Brick Lane, in the heart of London’s East End and formerly known as Whitechapel Lane has always been a vibrant melting pot of a place and the earliest known record of its existence was on a woodcut map that was printed sometime during the 16th Century. It has been home to many communities of immigrants throughout its colourful history. Always a staging post to upward mobility. That mobility sometimes being slow, sometimes quite rapid. It has been home to French Huguenots, Ashkenazi Jews, and then Eastern European and Russian Jews in the early 20th century. It has been an epicentre of changing small scale industries centred around the clothing industry. Weaving, Leather making, Exquisite tailoring and the sweatshops of the rag trade. Home to Fagin and Jack The Ripper. It still retains its flavour of an amalgam of the new and tentative amidst wide boy small entrepreneurs. Shops momentarily flourishing displaying “vintage” clothing….aka, overpriced elegantly displayed jumble sales. The earnest Guardian reading fashionistas leaving their tatty chic boutiques to browse scratched vinyl records and other vendors tatty chic furniture. 35mm cameras that will never be used and they buy their fabulous Indian sub continent, Eastern European and Far Eastern street food lunches in cheap and plentiful non eco friendly styrofoam boxes.
The Truman Brewery’s disused premises opened above a now drained well in 1863 are themselves a tatty chic exhibition space in keeping with the area and ideal therefore to house the show “SPIN” devoted to the urban cycling revolution taking place in London, with a nod here and there to the sporting and serious leisure cycling side of things enabling the hipsters their radical touch of the esoteric work of cycling.
Spin was a show for Hipsters. No doubt whatsoever about that. There was the very deliberate wearing of 20,30,50 year old continental race team kit. I saw one guy. Beard long enough to plait and use as a climbing rope in his Gan team kit, hanging on Chris Boardman’s every word and nodding sagely as he munched on his tofu burger before clattering away in an ancient pair of wooden soled track shoes, converted to take the cleats of a set of middle ‘80s Look Classic pedals. Yes, it really was that sort of occasion. The exhibition was a truly enjoyable reflection of Brick lane’s very nature on to the world of cycling. There was a plentiful amount of beautifully crafted clothing, hand built bespoke bicycles (in steel of course) and the feeling that rather like the place 100 yards down Brick Lane that has now ceased attempting to trade in contemporary Vietnamese Folding food, many of them, for all of their skill and genuine innovation would struggle to stay in business much beyond two years or so. That is a great pity, because in the reviews that will follow shortly, I am going to take you on a wander through the best of SPIN and introduce you to some of the start up businesses that are attempting to take root.
If you’d not seen Rollapaluzza before, you might have been forgiven for turning away before you entered the place. They’d set up their usually thriving space and were attracting their usually lengthy queues accompanied by music so loud and a commentary so unintelligible that you have to walk away or give in. We walked away and that was the point at which we recognised the advantage of this very solid old building, step into the next room and the sound that filled the entrance hall was all but eliminated by the purposeful 19th century walls. A moment to reflect on some art work, depicting some of the greats of our sport….up to the 1990s (yes that was the first indicator) Bartolli, Coppi, Simpson, Merckx, Rijs, Anquetil, LeMond, Hinault, Boardman, Obree, Yndurain, Abdujaporov, and my hero (shut up… its my article) the finest climber of all time Marco(Il Pirate) Pantani. None of them were particularly flattering, but at Brick Lane prices I wasn’t going to be hanging one in my shed anyway.
The whole feel of the show was not so much a display of products to do with the world of cycling, but products that were designed to fit lifestyle choices of which cycling is but a part. Cycling fits very nicely into the choices made by the eco friendly….correction, obsessively eco friendly and thats not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a pedantic quirkiness about almost every exhibitor that makes sense to some. Indeed, with the exception of one or two of cycling better known brands. Boardman Elite and Bianchi, most were at the end of the cycling spectrum that says commuter or courier rider that seek form over function. Indeed the more conventional the product on offer the more out of place it looked.
