Monday, 30 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 7, Windsor Great Park

Stats
Kms ridden: 133
Running total: 503
Kms left: 0

Weather: sunny, 12 degC


Parks: Bushy; Windsor Great; Gunnersbury; Chiswick; Holland; Regents; Hyde


Route on Strava


Although today's post is entitled Windsor Great Park, that lovely park in Berkshire to the west of London, this was actually a mega ride that went all the way back into central London and took in Royal Parks before returning to Crystal Palace.

Bushy Park - the unsung hero of Royal Parks

Having roughly 130km left to reach the magic 500km, I had toyed with the idea of doing the whole lot in one day.

As long as I left the house early I would be able to do the ride.

This would be a largely flat ride as there would only be small lumps at Virginia Water and within Windsor Great Park.

Also, given that the ride would be mainly within the London conurbation even if it got dark this would not be a problem as the roads would be well lit, as opposed to be stuck out on misty country lanes of Sussex in the dark.

So I set off from home at around 9am, passing through a misty South-West London. Fortunately, the sun did come out and all mist was burned away. So by the time I reached Richmond and Twickenham the day looked lovely.

My first park of the day was Bushy Park, the unsung hero to me. Folks rave on about the nearby Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, and Hampton Court Palace across the road, but forget about Bushy Park.

If a park like Bushy existed in any other town people would be marvelling at how beautiful it is. But because of its more "glamorous" neighbours it doesn't get mentioned much.

Even I admit that many a time I have breezed straight past the place when on a cycle ride to Hampton Court, or en route to Windsor. So today, I was happy to ride a route that took me right through Bushy.

Bushy Park is pretty large, pan flat, with a lake and ornate fountain. It's an extremely pleasant place to do a run. In fact, the Park Run - something that millions of people up and down the country do every Saturday morning - began in Bushy Park. The event has one of the biggest fields, with numbers regularly exceeding 2,000!

Otherwise, if you are feeling less energetic there are plenty of places to just stop among the regularly arranged trees and have a picnic.

Once back on the road I breezed past Hampton Court Palace and pushed on to Virginia Water, one of my favourite parks in the South-East. Along the way, I saw lots of groups of cyclists. That is not an uncommon sight, but what struck me more was the pace that people were riding at - almost like there was a sense of urgency. It made me think that they were probably trying to get in their Festive 500 kilometres before tomorrow's deadline!



As usual, Virginia Water was packed with Christmas walkers from Surrey and Berkshire. From there, I rode up through Windsor Great Park and into Windsor, where there were humongous queues to get into the Castle. I can't believe that people would hang around all day standing in line!  At least the sun was out.

A brief period of calm on Eton Bridge, after the bustle around Windsor Castle
Once past the tourists in Windsor and Eton my ride took on a much less glamorous landscape as I passed through drab suburbs near Slough, and then up through places like West Drayton and Southall before reaching Gunnersbury Park.

This park took me back to 30 years ago when I was a student at Warwick University, and spent a summer in Ealing. Gunnersbury Park felt like the centre of the universe! Today, it was a modest, though still pleasant neighbourhood park. 

By the time I reached Chiswick it was getting dark and it was getting a bit desolate being stuck out on the busy South Circular Road.

Finally made it to Westminster - 500km done!
Thankfully, that spell didn't last long, and my route then took me through Hammersmith, Kensington and then into central London via Holland Park.

Being in the West End I couldn't omit to go around the Royal Parks, so I did a quick stint around Regents Park while getting overtaken by lots of chain gang club riders. Then I had to battle my way through the crowds visiting Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

My 500km were achieved in Dulwich, South London however I chose to do my photo shoot in Westminster where it would be better lit at night.








Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 6, South Downs National Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 5, Box Hill

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 1, Richmond Park








Sunday, 29 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 6, South Downs National Park

Stats
Kms ridden: 23
Running total: 370
Kms left: 130

Weather: Sunny, with evening mist, 10 degC

Parks: South Downs National; Preston 


Route on Strava


As those who have done or are doing the Festive 500 will know, the most challenging aspect of the riding is finding the time to get out and ride. For me this has been pretty much the same too, with days flying by and being dominated by bike riding.

Sadly, we ordinary folks don't have the luxury of someone to clean up our bikes after a messy day out, or someone who can do our laundry for us or prepare our meals. And of course there's just the simple deed of getting life done, which becomes difficult to juggle when you are out riding at least 40 miles every day.

I decided I needed to have a bit of breathing space, so today was the day to catch up on other things a little rather than going on a bike ride first thing in the morning.

Entry into the South Downs Park, from the Brighton end of Ditchling Road
As a result I set off for Brighton by car at lunchtime in a hope of riding around the South Downs National Park.

The intention was to park somewhere near central Brighton and then do a loop up to Ditchling Beacon, over to Devil's Dyke and then back.

That didn't quite work out though because parking in Brighton was a real challenge. There are some areas where I have managed to find spaces in the past, but today it was nigh on impossible. In the end I found a space on the edge of the city, just off the Ditchling Road - which I guess was a handy place for the start of my ride.

By the time the ride began it was not long before 3pm, so I only had an hour to do the circuit before night fell. Realising there was no time to waste I just pushed on as best I could. Riding up to Ditchling Beacon from this side of the hill was a novelty for me, as my normal route would be to approach it from the north, when doing a London to Brighton ride. Going up this way the road was an uphill grind, but it was not as steep as I had anticipated, considering how fast the road is when coming down into Brighton. Also, it wasn't a constant climb, but more like an undulating road.

Today had been a glorious sunny day - at least when I was driving down from London. However, as the South Downs drew nearer the atmosphere became cooler and my glasses got steamed up as it became misty and damp.

Once at Ditchling Beacon there were still quite a lot of walkers and mountain bikers riding along the South Downs Way trail. But there was a very low number of road cyclists compared with the numbers you normally see huffing and puffing up the hill from Ditchling village.



From my vantage point, at around 235m above sea level I would normally be able to see the city of Brighton including the Brighton i360 ride and the AMEX Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. However today, everything was shrouded in mist. Furthermore, I was getting colder and colder as it became less fun to be there.

So I ditched my plan to go to Devil's Dyke and just turned back and retraced Ditchling Road to return to central Brighton. I was glad to have brought with me extra coats and high vis as it was pretty cold on the descent, and there was a bit too much mist for comfort, as I descended the twisty road, which still had its fair share of motorists.

