‘One for the Girls!’ – Falling Short

Devoted to helping female customers make the most of winter riding, the first in the series of women specific shopping events was held last night at Evans Cycles’ central London Store on Mortimer Street.

Arriving promptly at 6pm in the hope of gaining a free goody-bag packed with cycling essentials, I was greeted by 50 other girls with the same intention – the last bag handed to the girl in front of me – bugger, this event is popular! It wasn’t the end of the world though. As my Brompton was whisked from me to be stored safely in the workshop, a glass of Prosecco filled my now empty hand as I was guided through the store to join the introduction.

Aiming to cater for new and experienced riders alike, the ‘One for the Girls!’ events held across the country over the coming month, will provide women with a private shopping and Q&A session.

Michelle Arthurs, Social Media Specialist at Evans Cycles, explains “We’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of women buying bikes and we are really excited to see so many more women out cycling.”

One for the Girls

One for theGirls! product demo

“We know that British Cycling are doing a lot to encourage female participation in the sport, and we are keen to do everything we can to cater for this growing audience.”

A cyclist herself, Michelle says:

“I’m aware that there are times when the sport can seem very male dominated, these events are a chance for women who ride to get together, meet each other, and even plan rides if they want to. We hosted a similar series of One for the Girls events over the summer in London, Cardiff and Manchester, and they were a great success – if these go well, we would like to look at rolling them out to more stores.”

I got chatting to a couple of other ladies on arrival, one of whom had only started cycling 3 weeks prior after purchasing a hybrid following a brief stint living in cycling-fuelled Finland and keen to ask some questions about her new hobby. Whilst another, a keen road cyclist looked for a bargain, wishing to use her 20% off accessories offer for the night.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear much of the intro or the first talk – crammed into one of the smallest parts of this very large store, the small voice of the manager was swallowed by those who’d gathered around her to absorb her knowledge on performance wear.

Everyone else busy with the talk or shopping, I decided to grab another member of staff and ask what women’s specific road bikes they had in store. Not once, but twice I was told to ‘look online’ in answer to my queries… I can’t tell you how much this frustrates me considering I was stood in front of the sales person, in the store!

Shopping for bikes is never easy for me, especially at a pint sized 5’2”. However, I was hoping this event would prove that experience different. I proceeded to ask the sales guy to show me what bikes I could possibly try for size that evening, coming up short (no pun intended) with x1 carbon frame (of a low end brand and entry model) in a suitable size. ‘You could try the larger size’ he claims… ‘erm, somehow I think I’d be wasting my time’ I responded, a little miffed at the lack of knowledge. Although, to be fair, he was only doing the best he could in light of the lack of products to play with. I guess I’ll just have to ‘look online’.

Different definition to 'stacking it!'

Different definition to ‘stacking it!’

On paper, what sounds like a great event and clearly draws the crowds, fell short in a number of places for me. Maybe I had high expectations, but after chatting to some other attendees I wasn’t alone.

The women’s bikes were packed tight, were limited in brand and size (apparently Evans only stock ‘popular’ brands – although I’m not sure I’d count Jamis as one of those, yet that was the only brand available in my size that evening). They weren’t easily accessible to look at (chained to the stand), to find out more about or even try.

Their women’s specific brand section was small in comparison to the store (let’s say 1/10th) and there was no effort to demonstrate further the products. I was baffled as to why they hadn’t ordered in additional stock or brands for the evening; after all, this was a women’s specific shopping event.

The product talk was orientated at the performance cyclist, and it appeared to be the only talk of its kind at the very start of the evening. There also didn’t seem to be much opportunity seized on the community aspect of 60+ female cyclists gathered in one central place.

I’m a tough customer, I know that – I know what I want, and I know my size, but I was also expecting a lot more of a women’s specific cyling event. However, as Michelle had earlier pointed out, this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully they can only get better.

One for the Girls! will be at the following stores over the next coming weeks – let us know how you get on if you attend:

Guildford, Monday 18th, 6-8pm
Wimbledon, Tuesday 19th, 6-8pm
Reading, Wednesday 20th, 6-8pm
Trafford, Thursday 21st, 6-8pm

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

‘One for the Girls’ shopping nights at Evans Cycles

One for the Girls is back at Evans Cycles after a successful launch earlier this year.

The ladies shopping evening provides us girls an excuse to go wild in-store, and with the encouragement of 20% off clothing and accessories and 10% off bikes on the night, we can’t really refuse.