A number of the products quirky or not, really did impress and I shall review them and in some cases road test them too. There was the stuff that did interest me. The bespoke frame builders, some of whom were brazing but joint and brazed steel frames that are becoming popular again amongst some sections of the regular cycling community. Sadly when we were there these craftsmen were not drawing anywhere near as much attention as the stand selling those bloody ridiculous Dura Ace equipped Bamboo framed bikes…… yes, exactly what I thought!
As I say, there was a kind of studied pedantry to the wares on offer. Quill stems, rat trap pedals with old style toe clips barely a modern pedal on view. I fell in love with a gorgeous titanium framed bike… The frame was brand spanking new, but everything on it was a (admittedly beautifully done) restored and refurbished ‘80s item. The entire group and finishing kit was old style 5 speed friction shift Campagnolo record. It gleamed. It stunned….. its price tag made me wince……. no, trust me you don’t want to know.
When it comes to anything approaching regular bike choices these folk are cautious. Yes I want something that says serious cyclist, but I don’t feel comfortable going into my LBS, so I’ll stick my nose in the trough with names I recognise Boardman, Bianchi and Cinelli… We can’t be seen to be going into Halfords or Evans and buying something cheaper and far more appropriate to our needs, it has to say chic. It has to say, “at weekends my other bike is a Porsche and my winters are spent at Cortina or Chamonix”.
Yes it was a Hipsters show and if thats your thing, good on yer. You’re riding a bike and anyone who has read my drivel before, knows that this will always get my vote. I half begged to be given this assignment and I’m glad I went for the few products that were in my jaded opinion worthy of attention and for the wonderful (and well attended) interview and Q&A with my hero of the entire show, Martyn Ashton. Will I go again next year? No. But I love Brick Lane, the street food etc, the tiny record stalls and the markets. I even like the quirky nature of SPIN….it’s just that very little of it was for me.
There’s nothing like taking some new kit out of it’s packaging, the smell of new Lycra setting the cycling taste-buds alive and giving it the initial once-over for new features, technical materials and over-all design.
Like a little girl at Christmas, I was excited and very privileged to open the colourful Dropsteam issue* long-sleeve thermal jersey designed by their kit sponsor for 2016, Prendas Ciclismo and produced by the well known Santini. My wardrobe is actually pretty bare when it comes to seasonal attire (or embarrassingly shows how much of a fair weather cyclist I am!) so it was particularly welcoming to receive some new winter kit.
Deep pockets for the essentials
Just like the new women’s UCI team, the Drops kit makes a bold statement. Their slogan, #colourtheroad is met enthusiastically by the rainbow stripes, featuring predominantly across the back and accents on the sleeves and on the inside of the collar, one of my favourite features. This is no doubt, down to Prendas’ determination to “ensure that the Drops Cycling Team is the best clothed and best dressed women’s team in the UK, if not Europe”.
On initial trial, the thermal jersey seems thin and I was sceptical as to how warm it would keep me. Although the sun was finally shining on north Devon and willing me out on my bike, it was still a cool 4 – 6 degrees without the wind chill in consideration. But my arms, back and chest didn’t complain once on my 20km ride and the jersey was surprisingly snug. It didn’t “over perform” as I picked up my heart rate on the sharp Devonshire climbs and kept the wind chill on my chest to a minimum as I whizzed down the other side at 65kmph. This is all thanks to the fleece-backedAcquaZero treated fabric which is also welcomingly water repellent, perfect should you be caught out in the schizophrenic English weather!
Like most, the jersey features the standard 3 pockets across the back. These come a lot higher than most jersey’s I’ve tried before. Given my short body and arms, I did think I’d struggle, however once used to the concept, reaching in to grab my phone, a gel or stuff some gloves or my gillet in was done at ease. The zipped mini pocket was also great to store my British Cycling ID and some emergency money, often used for a cheeky hot chocolate on route.
The sleeves, although slightly long on little me, feature elasticated Jacquard bands as does the waist. These were great at reducing movement and keeping the cool air where it belongs; although I personally could do with losing my winter weight for this to fit perfectly, as noted that the kit does come up small, so consider one size up for a comfy fit if you’re looking to buy.