Once back in Brighton I did a little loop around Preston Park - a place where I have raced in the past, and did a mini tour of the town centre, which as usual was just Brighton - with all it's hip shops around the North Lane area.

Riding back up to the car from central Brighton was pretty testing, and that probably explained why the earlier ride from my car to Ditchling Beacon had been more like a false flat - because the steep climbs kick in close to the city centre, so that on the edge of city limits things actually level off.

In the end, my ride was only 23 kms long, though it felt like I had ridden double the distance! It had been a short day in the saddle but I think my body and my mind appreciated a low mileage day for once.


Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 5, Box Hill

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 1, Richmond Park



Saturday, 28 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 5, Box Hill

Stats
Kms ridden:77
Running total: 347
Kms left: 153

Weather: Cloudy, mild 9 degC

Parks: Oaks; Box Hill Country; Gatton; Crystal Palace


Route on Strava

As it had been a while since I was last at Box Hill I decided to include this route in my Festive 500. After all, Box Hill is set within a country park, so why not have it as part of my park life theme!

My route into the Surrey Hills was slightly circuitous compared with my "plain vanilla" route via Coulsdon and Kingswood. Instead I went via Woodmasterne, Banstead and Epsom. It is slightly hillier, and a longer route than usual, but given that I am in the business of clocking up miles at the moment, I wasn't complaining!

The route took me past Oaks Park, near Wallington. There wasn't much to see there as I was on my road bike so couldn't advance very far into the park. It was also too early into the ride to do a coffee stop there either. So I pressed on past there and the lavender fields opposite.

There is a lot of parkland en route to Box Hill, notably on the Epsom Downs and around the Racecourse. But these are not technically named as parks so I couldn't give them a name. But just to suffice to say that there is a lot of green space in this area - much in keeping with the various parts of London where I have ridden so far.

Weatherwise, things were improving. There was still no sign of any sunshine, but at least the temperature was rising a little.

No sunshine, but still loads of cyclists out on Box Hill
On reaching the zig zag road up to Box Hill I saw many riders all doing the climb up to the National Trust cafe to the top at different paces. That's the great thing about Box Hill.

It must be the most ridden hill in the UK not just because it is regularly ridden by pros during the 2012 Olympics year at Ride London, but anyone who has a bike likes to have a go.

Granted, most people are on road bikes but there are still plenty of folks on hybrids - I even saw someone riding up there on a Brompton once. Whatever bike you ride and whatever pace you do it, everyone queues up for a snack at the top. So it is a democratic hill, and a busy hill - as it was today.

I did a couple of videos while at the top, and attracted the attention of quite a few riders who came up and chatted. People admired the fact that I was doing the Festive 500, though I must admit that it was surprising that none of the people I spoke to were doing it. It was hardly as though they were incapable of taking on the challenge given how strong they looked.

The most common reason given for not taking on the Festive 500 was family commitments over the Christmas period. I can understand that. With or without family commitments it isn't easy to ensure that you get in the miles. I have found that doing the Festive 500 does require a bit of thought and planning. At this time of year it is so easy for a day of bad weather, visiting a friend or family member, or even illness can just throw everything out of line and you are immediately playing catch-up.

If you go away to a training camp it is easy enough to get in 500km because that is the specific reason for being in Mallorca or Club Santa, or whichever warm-weather destination. The weather is inviting too.

However, when you're at home it is hard to fit things in around all the other distractions, and the weather at this time of year makes it all too easy to just say "computer says no" and get on with other things. So maybe it's not all that surprising that many people shun the idea of doing the Festive 500.

While at Box Hill I bumped into Bridget Malarkey, a fellow rider from when I was at Addiscombe Cycling Club. It was good to catch up with her after what seemed like years. She was looking lean and fit, although she said she didn't feel that way at all, and was a bit worried about not being fit enough to get through the rides on her upcoming trip to Colombia. The Festive 500 could have been good preparation for her trip, but ironically she was too busy to do it.



For my return route home I skipped Walton-on-the-Hill and Kingswood, and instead opted for another circuitous route to take in the extremely fast descent of Pebble Hill, to then ride into Reigate and go via Gatton Park. This route also led me discover a cheekily steep climb on Wray Lane, a road which goes right past the park and to Reigate Hill car park. I was quite caught out by this climb, and almost put my foot to the ground (shock horror)!

In my manor, Crystal Palace Park
The nice thing is I was rewarded with a lovely descent through Gatton Bottom, and my run in back to Croydon was gently downhill. Then once back in my neighbourhood I felt refreshed and ready to take on a couple of small hills in Crystal Palace and in the park before going home for a well-earned mince pie.


Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life Tour: Day 1, Richmond Park





Friday, 27 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 4, Knole Park

Stats
Kms ridden: 85
Running total: 270
Kms left: 230

Weather: Cold and cloudy; 7 degC

Parks: Lullingstone Country; Knole; High Elms Country

Route on Strava

Knole House, home of the Sackville West family, in Knole Park
Today's weather was not anything to write home about. It was cloudy and cold, but the fact that there was no rain was a blessing - especially after the torrent from yesterday.

My featured park of the day was Knole Park, a very pleasant deer park just south of Sevenoaks.

It's got the same feel as Richmond Park - undulating ancient parkland with deer, a stately home (owned by the Sackville-West family, of Bloomsbury fame), lots of walkers, and a big car park.

If the road through the park was wider and did a full unbroken circuit of the park I suspect there would be more cyclists there. But I think the National Trust, who manage the park I much too savvy to allow that! Instead, there is a relatively narrow road which gets quite congested with two-way traffic, and a car park that gets a bit overcrowded as all of Kent descends on this green space during holiday periods.

Still, it is a very pleasant place to be, and when I manage to get as far as here on my bike it's quite a treat. 



While in the park, a BBC Radio 5 Live reporter, Lesley Ashmall stopped me and asked me about my bike riding. She was doing a piece on how people feel the need to get out and be active after spending Christmas sitting in front of the telly, stuffing themselves with lots of chocolates and biscuits.

I didn't really want to blow her report out of the water by saying I'd cycled over 100 miles over the last few days, so I just gave an answer around how nice it is to be in the park and I was hoping to be able to make it back to London by bike. She was impressed with my ride and was quite chatty. The show aired on the early evening radio show, so I listened out for my vox pop.

