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Interview with The Vamper: VeloVixen answer our 60 seconds of questions

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In the first of our 60 Second Interview series we pose our questions to the husband-and-wife co-founders of women’s cycle-wear retailer VeloVixen: Managing Director Phil Bingham and Strategic Director Liz Bingham.

1. Who or what inspired you to ride?

Liz – I actually went ages without riding a bike – I used to get around Cambridge on two wheels at uni, but then went 15 years without cycling until I ran into Phil. He was planning a bit of an adventure on bikes (well, a year and a couple of continents, actually) so I threw caution to the wind and never looked back.

Phil – My 1980s Raleigh Grifter was formative, of course. Years later, a work mate and fellow commuter callously tricked me into signing up for the 1998 London Triathlon – at a time when you still racked your bike amongst pre-Excel Docklands tumbleweed. I soon worked out cycling was the best bit of triathlon and have loved it ever since. Annoyingly, Lance Armstrong was my biggest inspiration for years. Less said about that the better.

2. Tell us about your current favourite ride: where do you like to go?

Liz – My rides are restricted to what I can fit in between the demands of two young daughters and VeloVixen, but Oxford’s one of the great cities for cycling. There are plenty of child friendly tow paths and tracks and we love the Isis Farmhouse for a pitstop.

Phil – Locally, I’m a big fan of the Chilterns – on the odd occasion that juggling a business and family allows me to escape! The roads around Hambleden are a great combination of sharp climbs, quiet roads and quintessentially English views. And they do a mean flapjack in the Hambleden shop.

Liz – Looking further afield, I think we’re agreed that the most extraordinary parts of our ride through the Americas in 2010 included the high Bolivian Andes, the San Juan Islands off Seattle, the Californian cycle paths, and so much of Argentina.

Phil – Our best descent was almost 3 miles vertically down to Arica in the North of Chile. We freewheeled for nearly 30 miles. And anywhere with a tailwind.

3. What is your favourite piece of cycling kit, and why?

Liz – I can’t get enough of the new Anna’s Legs padded cycling leggings at the moment. We finally lured Anna Glowinski back into designing kit. She’s got this amazing knack of designing gear that works brilliantly on the bike but that you can use for normal life too.

Phil – I’d find it hard to look beyond any decent quality merino jersey for this – it’s my dream material, so clever at not letting you get too hot or cold, and perfect for longer rides because it never gets whiffy!

4. In 2016, who do you think gets a better choice of cycling kit: men or women?

Liz – Just a couple of years ago, I’d have said it wasn’t even a debate. But women’s kit is catching up so fast that you can almost feel the playing field levelling. We often hear from our suppliers that within just a couple of years they’ve shifted the balance of their ranges from 90:10 in favour of men to more like 70:30 or even 60:40.

Phil – … And hardly a week ever goes by without another supplier approaching us to stock them. It’s very flattering and it makes our job of picking the best pretty challenging – but really fun! What’s so refreshing is the number of seriously talented female-led, UK-based teams producing top quality gear.

Liz – … but to sound a note of realism, many parts of the cycling world remain pretty… how would you say?… traditional! We’re not there yet, but progress is good.

 

Velovixen
The VeloVixen Co-Founders making friends with the Bolivian drugs police in 2010.

5. How far into the women’s cycling boom do you think we are?

Phil – In many ways, we’ve only skimmed the surface. Yes, there’s been a huge take-up in the last few years amongst women, but many are still put off by the perceived obstacles that – we think and hope – are now receding.

Liz – Ultimately it’s all about ‘normalisation’ – when riding a bike becomes just part of life for most people, we’ll have proper foundations in place. That takes a generation of infrastructure and attitude change across cities, but as it happens more and more people will become passionate about cycling. The Olympics help too! Another thing that will extend the boom is breaking down stigmas – both the male vs. female issues within cycling and the ‘cyclists’ vs. non-cyclists thing more broadly. We’re definitely getting there, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Now’s the time to get on board!

6. What cycling trends do you think will be big in the next 12 months?

Liz – Loads of clubs are opening up to the idea of mixed groups without the snobbery or female groups for women who feel more comfortable in that atmosphere. At last clubs are cottoning on to the idea that women can add something, which is fab.