Overall, not only does this kit look great and the design put a smile on faces of those I passed, it performs fantastically in the cold weather too. I can’t wait now, for the warmer, longer days when I can unzip the packing and get exploring in the new summer kit!
*Unfortunately the Drops thermal jersey isn’t available to purchase in team colours. However it is available in generic colours and will still work great with the team issue bibs.
I wore a size Small. I am 5’2 with a 34cm chest.
– Performs well in low temperatures yet still breathable
– Looks great
– Roomy pockets and one to keep valuables safe
– Waistband is a little restricting – if I went a size bigger the rest of the fit would be too big
– Arms are long… but then I’m short!
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
CyclingShorts.cc has championed women’s cycling at grass roots level and those involved in the sport who offer cyclists the opportunity to race and move to the next level for many years, whether that be gaining the confidence to ride a sportive or race as a professional. This year we are proud to be sponsors and the media partner for Team22 WRT and we continue to sponsor the unique work by the Racing Chance Foundation. Browsing the internet the other night I was pleased to see nominations are now open for the Women’s Sport Trust Awards also known as #BeAGameChanger Awards. The awards have been set up to recognise those individuals and organisations doing the most to progress women’s sport.
The Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChanger awards 2016 are supported by Microsoft and they showcase the irresistible nature of women’s sport and inspire others to take action (full details of the awards and categories at the bottom of this article).
With this in mind I’m going to take this opportunity to champion our very own Heather Bamforth who is often overlooked and regularly copied by those with higher profiles in the sport.
Heather reporting from the Cheshire Classic.
Heather has been a longstanding member of the CyclingShorts.cc writing team; covering international races like the Tour de France but also taking the majority of her time to write about and report on grass roots cycling and development – take a look at her extremely popular Women’s Guide to Racing which has been used by many a newcomer to the sport.
For those that don’t know already… since returning to the sport of cycling in 2011, Heather has been working behind the scenes to increase the number of opportunities for women in competitive cycling. In 2013, the inaugural North West Women’s Series was promoted by Heather, which featured groundbreaking road racing for women.
In 2014, along with three others, she established The Racing Chance Foundation, a registered charity which helps to provide women with a pathway in competitive cycling from novice to elite level.
In 2014 & 2015, Racing Chance coached over 200 women, and following Heather’s lead, other women around the country set up similar series to that in the North West. As a result of Heather’s original initiative and the subsequent additional series, British Cycling have seen an increase in female membership with a racing licence increasing from 800 in 2012 to over 1500.
Heather’s vision has enabled the sport of road racing in cycling to become more than just a dream for women. Without her there would be far fewer women racing, especially at the important grass roots level.
So, as many of you already know who have benefitted from Heather’s input/support she is going to cringe at this praise, but I think we all owe it to her to give her the props she’s due. Heather earns nothing from cycling, she has a totally unrelated full on full time career, but I can assure you every spare minute of the day and night she’s thinking of the next thing she can do to raise women’s cycling higher. I can attest to this with the many hours the two of us spend chatting through her plans… and trust me she has big plans in the pipeline!
Ladies, Heather has your back so lets return the favour give her the pat on the back she deserves and get her crowned as an Ambassador of Women’s Sport.
Let’s try and do this!!!
Nominations for the awards are now open across nine categories. Follow this link to nominate the athlete, team, organisation or individual who has made a positive contribution to women’s sport.
The categories are:
Ambassador of Women’s Sport
Journalist of the Year
Media Initiative of the Year
Inspiring Initiative – Local/Grassroots
Inspiring Initiative – National
National Governing Body of the Year
Sponsor Partnership of the Year
Sporting Role Model/s
Imagery of the Year
Closing date 21st February 2016 – so get your skates on!
Over the last four years, one of the major regrets that I have had is the sport’s inability to retain female riders. I’ve seen some really promising talent appear for half a season, never to be seen again, some have been around for even less than that. Many find the sport hard, or just want to have a go to try it out only to disappear a week later. But if we want women’s cycling to grow, everybody has to stick at it, so with that in mind, I thought I would share my reasons for competing with you, in the hope that if somebody like me can do it, maybe you can too.
