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Women's Cycling

Chorizo, wet weather training and saddle comfort: tips from the pedElle 2016 riders

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Last month we brought you the first of a three-part series of exclusive interviews with three riders participating in the Club Peloton pedElle 2016 women’s cycling charity event. PedElle 2016 is a three-day, 425km ride for female professionals from the property industry.  

We have partnered with Aspire PR to bring you this series and we’re thrilled to be catching up with riders Sam McClary, Sarah Jenkinson and Yvonne Smith ahead of the event which begins in Salzburg on Monday 23rd May. Read on for their training strategies, fueling tips, secrets to comfort in the saddle and more…

 

pedElle 2016 Rider Profile: Sam McClary

pedElle 2016

 

Sam, with less than a month to go before pedElle 2016 begins in Salzburg, how do you feel?

Desperately looking forward to getting out of the office and having only to worry about turning my legs and pedalling. If I’m honest, I probably haven’t cycled enough but hoping there’s some good muscle memory left in my legs from earlier in the year and last year’s adventures.

 

What kit will you be taking? What brands/favourite items do you rely on for comfort and performance in the saddle?

I have some AMAZING kit from Betty Designs which I love. And always get comments on. And people asking if the Kick Butt on, well, my butt, is an instruction. It’s great kit though. Not only does it look cool, the fit is great and the chamois is just right – not too much, not too little.

 

What do you use in the way of training aids – for example, power meters, rollers, turbo trainers? Do you have any tips for keeping up training in poor weather?

I don’t use any kind of training aid, which is weird because I love gadgets. Because I’m not racing anymore and just exercising for adventure and challenge I tend to just use how I feel as a training aid. If you can be honest with yourself about how hard you are (or aren’t) training then I think that is a great life skill. Tips for training in poor weather? Man up! Skin is waterproof.

 

Apart from chorizo (!), how do you plan to fuel yourself on the pedElle 2016 ride? What are your top tips for maintaining energy levels – and is there anything you avoid?

Is there anything else apart from chorizo? For the sake of friendships and potentially garlicky burps, I will also use other fuels. I’m really quite anti gels and the like, however, so for me it will be dried fruits – dates and prunes are my favourites – seeds (I can’t do nuts) and some dark chocolate for those dark moments. I’ll also have a greens drink in the morning and pop a vitamin c tablet in my first bottle on my bike. Recovery – apart from wine and Aperol Spritz (a traditional PedElle tipple) – will be a protein shake or chocolate milk. Not just to rebuild muscle, but also because it is a tasty treat after a long, hard ride cycle.

 

One of the biggest challenges on long multi-day rides is saddle discomfort. As an experienced pedElle participant, what is your advice to first timers for avoiding saddle pain?

Investing in a good saddle that works for you and finding the ideal pair of shorts is the key when dealing with saddle pain. Making sure you have been fitted on your bike and using correct form will also help alleviate any discomfort. And getting out of the saddle for a little wiggle never hurts. And of course, sometimes you’ve just got to break everything (EVERYTHING) in a bit.

 

pedElle 2016 Rider Profile: Sarah Jenkinson

pedElle 2016

 

Sarah, with less than a month to go before pedElle 2016 begins in Salzburg, how do you feel?

I’m feeling excited! We had a great training ride a couple of weeks ago in Surrey where 12 PedEllers turned up. There was a fun and supportive atmosphere in the group and lots of giggles. My knees have been feeling a little sore, especially as I’ve been doing more running recently too. So I’ve (slightly grudgingly) started some strength and conditioning sessions to strengthen everything up before the ride. This is particularly important now that we’ve been informed that the first day has 4000m of climbing over 180km with a few 20% gradients…!

 

What kit will you be taking? What brands/favourite items do you rely on for comfort and performance in the saddle?

Hopefully the sun will be shining so it will just be a case of shorts, jersey, sunglasses and a cap! I’ll probably take my Velotoze shoe covers in case it rains ­ I just love these. They’re like a swimming cap for feet and come in lots of bright colours. Lightweight and look good!

 

What do you use in the way of training aids – for example, power meters, rollers, turbo trainers? Do you have any tips for keeping up training in poor weather?

I’m pretty old school; a map and a bike. I don’t really like gyms or spin classes, so tend to just get on with it good weather or bad.

 

How do you plan to fuel yourself on the ride? What are your top tips for maintaining energy levels – and is there anything you avoid?

I try to eat natural foods where possible and just keep eating and drinking every hour. I avoid gels after a bad experience in a triathlon. A few of the ladies have been exchanging flapjack recipes in the run up to the ride and I think home made energy foods are always a great shout! In terms of recovery drinks, personally, I find the best is a cold beer!