Womens-Event-Landing-Page-Sign-UpAnd that’s not all. With a free goody bag on offer to the first 50 through the door at each event, sparking wine and snacks (well, it is the off season), and invaluable advice on hand from store mechanics and staff, it’s set to be a fantastic and insightful evening with fellow female cyclists.

Places are limited, so be sure to get your name down to one of the following events fast:

Mortimer Street, London, on Monday 18th November, 6-8pm
Guildford, on Monday 18th November, 6-8pm
Wimbledon, on Tuesday 19th November, 6-8pm
Reading, on Wednesday 20th November, 6-8pm
Manchester Trafford, Thursday 21st November, 6-8pm

I’m registered for the Mortimer Street event. Fingers crossed I’ll see you there, credit card in hand!

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

British Cycling Women’s Development Sessions

Back in July, British Cycling announced their initiative to inspire one million more women to get on their bikes. The Rider Development Sessions for Women and Girls from Go-Ride, aim to build confidence and teach new cycling techniques in a relaxed and informal setting, in closed road venues. Sessions include track, CX, BMX, and road. And over the past 2 weekends I’ve had the opportunity to attend 2 of them….

Last Sunday, the weather a little stormy, I headed over to Burgess Park BMX Track in London, with 10 other fearless ladies for an afternoon of BMXing. As a teen, I had no interest in my brother’s BMX bike, but it seems I wasn’t the only one who’d found a new want to try something different. And different it was!

The session, aimed at women familiar to cycling (most of us road and track cyclists), started with an introduction to ‘what’ a BMX bike is, the difference in handling to our typical 700c bikes and an hour of getting used to being on our toes and using our bodies to control these small rental bikes. Even before we’d put on the smelly helmets, we were all itching to get on the pump-track; and it wasn’t long before we were let loose on sections, slowly building our confidence, speed and pumping action to complete full runs of the track, including use of the start gate and mini races of 3 riders towards the end. We went from being complete novices to race-ready in 2 hours. Not bad going I say!

Today, 50 lady cyclists of different ages and abilities gathered for the first of 4, 4-hour road specific development sessions in the South region. Rather different to an introduction to something completely new, today’s session was with the aim of growing bike handling skills for road cyclists and the main goal of racing; with a Go-Ride race in the final session in December.

British Cycling Women's Development Session

Riding round a rather soggy and windy  track at Kempton Park, we progressed from group riding, chain-ganging, speedy cornering to finishing with an elimination race, or survival of those with speed and good bike handling skills! (Yes, you read that right. And you’re guessing right too – a questionable decision for road racing with a group of ladies only just getting used to the idea of being bumped and squeezed in a group!). It was great to see so many eager ladies keen to learn and determined not to let the weather ruin it. For me, it wasn’t as fun or exciting as giving something new a go (cycling around a 1 mile course 40 times gets a little tiring), but with intention of racing next season, I hope to build on some skills and if anything, check out what I’m up against.

Having spent the past 2 weekends at two very different events, I can highly recommend giving it a go – whether it’s something completely new, or something you wish to build on. Well done British Cycling for investing the time and money – I’ll be sure to renew my membership next year.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

RideLondon 2013

RideLondon 2013

If you were to tell me last Sunday saw 16,500 cyclists enjoying 100 miles of closed roads stretching from the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, weaving through the city and out west into Surrey, I’d think you were crazy. But this was certainly no tall story.

 

 

 

 

The Prudential RideLondon Festival of Cycling hit the capital last weekend seeing more than 65,000 cycling enthusiasts enjoy everything about the bike. A free-cycle through the city soaking in the sites, a Bike Show and the Women’s Elite Crit Race on the Saturday. And on Sunday, the RideLondon 100 followed by the Men’s Pro Race, both taking in a circuit similar to that of the Olympics.

Back in April when I found out I’d won a place to ride with #TeamSkoda, one of the key sponsors of the event, I was not only excited to be part of the UK’s largest celebration of the bike, but pretty nervous too. I’d not long moved back from Amsterdam with the goal of becoming a grimpeuse (climber), or at least a better one than I was. RideLondon was the perfect event to give me the motivational kick to get my slow-twitch muscles working and build the stamina to complete my longest ride yet.

