….Well maybe Queen of Richmond Park!
Today I rode out with the lovely Alicia Bamford, founder of Queen of the Mountains, a new women’s performance cycling brand launching via Kickstarter.
Queen of the Mountains is building a strong community of female cyclists, with regular rides on Tuesdays in Regents Park, Thursdays in Richmond Park and a variety of Sunday rides with brunch!
This morning’s ride was super social, with everyone chatting and enjoying the winter sun. The ethos of the rides is to welcome all women (and men), of all abilities. No one is left behind and the chat continues over coffee post ride.
Information about the rides can be found on the website where you can sign up for the newsletter for regular ride updates. A longer ride is planned for Mothers Day from Giro Cafe in Esher; what a perfect way for mums to get some me time!
Alicia told me they have adventurous plans for future cycling events to inspire women to challenge themselves.
“We want to inspire women to ride and to climb their own mountain, to set their own challenge and feel that sense of achievement on the way up, as well as at the summit. We’re introducing more women to the beauty, freedom and sense of achievement that comes with cycling.”
I got a sneak preview of the Spring/Summer collection, inspired by Mont Ventoux, which is available for pre-order on the Queen of the Mountains Kickstarter page. There is only 7 days left, so act swiftly if you are keen to be one of the first to wear this stunning kit.
The first range includes beautiful, technical jerseys, shorts, gilets, socks and more, all designed for women. Manufactured in Italy, using performance technical wicking fabrics, the kit is cut specifically for the female body shape in the riding position. It has well thought out features such as a waterproof zipped jersey pocket for your smart phone and no scratchy labels!
We are hoping to get some kit to try out on a ride soon so watch this space……
You can also find Queen of the Mountains on Facebook and Twitter
The secret training products are relatively new to the scene; the main man behind these intriguing new products is Tim Lawson. Tim also being the founder of the well-known nutritional products SIS (Science in Sport) has vast experience with developing the best nutrition products for over 20 years. Tim also being a fantastic athlete himself is working with athletes from all levels from beginners right through to elite athletes.
The brand Secret Training have started out with The Strip System which includes:
Pins in a Tin
Micro-Fibre Body Cloths
Post Race Wash
All these products can be bought separately or as a Race Day Personal Care Kit (£49.99); this means all the products come in a tidy bag to keep them all together. Having used these products since they were first launched they have accompanied me to all my races. I definitely believe they are a worthwhile investment towards your racing and personal care, helping you to keep clean and comfortable while riding your bike. There is nothing better than products that make your cycling more enjoyable. Having one bag of essentials when you’re racing and travelling filled with all the essential bits and bobs you need (and often forget) is brilliant.
More recently the team at Secret Training have been developing nutritional products which were properly introduced on the 7th January 2015 at their open event. This presentation consisted of the riders and media getting their first taste of the Stealth Gels and Stealth Super Hydration Drinks with the Strip products also being featured. While trying the assortment of gels (Banana, Lemon & Lime, Citrus, Tropical, Berry), my personal favourite was obvious – the Banana Gel, which seemed to be a popular first choice with a lot of the cyclists present. Tim was there to talk through the science behind the Gels and how they work, unlike some other brands gels the Banana gels actually have real banana in them! The gels can be bought individually for £1.25, £17.50 for a pack of 14. The Berry Energy Gel with Caffeine & Betaine and Banana Gel cost a little more at £24.50 for 14 or £1.75 for single shots, I’m not sure why this is but I’m guessing it’s to do with the cost of the fruit and caffeine ingredients being more expensive or the process involved in integrating them into the gel. As well as trying the Gels the Super Hydration Drinks were a big hit with me coming in a wide range of flavours; Lemon & Lime, Blackcurrant & Elderflower, Mango & Passionfruit and also Lemon Tea. They retail from £15.99 for a selection pack of 20x 14g sachets; each sachet mixes with 500ml of water – to £24.99 for a 600g tub of a single flavour, so they are competitively priced. Each of the flavours are well balanced and relatively neutral, with no overpowering flavours or after taste. The gels and hydration drinks are easy to consume and enjoyable, unlike some other nutritional products I have previously used which have been hard to stomach in the quantities you need to aid your performance.