 

One of the biggest challenges on long multi-­day rides is saddle discomfort. As an experienced pedElle cyclist, what is your advice to first timers for avoiding saddle pain?

Invest in a good saddle! I have a female specific saddle -­ a Selle Italia Diva and have used it on many long distance trips including a cycle across America. This combined with a decent pair of padded shorts (I use various brands including dhb, Liv and Rapha) should be fine. Of course, sitting in any position for 8+ hours will always lead to some discomfort but I have never really had any big issues.

[This just goes to show how the only way to find the right saddle for you is to go for a saddle mapping session – the Selle Italia Diva was hellish for Vamper’s Victoria but clearly the right saddle for other cyclists. Read more here.]

 

pedElle 2016 Rider Profile: Yvonne Smith

pedElle 2016

Yvonne, with less than a month to go before pedElle 2016 begins in Salzburg, how do you feel?

I am taking the training very seriously as I want to be able to complete the event and not pick up any injuries. PedElle provided me with the programme and it is achievable if you are single-minded with a great husband (shout out to Julian!). Once a week, I go to a spin class and another day will cycle to work and back (50 miles round trip).

Over recent weekends, I have done different rides both days to get some variety. Sometimes endurance and sometimes hills and last Sunday was both! I got up Ditchling Beacon without stopping for the first time and I was thrilled. The family is still planning, accompanying me and encouraging me. Mentally very positive – need to keep pedalling!

 

What kit will you be taking? What brands/favourite items do you rely on for comfort and performance in the saddle?

I haven’t found shorts with sufficient padding yet! I have received the kit list so will go through that and borrow off my daughter Hannah or wander down to the many cycle shops in the West End. To reward my efforts I have bought a Queen of the Mountains T-shirt and one with “Girls on bikes – keep up” for relaxing in the evening. I have promised to ditch the rucksack with all the extra layers, tools, torch, whistle, food, book (in case I get a puncture and have to wait around) etc. as I become more confident.

 

What do you use in the way of training aids – for example, power meters, rollers, turbo trainers? Do you have any tips for keeping up training in poor weather?

What’s the saying – “There is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing and equipment”. I have only given up once and that was in Storm Kate. I love being outside and as I have a dog, you get used to carrying on regardless.

 

How do you plan to fuel yourself along the pedElle 2016 route? What are your top tips for maintaining energy levels – and is there anything you avoid?

I have actually started snacking on chorizo [like Sam!] when cycling and I prefer it to sweets. I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I have also bought Nuun rehydration tablets to add to my water bottle and these are not too sweet either. The usual – wine gums and Jelly Babies give you a lift and help you face the hills. I am ravenous a lot these days!

Multiple long days in the saddle can be quite uncomfortable. What is your strategy for staying comfortable on your bike over long distances?

I mentioned this earlier. I have bought chamois cream but when you are tender it stings like heck! Still looking for a solution and it’s one of my favourite topics of conversation with female cyclists at the moment. During the ride I move back onto the saddle going downhill and forward going up and this helps the balance and also gives a little relief to the under area!

 

 

In addition to paying an entry fee, the riders commit to raising a minimum amount for a number of children’s charities including Coram. To date, Coram has received £500,000 from Club Peloton events, making it Coram’s largest corporate partner. The funds raised by pedElle 2016 will go towards Coram’s adoption services, helping vulnerable children find stable, loving families.

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

 

Cycling TipsFeaturedWomen's Cycling

Women who cycle: we meet three inspiring women taking on the pedElle 2016 challenge

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Vamper.cc is delighted to be partnering with Aspire PR to bring you a series on the pedElle 2016 charity ride for women in the property industry, organised by Club Peloton, a fundraising charity which specialises in creating business networks.

PedElle 2016 is a three-day, 425km ride open to female professional from the property industry. This year’s event commences in Salzburg on Monday 23rd May and ends in Venice on Wednesday 25th, just in time for the start of the famous Architecture Biennale 2016. The route to Venice also takes in the medieval town on Lienz in Tyrol and the north Italian city of Udine. (In fact, we think the route sounds so good that we wonder if we should diversify into the property industry so we can ride it, too…)

The cyclists on pedElle will work as a peloton for efficiency and an atmosphere that fosters networking and camaraderie. The riders will also benefit from a full support crew consisting of lead car, mechanics, logistics, sports therapists and motorcycle outriders to keep body, mind and bike in full working order and to ensure that everyone crosses the finishing line together.