Interestingly, for all the interviewing the reporter did with me, the editors only actually used one sentence from our conversation! It reminds me of the episode of Gavin and Stacey when Mick Shipman (played by Larry Lamb) is interviewed for a news programme. All his family and friends make a big occasion of staying in to watch his 15 minutes of fame on TV to see him, but in the end the broadcast included barely four words from his interview 20-minute interview. Oh well, 5 seconds of fame it is then!

As for the ride, it was a good day out with some quality miles put in. The hardest parts of my ride were on two hills - both called Old Hill. The first Old Hill was in Chislehurst, a road which I regularly ride. It's only a short hill, but it has a stiff gradient and the road is quite narrow, meaning motorists often have to stop and give way to me as I grind up the road. Thankfully they are quite patient, and sympathetic!

The other Old Hill is near Cudham - also a narrow steep road, but on a one-way street. This is slightly more manageable than its counter part in Chislehurst, but as I was tackling the hill towards the end of my ride it was that bit tough for me.

A notable nice area of the ride was around Eynsford where I passed Lullingstone Castle, and then later, Knatts Valley. Along this area there were hardly any motorists and the area was wild and desolate with the odd farm house or oast house dotted around.

Today was also a day where I saw a number of cyclists along different parts of the route. This is a popular area for South London based clubs - not just for the beauty and the quietness of the roads, but also for the undulating roads which are great for training. I definitely felt like I'd worked when I arrived home.

Related posts
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 3, Beckenham/Croydon

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 2, East/Central London

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 1, Richmond Park



Thursday, 26 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 3, South London suburbs

Stats
Kms ridden: 35
Running total: 185
Kms left: 315

Weather: Heavy rain and windy; 7 degC

Parks: Cator; Beckenham Place; Kelsey; Spring/Monks Orchard; Spring/Sparrows Den; Lloyd; South Norwood Country

Route on Strava

Given the forecast for continuous rain all day, I decided that my ride would be short and close to home. So this was mainly an off-road ride on trails in local parks.

Mansion at Beckenham Place Park
On one hand, being off-road in woodland areas meant that I kept clear of the worst of the heavy rain. On the hand though, being off-road meant that my mountain bike ride was a lot slower than if I had been on the tarmac, and furthermore, I rode through such muddy terrain that by the time I finished my ride me and my bike were one soggy mess.

Initially, when in the first couple of parks - Cator Park and Beckenham Place Park - the sun almost came out, and I thought that I may have gotten lucky with the weather. But it was not to be, and as I travelled towards Shirley the day became darker and darker as the rain got heavier, eventually becoming torrential. 

At Bethlem Hospital I took a little breather to regroup and consider whether I should amend my itinerary. In the end I just pressed on, knowing that there would be a number of bail-out points if I felt I'd had enough. 

Although I was getting drenched, my layers were doing their job, and I still stayed warm. I had on a good dhb base layer, and a Rapha Brevet jersey, which was amazing at keeping me warm and dry.
I also had on Cube overshoes, which were pretty handy.

Waterproofed up from head to toe
Bethlem Hospital has a park and woodland known as Spring Park. I have done cyclocross races there in the past, and it is also used for Park Runs. So it was definitely worth doing a mini tour around there.

From there I moved on to another park also called Spring Park - in Shirley! This one was also in woodland, though was a bit bigger and set on the side of a hill, meaning a lot of care was needed as I took some sketchy descents towards West Wickham. Even in this grim weather there were still people out doing their Boxing Day walk. As I passed them we greeted each other almost as a mark of solidarity between kindred spirits.

A well-used bike from the local muddy trails
Next up was Lloyd Park, near Croydon. The best thing about this park was that there is now a tarmacked path that goes around the edge of the park, which I made use of.

Lloyd Park is a Park Run venue and is also regularly used as a course for cross country races. So it is fair to say that at this time of year the grass is constantly churned up and waterlogged - not something I found appealing today.

If I thought I'd avoided the mud of Lloyd Park, I couldn't avoid the clag in the final park, at South Norwood Country Park. Maybe because it was the home straight of my ride I became a bit enthusiastic with my pace, which meant mud splashed all over the place, and by the time I reached home I looked like I'd been in a cyclocross race.

I didn't care by this point though, and was just glad to have done the route I'd planned, and my faithful old mountain bike had not lead me down.




Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 2, East and Central London

Stats
Kms ridden: 70
Running total: 150
Kms left: 350

Weather: Mild and sunny; 11 degC

Parks: Brockwell; Highbury Fields; London Fields; Victoria; Queen Elizabeth Olympic; Mile End; Green; St James; Burgess; Brunswick

Routes on Strava
Ride to Highbury Fields Park run
Post-Park run ride

My day began with a ride up to Highbury Fields to do the Christmas Day Park Run. The plan had been to do a mini London tour, as I am accustomed to doing on Christmas Day. So with that I thought why not throw in a 5km run as well.
Arriving at Highbury Fields for the Park Run
Naturally I took it easy as I trotted around the five laps of the park, knowing that I would be cycling straight afterwards. Mind you, I was going to be on an eBike so I also knew that if I was flagging I would be able to add in a bit of throttle!

This Festive 500 is not only characterised by riding through parks, but also using different bicycles. Yesterday I was on my road bike; today I'm was on a Liv eBike, which I am testing. I also plan to use my mountain bike and my cyclocross bike during the week too.

After the run, I headed over to Hackney and passed through London Fields and then onwards to Victoria Park. The glorious sunny weather had brought out quite a lot of people, and many folks were out with their families for a Christmas walk. In Victoria Park there was even an amateur football match taking place.

From Victoria Park it was a quick scoot across via Wick Road, to reach the Greenway through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It was surprisingly easy to get there and find myself right next to the Olympic stadium.

Nowadays the Olympic Stadium is the home ground of West Ham United Football Club. It seems quite a grand place to have a football ground, though I know that relocating from Upton Park to here was quite an unpopular decision with the fans. Anyway, who am I to worry about West Ham fans, particularly as they are due to play against my home side Crystal Palace tomorrow!
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

It's always quite a strange feeling going around a place that would normally be bustling with athletes and sports fans, but on this day there was hardly anyone around.

And even though there was this grand stadium and the Olympic Games sculpture, there was still a sense of East London dereliction, with patches of wasteland, graffiti, and high-rise social housing blocks.

