Posts tagged ‘womens cycling’

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

December 8, 2013

Photo of my Week.

Pink bar tape

Pink nails and pink bar tape: the perfect ‘Margot and Barbara’ combination…

November 3, 2013

BEDN #3. Light. Or, goodbye Pashley Princess…

Today’s #BEDN post prompt was ‘light’. Most people will probably write about light in rather a different way to me, especially because today is the main celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, and Happy Diwali to everyone celebrating!

But, this is what’s happening in my life, and so I’m writing about ‘light’ as the opposite to ‘heavy’… Because, after lots and lots of deliberating, I’ve sold my bike. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will remember that it took a lot of deliberating roughly a year ago before I bought it!

The Pashley Princess is a beautiful thing. It’s utterly classic with immaculate, historic design credentials and that lovely leather Brooks saddle is the cherry on the top. I loved it. But in truth, I never should have bought it. In my head, the Pashley was perfect for me.  It’s pretty bomb-proof, so it would have lasted forever, the saddle was nice and comfy, the upright position perfect for a spot of nosying into other people’s gardens whilst cycling past and the basket on the front useful for putting my food shopping in, whilst slowly pottering my way along nice flat roads of Cambridge.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ah, but wait. I don’t live in Cambridge. Or York. Or Norfolk, for that matter, or anywhere else flat that might spring to mind. Holland, maybe?

I live in West Yorkshire. In old coalfield territory. We have hills here. And I’d been kidding myself all along that it wasn’t a problem. The last straw really came a couple of weeks ago when we decided to have a short cycle ride to visit my Grandma. She lives a mere five or six miles away, and I knew we’d have plenty of time to rest before making the return journey so I thought it would be totally fine. I was wrong. On leaving home, almost straight away we hit a hill, and by the time I got to the top of that, I was red-faced, and somewhat nauseous (sorry for that image!) whilst my lovely boyfriend Stephen, on his carbon-fibre road bike looked as fresh as a daisy. By the time we got to Grandma’s I was feeling quite sorry for myself and I think she was somewhat alarmed to see the colour of my face! A nice sit down and a cup of tea helped restore my natural colour and then we set off back home.

The return journey was even hillier, as we went a different, slightly longer way. We’d nearly reached home, and I’d had a big change of heart. Instead of thinking that I was slow and struggling because of the bike, I’d really started to think that perhaps I was slow and struggling simply because of me. Thinking that it was purely my lack of fitness, or simple ineptitude was starting to make me want to get off the bike, throw it into a hedge and walk away without a second glance. Thankfully, before I’d got to that point, Stephen realised what was going on. He stopped, jumped off his bike and offered to swap.

Now, the image of a big, fit male cyclist on a women’s Pashley Princess, complete with giant silver bell and wicker basket is quite a silly one, so I am incredibly grateful to him for doing that. But not so grateful that I didn’t whip past him on the next hill on his gorgeous, incredibly light (and three sizes too big) carbon fibre Planet X bike. And the incredible realisation that it wasn’t just me being slow and rubbish, it really and truly was the damn tank-like Pashley, was bloody brilliant. And I knew it was time…

My beloved 91 year old Grandma gave me one piece of advice when she saw how exhausted I was from riding such a heavy bike.

“Put it on Ebay”

And so I did.

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June 25, 2012

Cycle Chic: Sawako Furono helmet

Even though I’d rather cycle with the wind in my hair, unhindered by any kind of head protection, I don’t live in the bucolic idyll I’d like to, so I do ususally wear a protective helmet, especially when riding in traffic. It’s also mandatory for any kind of event, and I’d expect my kids to wear one so it’s only right that I practice what I preach to them.

After I bought my beautiful Pashley Princess Sovereign (recently christened Lucinda) I really wanted a helmet that felt more in keeping with her feminine style. My old helmet, borrowed from my husband, wasn’t exactly fitting the bill. Thankfully, I’ve recently discovered the beautiful helmets made by Sawako Furono. An architect by training, she designed the helmets to be a stylish alternative to the usual, masculine headwear we’re usually presented with. When I’m riding any other bike, I’m more than happy to wear my old helmet, but on the Pashley, this feels like a better option. I’m not letting my beautiful new bike down with a rubbish old helmet!

My beautiful new bike helmet

The helmets cost about the same as a high-end cycling helmet of any brand, but are produced in very limited numbers and in beautiful colour options. They are one size, with an adjustable dial at the back. For a brief second when I tried it on, I thought it was too small, but thankfully I was wrong and once I’d opened the fitting up at the back, it fitted perfectly and is really comfortable to wear.

A close up of the Liberty-esque print.

I bought my helmet from Cycle Chic, although you can also buy them directly from Sawako Furono’s website. Cycle Chic have a range of other helmets as well as other great panniers, clothing and accessories.

I suppose you’re going to want to see what it looks like? Oh, go on then…

June 11, 2012

Pashley Princess Sovereign

Yesterday was test ride day. After consulting the whole world, the bike I have ended up ordering is the Pashley Princess Sovereign, in Buckingham Black.