In addition to the entry fee, the riders commit to raising a minimum amount for a number of children’s charities including Coram. To date, Coram has received £500,000 from Club Peloton events, making it Coram’s largest corporate partner. The funds raised by pedElle 2016 will go towards Coram’s adoption services, helping vulnerable children find stable, loving families.

We’re very pleased to introduce you to three of this year’s riders who are sharing their cycling stories with us. We hope you find their journey as inspiring and interesting as we do…

 

 

Rider profile: Samantha McClary

pedElle 2016 McClary
Sam McClary has taken part in every Club Peloton event, a 1200 mile duathlon around the UK and a 1600 mile cycle from Vancouver to San Diego.

 

Samantha, what prompted you to sign up for pedElle 2016?

Three days riding through beautiful countryside in beautiful weather with a gaggle of inspiring and interesting women? Why wouldn’t I sign up! But in all honesty, I love taking part in these rides as they teach so much about humankind. Whether you are the strongest rider or the weakest, it really doesn’t matter on pedElle as we are all in it together. That’s the great thing about women’s cycling (when we’re not racing, obvs): it’s about what you can do for the person riding next to you to make sure they are having the best time. Whether that’s a wheel, a little hand, some banter, a sing-song or just the promise of a big glass of wine at the end, it is those moments that really make me want to do every single pedElle.

I’m the chick you’ll see with a spicy Spanish sausage sticking out her back pocket.

 

When did you take up cycling, and why?

I started cycling properly probably about eight years ago. I started commuter cycling because I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for the train! I started cycling properly because of Club Peloton – the company behind pedElle. The property magazine I work for is the media partner to all of its property rides, including its flagship Cycle to MIPIM. I did that one year, and I was hooked. On one of the first training rides I met a cycling partner in crime. We became the closest of friends – she even got me into triathlon, which then got me into competing at age group level for GB – and cycling buddies. Since then I’ve done all sorts of cycling adventures: every Club Peloton event, a 1,200 mile duathlon of sorts around the UK, and a 1,600 mile cycle (with two other pedEllers) from Vancouver to San Diego. I have plenty more adventures planned.

 

How are you training for the event? Have you developed any training or nutrition plans to prepare yourself?

Training for me is part of every day life. I just ride my bike. I teach spin too, which helps of course. I’m the chick you’ll see with a spicy Spanish sausage sticking out her back pocket. Chorizo isn’t everyone’s bag of chips on a bike ride but for me it is the perfect package of fats, protein and salt.

 

What bike will you be riding? Tell us about it.

I will be riding my Wilier Zero 7. I love it. Like, properly and potentially inappropriately, love it. It is matt black with day-glo orange decals. It is ridiculously light and ludicrously expensive. I blame Club Peloton entirely for the health (or lack thereof) of my bank balance.

pedElle 2016 Bike
We asked Sam what bike she’ll be riding. “I will be riding my Wilier Zero 7. I love it. Like, properly and potentially inappropriately, love it.” We get that, Sam – we love it too!

 

At this point, what are you hoping to achieve from taking part in pedElle 2016?

PedElle for me is about women working together to achieve something special. Raising money for a charity like Coram is of course the most special thing we can do as it will provide new families for children so desperately in need. But that something special is also about helping develop confidence, pride and a fine set of quads for a group of very wonderful women.

 

Rider Profile: Sarah Jenkinson

pedElle 2016 Jenkinson
Sarah Jenkinson took up cycling in Chamonix. When asked how she planned to get her new bike home, she replied – I’ll ride it!

 

What prompted you to sign up for pedElle 2016, Sarah?

I work at Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design and one of the directors, Jennifer Ross, set up the first ride with a friend, Claire Treanor. When I started at the practice, as a keen cyclist, there was no doubt as to whether I would or wouldn’t take part; if you like cycling, are female and work at Tibbalds, you are in!

 

When did you take up cycling, and why?

I got into road cycling when I lived in Chamonix one summer a few years ago. Everyone out there is very fit and active, and the scenery is so captivating – it’s impossible not to be drawn to the activities you can do there. I actually bought an old secondhand bike initially, just to get around town. Then one evening in the pub, a friend asked how I’d get my new wheels home. In the Chamonix spirit I joked that obviously I’d cycle it home to the UK…   Just under 1000km later and road cycling was in my blood!

 

How are you training for the event? Have you developed any training or nutrition plans to prepare yourself?