From speaking to Tim I have found out they are currently working on developing recovery drinks, so there is a lot more to come from this new brand and I can’t wait to see the results. Furthermore Tincoff-Saxo riders are being supported by all products produced by Secret Training, they will be providing valuable feedback for the brand to enable the development of flavours and product ranges, the aim is to provide exactly what riders need and want.
CyclingShorts.cc give Secret Training products a Star Buy rating of 97%:
Personal Care Kit – 98/100
The Personal care kit is unique as I don’t know anything like it.
Nutrition Products – 96/100
In my opinion the nutrition products are the best, better than SIS, Tim said it was very difficult to make ones better but he thinks they have – I have to agree!
I really like the products, try them for yourself, the secret is out!
You can check out the range at: www.secret-training.cc
A Time to Reflect
So it is New Years Eve and time for many of us to reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming year.
I often wonder what each year will bring and look back with mixed emotions on the year past. Learning from the hard moments and reminding myself of the successes and high points, both providing motivation for the coming year.
January is here and many of us will be looking forward to the warmer weather and riding on empty roads in the summer sun, I know I am. BUT I have a confession to make I am secretly hoping to get some serious snow before winter is over as I just love riding in the crisp cold that snow brings, and I think that there are few things more changeling then getting out on your CX bike on the cycle paths and bridle ways in the white stuff. I digress so back to the main point.
I have a few things on my list for the year and I am really looking forward to working hard to meet as many of my goals as possible.
First on my list has to be train more and eat less! Mind you this has been top of my list for several years but I have started to do something about this in earnest from the middle of last year onwards. I must now just keep it going. The Gym and Turbo training is going to play a big part of this. As a premium user on Strava I have just signed up to some CTS training plans so watch this space!
Next is to consider going abroad to get some early season miles in, I do not really want to head out to a full on training camp but would rather hit something I can tailor to suit mine and my friends needs. (I have a feeling that Mrs Bikeboyslim might have an impact on this goal!)
Finally, I want to make sure I hit the French Roads in the summer, for my four week block with leading rides in the Vendee, will reduced weight improve stamina and top end speed, ready to get my big block of training in before I ride the Keswick Adventure X Monster Miles.
So what better to talk to friends and hit the internet to do a little bit of research and find some possible companies and destinations that fit the bill.
Cycle San Remo
I am sure, if like me, you love getting out and about on your bike in classic cycling countries then where better than the town at the end of one of the all time best spring classics, Milan – San Remo.
Cycle San Remo offers all this and more, including riding over to the Monaco sea front for lunch or being in Italy for the Giro.
The city of San Remo, which was founded in Roman times in a large inlet on the western Ligurian coast, is known as “The Pearl of the Riviera of the flowers” and is famous throughout the world for its perfect climatic conditions.
The climate is mild all year round, due to a privileged geographic location, protected from the north winds ensuring a lowering of the rainfall quotient. Added to this, this stretch of coastline experiences temperatures which allow the growing of tropical plants in the luxuriant botanical gardens which extend the length of the “Riviera of the Flowers”.
The climate, the cafes, restaurants and the classic roads, what more could a cyclist ask for?
Cycle San Remo holidays on the Italian Coast
Cycle San Remo is run by Mark Newman and Andy Marsden.
Mark lives in Italy, near to San Remo, with his wife Julie. They moved there full time in 2006 after buying a house there in 2001. Mark has worked hard at building up contacts with businesses, politicians and locals in the area and has extensive knowledge of the terrain, roads, culture and history of the region. He is a good Italian speaker, with some knowledge of German and French too. Mark has been riding a bike since his early teens and also managed teams in various guises taking them to leading events in the UK (Girvan, Tour of Lancashire etc.) and also many European races. Mark was also the manager of Andy Marsden when he was racing on the indoor velodromes in Ghent and Antwerp. Julie runs her café bar in the mountains of the Argentina Valley behind San Remo catering to mostly local clientele who are very demanding in their quest for the best coffee in the region.