Having lots of people around, and sports events taking place makes a massive difference to the atmosphere.

After a quick tour I was back into Victoria Park and pushed on through Mile End Park and then into Central London via the segregated cycle path on Cable Street.

At Tower Bridge I made the most of it being Christmas Day and rode on streets that would normally be too congested to ride through on any other day. So my ride took me through the City, past the Mansion House and then into the West End via Ludgate Circus and Holborn Viaduct.

Surprisingly, from the West End onwards there were quite a lot of people, and even - shock horror - traffic jams around Piccadilly Circus!

There was no public transport running as it was Christmas Day, however there were still lots of black taxis and Uber cabs. Plus, loads of tourists were around and there even appeared to be organised walking tours happening around Piccadilly and near Buckingham Palace too.

Soaking in the atmosphere at Buckingham Palace
The Mall is normally closed to traffic on Sundays and Bank Holidays, so pedestrians are free to roam around the whole street.

And it seemed that people had really made the most of this opportunity in their droves, as there were as many people, if not more pedestrians than you would see ordinarily on a Sunday.

I wondered if the large numbers was also due to people bringing forward their Boxing Day walk, knowing that the weather forecast was for a wash-out.

In any case, there was a nice atmosphere in all the parks I went to, and it was great to be out in the sunshine.

I am not sure how the motorists felt on Tower Bridge, which had quite a long tail-back to get over it. Thankfully, being on a bike meant that I wasn't held up too much. I think it is fair to say now, that the days when you could ride on empty roads through Central London on Christmas Day are gone!

By the time I reached my final park, Burgess Park in Peckham, the run, the ride, and my lack of breakfast had begun to catch up with me and I was obliged to use a bit of throttle on the homeward run - especially as the ride to Crystal Palace from here was mainly uphill.

I must say, the Liv Thrive E+ which I was on was a real joy to ride. It looked a nice bike too, and responded just when I needed it to.

When I reached home I felt tired, but happy with the sights and sounds I had taken in, and I was ready to relax with my family and enjoy a bit of Christmas food.


Related post
Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 1


Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Rapha Festive 500 - Park Life tour: Day 1, Richmond Park

Stats
Kms ridden: 80
Kms left: 420

Weather: Overcast with sunny intervals; 8 degC

Parks: Richmond; Wimbledon; Norwood Country

Route on Strava


Another year, another Festive 500. It's great to get in with the spirit of this event, which has been going for 10 years now. I know some folks are a bit sceptical about it and aren't into this sort of global fad of riding 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

I have to say I have a penchant for it because it's a sure fire way of getting me out of the house to ride my bike every day - especially as I'm at an age where even sniffing at food makes me pile on calories.
So I am in favour of anything that counters the middle-age spread - especially at a time when the Christmas binge is de rigueur.

Sawyer's Hill, Richmond Park
My theme for last year's Festive 500 was disused railway lines.  This year it is parks. So I will aim to get around city parks, country parks and national parks.

Today was quite straight forward as I visited parks not too far from home.

Christmas Eve is always a difficult day as I have to fit it in around last minute Christmas preparations, so my mileage tends to be fairly average.

I was glad to get in 50 miles by doing a few laps of Richmond Park and then making tracks via Wimbledon Park, and passing my local South Norwood Country Park to reach home.

I would have like to have done Bushy Park, but time caught up with me.

As usual, there were quite a few people riding laps of Richmond Park,  though numbers were a little down partly due to Christmas commitments I imagine, as well as a dodgy weather forecast.

We've had a lot of rain recently, and today also had its share. Throughout the ride, the Kingston side of Richmond Park had angry skies above it. Everywhere looked grim, and there was a sense that the rain would come bucketing down at any moment. Conversely, on the Roehampton side of the park everywhere was bathed in glorious sunshine. Commonly, both sides were pretty cold and I didn't even get hot as I huffed and puffed up Sawyer's Hill and Broomfield Hill.

Having a break at Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park
The cold weather was a little downer on the day as I hadn't been expecting it, and I had become accustomed to warm rain!

The forecast for this week is once again changeable, so I may also amend my itinerary to benefit from the least unpleasant weather. I guess that's a perk of having a parks-based theme. There are parks everywhere!

Here's hoping for nice weather for Christmas Day.


Related posts
Reflections on Rapha Festive 500

Why I like the Festive 500



Sunday, 22 December 2019

Why I like cycling in the velodrome

A few weeks ago I went to the Herne Hill velodrome and took part in one of the Sunday night women's training sessions.

This was endurance training, and that was exactly what I did - endure it. I did enjoy it too, but I had to endure the fact that I didn't have much endurance!

We did various drills that involved us riding at a medium-to-high pace, and attacking off the front of the peloton to chase down riders ahead - like road racing skills.

As I had already been out for a run earlier in the day, I felt a bit too tired to get through all of the drills, but it still didn't stop me from appreciating all this track cycling.

This was my first time track cycling in Herne Hill Velodrome in a long time - maybe 8 years! I think the legendary Mr Herne Hill, Dave Creasy was alive the last time I rode on the circuit. Considering this is a track cycling venue all my recent trips to Herne Hill Velodrome had been do do cyclocross!

Although I was a stranger to the updated systems at Herne Hill, and I had to get used to riding 400m-long laps, track cycling is not alien to me. I was doing sessions at the Manchester Velodrome earlier this year. Also when I was based in Macclesfield, as a member of Manchester Wheelers cycling club I also did regular sessions there.

The thing I like about track cycling is the purity of riding a fixed wheel bike round and round the oval. The bike moves to the rhythm of your pedalling, and you have to keep pedalling and engaging your core in order for the bike to carry on moving.

There is no scope for freewheeling, and any attempt to relax and freewheel sees your feet yanked forward to remind you that the bike needs your attention and direction.

Even though the distances ridden at the velodrome are not a patch on what is done during a club ride, the training effect is huge. Even just 10 laps can get you puffing and panting.

So it's quite a handy way to get in a quality work-out without needing to spend all morning riding through the lanes to get the same training effect.

The same applies for indoor track cyclng, where I feel even more exhilarated on a 250m track with its high banking.

Doing these sessions this year has renewed my love for track cycling, and I think I will be back doing more of that next year.

Also, once I have mustered the fitness to do these drills without needing to leave the track for a breather it will be really beneficial for my cycle racing, I will ride better in the bunch when on the road, and I will naturally ride at a higher pace than the plodding I have become used to doing these days. Plus, it helps my bike handling enormously and I feel so much more in control

I look forward to going to the track after Christmas.