I stay quite active, especially on the bike, throughout the year. So I don’t change too much but try to get a few longer weekend rides in, as well as sticking to some hills laps after work each week. What really helps me personally is to try and do a lot of hot yoga in the run-up to the event: I can get painful knees so I find that getting my body as supple as possible is just as important as working on cardio and strength.

 

And what bike will you be riding? Tell us about it.

I ride the Liv Envie Advanced Tri. I love it. So agile and light and the deep rim wheels are such a pleasure to ride (if there isn’t a cross wind!). It’s the first bike I’ve owned where I actually like how it looks too, although it’s pretty difficult to keep white paintwork looking good!

 

At this point, what are you hoping to achieve from taking part in pedElle 2016?

For me, it’s all about meeting new people in the industry. Three days is a great amount of time to get to know people and the riding acts as a leveller that brings everyone together. It’s a really inclusive and supportive event and I’m proud to be part of it. I’m also really looking forward to the route this year. A route through the mountains, unravelling to the coast will be spectacular!

 

 

Rider Profile: Yvonne Smith

pedElle 2016 Group
Yvonne (centre) has been training for pedElle with her family around the North Downs – training is always easier with some moral support.

Yvonne, tell us what prompted you to sign up for pedElle 2016?

I was inspired by Sam McClary of Estates Gazette as she cycled and ran from Edinburgh sponsored by Helix, the company I work for, a couple of years back. I was further inspired to buy a bike by my eldest daughter (also a surveyor) who cycles with her boyfriend (he did the Etape last year). We went along, got a nice tan and were overwhelmed with the effort put into both the training and the event itself. I then went and bought a bike in Sept 2016 for my 56th birthday.

I then came across pedElle. My mother is Austrian, so Salzburg felt like it was home for me – I also love the Sound of Music and expect we will all be wearing curtains made of Lycra and singing in unison as we weave in and out of each other up and down the Alps!

 

How are you training for the event? Have you developed any training or nutrition plans to prepare yourself?

My goddaughter (who is an osteopath) is doing the Prudential Ride 100 so we, along with her dad, my husband, and our daughters (who are all surveyors too) are out every weekend around the North Downs. I am following the plan Rhian from Club Peloton sent to me and so far so good: I’m getting stronger, but hills still defeat me. I have not changed my nutrition – I just eat more as I burn a few extra calories. Nothing scientific.

I expect we will all be wearing curtains made of Lycra and singing in unison as we weave in and out of each other up and down the Alps!

What bike will you be riding? Tell us about it.

It’s just lovely: a Ridley (extra small – I am 5 ft 1inch). I only had it ‘fitted’ by Thom at Evans in Guildford on Friday and what a difference. We’ve changed the handlebars to a narrow gauge, and he’s raised my seat and tipped it forward a little. He has all these technical gadgets that check all the angles – an excellent £45 spent for 2 hours of intensive fiddling. I had ‘rhino tyres’ fitted as I cycle on my own to work and back and can’t manage a puncture despite the workshop I took part in… I could blame the arthritis but I don’t have any confidence the wheel won’t fall off if I change the tyre.

 

At this point, what are you hoping to achieve from taking part in pedElle 2016?

I love being with professional women; I am constantly impressed and moved by their achievements and this will be a great opportunity for networking. And I just want to be able to finish and feel proud of myself – and the whole pedElle event.

 

We will be running a further two interviews with Samantha, Sarah and Yvonne to hear how their training is going closer to the event and later, to hear how the adventure went. Stay tuned!

If you are a woman working in the property industry and this has inspired you, it’s not too late to register for the event at pedElle. We would love to hear from you if you decide to take part, so drop us a line at victoria@vamper.cc.

Cycling TipsWomen's Cycling

Rediscovering your cycling mojo: how Victoria got her groove back

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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.

FeaturedWomen's Cycling

I’m tired, I’m stressed and my knee hurts… It’s time to get back on the bike

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It should be easy to find time for things that are important to us, but it’s amazing how life can get in the way of things.

I want to be cycling every day again, like I did for most of last year. I want to be cycling to work every day, and spending my weekends in the saddle.

So why am I not doing it?

That’s a good question.

I’m tired.

(And I know very well that you’ll be thinking to yourself, exercise will help with that! – You don’t need to tell me. I know that exercising more gives me more energy.)

My right knee is causing me problems.

(And I know that the only way around that is to start cycling regularly again – not pushing it hard, just getting it moving and building up strength. I know.)

My new office isn’t half so conducive to cycling.

There’s nowhere to keep my bikes, apart from by my desk. There’s nowhere to change, apart from in tiny toilet cubicles.