Phil – We also keep hearing how ‘bike packing’ is the new backpacking. Speaking from experience, there’s nothing that beats the joy of spending a few days, weeks or months living with your world on your bike, so we’re excited about the trend.

Liz – We’re also sensing more and more people moving away from the mainstream firms for their kit – the quality of smaller designers is now so good, and people increasingly like to wear things that give them a real sense of identity.

Velovixen
Phil and Liz waving the VeloVixen flag at the start of the 2014 Tour de France at Harewood House

7. What has been your cycling highlight of 2016 so far?

Phil – I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was our our first outside investment coming to fruition, back in the Spring. That’s let us make plans for the years to come and was a real feather in the cap of women’s cycling generally – that an established investment firm thought it’s a sector worth committing to. I also loved seeing Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux – you just knew as you watched that this was an iconic moment in the making.

Liz – I’m torn – September’s VeloVixen Women’s Cycling Hub at the Cycle Show is shaping up to be a pretty big breakthrough for women’s cycling at a mainstream event – it’s a massive chance to really put women’s cycling on the map! That record prize pot for the Ride London girls was also a really hefty moment for women’s cycling. And it was validated by some fantastic racing to earn it.

8. And finally: what three tracks are guaranteed to get you fired up for a ride, no matter what time you went to bed?

Phil – My best moment on a bike came on Mont Ventoux in 2013 – and that was at least 50% down to one Mr Deadmau5, whom I can’t thank enough.

Liz – Oddly, you’re not mentioning how you much faster you went when you borrowed my iPod and listened to the soundtrack of Wicked for an afternoon in Patagonia in 2010.

Phil – Ah. Thought I could keep that one quiet.

Liz – But we’re both agreed on Eddie Izzard – not music, but we synced our iPods to listen to the great man on some of the biggest climbs in the Andes and laughed in unison even when the air got thin.

Cycle ClothingWomen's Cycling

Victoria picks out another 5 awesome women’s cycling jerseys for summer

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Last week we picked out ten of the coolest men’s and women’s cycling jerseys of 2016. It’s always a bit more difficult for women who cycle, because there still isn’t the same breadth of choice for us – so, to save you some legwork, I’ve found another five awesome women’s cycling jerseys to keep you looking fresh this summer. Read on!

 

Queen of the Mountain

Luminary women’s cycling jersey, AUD $159

women's cycling jerseys

This gloriously summery kit is currently sold out, but you can sign up for an alert from Australian women’s cycling brand Queen of the Mountain to let you know when it’s back in stock. I love the super vibrant palette – this ain’t a kit for shrinking violets! It’s the very essence of joie de vivre from our friends Down Under. More here.

 

Forward

WaterColor women’s cycling jersey, US $130.00

Women's cycling jerseys

These dreamy hues of pastel pink and baby blue are toughened up with rough black edges like a scrawl of charcoal over a watercolour painting. Gorgeous. More here.

 

Void Cycling 

WS Ride women’s cycling jersey, €110

Women's cycling jerseys

The sleek race cut and cool spot print from this Scandinavian cycle wear brand is sharp and quirky enough to make sure you stand out from the peloton. More here.

 

Machines For Freedom

Horizons Print women’s cycling jersey, US $175

Women's cycling jerseys

Subtle tones reminiscent of the skies you see on those insanely early morning rides, the Horizons jersey from US women’s cycling brand Machines For Freedom has me drooling. More here.

 

This is Cambridge

Hors Categorie jersey in blue, £ coming soon

Women's cycling jerseys

It isn’t currently available, but I’ll be ready to pounce when it’s back in stock on This is Cambridge. The colours are bold, bright and perfect for summer – and I can’t resist a polka dot/stripe pairing. I love it. More here.

 

Have you seen any awesome women’s cycling jerseys? Feel free to share them in the comments, we’re always on the hunt for exciting new brands!

Cycle ClothingFeaturedReviewsWomen's Cycling

First impressions – Victoria reviews the women’s Rapha Canyon-SRAM team kit

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I have never been tempted to cycle in a team kit before. But then, I’d never seen one as beautiful as the Rapha Canyon//SRAM team kit, which is one of the best looking women’s cycle kits I’ve ever seen. Since the first images were released months ago, I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting for it to be released.