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Christmas gifts and treats for cyclists - 2

Continuing on from my previous post on Christmas gift ideas for cyclists, here are a few more things that you might want to treat yourself with.


Rapha Women's Brevet jersey

This lovely jersey was designed after a group of riders did the Paris Brest Paris audax ride in 2011, and wanted to produce a jersey that was comfortable for wearing over long distances such as 1200km. It's designed to keep warm and dry as you go through the potential elements over the long distances.

Also three small pockets, plus a large zip pocket at the back allows you to carry quite a few provisions along the way. You don't need to ride anywhere near that distance to qualify to wear this jersey, but when wearing it during your rides over the winter you can be sure that the blend of merino wool in the fabric will keep you warm.

As well as that, wool has really good wicking properties if you work up sweat. I must say it feels cosy and warm on my skin, and I really like the feel of it.

I particularly like the horizontal strips across the chest and back, which make you highly visible. There are now newer incarnations of the jersey that I have (which is what is pictured), with reflective stripes across the arms and available in a wider range of colours.

Rapha Women's Brevet jersey II: £130



On top of the Brevet jersey, and for additional warmth why not wear the Souplesse insulated gilet as well. Insulation at the front means the gilet keeps you that bit warmer, and the fabric is also windproof and quick-drying too in you get caught in a shower. As the fabric is breathable it makes it efficient at regulating body temperature so you don't overheat while riding. Another useful piece of kit for winter days.



Rapha Women's Souplesse Insulated Gilet: £140

rapha.cc









Where There's a Will - Emily Chappell

For a bit of holiday reading, you can't go wrong with this inspirational read by one of the UKs leading ultra distance bike riders.



Emily's autobiographical talks about how she came to do the Transcontinental Cycle race in 2016, and was the first female finisher in that race. You also hear about other tales of triumph and failure of her fellow bike riders on the ultra cycling circuit, as well as dealing with the grief following the death of her friend, Mike Hall.
A highly recommended read, as per my recent review.

Where There's A Will: Hope, Grief, and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent (Hardback): £12.99

www.waterstones.com







Cube Nuroad WS Women's Gravel Bike 2020

I had the opportunity to try out the 2019 version of this bike when I rode the Festive 500 last year.

It handled pretty well off road, and coped in the times when I went into muddy areas such as on the Marriott Way in Norwich, and the Longdendale Trail in the Peak District.

There were also areas I went where the terrain was quite rugged, for instance on the Pennine Bridleway, and I had no problems handling the bike. I would just recommend putting on detachable mudguards on the bike at this time of year! The spec of the 2020 bike doesn't seem to have changed much from last year, apart from the frame colour. Here is the review I wrote for Cyclist.


Cube Nuroad WS women's gravel bike (2020): £999

www.cube.eu


Muc-Off 8 in 1 Bicycle Cleaning Kit

This neatly packaged box contains a wide selection of brushes and sponges to use for shifting the dirt from the hardest to reach nooks and crannies on your bike, and of course you have the signature bike cleaner and the bike protect sprays included.

I've used Muc-off for years and it never fails to leave my bike sparkling clean, even after the dirtiest of bike rides with my cyclocross bike.

And if you really want to be treated, see if your nearest and dearest will gift you one of the popular Muc-Off pressure washers too.

Muc-Off 8 in 1 Bicycle Cleaning Kit: £39.99

www.muc-off.com


Related post
Christmas gifts and treats for cyclists - 1


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Christmas gift ideas and treats for cyclists -1

A few things I think would make great gifts for a cycling buddy. These are items I have got, or have reviewed, and I have found them pretty useful and quite cool.

Primal Unicorn women's jersey

I was a bit tired to take a decent pic after 120 miles!
I do like the colours of the range of clothing by Primal, and over the years I have worn a few of their jerseys. This year I treated myself to the Unicorn one which I wore at Ride London. I got a lot of positive comments about it.

Talking of Primal, I also recommend the Kismet Arm Warmers, which have 50% off and are now just £10, and the Tripper Day jersey.

Women's Unicorn jersey: £50
Tripper Day women's jersey: £50
Kismet Arm warmers: £10
www.primaleurope.com


Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 women's road bike

If you are really looking for a special treat for Christmas then you can't go wrong with the Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 women's bike.

It's got SRAM eTap electronic gears, is super-light, being made of carbon fibre, and rides oh so smoothly. The tyres are slightly wider than on usual road bikes, meaning you it is possible to ride on slightly rougher terrain than the smooth-ish road surfaces.

Overall, it's a good all-round bike for if you are doing long distance sportives and endurance rides.

Check out my review of it for Cyclist.

Avail Advanced Pro 1 (2020): £4,799
www.liv-cycling.com


Cube full-fingered winter gloves

I used these gloves last year when I rode the Festive 500. They really made a difference to me having a good or a not-so-great experience of the challenge, especially on one of the days when I was up in the Peak District and the weather was a bit damp and miserable.

The gloves kept my hands warm and they were waterproof. They have good grip too when you are going over rough terrain.

Cube gloves X-Shell long finger natural fit: £52.99
www.cube.eu













Exposure Race MK14 Lights

For me, Exposure are the gold standard when it comes to lights. I feel really confident that they won't let me down, and are very robust. I have the slightly older version of this - the Race MK13 lights which I got last year.

They were really useful when I used them on a lonely December night, along a rail trail in Norwich when I was doing the Festive 500 on a gravel bike. I have also used them this year on local trails in South London when doing mountain bike rides at night.

Of course, you can use them on the road as well, but as they are designed for riding off-road in pitch black, remember to put the setting to low when on populated roads. It gets slightly problematic when you dazzle other road users!
Alternatively, Exposure have a range of lights for other purposes, including commuting, and helmet-mounted lights.

Exposure Race MK14 mountain bike lights: £250.00

www.exposurelights.com


Saturday, 7 December 2019

Book review: Where There's A Will - Emily Chappell

Following the success of her debut autobiographical account of life as a cycle messenger, What Goes Around, Emily Chappell's sequel Where There's A Will transitions into the next phase of her cycling life - the slightly more arduous world of ultra-distance cycle racing.