Before we entered the shop I was having doubts about whether it was the right decision. After all, it’s a bike with a design dating back to the 1930’s and apart from some nice specification upgrades (Sturmey Archer hub brakes and Schwalbe puncture resistant Marathon Plus tyres) it hasn’t changed since. On the one hand, it’s outdated, a bit silly and completely unsuitable for riding around hilly Leeds. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted one. It’s the sheer unadulterated beauty of the machine, coupled with a very strong rose-tinted view of life atop a Pashley that’s done it. I’m basically yearning to be a character in an Enid Blyton book.

My lovely (long suffering) husband said to me that I should stop being practical and just go with my guts. As we went upstairs and I saw ‘my’ bike waiting for me, I grinned a giant grin. That was it. I was in love. One test ride up and down the local roads later and it was completely confirmed. This is the bike I want. Rose-tinted and impractical it may be, riding it was an utter, utter joy. Sitting upright gives you a similar body position as on a horse, rather than sitting forward, which I find really comfortable. There is no getting around the fact that it weighs an absolute ton, but I’m not going anywhere near Alpe d’Huez any time soon. Apart from  using it to cycle to some of my work projects, I will mostly be pootling around after my kids on their little bikes, so that doesn’t matter. The giant basket in the front can hold all manner of baby wipes, soft toys, blankets, sweets and other essentials for a family outing. As for Cycletta, well, I’ll be at the back, sitting upright, and grinning all the way round.

As we left the shop, after reserving the bike and going home to sort out the rest of the paperwork, I did a little bit of happy crying. It’s a rare feeling to have exactly the thing I want, after waiting for years and years for it. I’m still smiling now, just remembering the test ride, and knowing that after a few more weeks of waiting, it will be coming home with me.

October 3, 2011

Cycletta North

The day of Cycletta dawned bright and early – at 4.20am to be precise as my adrenalin fuelled body decided that was the time to wake up. Despite this, at a more sensible hour, we set off for Tatton Park and I did my usual helpful passenger thing of falling asleep the minute we set off.

When we arrived at Tatton Park, I went to get my hire bike, passing Olympic Gold Medal winner and Cycletta Ambassador Victoria Pendleton on the way. I’m such a name dropper…

Just got my hire bike, and going to the start!

As I was riding on my own, I was green with nerves at the start of the race, but was hugely encouraged by the positive and friendly atmosphere and managed to chat to a couple of other riders before we set off. Then, with a cheerful ‘good luck’ we were off, straight over a cattle grid, down the drive of Tatton Park and on through several local villages. Once we had set off, my nerves settled and I started to enjoy myself. The roads were relatively flat, with a nice long stretch to get us all into our stride before a series of junctions through the villages. My cycling ability, despite a worrying lack of training, was better than I’d anticipated, thanks to my gym trainer Lenka, which meant that I was easily keeping up with some of the people I’d set off with, despite riding a hired mountain bike (with, it has to be said, rather wonky gears) on the roads.  Of course, some of the elite riders who had gone out early were starting their return journey by this point and due to the course doubling back on itself, we were rewarded with the sight of them on their way to the finish, which I found quite inspiring.

As the roads were not closed, I did have to keep an eye out for traffic, but the whole route was really thoroughly marshalled and signed, with someone to support us at every junction. This was of great help as I didn’t have to spend ages worrying about getting away from a junction, particularly on the right hand turns. What was more worrying was my inability to stop myself from being nosy and looking at the houses we were passing – in one case a stunning manor house, with land and an indoor swimming pool which was up for sale, so if I win the lottery I know where to look! In a particularly ironic moment, I did swerve a bit as I saluted a single magpie for good luck, which I do automatically. Quite how I would have explained away any resulting accident, I don’t know…

After what felt like a really short time, but actually about fourteen miles into the ride, was the first rest stop, where I had a litre of water and some fizzy cola bottles before setting off again. Chatting to a few more people along the route, it was lovely to hear the stories from people about why they were riding and in some cases, how they’d been inspired to ride so they could join Cycletta. I didn’t stop at the second feed station, but did hear from other people that Victoria Pendleton had been there and chatting to people – what a great Ambassador for the event she was, even coping with a giant snaking queue of people waiting for her autograph later on.

In what really seemed like no time at all, but actually 2 hours, 3 minutes and 17 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish line with a giant grin on my face and a feeling of huge accomplishment and joy. I’m really happy with the time I made, even though I know that I could probably have gone faster if I’d chosen not to chat to some people and to take over others, but in truth, part of what made the event feel so great was being part of this wonderful group of women, all so very different but all sharing the same experience. I even managed to say a real life hello to some wonderful people I’d met on Twitter through a shared Cycletta ambition, which was a perfect finish to the ride.

Then, after a re-fuel at the Cycletta village, and a lovely mini-manicure, it was time to have another sleep in the car on the journey home.

Huge, giant thanks to everyone involved in Cycletta, you were all amazing. I have been extolling your virtues ( and that of Skyride, British Cycling, Breeze network, the lot…) pretty much relentlessly since I got home and if I get my way, I will be bringing along a team of women to next year’s event, at which I will be riding my own bike and finishing in under two hours!

Happy cyclist – glasses to make sure nothing gets into my eyes – contact lenses are a pain…