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Weekend bike project: spraying a saddle to match your bike

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1960

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 TipsFeaturedWomen's Cycling

From high heel-wearing casual cyclist to sweaty sportive rider: #thisgirlcan

Sedate to SportiveFrom sedate cyclist to Strava-obsessed sportive addict. Times change.
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3295

In a recent article about cycling participation in The Guardian, one paragraph in particular caught my eye.

“For several female participants in the study, being a cyclist – or choosing not to be one – was very much entangled with concerns and convictions about femininity, appearance and their inclusion in a highly visible minority transport culture – a sort of club. One, Rachel, new to cycling, described uncertainties about what to wear: “I swing between, should I go all in Lycra or should I go for a more girlie look.” Others recognized the dilemma but felt they handled it quite comfortably, and some fully embraced the cyclist look: “I’ve got the kit, I’m a cyclist, yeah.” There was also outright rejection: “The women that do cycle are probably more blokey than feminine.”

I understand those concerns about appearance and femininity.

Only 18 months ago I was cycling to work at a gentle 12mph so as not to get sweaty in whatever I planned to wear at the office that day. A skirt and blouse with heels; a dress; a pair of skinny jeans and a blazer. I was always safe in a helmet and a fluorescent sash at night, but I was adamant that the only way I wanted to ride was at a comfortable pace in my regular clothes. And I enjoyed it.

It’s safe to say my view of cycling has changed in recent times.

Why would I want to ride fast and get sweaty on my way to work? Why would I want to wear specific cycling clothes, and have the rigmarole of getting changed at the other end? Couldn’t cycling just fit in with my lifestyle?

A leather jacket and sandals used to be my typical cycling outfit...
A leather jacket and sandals used to be my typical cycling outfit…

Well, of course it could.

But it’s safe to say my view of cycling has changed in recent times.

Fast forward a few months, and a persuasive Matt – co-founder of Vamper – convinced me to put my name down for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 mile cycling event. Quite how he managed it, I still don’t know; but sure enough, I entered the ballot – and was so disappointed to not receive a place that I immediately signed up for a charity spot instead.

It gradually dawned on me that to ride 100 miles – up some hills! – on my steel-framed single speed would be a challenge. I wasn’t sure Leith Hill was really made for a cyclist with a basket on the front of her bike. And I was fairly sure heels weren’t going to be the most appropriate footwear.

That aversion to sweat? Gone.

I realised I was going to have to make some concessions to practicality.

With Matt’s guidance, I settled on my first road bike. With a budget of £1,000, I wanted the best bike I could possibly find for that money. We decided that Sheffield-based Planet X was my best bet, and I opted for the Pro Carbon SRAM Rival 22 Women’s road bike.

Happy with my Planet X Pro Carbon SRAM Rival 22
Happy with my first road bike – a Planet X Pro Carbon SRAM Rival 22

I couldn’t very well ride a carbon road bike in heels, though, could I?

With some coaxing, I agreed to go the whole hog on the pedal front. I duly bought a set of Shimano SPD-SL pedals, and a set of cleats. They weren’t going to fit on my stilettoes, so I bought a pair of road shoes. And road shoes would not look good with a skirt, so I ordered a pair of padded bib tights. Which required a coordinating jersey… and a sportier helmet……

I couldn’t very well ride a carbon road bike in heels, though, could I?

I spent some time in a state of panic, practising clipping in and out on our private road until I felt reasonably confident that I could free my feet in case of emergency. And off we went. Me, riding a road bike, with gears, in Lycra.

I enjoyed it.

My hands hurt a bit, so I ordered a pair of cycling gloves. And a cycling jacket.

I enjoyed it all the more.

My first cycling event - the 38 mile Le Petit Depart in the Yorkshire Dales.
My first cycling event – the 38 mile Le Petit Depart in the Yorkshire Dales.

We put our names down for the 38 mile Le Petit Depart recreational ride in the Yorkshire Dales. I acquired a Garmin, and a cadence sensor. I started caring about Strava sections – and realised that I have a little bit of a competitive streak.

And by ‘a little bit’, I mean that it transpires my competitive streak is a mile wide.

I spent some time in a state of panic, practising clipping in and out on our private road until I felt reasonably confident that I could free my feet in case of emergency.

That aversion to sweat?

Gone. That’s what Muc-Off Dry Shower is for. And hell – if my hair is a bit messy at work, I can always tidy it up with the straighteners I keep in my desk drawer in case of emergency.

Riding casually is great - but riding hard is much more satisfying
Riding casually and looking nice is great; but riding hard is much more satisfying. Give me sweat and aching muscles!

Having a physical, competitive outlet has given my life a new direction. I worry far less about my appearance than I used to: I’m happy to have a body which is active and healthy. I’m happy to have strong legs that allow me to nail sections and keep up with Matt.

I like to sweat.

Sweating keeps my skin healthy, and it tells me that I’ve worked hard.

I like my legs to ache after a 17mph commute or a hilly sportive.

I like my cycling tan from a summer of long rides, and I like the tell tale oil mark on my leg when I’ve been messing about with my bike in the house.

I like road cycling, and I’ll never again be content to ride at 12mph in heels again.

“The women that do cycle are probably more blokey than feminine.” Riding hard, challenging myself, breaking a sweat and dressing the part don’t make me feel blokey, that’s for sure. I feel like a stronger woman than I did before – and that makes me feel better about my gender than adhering to any modern constructs of what constitutes femininity.

This woman can.

One of the greatest days of my life - completing the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 with Matt.
One of the greatest days of my life – completing the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 with Matt. Sweaty, achey, and utterly elated.
Cycle ClothingReviews

Inexpensive but highly effective: Planet X Merino Arm Warmers

Merino Arm WarmersAt just £5.00, these Planet X Merino Arm Warmers are a steal - and they're brilliant
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2023

Has anyone else noticed that, although it’s nearly October, there’s still rather a dearth of (nice) long sleeved cycling jerseys out there? Fear not. As Autumn swoops in and you’re feeling the chill in the mornings, you could do a lot worse than order a pair of these Merino Arm Warmers from Planet X. They’re an absolute steal at only £3.99 in the sale (and at full price, they’re still considerably cheaper than most).

I’m 5 ft 7″ and size 12. I ordered them in size Small/Medium and they fit perfectly. The wool is soft and not itchy (and I have quite sensitive skin). They don’t slide down, at all, despite having no silicone strips. Quite how they stay in place so well beats me. Some kind of magic. Full marks.

The Planet X Merino Seamless Arm Warmers are a hit: my arms are warm and my bank account didn't suffer...
The Planet X Merino Seamless Arm Warmers are a hit: my arms are warm and my bank account didn’t suffer…