Emily's second book
The story centres around Emily's experiences riding the Transcontinental Cycle race. This cycling challenge starts in Geraadsbergen, Belgium, and sees riders racing around 4,000km to reach a given town in Turkey or Greece.

I can only give an approximate distance because riders don't follow a waymarked route, but plot their own itinerary to get across the various countries between Flanders and The Balkans as quickly as possible.

As the timer is constantly running, riders have to be extremely measured about how many sleep breaks they take, and they can't receive any outside support in advance - meaning that they can't book accommodation or restaurants in advance.

So riders end up carrying all their provisions and food with them, and sleeping in bivouacs in church doorways if they're lucky - otherwise more usually in fields under the stars.

In the early part of the book Emily describes quite vividly how she wills herself along when climbing over Mont Ventoux, in Southern France, after dark in order to reach check-point one, 1000km into the route.

We get an insight into her mind as she battles up this testing iconic 21-km route that is no stranger to crowds of cycling fans cheering on riders in the Tour de France, or riding the route themselves by day. On this occasion, though the route is completely desolate, save for an overeager German journalist who runs alongside Emily for a few minutes, trying to interview her in the pitch black.

Although Emily describes how privileged she felt to have gained this experience she soon describes the deflated, drained feeling of wanting to give up, and how all she can do is cry.

Eventually, after crossing the French Alps, and reaching the second check point in Sestriere, Italy then going down crossing northern Italy, Emily is compelled to pull out of the race in Slovenia after developing chest pain. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop the Cambridge graduate from entering the Transcontinental race in subsequent years and being the first female finisher in 2016.

Emily at the London Bike Show
Throughout the book you get a real sense of goodwill from others along the way - whether it is from other riders from the world of ultra-distance cycling, strangers in the different towns and countries she traverses, or social media messages of support from the thousands of  "dot watchers" who follow her progress from her GPS tracker.

As Emily details her adventures in other races and her subsequent visits to the Transcontinental race you really want to will her along and hope that she makes it through the event and you live her emotions with her - be they the anxiety of another competitor about to catch her, the elation of winning, the nagging pains in different parts of her body from riding 300km in a day, and the grief following the death of her friend and Transcontinental founder, Mike Hall in 2017.

I enjoyed reading this book, which gives you an insight into the minds of the various characters such as Juliana Buhring, Mike Hall, and Kristof Allegaert, who seemingly won't get out of bed to ride a bike for less than 4,000km.

The story goes a little bit forwards and backwards in terms of its chronology of events and at times I did get a little confused about what year was being referred to, but don't let that stop you from understanding and enjoying this niche world of ultra-distance cycle racing.

Although I am not especially tempted to get into this cycling discipline, which appears to be gaining traction among keen cyclists, I do take from the book the analogies with life and dealing with the challenges that get thrown at you. And that makes Where There's A Will a worthwhile read.

From the book, it's not clear to me what drives Emily to repeatedly do these two-week long bike rides where you survive on whatever food you can grab from a local shop, or occasionally leftovers of someone's meal in bar when in a one-horse village in Montenegro, then getting soaked and sleeping in a cemetery, wearing the same clothes for a few days on the trot without getting a wash, and sometimes having a cry here and there.

When I asked Emily about her drive, during her book launch at the Look Mum No Hands cycle cafe, she said it was really down to the wish to push herself to the ultimate limits, seeing how far she can go, and learning to cope with those situations. I have a lot of admiration for that.

In parts of the book Emily also refers to a lost love. I can't confirm exactly who is referred to at these moments, but I do think about the part in What Goes Around in which Emily breaks up with a girlfriend, and says "I don't think I ever cried over our break-up. I just kept riding."

Emily (top right) at the book launch with cycling journalists and writers (credit: Look Mum No Hands)
Could it be that these biking exploits may be a de facto way of dealing with those down moments in life such as break-ups and grief?

Whatever your thoughts are on bike riding or ultra-distance cycle racing I would recommend Where There's A Will. It is an engrossing read, and I would say it's an analogy for life with all its up and downs, albeit over a 4,000km-bike ride between here and Turkey.


Where There's A Will, Emily Chappell. 2019 (Publisher: Profile Books Ltd.) ; Hardback, £12.99.


A few words from the author

I posed Emily Chappell a few questions around Where There's A Will:

When thinking about your biking adventure and recalling it in the book how has this changed you as a person?

You could say that racing has changed me, or you could say that it simply removed some of the impediments that were preventing me from being my full self. Hurling myself across Europe, and having to deal with anything that came up, meant that I got very good at looking after myself, at keeping a clear head and thinking my way through any tight spots I got into. I’m now more confident, more capable, and far less likely to be held back by fear or self-doubt.


When writing the book was your intention to inspire people, help them if they're coping with a difficult situation, or was it just a straightforward tale of your cycling adventures?

I didn’t set out to write a self-help book, though I know, given some of the topics I’ve touched on, that some people will find it inspiring or comforting. My main motivation, I think, was to make sense of the experiences I’d had, to find ways of explaining them to myself, and to create a cycling narrative that was different from the others I’d read.

Emily's first book
How does this writing process, and where you were emotionally compare with "What Goes Around"?

The writing process was similar in some ways. Because I’d been through the highs and lows of book-writing once before, it wasn’t necessarily easier, but I knew what to expect, and that I’d get through the times where it felt like the end of the world. (There are such strong parallels with an ultra-distance bike race.) 

The main difference was that I was writing about an emotional journey that was still ongoing. My friend Mike, who features in the book, died when I was in the early stages of writing it, and the grieving process and the writing process became entwined together.

What similarities would you say there are between the world of cycle couriers and that of ultra distance cyclists? They both seem to be quite particular activities that involve testing situations from what I can see.

The main similarity – and the way in which I think my years as a courier best prepared me for ultra-racing – is that you become accustomed to getting up every day and getting on the bike, no matter how tired, unhappy, injured or reluctant you are, and no matter what the weather’s doing. You don’t consider whether or not it’s a good idea – you just do it. And both couriering and ultra-racing have a strong community around them, with a wonderful diversity of people. It’s one of the best bits.


And on that note, would you say you just enjoy the trials and tribulations of cycling? 

I do. All the good bits, and all the bad bits too. I can’t imagine my life without bikes.