Andy assists Mark with groups of cyclists when they visit Italy, plus manning the stands at the various trade shows such as Eurobike in Friedrichschafen, Germany and Bike Motion at Utrecht, Holland. Andy has raced extensively in the UK as an elite, plus rode in Belgium for the small professional squad Asfra Flanders.
Cycle San Remo is a holiday on the bike, riding in beautiful scenery, taking in much of the Milan – San Remo final miles such as the Cipressa, Poggio and sprint finish along the Via Roma in the heart of San Remo. Cycle San Remo’s aim is to share with clients some of the culture of Italian life, with the best cafes, restaurants and the warmest hospitality in the region, including forays into the areas around Nice & Menton, which was ceded around 150 years ago from Italy, and the elegance of Monaco nestling between the two countries.
San Remo coastal cycle route
Distances covered vary, but around 100km per day is the norm. It all depends on the group dynamics and we never, ever leave anyone behind. Julie (Mark’s wife) also offers trekking in the mountains and is more than happy to take people either on a tough walk to the summit of Saccarello at 2200 metres or more gentle strolls through olive groves and chestnut forests.
Cycle San Remo use two hotels; a small family run business in the mountains, some 10km from the coast at Montalto and a much larger modern hotel directly on the beach, this too is family run. Both offer outstanding food and a fine selection of wines.
If this has whet you appetite then Andy and Mark hold an informal presentation at the Tandem House cycling café in Stockport on Friday 16th January. Guest speakers as well as Cycle San Remo will be Barry Broadbent, a former UCI commissaire and head of the anti-drugs testing at several Tours de France, Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta plus many of the top European one day classics, Ryan Bonser, Team Sky mechanic and also Darren Kenny.
If you can’t make the presentation Mark is available on UK mobile 0774 705 4293 until the end of January then on his Italian number (0039) 346 372 6542
Check the website for full details www.cyclesanremo.com. Riding in Italy is certainly on my bucket list and I am sure we will be heading over to ride with Mark and Andy in the not too distant future.
Cycle San remo’s 2015 programme starts with Milan – San Remo, flying in on the 21st March for the race the following day. Then we have Like Bike Monaco over the Easter period and the opening stages of the Giro d’Italia with the Grande Partenza opening with a team time trial along the bike path in San Remo.
This year they are also running six Darren Kenny Cycling Schools throughout the season. Darren is an O.B.E. and gold medallist in several Paralympics.
The season starts in March and runs through to the end of October so groups can book either a long weekend, flying in Friday mornings and leaving Monday late afternoons or evenings, or for a full week from Saturday to Saturday. The airport of choice is Nice, just across the border in France and just about an hour transfer time. It is served by most UK airports by several airlines, including Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways etc.
Your Bike Travel
Alex Dowsett with members of team YBT
Your Bike Travel (YBT) was set up by cycling enthusiast Gareth Stonier in 2013. When starting the company Gareth wanted to do so alongside a current top level professional rider who could help him choose the best locations and rides for YBT’s clients, as well as being available to ride with their guests whenever possible. In fact YBT claim it is the only cycling holiday company set up with the help of a current World Tour rider.
Thus YBT began their relationship with Team Movistar’s rider Alex Dowsett. Alex helped the company choose the
YBT’s support car with Team Belkin.
locations, hotels and different rides available to meet all levels of cyclists. The company has run two annual ride with a pro events where guests get the opportunity to ride alongside Alex and gaining many handy hints and helpful riding tips from him.
I had a chance to talk to Alex about the new business at a round of Revolution in Manchester. It became very clear during our conversion that he is really passionate about making sure they are the best in the business and that they offer a wide range of opportunities for all.
YBT run holidays from two locations, Alicante and Majorca, which is no surprise as around 80% of the current World Tour cycling teams run their winter training camps at these two locations. Both locations offer great winter weather and selection of quiet training roads.