A bit of background
It’s been four years since I started competing again. Back then, I was working restricted hours, suffering from chronic fatigue, which meant that I had no energy to train after work and, even after the 45 minute circuit race, I fell asleep on the way home as I was so tired.
Time trialling on V718 in 2012
Following the 2011 season, I swapped medication under the guidance of my consultant neurologist. I have epilepsy, which is controlled, but my new consultant wouldn’t let me come off medication whilst I wanted to ride my bike and do all the things that most people take for granted. After being on sodium valproate for 15 years, I swapped to levetiracetam, which was a relatively new drug.
By March 2012, I had lost over two and half stone and for the first time in longer than I care remember, I could think much more clearly. I was still tired (I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue in December 2010) but the cognitive behaviour therapy that I had had to undergo as the treatment for the chronic fatigue had helped me to manage things much more effectively.
A slow start
The first few races I did in 2012, I got dropped the first time, had a woman shout at me because she didn’t think I knew what I was doing (I did, I was just shattered), and all I could physically manage to do was ride in 9 events, three of which were men’s road races, with the rest being closed circuit races.
Racing at Salt Ayre in 2012
One of the problems, I came to realise, with losing 20% of my own bodyweight, was the loss in power and strength that came with it. We went to Majorca in September 2012, and we had to change the chainring to a 36 because I wasn’t strong enough to use the 39. The longest ride I could manage was about 60 miles, which was to and from Sa Calobra, not only because I wasn’t particularly fit, but also because of the remnants of the chronic fatigue. Looking back at it now, that holiday helped my recovery as it kick started my winter training block, and reminded me that I could actually ride a bike!
Development, development, development
One of the good things about being involved in cycling in years gone by is that it meant that turning up to races, you knew what you were talking about. However, I soon found that if it hadn’t happened on Facebook and Twitter, it hadn’t happened. At this point, I was only a third category rider, so if I suggested something to anybody else, I always got the response “what do you know?” which got on my nerves no end. So, I paid my entrance fee and qualified as a coach through the Association of British Cycling Coaches, as I couldn’t afford the pathway through British Cycling and there was no funding available for me as I live in a region where there’s a plethora of BC coaches.
By the end of 2012, we were getting a women’s road race league set up for 2013 as well as a development team for women in the North West, both of which are different stories, but it became obvious that the development pathway in women’s cycling was missing, and is something which we have hopefully started to build on now for the rest of the UK.
Coaching with Huw and Carley
National Series and National Championships
In 2013, I took part in a few National Series races, but it became increasingly obvious to me that there were limits to what I was physically capable of achieving. I was working over 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, and with the additional work that I was doing trying to develop women’s cycling in the evenings (mainly articles, meetings and phone calls about the best way to improve the women’s scene with various people) and the odd bit of coaching and mentoring, it meant that I was doing probably around 60 hours a week, including my day job. I still struggled to do any mid week training and racing in the evenings was an absolute no-go, so I was basically stuck with a small amount of time, which meant that I couldn’t do enough quality training to keep up with the better riders.
In 2014, there seemed to be a change in start times too, which saw many of the events with a 9:30 am start time. One of the problems with epilepsy is that seizures occur as a result of triggers. One of my triggers is tiredness and I find it extremely difficult to get up early to go and ride my bike (not even racing) as it takes my brain longer to wake up than most. So it came to pass that I couldn’t afford to do all of the National Series events, for three reasons – I couldn’t afford it financially (I am self-funded and therefore it becomes expensive staying over before each event), I couldn’t afford the time off work (I only have a finite amount of holidays available) and I couldn’t afford it physically (in the event that the worst happened and I had a bad reaction to the early start), which is also a massive mental obstacle for me to get over.
But it isn’t only road race events that this affects – I can’t enter any time trials on Sundays because they all start too early, which also means that (on the whole), I can’t enter National Championship events either, or the RTTC Classic events.
(c) Ellen Isherwood
What training do I do?