Finally, on Wednesday, it happened: the email arrived from Rapha and faster than you can shout ‘Strava!’ I was parting with an obscene amount of money. I’m aware that £300 for a cycling kit is pretty steep. But boy oh boy, I wanted it so badly.

But what you all want to know, I suppose, is how it performs. Well, the kit arrived on Saturday and the following day I wore it on an 85km ride to put it through its paces.

Rapha Canyon//SRAM women's kit

The Rapha Canyon//SRAM team kit is seriously good looking. Black, emblazoned with jewel tones and the subtlest of branding, it looks so slick. The aero cut of the team-issue jersey is divine: it’s far and away the most flattering cycling jersey I have worn. It’s close fitting in a way that skims rather than clings; the mesh sleeves are just the right length and fit; and, as I hate having anything fastened up to my neck, I’m happy to say it looks great unzipped a few inches. Sunday was an ideal day to ride out in the kit; the Coldblack technology used in the jersey to reflect the sun’s rays and wick away moisture was perfect in 28-degree heat.

Rapha Canyon//SRAM women's kit

The Rapha Canyon//SRAM team kit jersey is long: I can pull it right down over my bum. This is a very good thing: at 5’8” I’m fairly tall and, being somewhat top heavy, I’m delighted to have a jersey which doesn’t ride up. I didn’t have to tug it down at the front once. If you’re petite, there is a risk that it might be a little too long. I find Rapha sizing tends to be a little on the small side, so I ordered my usual size medium bib shorts and size large jersey to accommodate my broad shoulders and bust. It’s spot on for my frame.

Rapha Canyon//SRAM women's kit

The race fit Rapha Canyon//SRAM bib shorts look similarly great: they are really nicely cut and the styling is spot on. The bib straps are well positioned and soft – they didn’t cut in to my shoulders at all.

The leg length is generous, the leg grippers keep everything in place and the breathable fabric feels good. I did expect a slightly more robust pad; it doesn’t feel quite as supportive as the chamois in my Rapha winter padded tights.

Being a particularly sweaty cyclist, I’m obsessive about washing kit as soon as I’ve worn it. It’s already been through the washing machine and drip dried as per instructions, and all’s well.

Rapha Canyon//SRAM women's kit

 

The Rapha Canyon//SRAM team kit is far and away the best looking kit I’ve worn. Expensive, yes; but it’s one of the best looking women’s cycling kits of 2016, and I felt a million dollars wearing it. Well done Rapha and the Canyon//SRAM team for putting together such an iconic kit – I feel like this is a big step in moving the standard of women’s cycling kit forward. The designers have set the bar very high indeed.

The jersey is priced at £130 and the bib shorts at £170. You can view the whole range here.

Rapha.cc

 

Cycle ClothingFeaturedNews

POC unveils international co-lab collections with Pavé and The Eleven

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Super cool Swedish cycling brand POC has announced collaborations with two of the world’s coolest bike shops, Pavé in Barcelona and The Eleven in Toronto. POC describe the collections “as a means of celebrating the beauty of road biking and the diversity of bike shops around the world”.

Our team represents more than just racing, it is about experiences, friendships, bikes, people and culture – Javier Maya

Stefan Ytterborn, POC CEO and founder said: “Anyone who walks into Pavé or The Eleven will immediately realize that they are more than a bike shop. Most often bikes stores like these are the center of a keen and energetic cycling community. To be able to support the very best in cycling culture and our own mission, ‘to do the best we can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists,’ is truly fantastic.”

POC Co-lab Collections

According to Ytterborn, this is the first time POC has developed specific collections with collaborating bike stores. The project has been undertaken with the intention of supporting cycling culture, the POC safety mission and bike communities around the globe. The brand is hopeful that this will be the first of many collaborations with different shops in different countries in the future.

We’re looking forward to seeing how future collaborations unfold; The Eleven and Pavé kits are looking as sharp as we would expect from POC.

The collections which form part of the collaborations include apparel, eye wear and helmets, which will feature the stores’ trademark colours and logos.