YBT’s Mechanical support
The company offers a choice of three or four star hotels along with self catering apartments for those who prefer a bit more freedom. YBT offer both guided and non-guided holidays at their range of locations. The neat things about YBT is that you can get a group of friends together or organise a bike club week away and YBT will tailor the week for you.
YBT’s packages range from non guided breaks from 3 to 14 days, guided 7 or 14 day breaks and specialist triathlete packages which include everything a triathlete could need, and of course carbon bike hire for those who don’t want to travel with their bike. Packages are available all year round and normally they can be arranged for guests within 48 hours.
YBT’s website has great information about the possible rides and includes ever important ride profile. They use some top quality hotels in each destination, all fit for a World Tour rider.
Unfortunately you won’t always be able to ride with Alex, just check the website for details of opportunities to train or ride with him. However YBT has four great riders on the ground to offer help and support:-
- GarethStonier, Cycling enthusiast and amateur timetriallist. Also works as a guide forYourbiketravel.
Excellent quiet roads
- Jario Armando Losasa, Ex professional rider from Colombia. Armando has ridden in Europe, South America & the US at the highest level. Great people skills and riding experience are his strengths.
- Fernando Perez, Fernando currently competes in the Lubricantes Benacantil amateur team. Another affable and intelligent guy. A real asset for Yourbiketravel.
- David Gomis, Fernando’s team mate at Lubricantes Benacantil and a great descender. Friendly and always willing to offer help and advice.
One of the bonuses of choosing YBT is that you can make travelling easier by hiring one of their bikes for as little as £69 for the week, possibly cheaper then flying/traveling with your own pride and joy.
Chatting with Gareth the other day he was very proud to tell me,
“This is only the company’s second full year since its inception and bookings are already being placed with guests who visited in 2014. Which means we must be doing something right!”
If you want to find out more then take a trip to YBT’s website at www.yourbiketravel.com planning and booking your trip is ultra simple.
Cycling Holidays Spain
“We have been training in this part of Spain year after year, its amazing”
— Mark Cavendish
If you want to train like a pro and ride where the pros ride in the winter then CHS is the company for you.
Since 2000 CHS have been providing bespoke training camps for cyclists of all levels.
Based in the beautiful marina Alta mountains of the Costa Blanca within easy reach of Alicante and Valencia airport, CHS have proved themselves as a leader in cycling training camps and holidays.
Relaxing evenings by the pool.
CHS is owned and run by Nozad Nawras an Englishman who with his parents moved to Spain some 20 years ago,
Nozad used to live in London and was a Special needs teacher (Science and PE teacher) covering a wide spectrum of
Team CHS support car.
disabilities. His passion had always been sport and although being a footballer, when he made the difficult decision to give up football having played at almost the top level, he made the transition to endurance events, ‘which was tough as I was genetically a sprinter!’
Nozad has represented his country in Athletics, qualified for the world champs in triathlon a few years back, and regularly hooked up with the odd pro rider out in Spain as well as the Brownlee brothers who train in the region. He now races road bikes in Spain.
The first training camps started back in 2000 during his holiday times as a teacher. He saw huge potential as the conditions are the best with perfect roads and perfect weather.
It was when his dad passed away 4 years ago that he moved over full time. Nozad says ‘I owe him everything, His hard work has allowed me to continue a passion of mine and provide a great training camp and service to many cyclists who now are great friends of mine.’
Team Astana on winter training block.
So what are you looking for from a training camp? Maybe CHS might just have the answer for you. They certainly know how to make you feel at home, in fact CHS provides you with a real home from home, from the healthy home cooked food, using local fresh produce to the post ride massage and spa, everything you could want is on hand. When you are out on the road, there is no need to worry about mechanicals as the CHS team car is on hand to support all your needs on the excellently guided rides, and you never know you might just find yourself mixing it with some of the pro teams out on their winter training block.
Being able to put your passion to the test without compromise is what CHS is all about. They cater for cyclists of all levels and base their philosophy on the fact that given the right conditions and support, you can train to your max and improve every area of your cycling from fitness to technique.