Emily on the Radio
Emily on Robert Elms Show, BBC Radio London 15th November 2019

Emily on Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4, 7th Decembver 2019 (~45 minutes into the show)


Related posts
52 Cycling Voices - Emily Chappell

52 Cycling Voices - Jenni Gwiadowski

52 Cycling Voices - Sarah Strong

Christmas Gift Ideas, featuring "Bikes and Bloomers" by Kat Jungnickel

Christmas Gift Ideas, featuring "How to Build a Bike" by Jenni Gwiazdowski

52 Cycling Voices - Alex Davis


Wednesday, 4 December 2019

52 Cycling Voices - 27: Adeline O'Moreau

Adeline is a real force on a cyclocross bike. I got to know her when she was based in London and racing for The 5th Floor cycle racing team. I did a few of the summer cyclocross races a few years ago when they promoted the series and I was quite impressed at how she was able to coordinate the rounds with her team-mates, man the sign-on and administrative parts of the race, compete and even win the race - all in one day.
She has since set up her own team, Good Vibes Only and that seems to be going well - especially as those good vibes come from her and her team-mates when riding bikes built by Adeline's own fair hand.
I got caught up with the Adeline about her bike riding and bike frame building.

Photo: Russell Barton
Adeline O'Moreau, aged 30
From: Habay-La-Vieille, Belgium
Lives: Sheffield
Occupation: Designer, frame builder and owner of Mercredi Bikes

I was born in Belgium, but I grew up a bit all over the place as we lived in several places through Europe. 

I must have been quite little when I first rode a bike. I remember being at the seaside on a red trike with white wheelsThen I got the bike with stabilizers that my older brother outgrew. 

I learned to ride in Finland where the residential streets were really safe at the time. 
One weekend, when I must have been five, my mum went away for the day and I told my dad I was going to ride without the little wheels by the time she came back. 

Though growing up, there wasn't really much of a cycling culture as such, so after childhood I didn't ride a bike much, apart from the occasional pedal through the woods. 

I came to England in 2012, when I accidentally got a job as a junior designer in a little agency in London. It all happened really fast. I applied just to see what they would say, and two weeks later I was there! I really didn’t expect to find myself still in the UK seven years later.

It was only after arriving in London that I picked up cycling again, because I couldn’t stomach paying the immense fees for public transport. Public transport seemed like a racket to me, so I bought an old bike on the internet. Taking up cycling again blew my mind a bit. Riding on the left hand side was absolutely terrifying! Roundabouts were the worst; it took me so long to feel confident I was approaching them the correct way.

I got into the London racing scene when I got intrigued by cyclocross. Although I am from Belgium, the homeland of 'cross, it’s not that popular in the South of the country where I was, so I was not familiar with it. 

My first race was the Rapha Supercross fun race in Alexandra Palace in 2014. I turned up on my single-speed commuter bike and had the time of my life. Little did I know tequila shortcuts and foam cannons were actually not the norm in cyclocross racing! 

After that, I tried to put together a 'cross bike using an old Cantilever brake touring frame I found on eBay - a Nigel Dean with magenta to pale pink fade [paint design]. It was gorgeous but utterly useless. It fitted 30mm knobbly tyres in a squeeze and rode like an overcooked spaghetti. I rode it around Epping forest for one winter, where I met Clare [Ross] on those rides. She convinced me to join Brixton Cycles

Eventually, I cobbled together the courage to go to a race. Unfortunately, I got lost on the way there and never made it to the start. I think it was the last race of the 2014/15 season. 
Racing for her new team Good Vibes Only
(photo: Mick Brown)
The 2015/16 'cross season was amazing. At Brixton Cycles Club I met some amazing folks that year - Monika [Zamojska], Clare, Stef [Lai] and we all motivated each other and shared train journeys to races. Lots of Brixton lads were also racing. We had a really good thing going.

One of the key things about cycling has been the amazing circle of friends I got to develop through riding and racing

We would go to races by train, or met at races or on club runs and started sharing a few hours on the bike and motivating each other. We all progressed at similar rates and kept pushing each other a bit more.

Incredibly Cross started happening around that time too. It's an unsanctioned series of races, with fancy dress encouraged and held at a secret location. 

The craze that lured me into the sport through the Rapha Supercross seemed alive and well at Incredibly Cross. It was so much fun.

I am quite down to earth about my racing. I know I’ll never be the next big thing, but I do it because it’s fun. I like the challenges of the courses, the conditions, the visits to different parts of the country and the world. 

Clare and I joined The 5th Floor the following season as they started the women’s team. There was interest from the team to compete in some serious road races and some criterium series, so I tried my legs at those, but it wasn’t the same as 'cross. 

It’s a challenge fitting in all the training and racing around my work. I think everyone who wants to race and train around a full time job finds the same. There aren’t enough hours in the day! 

For me, the hardest part is to stay motivated for several weeks and months in a row. My attention span is quite limited, so I easily forget the big goal in the future in favour of the small immediate one.

In a way, I’m glad I didn’t start racing until well into adulthood. As a child I was pretty carefree and non competitive. I had LOTS of energy but I’m glad I could expand it in the garden and the forest, exploring and just being myself, without it needing to be something ‘productive’. I also did lots of theatre as a kid, especially improvisation, which I loved. I think I had a bit of a thing against set rules. 

My favourite place to go bike riding at the moment is the Peak District. We moved to a place near there recently because the riding is so great and I never get tired of it! The weather can be a challenge, but I think I’ll get used to it, and find strategies that work, plus the right clothing - at least I hope so. Whenever I ride, I never go out without a large snack though.

I got into frame building when I decided to design a bike for myself. I wasn't sure if it would necessarily work. I guess it’s in my nature to just throw myself at things and see what happens. 
"Making a bike is one of the most empowering things ever": Adeline at work in The Bicycle Academy
(Photo: Christopher Lanaway Photography) 
I like making stuff, and learning in practical ways. It wasn't that the way to fix my problem was to make a bike that fitted; I just knew I had a problem I wanted to solve. 
And I think in a way it’s really cool to set out to do something you don’t know anything about, because then you don’t know how difficult it can be, and you are always learning. The more I learn about making bikes, the more there is to learn. 

I only knew a tiny bit about bike mechanics when I first started riding. I learned most things on the spot. Whenever a problem happened I would try to find the solution myself. 

Before I started cycling in London, I didn’t know how to fix a puncture. The first few weeks on my Raleigh, I rode in the hardest gear cause I didn’t know how to shift gear. I had never seen downtube shifters in my life.
Somehow, after fixing punctures and indexing gears, it seemed like making a whole bike was the natural thing to learn next, so I attended a course at The Bicycle Academy.