Javier Maya of Barcelona’s Pavé said: “We have been working closely with POC for a number of years and we are really excited to build this collaboration together as our riders want the very best in performance and protection.”

“We believe that our team represents more than just racing, it is about experiences, friendships, bikes, people and culture and it is wonderful to create a bespoke collection which represents all these elements together with POC.”

Heath Cockburn from The Eleven, continued: “Bike shops are often hives of activity with deep discussions ranging from the latest electronic shifting technology or disk brakes to the more traditional lengthy discussions on tire compound, chamois preference and training regime.”

“What remains constant, however, is the importance of bike shops like ours, which make a point of supporting the local bike community and culture. Having POC help us and support our vision and ideas is fantastic and we are really proud to collaborate.”

The collections will be available to buy in Pavé and The Eleven, with some limited pieces also available online at pocsports.com shortly.

Cycle ClothingReviews

Legging it: Vamper.cc rides out in Rivelo winter bib tights

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There is a lot to like about Rivelo winter bib tights.

As we found testing the brand’s Garsdale and Larkstone winter cycling jackets, Rivelo product quality is excellent and the attention to detail makes the kit a pleasure to wear. It’s thoughtful, considered design.

There are two versions of Rivelo winter bib tights: a men’s specific and a women’s specific cut. We must admit – we’ve actually found them to be interchangeable; they look so similar that in the low light of winter, I’ve worn Matt’s Winnats tights and he’s pedalled in my Monsal version… We’ve each found both pairs comfortable.

Rivelo winter bib tights
The Rivelo winter bib tights feature top notch fabrics, reflective detailing and a great chamois pad. Happy bums make happy cyclists.

Both pairs of Rivelo winter bib tights score highly in our book:

  1. The fabric quality is very good. It’s a dense, dark black which isn’t remotely transparent. As I cycle directly behind Matt, I’m glad of this. His bum is lovely, but nobody needs to see it through semi transparent Lycra when he’s pedalling – that’s just off putting. I daresay he’d say the same about me.
  2. The ankle zips are well placed! I don’t really understand why any manufacturers of cycling tights put zips down the back of the Achilles heel. It invariably digs in. Rivelo have thoughtfully placed the zip on the outside of the ankle which is much more comfortable (and they’re flexible, too, so don’t cut in).
  3. The chamois pads are brilliant. They’re described as high density, covered with Oeko-tex certified antibacterial stretch fabric and you can really feel the quality when you’re wearing them. They’re not thick pads – they’re really quite discreet, and feel a bit like memory foam. It’s always nice to wear padded tights that don’t make you waddle like an adult in a nappy, so this is a win.
  4. They’re flattering. Unlike the weird boob splitter style favoured by Morvelo, or that super low front which just exposes the flabby bit of stomach between sports bra and waistband which features on so many bib tights, these are cut high and they look sharp. The Monsal women’s bib tights are high cut and cover my (supersize) sports bra which not only looks nicer, but also creates a smoother silhouette under a jersey and keeps my midriff warm. Clearly, Matt doesn’t need his tights to conceal his bra, but he appreciates the added insulation provided by the slightly higher cut of the Winnats bib tights.
  5. They’re comfortable. Rivelo winter bib tights feature mesh shoulder straps which are seam-free, supportive and don’t dig in. The stitching on all seams is soft and flat locked, so there’s nothing to dig in there, either. And the care label is made from soft fabric and sewn flat, so there’s no unpleasant scratching from a plasticky, bulky label. (Perfect for Matt’s delicate skin). (No, really – he’s very sensitive..)
  6. They’re warm. The MITI Thermo Roubaix Thermal fabric is soft and cosy, and DWR (durable water repellent) leg and seat panels offer robust protection against the damper elements. It’s been a mild winter in the UK so nothing we’ve tested has been put through its paces in sub-zero temperatures, so if you’re looking for a recommendation for tights suitable for cycling in the Arctic, we can’t comment. But for nippy and damp British winter days, the Rivelo winter bib tights have had us covered.
  7. The reflective detailing is effective and chic. We love the logo – this is a nice typeface! – and it’s a useful safety feature. Thumbs up.