Training
I’d struggled at the beginning of the year to feel the love for the bike. Winter seemed to drag on and as an asthmatic; cold, damp conditions are the worst! I was struggling to enjoy club rides, knowing everyone else had to wait for me at the top of every hill. I decided the only way to deal with this was focus.

I invested in some turbo-training DVDs and started to get into the routine of coming home to a warm, dark house, shutting myself away in the attic for 90 mins. I was also attending weekly track training sessions – riding a fixed gear with intensive interval training was helping to build additional muscle and fitness. By the time I got back out on the road at the Amstel Gold Race in April, I could already see the difference in my power, completing the 125km route (including all the climbs) in just over 5 hours and with energy left over to party that evening. My longest ride yet.

Sussing out the Surrey Hills with Ben

Sussing out the Surrey Hills with Ben

Come the beginning of May, I was ready to head off to the Alps. Cycling for me has always been about social riding; particularly in windy Amsterdam. But for once I was on my own. By tackling the cols alone, I really got to know not only my physical capability, but my inner chimp. I not only came back a different cyclist, but ready to better my performance. I was finally in love with the bike again.

With lighter evenings kicking in, I was now back on the bike 3 – 4 times a week – mixing it up with long weekend rides and some challenging Cat 3 & 4 climbs in the Chilterns, track-training on a Thursday, and some fast, short interval based rides mid week.

Another week in the Alps at the end of June, and I could really see the difference. This time I wasn’t alone. But I not only felt comfortable, I knew how to pace myself and not succumb to the pressure of those that were faster around me. I came back broken, having never cycled or climbed so much in one week before, but I now knew I was capable of more.

Although I’d aimed to become a grimpeuse by the end of the 2013 season, I can happily say I’d already beaten my goal, if not bettered it. Of course, I still have plenty to improve on, but compare me to the cyclist of last year, and you wouldn’t recognise me. I don’t recognise me!

Race Day
The week before RideLondon I was struck down with a chest infection and fever; my lungs collapsing on me and a course of antibiotics prescribed. My worst nightmare and one I seem to live every time I have a big cycle event coming up. Feeling particularly rubbish, all of my enthusiasm had washed out the window, more a fear that I wouldn’t be able to start, let alone complete the full 100 miles comfortably. It was only 2 days before “race day” that I decided I would start and see how I got on. And aren’t I glad I did!

My alarm rung loud at 5am on Sunday morning. I stumbled out of bed into the lycra I’d already laid out the night before, and clambered into the already loaded car trying to eat some form of breakfast – in this instance a banana, 2 boiled eggs prepared the night before and a cup of tea. Entering London on eearily empty roads, I hadn’t really anticipated the eery empty roads I would soon by cycling on.

Arriving at the Olympic park, I was shocked at the sheer number of cyclists in their pens, like patient cattle waiting for the farmer to open the gate. There were hundreds, if not thousands, and I was only seeing an 8th, maybe even a 9th of the total number of cyclists that would pass through the start line that day.

Riding for Skoda, we were welcomed into the VIP tent, brekkie thrown in. Still half asleep, I only batted half an eyelid at Laura Trott and Dani King of Wiggle-Honda Pro team sat at the table tucking into their bacon rolls.

Me and the Matrix Fitness Girls

Taking advantage of the open roads

After a quick discussion with the rest of Team Skoda about our target times, the 6 of us were directed into our wave ready to start at a very prompt 7.50am, along with other Skoda cyclists and the girls from Matrix Fitness RA.

The start was strange. Not only were we swarmed by thousands of other cyclists, all with the same intention, but we were on completely closed roads, ignoring traffic lights and riding straight through junctions. For the first 5 – 10km, the majority were keeping to the left of the road, obviously feeling out of their comfort zone encroaching ‘the other side’. Soon losing the other Team Skoda members, I stuck with the Matrix Fitness girls, Hannah Walker, Jessie Walker and Emma Grant, as we weaved our way through the cyclists, out of the city and into the countryside of Surrey.

The 4 of us had concerns that the ‘swarm’ would continue into the hills, making it difficult to complete the course in a time of our choosing. But come Newlands Corner (not long after a little crash I had as a result of a stopping peloton on a narrowing road), the masses had started to thin.