I didn’t really see it as a course to become a frame builder. I had no ambition as such to make it a job at all.  It was just like a holiday for me, a treat - spending a week or so in a lush little town in Somerset learning to work with metal. So in that way, I was very excited. I didn’t go with the intention to change my job at all. 

During the week I lived a number of emotional moments. At the end of every day, I could see and touch and hold the fruit of my labour. That was amazing for me - very different from my usual digital work as a designer!
On the last day of the course, I took a step back and thought, "Holy shit I made a bike!" Everyone else at The Bicycle Academy was also like "ADELINE YOU MADE THIS!!!!" It was pretty emotional.
After that, there was the moment when the bike came back from the painter. That was also really emotional. 

And the day I finally could swing my leg over the bike - that was actually so stressful. We were in Wales and the bike kept making this tick tick tick noise and I was so worried. It turned out the gear cable had popped out of its guide and was tapping against the stay - no, the bike was not at all going to explode! I had a great time after that.
Making stuff feels so empowering, so fulfilling. 

The Bicycle Academy has been a real inspiration and continues to be super super helpful. You can hire a workbench if you’ve done a course, so you can make more bikes in a really good, positive and supportive environment.
Initially, I tried not to look at what other builders were doing too much, and instead took cues from my design practice and sought advice from the network of folks I knew in the creative industry too. 
There's always more to learn in frame building
(Photo: Christopher Lanaway)
I got super lucky on many occasions. Shand Cycles, the adventure bikes company from Scotland, gave me a set of tubes they had won at a show. 

They wanted to help someone who was starting up, so they reached out to The Bicycle Academy who in turn reached out to me. I got to rent a bench and use the tubes there.

As I had been self-employed for a few years, flying solo as a frame builder didn't really scare me. So Mercredi Bikes was born.

Another really amazing thing that truly propelled Mercredi into people’s radar was Grinduro Scotland and the following one in California. I got to make and race a MTB for the event, and in the US I got to meet some amazing folks who really took care of me.

As well as that, I have also always rented workshop spaces from other builders. That has been super helpful. You can go a bit crazy in the workshop on your own, and it’s much nicer to share the space and the lunch breaks! 

The second bike I built was for my friend, Clare. Her 'cross bike had been stolen so she had no race bike anymore. I wanted to help out with that, of course. 
Making a bike for her was a super interesting process. Clare went through the whole procedure as if she was a regular customer, and not one of my closest friends, which helped me set up a framework for how I could work. We did the bike-fit like I still do fits now, and the design process was a two-way conversation like it still is today. A lot of my work now is still informed by this first batch.

For the making part, I went back to The Bicycle Academy which was super helpful. I was doing most things by myself but I could ask questions and run through my next steps with everyone there, and they were really a positive and supportive environment. 

Clare rides two bikes I made now, and though we don’t get to see each other so much since I have moved, I get a text every now and then about how riding the bikes makes her smile or feel strong or have a super fun time. I love that so much. 

Combining bike racing and frame building is tricky, because you need to be super switched on for both, and it can get quite tiring. I think a lot of folks have found it super hard to carry on riding as much as they would like to while running a frame building business. 

For me, it’s super important to carry on riding as much as possible. Firstly, I need it for my own mental health. Secondly, I think it brings me a lot of interesting feedback that I can use in the bike building when I get to test out theories in the real world. I’ve got two 'cross bikes I made. They have subtle differences that I’ve been testing, and it’s amazing to get a feel for what you would have otherwise only known in theory. 

Racing is a way to test out bike-building theories
I am beginning to see more and more femme/transgender/women (FTW) bike frame builders. In recent years, it seems that there has been a very strong drive to bringing the community together, supporting each other and making room for more folks. 

The industry is still really heavily dominated by white dudes, but I think we are growing our corner and the future looks a little brighter. 

Bike shows can be really awkward; I’ve had some pretty shitty experiences and I think it’s important to say they happen. 

A lot of folks still expect builders to look a certain way and they are thrown off when you don’t look like how they expected a frame builder to look. It can be micro-aggression on micro-aggression, and I get really tired of that stuff. 

But on the flip side, there are some folks who come to a show knowing about my work and are just genuinely super keen to discuss and meet up and that’s so lovely. 

As an industry I think more should be done to become as diverse as the world we live in. Everyone can bring something amazing to the table through their background and experiences, and enrich the work we do. 

There is still a lot of work to do to reach that point, but there are some great initiatives. For example the Philly Bike Expo / SRAM inclusivity scholarship supported four builders to exhibit at this year’s show and the work they brought was out of this world. It goes to show that bringing all these different ideas and minds into the industry will push us all forward and refresh the scene a lot. 

From a business perspective it’s also a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we bring on board so many more people? More diverse builders doesn’t mean all the builders who were there before will run out of business; it means our industry will open up to their communities and that’s awesome. I think the saying goes "a rising tide lifts all boats". 

My advice to anyone wanting to get into bike frame building is making a bike is one of the most empowering things ever. If you feel like doing that, The Bicycle Academy is a wonderful place to do so, and there is no obligation to turn it into a job.

If you do want to make it into a job, you've got to treat it like a job, so put in the same hours, and work to the same standard. 
Take your time to define your vision and your plan, work backwards from there and then work your butt off to meet each step along the way to make your vision happen.

It's worth knowing that there is a lot more to running a frame building business than making bikes, and you really have to embrace all these aspects straight away. You will need to have a solid business plan, do accounts, spend a lot of time on emails with customers and suppliers, and be patient and hard working. 

Find out who you are as a builder and what you are interested in doing, and find out the same about your customers. Not everyone will want to see you succeed, but that’s not a reflection on you. 
It will be hard and the workshops can get really cold and lonely, but it will be very rewarding in many ways. Remember, there is a community of builders out there who will be ready to help and guide you, so don’t be afraid to reach out. 

If anyone wants to reach out to me, my address is on my website and I will do my best to help in any way I can. đź‘‹ 


Twitter: @Ecunard
Instagram:  @m_recredi  


Other Cycling Voices
Jenni Gwiadowski

Sarah Strong

Alex Davis

Hannah Bussey

Gema Fernandez

Geraldine Glowinski

Michelle Webster

Maria David