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Weekend bike project: spraying a saddle to match your bike

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I had no intention, really, of getting into road cycling. But when I was roped into signing up for the Prudential 100, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I was accepting delivery of a good entry-level carbon road bike from Sheffield-based Planet X. I didn’t want anything garish and heavily branded, and the low-key decals and black frame seemed suitably restrained. I was content with my choice and I wasn’t particularly interested in any road bike customisation. But after experiencing some serious saddle pain, I took myself down to Cyclefit in Holborn for a pressure mapping session. I came away with a fantastic Bontrager Ajna saddle, but unfortunately, at the time, Cyclefit only had the white version in stock. To their credit, they were happy for me to go back when the black version was in stock to swap it; but work was so busy that I just couldn’t get back into central London. So I left it, and settled for white. But it’s been bugging me since August. With nothing else white on the bike, it just seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Comfortable, yes. But aesthetically pleasing? No.

Road bike customisation
Before: bright pink accents on a black bike. All good! Oh… Apart from the white saddle, which DOES NOT MATCH AT ALL.

And then I had a flash of inspiration.

Fabric dye.

I did a bit of research, and discovered TRG Super Color Spray, for use on leathers and synthetic leathers. £7.24 from Amazon. I bought a can. And, finally, we have outdoor space at our new house, and we had a bright, dry, breezy day. I took the plunge. I removed the whole stem, complete with saddle, and drove it into the grass. I carefully draped an old cloth through the rails, and stood back, and sprayed, and marvelled as my comfortable-but-not-aesthetically-pleasing saddle developed a glossy jet black lustre. I was anxious in case it didn’t work, wouldn’t dry and would cost me a whole new saddle… But it did dry, and it looks superb, and finally, my bike looks the way I want it to. WIN.

Road bike customisation
After: everything matches! It looks so much more slick…
Road bike customisation
Finally, it looks just the way I want it to…
Cycling TipsWomen's Cycling

Rediscovering your cycling mojo: how Victoria got her groove back

Cycling Mojo
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I’ve been feeling tremendously weighed down lately. I lost my cycling mojo.

You know how it is: we’re in the depths of winter, and the days are woefully short. The only daylight hours are spent in an office, thinking about how nice it would be to spend some daylight hours outdoors instead… You arrive home from work later than you’d like every day, in the dark, and it’s time to start cooking dinner. While dinner’s cooking, you’re doing the washing; catching up with parents on the phone (who are in danger of thinking you’ve dropped off the face of the earth); dealing with all the paperwork that came through the letterbox that day; tidying up and cleaning the house. And before you know it, you’re eating dinner at nearly 9pm, and can’t wait to collapse on the sofa for an hour in front of the TV. And winter weekends? You spend the whole working week thinking, this weekend, we’ll get out for a good ride.

while you don’t want to call yourself a fair weather cyclist, you realise you’d rather be inside stripping walls and painting ceilings than battling the elements.

Saturday comes.

The weather is atrocious. The wind is howling, it’s pouring with rain… and while you don’t want to call yourself a fair weather cyclist, you look at all the work that needs doing in your new house, and realise you’d rather be inside stripping walls and painting ceilings than battling the elements.

Tomorrow, you think. Sunday will be better.

Sunday comes, and the weather’s still a bit crap. But you know you have to get on your bike. So, you bundle up, and you drag yourself out, to be buffeted by the wind. It’s grey, and a bit dreary, but you flog yourself on. Your nose runs. Your eyes run. Your ears start to ache. And finally you arrive home with a sigh of relief, knowing that you had to do it but thoroughly glad it’s over.

Then, suddenly, the days begin to lengthen. Not much, but enough that you wake up and it’s daylight. And if you can get away from the office at a reasonable time, it’s not quite dark… And your energy levels just start to rise. You wake up a bit earlier, and finally, you look out of the window in the morning and think – I can’t wait to get on my bike today. And you do it. And it’s fabulous. And your cycling mojo has returned.

You’ve got your groove back.

Cycling TipsReviewsSportivesWomen's Cycling

The Prudential RideLondon – Surrey 100: 10 things we wish we’d known

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With around 25,000 participants and covering 100 miles, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey sportive is a daunting prospect for many cyclists. This year we took part for the first time and we wanted to share our top tips for the event – and the things we wish we’d known beforehand.

The Ballot

When entering the ballot, be realistic but not pessimistic about the time you expect to finish in; we both overestimated by a long way (two hours!) which put us in much later starting groups. An earlier start will probably mean a faster ride with less congestion.