The CHS model is based around how pro teams train during their winter blocks. Everything is taken care of allowing you to focus 100% of your time on riding and development, it’s all about the bike! CHS pride themselves on their outstanding reputation and client feedback. At CHS they strive to make your training experience the best it can be and they have a true passion for cycling.
So if you’re a cyclist, no matter what level and you want the best in training camps, with the extra special personal touch, then C.H.S claim that they can and will deliver.
This appears to upheld with their full, all inclusive Pro Package cost £475 for the week, offering great value for money. Just add in travel and bike transportation or hire one of CHS’s full carbon bikes for an extra £100.
If you want to find out more then visit www.cyclingholidayspain.co.uk and start planning your holiday today.
This company came to my attention via the guys a Bikechainricci in Cornwall, who have used them before and rate them very highly. Bikechainrici had invited me along on one of their trips, which sadly I could not join as it was in term time (the joys of teaching!).
Trek Travels website makes the following claim:-
TREK TRAVEL MAKES EVERY MOMENT MAGICAL.
YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO GO HOME.
Sipping wine off the coast of the Mediterranean. Lounging in the finest hotels in Europe and climbing the most epic mountain passes you could ever imagine. At Trek Travel, we’ve custom-built the perfect vacations for lovers of luxury, disciples of cycling, and families who want to see the world like they’ve never seen it before.
A Trek Travel vacation is unlike any bike trip you’ve ever taken, from first clip-in to final farewell. Why?
They claim the reason’s are simple
OUR GUIDES ARE TRAINED TO MAKE YOUR TRIP MAGICAL.
They aren’t just experts in riding; they’re trained in delivering uncompromising service in ways you won’t believe. We know that it’s the unexpected surprises that make a trip magical. That’s why our guides pride themselves on anticipating your needs before you ask. It’s their job to provide you with moments of “wow”.
WE INCLUDE MORE.
When you choose Trek Travel, you get so much more than the experience of a lifetime. Added benefits like discounts on bike purchases, special Trek jerseys or arm warmers and socks, a dedicated travel coordinator and exclusive events to connect you with your fellow travelers are just a few of the special touches to make your trip even better.
WE ARE THE BIKE TOUR EXPERTS.
One look at our travel calendar and you’ll see: travel options abound. We offer cycling trips around the globe, from Zion National Park to the Croatian coast, and everything in between. And since we’re the world leader in bicycle tours, we know the best hotels, dining, excursions and rides. All with that special “insider” twist.
TREK BICYCLES SET US APART.
It wouldn’t be the perfect vacation without the perfect bike. That’s why we’re proud to offer a complete selection of Trek bikes, from the race-ready Domane with electronic shifting to the cruiser-comfortable Trek 7.6 FX hybrid. The best part? Your perfectly tuned-and-ready bike is already included in the trip cost. Upgrades are available as well.
YOUR DAY. YOU DECIDE.
Perhaps you want to spend the day taking a quiet ride through the Tuscan hillside or touring the local village, but your spouse has always wanted to ride the famous switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez or the moonscape of Ventoux. At Trek Travel, our vacations are built to deliver the ultimate in flexibility. Our guides can accommodate the most hard-core roadies while delivering unparalleled attention to the needs of all vacationers, all at the same time. You pick your mileage, itinerary and experiences. We take care of the rest.
GUARANTEED TO RUN*.
Rest assured when you book with us your trip will run.
*For most trips this will apply, but some trips are so special we need a few more people to run them.
Some very bold claims and looking over the website Trek Travel certainly seems to much more like the Kuoni of cycling holidays. They have a multiplicity of destinations from Majorca to Moab. Just be aware when you are looking at prices on the web, Trek list the total cost and it is only when you open the specific holiday will you get an idea of the price per person. Trek certainly caters for every type of rider including some family holidays and they make it very easy to select the holiday that is right for you.
