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.
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.
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.