Disappointed that you didn’t get a place in the Prudential RideLondon ballot? Don’t worry – get a charity spot instead and raise money for a good cause. There are a huge number of charities with guaranteed places, all vying for cyclists to ride for them. They’ll typically ask you to raise a minimum of £500 – £750, which is pretty achievable for such a physical challenge!

100 miles is a long way. It makes a huge difference to flagging spirits and tired legs when the communities of Surrey turn out in droves to cheer you on.

Are you sitting comfortably?

On the run up to the Prudental RideLondon event, make sure you are completely comfortable on your bike. I was caught out with the wrong saddle which could have been rectified had I arranged a saddle mapping session in good time, but if you’re in the London area, these things book up fast ahead of such a major event. Be comfortable on your bike and don’t try anything new on the day!

If possible, stay locally the night before the event to reduce stress – it’s an early start! Local hotels – including the major chains – are really accommodating to cyclists. We stayed at the Radisson Blu New Providence Wharf and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful: a handwritten note in our room wished us luck, we were able to keep our bikes in the room with us, and an extra early breakfast was laid on to ensure riders had something to eat before setting off. Much easier than a long journey at an ungodly hour.

Remembering registration

You must register for Prudential RideLondon the day before the event, and we would recommend allowing plenty of time for this exercise. This year’s registration was at Excel – allow lots of time to get there, because it is vast. We wouldn’t want to be parking 15 minutes before registration closes – it might take you half an hour to reach the hall from the car park! (Also, parking is £15 – and that’s a flat rate. Ouch.)

Diversion due diligence

The morning of the ride, bear in mind that the closed roads make reaching Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park something of a challenge. We stayed locally the night before and cycled – if you do the same, ensure that you allow plenty of time to get there because you might not be able to take the most direct route depending on diversions. Reaching the park was a little bit more stressful than we had anticipated!

It’s a rare opportunity to experience Central London and the Surrey Hills free of traffic, in the company of other cyclists. Relax and enjoy it!

BFF finding

If you plan to ride Prudential RideLondon with a friend, be aware that you will most likely be allocated different start time and different zones. You can’t do anything about this, but don’t worry: provided you’re not setting off hours apart, it is easy to meet up just a few miles into the ride. We chose to meet just after St Paul’s church in Shadwell where it was easy to pull off the main road and wait.

It can be nerve wracking to set off ‘alone’ – or, at least, without your buddy. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with other cyclists in your wave – remember that everyone’s in the same boat and plenty of people are feeling nervous. A chat will calm your nerves! And don’t be afraid to ask for help from fellow riders –  and someone will help you, like the wonderful guys who helped me when my chain suddenly dropped off 90 seconds before my wave was due to depart…

Hub hubbub

The feed stations and hubs are fantastic and a great opportunity to replenish your water (and energy powder) supplies. We wished, though, that we had packed a greater variety of snacks in our pockets; Clif Bars are decent fuel but get very boring (not to mention dry) on such a long day.

Rather than telling our supporters to watch us from Kingston bridge, we wish we had realised that the hub at Hampton Court would have been the ideal spot with the opportunity to stop and say hello. Indeed, if you can meet someone at a hub, they can even supply a range of snacks – we envied the guy we saw tucking into a tupperware of pasta provided by a friend!

Elevation reconnaissance 

We live in Surrey and we thought we were fairly familiar with the route. However, Box Hill – though famous – is not the challenge on this course. We wished we’d done all the hills before the event so that we knew exactly what to expect. Newlands Corner is not the most well known hill on the course, but it’s a tough climb; try and have a go beforehand to familiarise yourself. (The descent does make it worthwhile, though. We promise.)

Rapturous reception

100 miles is a long way. It makes a huge difference to flagging spirits and tired legs when the communities of Surrey turn out in droves to cheer you on, so engage with them – a wave and a smile will let them know you appreciate their support, and will help keep your spirits up.

Post-ride fatigue

At the end of the ride, we wished we had arranged transport for our bikes, either back to Excel or even back home. We were very tired, I was very saddle sore, and the traffic was daunting after a day of riding closed roads. If you haven’t arranged transport, bear in mind that you can always get a cab to take you and your bike where you need to go – but it will be very busy and you might have a long wait…

The Prudential RideLondon is a day to remember

Finally, go with the flow! There might be hold ups along the way due to accidents, or overcrowding – don’t fret about your finishing time, just soak it all up. The Prudential RideLondon event is not a race – it’s a rare opportunity to experience Central London and the Surrey Hills free of traffic, in the company of other cyclists. Relax and enjoy it!

Prudential RideLondon