So if you want a package cycling holiday then get in touch with Trek Travel at www.trektravel.com
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! Who would I pick? To be fair I would probably rule out Trek Travel. This is purely and simply a personal preference, I really do not like the big corporate look of Trek and to be totally honest I like going with the smaller and maybe more personal businesses, the companies where the employees have much more of a stake in what they are doing. However I know that have always had excellent service from Trek Travel.
So for me it would have to be Cycle San Remo, CHS or YBT and to be fair I just can’t split the three. For the full on chilled riviera experience it would have to be Cycle San Remo, however if I wanted to train like a pro it is impossible to split CHS and YBT. But at the end of the day, as they say, ‘The choice is yours!’.
All I can say is whoever you go with I hope you have an amazing time. Remember It’s all about the bike!
Happy Cycling Holidays.
Earlier this year my wonderful wife surprised me with a Tandem for our 25th Wedding anniversary, which does fit in the back of our people carrier however does not allow us to have anyone else in the car, which would be a bit of a problem when we head to France for our family summer holiday. The solution a tandem roof rack, but which one?
If I am honest I have never really been a fan of bike racks that clamp onto the frame, they often scuff or damage the tube they clamp to and the the thought of only one clamp point with a Tandem did not appeal.
I scoured the marketplace and came up with three main options but the cost of two of the choices really ruled them out, so I finally plumped for the Pendle Tandem Carrier with front fork clamp. It also meant that I would be supporting a British Engineering firm, in my eyes a big bonus.
The prices direct from Pendle where not great so I placed an order via www.roofbox.co.uk a company I have used over the years to buy roof rack items at very reasonable prices and that was certainly true of the Pendle Rack.
I eagerly awaited the arrival of the bike rack, almost like an expectant father. Roofbox did not let me down, rapid delivery to my place of work in plenty of time for my test run for the Great Manchester Cycle a few weeks before our holiday.
The weekend before the ride I decided to fit the rack to our roof bars, as we no longer live in the 70’s flat pack world of missing parts and several trips backwards and forwards for missing screws and nuts, I assumed I did not need to go through the check list provided with the rack. How wrong could I be!!
I quickly and easily assembled the main part of the rack body and got it in place to clamp to the roof bars, but wait there is something missing. No maybe I missed them in the shrink wrapped packaging, surely the bottom plates for clamping to the roof bars are still in the box. After several minutes of vigourusly shaking the box nothing, they where missing, unbelievable! A quick email to Pendle to ask for the parts job sorted, but no joy ‘please contact supplier’. Ok fair enough but surely they will only contact Pendle etc etc. A quick call to Roofbox and a very helpful customer service assistant kept me on hold while she rang Pendle and got the parts shipped directly to me (Roofbox 10, Pendle 0!).
The parts arrived the following day and I fitted the rack to the roof bars, but wait I am two bolts short! A quick hunt through my own spares box and two suitable bolts later rack fitted and set up in time for the Great Manchester Ride.
I contacted Pendle direct about the missing bolts and the over all initial lack of service. I did get an email back from one of the directors offering me bolts but to be fair it was sorted. I really wanted to point out that we are no longer in the era of parts falling off cars and missing bits from self assembly furniture, and that it might be an idea to actually do some quality control on final packaging.
On a positive note the rack does do what is says on the tin and works really well holding the tandem in place very securely, which is all it needs to do. (Pendle 10 out of 10 for functionality). It is not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing item and maybe not of the highest quality for chroming and powder coating but that does not matter too much.
When we arrived in France I noticed another family with a Pendle rack and asked if they had any problems with supply. They too had bought from Roofbox with excellent service, and yes they too had parts missing for the bike rack, you’ve guessed it bottom plate and bolts. Hmm looks like mine is not an isolated instance. Come on Pendle! Nelson, Lancashire is surely not languishing 30 years behind us all, get your quality control sorted!
Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude (Pendle) 10%
Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude Roofbox 100%
I would recommend Roofbox for bike rack and roof bar supplies, but I might just pay the extra and avoid the hassle of buying a Pendle rack again.
RRP: £162.00 for both versions