Apart from ‘lethal’ Leith Hill, the last 25km had to be the toughest. I’d lost the girls following a medic stop at 50 miles and the motivating cheers of ‘you need to beat Boris, he’s ahead of you‘ were a distant memory. Everything was hurting, I couldn’t find a wheel I felt comfortable to sit on, and I just wanted to finish. Pulling onto the Mall, the crowds roaring with support, I was able to use the last of what energy I had to pick up my speed and cross the line with a smile on my face.

6 hours and 24 minutes after starting (including the 30 minute medic stop to clean my wounds), I had finished, lungs in tact! I was particularly happy to roll up to the second Skoda tent of the day, park my bike and enjoy indulging in some proper food, a shower and the Men’s Pro Race.

2014?
If you fancy giving RideLondon 2014 a go, the ballot opens this Monday, 12th August. Good luck!

 

With Thanks:

A massive thank you has to be passed on to the following people and companies:

Skoda & Cycling Plus for providing me the opportunity to take part in a fantastic event, with a big part of that thank you to Jonathan Durling for the support throughout the past few months, and the grandstand tickets!

Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, Helen and Stef Wyman for all of their support at Skoda training events, with particular mention to Hannah, Jessie and Emma for their support on the day.

Team Skoda – without the banter, training rides and comparison of notes over the past few months, the event wouldn’t have been the same without them. Well done all!

Boris Johnson, Prudential, the event marshals and St Johns Ambulance for laying on a fantastic event normally unimaginable for London and very much reminiscent of the Netherlands.

The spectators – a lot more than I was expecting – but awesome, every one of them!

And of course, my wonderful friends and family for all their support and for putting up with my moaning!

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

A League of Lessons

Track Cycling Reading Velodrome Swarbrick_RTL_20100719_01It’s no secret that one of my goals this year is to start track racing. I bought my #pocketrocket at the beginning of the year and joined Reading Velodrome on a Thursday evening for structured training and accreditation from British Cycling coaches.

Four weeks later, after cycling in circles in some very questionable weather (think snow, ice and -2 wind chills), I was officially ready to race at Reading Track league and officially had my first BC race license in my hand riding under Rollapaluza CC (who else would I become a member of but the kings of spin!!)

This is the moment I’d been waiting for. But I can’t say I wasn’t a little nervous. I’d been able to witness the ‘pros’ (well, that’s what I call them given they’ve been riding and racing for a while) at the structured sessions and had the opportunity to practice with them on a couple of occasions when the coaches clearly wanted to see what I was made of. I was also aware about the lack of women that participate in league, which means the races are limited to a final rather than heats; or if against the men, rather tough.

I’d already identified that my main limitation was of tactical knowledge in each of the different races and if anything this is what was going to hold me back, even down to knowing what was actually required in a Devil v a Keirin! And so, I dragged my Dad along for support, not that he objected given his love for the sport.

The key to racing, as Heather has very rightly written in her previous posts about racing, is preparation. This is where I failed on a number of counts.

Firstly, I managed to pack what I thought was everything I needed. I even did a run down before I left the house – shoes, check! Socks, check! Bibs, check!… But somehow, even though it hangs above the front door, I forgot my helmet. Just as well Dad was with me, on hand to lend me his.

Lesson number 1 – write a pre-race check list and place it somewhere I can check and double check it before leaving.

Second failure of the evening was the warm up. New to the sport, I haven’t yet invested in a set of rollers, let alone tried a pair, nervous that my housemate is likely to come home to find me wedged between a wall and a kitchen cabinet. Aware that I needed to be warm, I did what laps I could on the inner circuit of the track trying to raise my heart rate to a decent race equivalent, but it clearly wasn’t enough. End of the first race and all I can taste is metal and I’m wheezing like a Grampus. Not a great sign! And so, I seek out a set of rollers before the next race and low and behold manage to sit comfortable and spin.

Lesson number 2 – warm up properly!

My #pocketrocket & borrowed helmet

My #pocketrocket & borrowed helmet

I may have already learnt two key lessons, but if anything my evening was a success. The first race was a mixed Omnium. With a nasty headwind on the far straight, the bunch stayed together for the majority of the ride, and I managed to hang on in the middle for most of the race. I got caught on the front of a split half way through the 20 laps, but it soon came back together and I managed to keep my legs spinning, avoid a few close wheel touches to find the extra energy to push through the finish line… and I wasn’t last! Result! The second and final race for me that evening was the ladies Keirin. 3 of the 5 riders have been competing since they were juniors. I stood no chance. My first experience of sprinting off the line for the derny. I had no other objectives but to watch and learn. I now know what I need to do next time round.