We’re madly busy settling into our new house. We’re still unpacking boxes, and we have renovations and decorating waiting for us.

(Of course, we could still fit in a couple of hours of cycling on Saturday morning before we get stuck into all of those house things…)

But, do you know what?

It mostly comes down to the fact that I’m tired. Tired of short days, high winds, long days in the office and too little time outdoors, tired of the to-do list on my desk at work and bewildered by the to-do list in my personal life.

I feel like I’ve lost my cycling mojo and I need to get it back. Not least because my first time trial event is edging ever nearer… (And I’ll be damned if I’m not going to give it my best).

There are always so many excuses that we make for not doing things – even things that we love, like cycling. But I know the answer to all of this. It’s to stop feeling tired and overwhelmed. And the only way I know how to deal with that?

It’s time to get back on the bike, and to get those addictive, energising endorphins pumping again.

 

My plans for this evening?

I’m going on my bike.

No. More. Excuses.

Cycling TipsWomen's Cycling

Five things I wish I’d known when I started road cycling

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  1. Being saddle sore is not something to just accept. It is not a given. A lot of women labour under the misapprehension that cycling is inherently painful but it needn’t be this way – a saddle mapping session can put an end to that particular pain in the backside. Being saddle sore is markedly different for women than for men. Yes, your actual bum might ache – but it’s the chafing and tears on that exposed soft tissue which does the damage. A saddle mapping session can ensure that your weight is on your sit bones, not that delicate tissue.

  2. I needn’t have worried so much about not being quick enough. When I started road cycling, I was concerned that I would be too slow for Matt to want to ride with me. I thought it would make his rides boring and that he would be frustrated. But I was wrong. Sure, to begin with I wasn’t the fastest cyclist on the block; but riding with my Matt consistently spurred me on to build my speed and stamina. I trust him implicitly when we’re riding and after a few months we began practicing draughting. That means he takes the brunt of the wind while I tag on to his rear wheel, spinning quickly without it killing me and allowing me to keep pace. And now, we ride together so much and push each other so hard that he sometimes ends up draughting me, because I’m really quite fast now….

  3. Clipless pedals and cleats are not something to be afraid of. It does seem counterintuitive, to attach your feet to your bicycle. I’ll admit that the prospect filled me with horror. But the benefits far, far outweigh the disadvantages. Early doors, I’m not saying that you won’t forget to unclip, and then fall off, probably in an embarrassing fashion. And probably in front of people. It happens to the best of us. But in a very, very short space of time, unclipping becomes second nature. Matt taught me to unclip the moment I see something that may cause me to stop: a queue of traffic, a roundabout looming, a pedestrian crossing. If you don’t need to stop, you can just push down and carry on. But if you do need to stop, you’re prepared. Don’t be scared – clipless pedals are a wonderful invention.

  4. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go up hills: the point is that you go up them, full stop. I managed to work myself into a panic early doors about hills. It didn’t help that I hadn’t really got to grips with my gears and had a miserable experience trying to get to the top of a grade 4 climb in the big cog. I’ve sorted that problem now, but  I still worry about gradients sometimes. On group rides in particular, I have a tendency to worry that I’ll be too slow and might hold other riders up. Well, so be it. If the rest of the group have to wait for me at the top, chances are they’ll be glad of a sip of water and a bite of flapjack. It’s not about getting up there quickly, and if you try, you’re more likely to get into difficulties. Just take it steady. Use the easiest gear. Keep to the left so that people can overtake you. Don’t keep looking for the top of the hill; I find it easier to just keep my head down rather than looking at the gradient. Remember to breathe. Let the weight of your legs do the work. And, it takes some practice, but get out of the saddle if you possibly can – it really does make climbing easier.

  5. It never gets easier, you just go faster. How right Greg LeMond is. After completing a hilly sportive in Yorkshire and the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, I really thought a 63 mile sportive in Cambridgeshire would be a doddle. Well, I was wrong. I sweated, my legs were sore, I ached, and I was fed up. But my average speed was 16.3mph, compared to 15.5mph for the 100 and 13.8mph in Yorkshire. It wasn’t easier; but I was faster. And it was worth all of the pain for a Gold place!
Vamper's Victoria took up road cycling in April 2015 after agreeing to take part in the Prudential. It swiftly took over her life and now she is a regular sportive rider and spends more time thinking about bikes than anything else.
Vamper’s Victoria took up road cycling in April 2015 after agreeing to take part in the Prudential. It swiftly took over her life and now she is a regular sportive rider and spends more time thinking about bikes than anything else.
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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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.