My training is pretty limited, as I have to keep an eye on my energy levels. I don’t get home until six o’clock and I generally have admin to do with regards to the Racing Chance Foundation (from sorting the management accounts, to writing/updating the website, to trying to organise races), so mid week it’s generally limited to 40 minutes, three or four evenings a week. At the weekend, if I’m racing, I’ll generally do a two hour ride on the Saturday (if I’m racing on the Sunday) or a three hour ride on Sunday (if I’m racing on a Saturday). If I get to do more than 120 miles or 8 hours in a week, that’s a big week for me. During winter, I tend to aim for 150 miles a week, but again that’s based on the majority of my riding being at the weekend (usually about 7 hours a weekend).
Racing at Tameside 2015
Why do I race?
It has since become apparent that the chronic fatigue that I suffered from between 2006 and 2012 was a side effect of taking sodium valproate. After coming off that drug, I was like a different person, mentally and physically. That being said, that drug was 40 years old and we knew what the majority of the side effects were (which is why I don’t have any children of my own). The new drug only came into existence about 10 to 15 years ago, so it’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know what the long term side effects of this drug are, but I intend to remain as fit as possible in order to keep any horrible side effects at bay (one side effect of taking anti-convulsants is a tendency for depression) and, unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll be able to do when I get older as I don’t know what the long term effects will be on my kidneys and liver.
But in the meantime, I intend to support, help and persuade as many women as possible to take up competitive cycling as it not only keeps you fit, it gives you the self confidence you need to be assertive in every day life, which is where the Racing Chance Foundation comes in.
Every time I get on a start line, it’s an achievement. I’m not bothered about points – I know that I’m never going to be a world beater because I don’t want to be, I just enjoy taking part. I do know that it keeps me fit – since 2011, my resting heart rate has dropped my around 30 bpm, which I choose to take as my heart showing me that it’s fitter. Unfortunately, I need something to keep me motivated and the racing fills that gap, even if a lot of the racing I do is actually training!
If you want to find out more about how to take the next steps in competitive cycling, visit the Racing Chance Foundation for some handy information and help make a difference to women’s cycling.
While browsing t’internet I came across this wild idea, it’s not a lingering April fool that’s doing the rounds, it’s quite a fun idea’ if a little unstable looking…. but will it really take off?
It combines cycling with a running motion which I’m not sure would be comfortable over a long distance. With an expected $399 price tag. It was developed through Kickstarter and now they are getting ready to release a
The designers say, ‘We took the core driving mechanism of a classical bicycle (a wheel connected to a crankset) but redesigned pretty much everything else. The result – a vehicle that trains your balance and reflexes in a new way. It brings you closer to natural walking and it’s the only way to control the vehicle with your whole body and not just your hands. Halfbike is a sort of an extension to the body that allows a smooth and intuitive ride. It’s really nothing like the experience you get when riding a bike’.
Could become the next Sinclair C5 for the hipster generation?
I read something recently about how women’s cycling is in excellent health in the UK and I have to say that I was very surprised by that statement. Yes, there has been an increase in the number of races available, but there have also been a few races which have been cancelled due to low rider numbers and other races practically begging riders to support events (I am guilty of the latter), so you may be able to see why I am surprised.
At the beginning of this year, I was one of three coaches who saw nearly 100 female riders attend novice race training sessions in the North West and North Wales. My aim was to inspire at least 20% of those attending to try road racing, which kind of worked with the first event that I am involved in having 74 entries in advance, nearly doubling the number of entries for the same event the year earlier.
However, as the season progressed, there came the inevitable drop off in numbers, and now I have two events in August which have just 17 and 15 riders entered in advance at present. These are the CDNW events at Oakenclough on 10 August and Great Budworth on 23 August. These are events which are restricted to second, third and fourth category riders, there is an overall league and a league for those who started this year as fourth category riders (currently unique in the UK, I believe, and something that I devised to try and encourage women to have a go at road racing without having to worry about more experienced riders in the race).
