedicated streetwear cyclist to diehard Lycra wearer...
From one extreme to the other… My transition from dedicated streetwear cyclist to diehard Lycra wearer…


Style, Comfort & Performance

Fierlan’s Three-Quarter Length Cycling Tights are far and away the chicest bib tights on the market for women. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear the look of most bib tights when I’m getting changed: that awful gap between my sports bra and the waist which shows off my untoned stomach. So unflattering. But the Fierlan tights are completely different: with their flattering and feminine crossover top I feel put together and pleasantly unexposed on the midriff front. As Autumn draws in, it’s nice to not have that gap, too. Style-wise, these tights are a hit even before I’ve put my jersey on. What else do I like about the styling? Well, the fact that the legs are so plain – and a really true black – is a bonus. These tights go with anything – you needn’t worry about clashing stripes or logos.

Fierlan 4

The tights are comfortable, too, which – even for someone as vain as I am(!) – is, ultimately, what we’re all looking for when we’re cycling. The best looking tights on earth will be quickly discarded if the pad is rubbish. But the women’s specific pad Fierlan have incorporated isn’t rubbish: the bright turquoise foam is comfortable, and after three washes hasn’t shifted or gone limp. (I have only ridden distances of up to 20 miles in them so far, so I can’t comment on the pad’s performance for a longer distance.) The MITI Lycra in the legs and body has a lovely robustness – it isn’t flimsy, they’re not remotely see-through and the cut means they skim rather than cling which makes them look rather elegant. The silicone dots around the leg hems prevent the legs from riding up as you pedal – and the longer length is flattering, too.

Fierlan 2
Simple, elegant and flattering, the three quarter length also keeps knees warm on cool Autumn days.

Fit & Sizing

I usually wear size 12 clothing and the Fierlan team advised me that a Medium would be the best fit. They were right, the fit is spot on – close fitting but not skintight. As I’m somewhat top heavy with a 32G bust, the crossover top doesn’t provide a huge amount of coverage; but it still meets up with my (very heavy duty) sports bra and there are no gaps. It’s far superior to the style of all the other bib tights I’ve worn, and for anyone with a slightly less – erm – ample upper half, shall we say – you’ll be well covered. The tights are available in sizes XS to XL and you should feel confident ordering your usual clothing size.

The crossover style top of Fierlan's Three-Quarter Cycling Tights is much more flattering than the usual suspender style.
The crossover style top of Fierlan’s Three-Quarter Cycling Tights is much more flattering than the usual suspender style.

Value for money

The Fierlan Three-Quarter Length Cycling Tights are currently in the sale and you can snap a pair up for £60.00, which is extremely good value. They’re beautifully made, flattering, comfortable and sophisticated. And for the cooler days we’re now experiencing, that extra leg length will keep your knees warm which is no bad thing.

Reviewer stats

Height: 172cm

Weight: 69kg

Measurements: 99-77-100

Cycling activity: 80-100 miles per week, in moderate British conditions.