“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”
“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”
“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”
People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!
Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.
Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.
A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.
I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.
Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!
I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.
The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.
The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.
Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!
Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.
When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.
Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”
FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.
FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016
In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.
Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”
“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year, this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”
Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”
You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter
Established in 2013, a Northern-Irish based start up company called See.Sense, Kickstarter funded ICON intelligent lights.
I tested the rear ICON light which has two 95 lumen CREE LEDs and retails at £64.99.
The box contained 2 x rubber mounts, USB cable, the light and a simple, clear user guide.
The set of front and rear is £119.99 and the 30% brighter ICON+ is also available at £149.99 for the set.
ICON is primarily designed as a ‘to be seen’ light, giving up to 270 degrees of side visibility. This is ideal in urban environments. The front ICON has twin LED’s, one with a focused beam, and one with a dispersed beam. According to See.Sense 80% of accidents happen in daylight and the ICON is certainly bright enough to be visible in daylight.
So what is so clever about it…..?
Within 2 minutes of opening the package I had downloaded the app and connected the light with my iphone via Bluetooth. The app allows you to:
- Check your battery level
- Change from flashing light to constant
- Customise your lights to optimise your brightness/run-time using a simple slider
- Control multiple lights at once
- Set auto-on/off, which automatically turns off your light after 3 minutes of inactivity, or if you walk more than 3 metres from your light
- Turn on theft alert, the light will then send you an alert if anything or anyone disturbs your bike to a range of up to 15 metres
- Turn on crash alert, if you have a crash, ICON knows and will send a text to your nominated contact for help, which you can cancel if you are ok
- Download firmware and application updates as new features become available
The battery life is up to 15 hours (5hr charge) on flashing mode and on the light itself there is a mini LED to indicate battery level, green for 75%+ and red for less than 25%. The app gives a more accurate battery level and you can adjust the brightness of your light using the app, so it’s easy to maximise your battery life if you’re running low.
I am not sure I would ever adjust brightness/flashing with app myself, but it was fun initially dazzling the family!
See.Sense say the theft detection is ideal for the coffee stop, but would I leave my bike locked outside cafe with a £120 of lights still attached? And perhaps the alarm should be on the light, not the phone to scare away the thief? Having said that it worked and I did indeed get the alert when the light was moved.
I like the crash alert feature as I often ride alone, but the most impressive thing about the light is that it adapts to its environment, increasing its brightness and flash rate to keep you more visible in riskier situations such as junctions, roundabouts, filtering in traffic and to approaching car headlights. If you are in an urban setting, where there is a higher level of ambient lighting from street lighting and approaching cars at night, ICON will automatically adjust to be less bright. It is the only light in the world that can react to road junctions, filtering traffic, roundabouts and car headlights.
Even more intelligent is the fact that ICON will soon monitor your environment. It can monitor road surfaces, crashes, near-miss events, light levels, temperature levels and routes taken. With your permission data will be uploaded to the cloud and aggregated data can then be shared with councils to provide information for cycling infrastructure provision, pothole repairs and identify hot spot areas where there are a high frequency of ‘near-miss’ events and crashes.
Philip McAleese, CEO of See.Sense said, “It is our hope that ICON will help to ignite a cycling revolution. Not only does ICON enhance the cycling experience through improved safety and convenience, it also has the potential to empower cyclists to influence their cities through the use of highly accurate, crowd-sourced data. This can create smarter and better cities for everyone.”
It comes with a 12 month warranty and is weather sealed, the website actually shows it being dropped in a jug of water and mine has been soaked several times in winter rain and road spray with no adverse effects.
However after about 6 rides the on/off button became somewhat intermittent requiring a really hard press at an angle to switch the light on as if something is perhaps loose or out of alignment behind it.
The light itself is bulky and doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of some of the other lights on the market; one rider even went so far as to call it ‘ugly’.
Overall it is bright, functional and easy to fit. It is certainly visible and I even received a couple of complaints about how bright it is! Gadget lovers will like the app and although I hope I never need it, I feel reassured by the crash alert. It will be interesting to see how much data See.Sense is able to collect in the future and how this is used, anything that improves the cycling infrastructure and safety must be a good thing.
Watch this space… Visit seesense.cc website.
Most riders are obsessed with numbers in this Strava crazy world! We are always checking the data, the power, heart rate, time or speed for a session and obviously physical training is vitally important to becoming a successful road racer, but what about the other elements of racing that are often neglected?
Can you manage your emotions, your thoughts, your pre race nerves, your confidence levels?
Professor Steve Peters rose to fame with his Chimp Paradox Mind Model and is credited with much of the success of British riders in the past few years. Mental skills, like physical skills need time and effort to develop, how much time do you spend on them?
Simple things such as positive self talk to increase confidence and maintain focus, focused breathing techniques to control nerves and using imagery to visualise successful performances can make a significant difference.
Confidence also comes from setting SMARTER goals that include process goals. It is wonderful to have a goal of winning a specific race or completing a certain TT in a set time (an outcome goal), but often other factors outside your control influence these goals i.e. who else turns up for the race, how hard they have trained and the weather. You therefore need to set other goals or milestones that contribute to your overall goals for the season, or year. Ones that you are in control of, that will contribute to your long term goals and that you can be proud of achieving i.e. to have increased average cadence by X amount by X date, to have developed an effective warm up protocol by Spring or to have increased threshold power by X watts by X date, to have learnt to corner effectively in a bunch by Summer or to increase speed over a known course by X%. Achieving these milestones will bring confidence as you see your progress.
Pre race I recommend all my riders follow a set routine that works for them, I even ask them to write it down and plan it out along with a list of kit they need. This ensures there are no last minute panics. Using a set pre race routine and set warm up enables a rider to control their anxiety which in case is too much, experts recommend to use cbd hemp flowers.
During a race the mental skill most required is concentration and the ability to remain focussed at all times, a lapse in concentration could result in disaster. Post race it is vital to identify not just the areas for improvement, but all the things that went well. Try identifying 10 things that you did well each race i.e. did you complete a successful warm up, did you start in a good position, did you maintain a good position in the bunch, where you aware of the attacks, did you find a safe wheel to follow, did you hydrate well etc etc. Look for the positives; this is where confidence comes from! Always following the same process allows an athlete to get into the racing mindset. The British Cycling 20 minute warm is perfect for most events.
Racing Skills Session for 700cc at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit
Last year the Surrey League took the decision to make it compulsory for riders to attend two accredited race training sessions if they were planning to race in the league as a novice/Cat 4 racer. This year the South East Road Race League has done the same and it seems likely that other race organisers will follow suit.
These sessions cover a variety of technical skills for racing before progressing to some tactical skills including mock racing which is followed by a classroom session to discuss racing and training.
Having run a few of these sessions now, including some women’s only sessions, I truly believe riders at all levels can benefit from them. In the outside session we build the confidence to ride in close proximity to other riders, leaning on other riders, touching other riders, being in a bunch and moving through a bunch of riders.
Cornering in a bunch is very different to being cornering solo and being able to choose your line. Sessions like this give the opportunity to practise at speed in a safe environment. British Cycling has a great series of videos called Race Smart including one on Cornering in a Bunch which are well worth a look.
Women Only Session at Redbridge Cycle Circuit
Technique for mass starts and sprint finishes are covered and practised; in a race you only get to do each of these once and they are not the sort of things you should be practising with your mates on the open road! Often the main area for improvement on the mass starts is being able to clip your second foot in quickly without looking down, this is simple to practise on every ride and can make a huge difference to both your confidence on the start line and to the start itself.
All riders enjoy working on their strengths, the things they naturally excel at, but identifying and dedicating time to our weaknesses will pay dividends come race day!
The Sprint for the Line!
Knowledge really is power; do you know the demands of the races you are targeting? What is the circuit like? Is it a narrow circuit with tight corners, a wide circuit, an open road, is it hilly, where is the start/finish. If you are unable to ride the course or circuit pre race can you look at You Tube footage from previous races, look at Google Earth to get an idea of the layout, ask team mates or club mates what the circuit is like or even ask on social media. This will help you decide what skills you need to focus on most i.e. cornering or starts for town centre crits!
The excellent Race Smart videos cover everything from packing your bag to racing in high winds, but of course there is no substitute for getting out and practising so riders of all levels can benefit from this type of session.
Tactical skills are developed with experience, in your first few races really focus on observing the race, who did what, when and why? Where were the attacks? Was this a good place to attack? Did it work? Why? What happened in the race? How did you respond? How did others respond?
Watch other races live or on TV and see if you can work out what riders are doing and why? Observe how different tactics are used by individuals versus teams?
Then try some out! It is difficult to plan precisely, but have a strategy for the race or the course. Will you sit in the bunch and conserve energy as you know your strength is sprinting? Will you attack over the crest of a hill when other riders are easing off? Which attacks will you respond too? Where do attacks commonly happen on this circuit or course?
Early season races that are not your top priority for the year are good place to be brave and try out some tactics and see what might just work for you or your team.
So in 2016 will you develop your mental skills, your technical skills and your tactical skills alongside your physical training? You can bet the winners will be…….
According to the Chia Charge website the word Chia comes from the Mayan word for ‘strength’ and messengers could run all day with just a small handful of chia seeds! Apparently Aztec warriors survived on nothing but chia during conquests and Native Americans could march for 24 hours on a teaspoon of chia seeds! Modern day Tarahumara Indians in Mexico still carry chia with them during ultra runs through the desert.
I tried the Ultimate Chia Seed Bundle which is £10 delivered to your door. The bundle contains 1 Chia Charge Cacao & Cranberry Protein Bar, 1 Chia Charge Trail Mix, 1 Honey Trail Mix, 1 Original Flapjack with Sea Salt Flakes, 2 Mini Banana Flapjacks and 200g of Chia Seeds.
The trail mix didn’t make it to a trail, I demolished it as the desk and it was lovely. The seeds have been added successfully to smoothies and used as a breakfast topping and the website blog has lots of recipes to inspire you.
And…… I am now officially addicted to the flapjacks!
I have taken them on rides and counted the minutes until I can eat them! The full size flapjack was enough to fuel an 85km steady endurance ride, I ate it in two pieces, as at 80g and over 350 calories it is a substantial bar. The seeds keep you entertained for at least 30 minutes after eating the bars as they stick in your teeth, but I didn’t mind this as they gradually soften and it gave me something to take the mind of the miles! The bar travels well and didn’t become too hard despite the freezing temperatures.
My favourite is definitely the original flapjack with sea salt flakes, but the banana ones were delicious too and didn’t have that horrible artificial taste you often get with banana flavoured products; probably because there is nothing artificial about them. No flavourings, preservatives or colourings are added to the bars, just real sun dried bananas!
The protein bar is vegan, wheat free and made with cashews, sultanas, cranberries, dates, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cacao powder, goji berries, cacao nibs, cacao butter and sea salt flakes – what’s not to like!?
Tim Taylor the man behind Chia Charge, a food technologist and runner says “It is my belief that food, in particular sports nutrition, should be more than just fuel to keep the body going. Having tried a few sport nutrition and energy products I came to the conclusion that whoever makes these things was at the back of the queue when taste buds were handed out! A few years ago I started developing my own formulations in the kitchen at home. I wanted to create food that tastes delicious and helps you perform, the result of which was Chia Charge”
Chia seeds are 20% protein, 20% omega 3, high in antioxidants and fibre as well as low in sugar. They have a mild, nutty flavour and give a controlled energy release and promote fast recovery.
I have already bought some more of the flapjacks which are perfect fuel with fast acting carbohydrates to give you an immediate burst of energy and more complex carbohydrates to sustain your energy levels. The protein and Omega 3 and 6 will aid recovery and the sea salt flakes will also help electrolyte replacement, but far more importantly they taste amazing!
Chia Charge stockist are listed on the website and include a good variety of running, outdoor and cycling shops as well as Ocado or you can buy direct from the website with free postage over £25.
There is a new, no added sugar, berry flapjack on the way and I would love to try the nut butters.
You can find Chia Charge on YouTube here on Twitter @runningtimt + @chiacharge and like on Facebook
The flapjack really is amazing, I keep eating it!!
10/10 for the original flapjack, definitely addicted
Does What it Says on the pack
10/10 yummy bars, a natural superfood and no rubbish added, great fuel for riding
9/10 a box of 20 is £32 with 3 extra free bars and free postage so comparable to other bars on the market, but the price does go down the more you buy so only £25/box if you buy 5 which is great value
9/10 2 varieties of flapjack with a new one on the way, protein bars, raw seeds, nut butters, trail mix and the option to buy a mixed pack to try everything out
Easy to Eat
8.5/10 although I found far too easy to eat and could eat a whole box they are larger than normal energy bars so I found half was plenty which means faffing around returning the other half to your pocket and they do start to crumble a little once opened. Having said that the mini size is perfect. The bars travelled well and didn’t go hard in the cold.
93% it gets our star buy rating!
….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
This was the response from @Jonhinio when I asked the Twittersphere what was important on a Winter/Spring Cycling Training Camp!
Not surprisingly the other answers revolved around food, sun and scenery with @SJcyclist feeding back “I loved Mallorca, quiet roads, great weather, sympathetic drivers and stunning scenery”
It is often hard to fit winter miles in around life, work and of course the variable UK weather, so a winter or spring training camp allows you clock up some serious mileage before your racing season or sportive season starts and get some much needed vitamin D!
Whatever your cycling goals the extra hours in the saddle early season will certainly help and if you are aiming for a big sportive like the Etape du Tour you will have the chance to ride climbs of similar length, which we just don’t have in the UK.
And yes the food is vitally important! If you have only been riding occasionally over winter then expecting your body to ride 4-6 days in succession is a big ask, and certainly not wise on calorie deficit!
David Butcher, Owner of 7hundred in Windsor and organiser of Training Camps in the Costa Blanca, says
“Motivation is the biggest driver. When it’s dark and miserable in the UK it can be difficult to find the motivation to ride, that can affect endorphin levels creating a negative feedback loop. The allure of different roads and warmer climes, even if only for a short period, can help restore motivation and reinvigorate your training.”
Hundreds of options exist for organised training camps where everything is done for you, the real pro experience! Just book a flight and pack your bike (or even hire one there) and everything else is taken care of.
45 Degrees North in Morzine, in the French Alps offer a luxury chalet with a hot tub, delicious food from a professional chef, a Level 3 Performance Coach, complimentary sports massage, a bike mechanic, homemade energy bars, laundry facility and a full support vehicle to carry extra layers, tools, food and drinks (and riders who fancy starting part way up the climb or a lift home at the end of the day!).
I asked Chris Sellings at 45 Degrees North how a rider should choose a training camp.
“This depends entirely on you, your budget, what you want to get out of your training camp and absolutely the time of year. For example, if you are looking for an early training camp in the mountains, you can rule out the Alps, but could find several in Mallorca, Andalucia or even South East Asia. This depends on your race calendar and targeted events. Generally, athletes will attend a training camp early in the season (February to May for UK) to improve their base fitness before the season really kicks in. Athletes targeting races later in the season (August to September) can absolutely benefit from a training boost mid-season (June to August).Some people go for camps run by big name coaches and for others it’s about taking the opportunity to explore a new location. There are a plethora of training camps out there to meet every budget and time restraint. The key is to think about your race season and whether you want to attend a training camp to lay base fitness or to peak for an important race. This determines the time of year to aim for. Next think about the type of fitness you need for your race. There is little point heading to the mountains if you are targeting flat, fast crit races and vice versa. Then it comes down to your budget. If you can afford to attend a training camp run by a famous coach and staying in luxury accommodation, then get in fast and book. Otherwise seek out a good quality camp that offers great value for money and the more beautiful the rides on offer the better!”
Often riders are concerned about their ability to participate or concerned they might be the slowest and hold the group up. David from 7hundred advises “choose your camp carefully, if in doubt don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest about your abilities when discussing pace. Why not encourage those you ride with to join you? It’s not a race! It’s also easier to ride in a group you know”.
Chris agrees “We all have to start somewhere and any self-respecting training camp will recognise this and cater for weaker riders. There are a variety of ways to do this. Weaker riders will generally ride together with an experienced guide. For longer more challenging rides such as sportive routes, they may be set off before the faster groups and even from a point further along the route. There will be a no drop policy in place so you don’t need to fear being left behind and becoming lost. Sometimes vehicle support will be offered. This means, if you become too tired you can climb into the vehicle and be driven home. This said, you should have a reasonable level of fitness before attending a training camp and be able to comfortably meet the minimum requirements set by the training camp. If you are not sure, seek guidance either from a club coach or the training camp operator prior to booking.”
Most training camps will offer a variety of riding groups, with the distance and speed of each ride varying accordingly. Helen from Twickenham Cycling Club, who make an annual pilgrimage to Majorca for Legro’s Training Camp, feels “setting expectation of the groups, advising people which group they should be in and having enough group leaders to ride with the slower riders and allowing those who up the pace unnecessarily to go off on their own” is key to a successful week.
At Hotel Dory in Riccione, Italy, the 4 routes for the following day are posted up on the notice board in the bar with the distance, speed, profile and estimated time. Riders sign up for the one they would like to complete the following day and the hotel allocates the appropriate number of ride leaders to each group. The convenience of having the lists in the bar means that should you find yourself still in the bar at midnight with another glass of Italian red then you can quickly cross your name out on the 150km mountainous ride and swap to the 40km flat tourist ride!
Alternatively, how about a DIY training camp with your friends, you can then choose everything yourselves and decide your own schedules and rides, but you may miss out on the support, structure and local knowledge of an organised trip.
There are also plenty of cycling holidays to choose from the difference according to David from 7hundred being “A training camp is more focused, concentrating on building an aerobic base and while a cycling holiday may be guided and cover the same ground, it might not be as beneficial for those looking to improve. Cycling holidays are generally more relaxed and an excellent way to explore new terrain without the pressure to perform. Decide what your goals are for the year, if you intend to race or you’re targeting some big sportives then a training camp will be beneficial. If you’re simply looking for motivation to get back on the bike and rediscover your cycling mojo, or purely for enjoyment of being on the bike, a cycling holiday is the way forward.”
Just booking a training camp can be the incentive to get out and train in the winter, it gives you something to work towards and look forward to when you are slogging it out in the gloomy UK winter. It will reinvigorate your training, boost your fitness and up your motivation levels, what’s not to like!
Level 3 British Cycling Coach