Back in May this year, prompted by another article about women’s cycling, I wrote about the sport from a grassroots’ perspective where I urged female riders to enter in advance to show the organiser that his/her race was being supported to prevent them being cancelled, especially where road racing was concerned due to the cost of putting an event on. Unfortunately, there now seems to be a few issues which are making cancellations more prevalent:
There are more races being held which leads to a dilution in rider numbers;
Women don’t seem to support road races, for a variety of reasons, possibly because they are more expensive, harder to win licence points and tend to lead to riders having to take a leap of faith to try something different;
There is still a massive issue with rider retention – of the 70 women who registered for the CDNW league last year, only around 40 of them have registered this season, with even less actively taking part;
Racing is expensive, especially when you find yourself in a crash;
Cycling is actually a hard sport, which leads to many riders becoming disillusioned early on and then giving up practically straight away because “it isn’t for them”.
I have to say that organisers don’t help sometimes. There seems to be a misconception that there are similar numbers of men and women racing, which is totally untrue. Mid-week races are especially difficult for women as there are probably less than 100 women who race regularly in the UK and have the time, money and inclination to travel to all of the races, but as the majority of these have to take time off work to attend, there are only so many days’ holiday you can afford to take to use to attend a bike race. Many organisers then complain that their races aren’t being supported by the riders, and those who do support events then get irritated because it is the same people attending the events, and the riders then feel like they are being treated unfairly just because they don’t have the time or money available to attend.
Prize money can sometimes hinder race entry numbers too, unfortunately. If there is a significant cash prize for the winner, the race tends to attract the better riders (who may not have as many commitments as other riders), so those riders who end up making the numbers up never get a look in for prize money and are less likely to enter just so someone who is practically a full time rider can win the race. Which makes sense to me – I have a career (outside of cycling) and I often don’t have time to do any training during the week, so I don’t need to pay £20 to enter a race to be dropped on the start line because I am still recovering from working, when others in the race are as fresh as a daisy. That may seem like a negative comment to make, but it’s a reality that many female riders face, I’m afraid.
Having said that, Tickhill Grand Prix on 24 August is leading the way by having an elite women’s race (E/1/2/3) and a women’s support race (3/4 categories only), both of which have sponsorship from Giant Sheffield, so if there are any readers out there who want to have a go at town centre racing but want to do it without racing against the top domestic riders, why not enter the support race, which you can do by clicking here.
I always try to be positive and look for solutions to resolve issues rather than just complaining about the problem and doing nothing about it. British Cycling is now looking at women’s cycling in an attempt to resolve the position, but even I am struggling at the moment to see how the sport can move forward. Only with more opportunities can the sport of women’s cycling in the UK hope to develop properly, but there does seem to be a fair few people who don’t want the sport to progress. There are good points to social media, but just because you get 40 re-tweets to a link to a website doesn’t mean that you will get any more entries. Neither does complaining about riders not entering an event – they’re even less likely to support an event if they feel that they are being coerced into riding.
Women’s cycling is still years away from achieving equality with the men’s sport; how can it when the numbers participating are nowhere near to the number of men racing? Sport should be aspirational, a means for people to achieve outside of their everyday lives, but women’s cycling is anything but that at the moment. Most domestic races are run by local clubs who have to have an event break even as they don’t have reserves to fall back on, so it usually means that in order for a race to go ahead, there will be a minimum number of riders required to meet the costs of running it. Unfortunately, road racing has additional costs to circuit races, especially if you have accredited marshals, which means that you tend to need at least 20 entrants in order for an event to go ahead, and that’s without prize money. If a race is lucky enough to have a sponsor, then the organiser will want to protect the sponsor’s investment by ensuring that there is a decent field – it doesn’t look good if somebody has put up £1000 in prize money and then 10 people turn up, so if you find yourself being annoyed that an organiser of a sponsored event is complaining about the lack of entries, think twice before making a comment.
I guess in conclusion there are a few things that everybody needs to bear in mind about women’s cycling – there is a long way to go before it can be described as being in excellent condition, it needs rider support to develop and, I am afraid ladies, that if you want businesses to sponsor an event that you are riding in, then you need to enter in advance to support the organiser’s attempts to offer as near to equal opportunity as he/she can provide.
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