We’ve washed and worn both pairs of bib tights six or seven times now. There’s some minor pilling on the lower back where my rucksack creates some pressure, but overall, they’re wearing very well. There’s no transparency, no pilling on the seat or legs, no logo peeling, and the pad hasn’t shifted – it’s as good as new.

Rivelo winter bib tights
The men’s Winnats (left) and women’s Monsal bib tights both feature super high quality chamois pads, fleecy Thermo Roubaix fabric for warmth, and water resistant panels – handy for the British climate…

The women’s specific Rivelo Monsal bib tights are well sized. There is a word of advice on the Rivelo site to say that the fabric is not compressive, so if you are between sizes you may wish to size down; but the size medium is plenty big enough for my 5ft 8″, size 12 frame.

Matt has been comfortable wearing the men’s specific Winnats bib tights in size medium which fit his 6ft frame perfectly.

At their full price of £130.00 we think they’re a good choice for winter cycling. At the current price of £59.99 on SportPursuit, they’re a brilliant choice.

More good stuff from Rivelo. We’re looking forward to seeing what else this newcomer brings to the world of cycling apparel…

Cycling AccessoriesReviews

The Polar Soft Strap restarts my Garmin’s Heart (Rate Monitor)

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For many male cyclists there comes a point in the evolution of his cycling wardrobe when he will quite reasonably say to himself, “D’you know what? I just don’t wear enough hot pink.”

It happened to me recently and, it being a difficult itch to scratch, I spent a good few hours obsessing over a variety of visually vivacious apparel choices.

Rapha’s hot pink Backpack Rain Cover; the Bontrager 2016 Velocis shoe (which might yet find its way in to my wardrobe); Morvelo’s Half Tone Jersey: all were considered in my quest to inject a little pink into my palette.

But being a ‘dip your toe in the water’ rather than a full swan-dive and subsequent drowning kind of chap, I opted for a more subtle entry into the world of pink kit and chose the Polar Soft Heart Rate Strap.

Conveniently, this urge to ‘think pink’ coincided with what I initially thought were the final death throes of my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor.

It had started producing strange readings with unusual spikes and troughs, eventually indicating that my heart rate never went above 100bpm even on tough rides. I’m fit – but not that fit.

For those looking to inject a risqué frisson of colour into their cycling wardrobe I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Polar Soft Strap.

Having read a range of forum posts and articles I initially replaced the CR2032 battery, to no avail. It was only when I stumbled across an article by the ever-useful DC Rainmaker (be sure to check his blog out – it’s an invaluable resource) that a solution presented itself.

The article explained that the connections in my original Garmin strap had either corroded or had otherwise stopped working and that by replacing the strap with the Garmin-compatible Polar strap I could breathe new life into the heart rate monitor.

After the briefest of reconnaissance missions I ordered the strap directly from Polar’s site.

Polar Soft Strap
Polar offer a range of colour options for their Garmin compatible heart rate monitor soft strap, most notably HOT PINK

They offer the strap in a variety of colours: blue, white, orange, black and, most importantly for this reviewer, HOT PINK. You pay a small excess for a colour other than black – £15.40 as opposed to £14.00 – but this is a small price to pay to satisfy my lust for pink. (I’m aware that this review is treading a fine line…)

Polar also offer a bundle including a new CR2032 battery to completely clear the slate and refresh your heart rate monitor – this adds another £5.40 to the cost.

A couple of months in, I can attest to the quality of the Polar Soft Strap: it is comfortable to wear, and easily adjustable.

The active contact area is much larger than on the original Garmin strap, providing a surer connection with the monitor itself – I’ve had no instances of dubious readings when there is little moisture between the strap and my skin… (err…)

The black metal hooked clasp which connects to the fabric retaining loop provides a strong and firm closure and the materials used in the strap are high quality.

No-one can see it, but you know it’s there – like a politician with fishnet stockings under his suit

To summarise: for those of you suffering with HR monitor troubles and who think a new strap may present a solution, or for those looking to inject a risqué frisson of colour into their cycling wardrobe (sure, no-one can see it, but you know it’s there – like a politician with fishnet stockings under his suit) I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Polar Soft Strap.

It’s a good price and is well manufactured with better contact area connections than the original Garmin strap.

It makes perfect sense when considering matters of the heart (rate monitor)…