Someone had given me wise advice that league is the best place to learn tactics and get to proper grips with racing, and they weren’t wrong. I can’t wait to get back to league next week and build on these lessons. This time with my helmet packed on a set of rollers to hand.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Meet #TeamSkoda for RideLondon

#TeamSkoda for RideLondonWhen I saw the bombardment of tweets about those that had been lucky enough to get a place in this year’s RideLondon, I realised I was missing out on something. At the time, I was living in Amsterdam. I didn’t know where I was going to be come August 2013, and I hadn’t really grasped just what RideLondon was at the point of the application deadline back in August 2012.

As more and more friends around me started to brag about their place, I was secretly plotting to turn up and ride the course not wanting to miss out, although I wouldn’t have the medal and official finish time to brag about at the end.

And then, I just happen to see this:

“Calling all female readers – this competition has been extended as we are looking for some female entrants to… fb.me/I2dhuqpJ

Meet #TeamSkoda

Meet #TeamSkoda

Hmmmm…. This sounds interesting! Thinking nothing of it, I wrote a short profile about my cycling experience and my goals for the year – to start track racing and become a competent hill climber – added a couple of photos and sent it off to CyclingPlus and Bike Radar. Expecting there to be many stronger riders than myself applying, I was rather in shock to open my email one morning the following week to this: “Congratulations! You’ve been picked as 1 of 6 to ride for Team Skoda!” ARGH!! I was stunned. Me? They picked ME?!

Prudential RideLondon is an annual world-class festival of cycling developed by the Mayor of London, London & Partners and Transport for London in partnership with Surrey County Council. Held over the weekend of 3rd and 4th August, Skoda are supporting the weekend as the Official Car Supplier with over 30 support cars provided for the event.

The weekend features a series of events for amateur, club and world elite cyclists, the 100 mile road race will take place on closed-roads through London and Surrey and is expected to attract up to 200,000 visitors and 70,000 cyclists including an eight-mile family-fun ride featuring London’s most iconic landmarks.  It’s quite possibly the largest event of it’s kind in the UK, and continuing the legacy of last year’s London Olympics is expected to be a fantastic weekend on two wheels.

Not only do I get to wear Team Skoda kit as I train over the coming months (eagerly sat waiting the postman for delivery) but we also get the privilege of training with Rapha-Condor JLT and Matrix Fitness. This is an unbelievable experience.

On April 17th, I set off to the Welsh town of Pontipridd. Set up on the forecourt of the Skoda garage were the event trailers of Skoda Cycling and the Rapha-Condor JLT and Matrix Fitness support cars, complete with team members. Ed Clancy and James McCallum representing the force of Rapha, and Helen Wyman and Harriet Owen of Matrix Fitness; the latter whom I had the pleasure of spending 60km of challenging Welsh terrain with.

Harriet Owen & Helen Wyman of Matrix Fitness

Harriet Owen & Helen Wyman of Matrix Fitness

One of the best experiences of the day was having the Matrix Fitness support car with Stefan Wyman up along side me for majority of the ride, who thankfully, provided some much needed motivation and words of advice on the 12% sharp climbs and 5 mile “mini Alpe d’Huez” of the Blwych. In the car with Stefan was our camera man for the day – recording every moment of my ride. Trying to look comfortable (and keep the language clean) on those tough climbs was not easy, especially as all I wanted to do was hold on to the car and let it do the hard work for me – couldn’t have that on camera though! After all, I have 100 miles of tough cycling ahead of me in August.

Getting to ride up, close and personal with pros is a priceless experience – seeing just how they handle certain ride situations, their power output on climbs in comparison to the flats, and receiving general advice from those that know best. And, there was no need for any star-struck moments, they were typically happy to share their passion for the bike with us.

For once, Wales stayed dry and fairly warm apart from a decent headwind which only helped as a natural break reaching 70kmph on the decent from the top of the Blwych. Wales, which will feature highly in this year’s Tour of Britain, can be best described as the ‘Alps on our doorstep’. Fantastic challenging climbs perfect for a long-weekend without the long travel time. And, the boys from Ajax Cycling Club who lead us out that day, would be more than happy to lead you out on a Sunday too!

 

For more information about RideLondon visit: http://www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk

You can also track our progress in Cycling Plus magazine over the coming months, or following #teamskoda.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk