Monday 30 November 2020

Christmas gift ideas for cyclists - 1

We are less than a month away from Christmas - yes that December celebration that I assume won't be cancelled by Covid-19. 

There might be restrictions on mass gatherings, but that won't stop people from enjoying a bit of turkey dinner (or a vegetarian/vegan alternative), overindulging on Quality Streets while watching the Queen's Speech or Home Alone, and of course exchanging gifts. 

So here are a few ideas:

Sealskinz waterproof socks

These are actually waterproof and windproof. The socks have a specific lining which helps to keep your feet warm at this time of year. I have worn these in wet conditions a few times, and I can say they do work. The material is significantly thicker than an ordinary sock, as it is triple layered with a mixture of merino wool, acrylic, and polypropylene. Some might feel the socks are slightly bulky within the shoe. It is important to get exactly the right size, or else your foot won't fit comfortably in the shoe, and you won't get that snug fit that you get with ordinary socks. It's that snug fit that helps to keep your feet warm too. What I like is that the socks are seamless and smooth, to avoid rubbing or blisters. 

Size: S, M, L, XL

Colours: Black/Grey Marl; Grey/Grey Marl; Navy Blue/Grey Marl; Red/Grey Marl.   

Price: £30



Sealskinz cold weather gloves with Fusion ControlTM 

With three layers, including a merino inner layer, a waterproof membrane, and a goatskin outer layer - altogether know as Fusion ControlTM these Sealskinz cold weather gloves aim to keep you warm throughout the winter months. The goatskin on thhe palms of the glove also offer better grip when holding the handlebars. I found these gloves did the job of keeping my fingers warm, when I was out on my rides into the country lanes of Kent. Again, they felt slightly bulky compared with other fabric gloves that I am used to wearing. But that could also have been because they were new. In any case, I would recommend them as they are good quality gloves that do what it says on the tin.

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Colour: Black, Grey/Black

Material: Outer lining - goatskin leather and softshell; Palm - Goatskin leather plam; Middle layer - 100% hydrophilic membrane; Inner layer - Merino wool.

Price: £75.00


Rapha + Outdoor Voices jersey


I was lucky enough to receive one of these Rapha + Outdoor Voices jersey earlier this year. It was the first Rapha jersey I have had that is not in their signatory bold colours with the band across the chest. This is a much more laid back kind of jersey, with an association more akin to leisure bike riding and relaxing while off the bike. It's a nice light jersey in a silky-style fabric. This shade, like the other shades in the range are more around a rustic kind of look. It may be a little cold to wear this, but it can still be a good gift for when the weather turns fair or even for use while cycling indoors - which I understand many people do.

Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL

Colours: Red, green, blue

Price: £120


Canyon Precede:On E-Bike

As this has been the year for people to take to two wheels you might want to consider this as a very special gift for a very well-deserving person. This isn't just an E-bike. It's a Canyon E-Bike. That means it's a high-end piece of kit that will be a cut above other e-bikes. Why? Because it's got automatic gear shifters, so you don't have to change gear when you ride - like with an automatic car. You just set the cadence that you would like to ride at - 85, 80, or 75 rpm - and then the motor programmes itself to find the right gear and power (or torque) to move the bike along via it's Shimano 12-speed derailleur and a belt instead of an ordinary chain. There are other modes to choose from, like Tour, Sport or Turbo. It is all powered by the highest spec Bosch motor that gives a range of around 65 km when ridden in Tour mode. You can get a full-carbon fibre bike, like the one I tried, or you can go for an aluminium version. They also come as step-through or step-over versions. I generally like a step-through as it's handy for if I am wearing a skirt. The bike has other useful touches to it, like mudguards, and a rack that can also attach to a trailer, built-in front and rear lights, a bell, and a kick-stand - which I found especially useful.

This is a high-end bike, and with that comes a higher price than you might usually spend on a bike. In fact, for what the Canyon Precede:On offers it is reasonable value for money. But it is true that for whoever you buy this for, that person will probably mean a lot to you - and that might person might even be you!

Price: £4,699


Biography of racing legend, Beryl Burton

To add to your Christmas reading least, how about the life and times of one of Britain's greatest female cycle racers, the unstoppable Beryl Burton. 

This biography by respected cycle journalist, William Fotheringham looks at the life of the Yorkshire woman who got into cycling after accompanying her husband to races. The book about what her drove her, in a world where women's cycling was a marginal sport, with fewer opportunities for aspiring women racers than there were for men. Nevertheless this didn't stop Beryl Burton from clocking almost 100 victories during the 1960s and 70s and holding the 12-hour record for both men and women! All this was against a backdrop of her having overcome lengthy spells of illness - an inspirational read.

The Greatest: the Times and Life of Beryl Burton (Hardback)

Written by William Fotheringham

250 pages - Published by YouCaxton Publications

Available at Waterstones - Price: £20.00

Friday 27 November 2020

52 Cycling Voices (in the time of coronavirus) - 31: Bithja Jones

Given the effect that coronavirus has had on sporting activities all over the world, it is not surprising that cycle racing has been affected too. A number of the national championship races didn't take place in the UK either. One event that did take place, and didn't fail to disappoint were the National Hill Climb Championships. They took place on Streatley Hill, just into the Chiltern Hills near Reading, and had a record turn-out of women. There were 110 entries and 93 women took the start line. Among them was local racer, Bithja Jones who started cycle racing a couple of years ago, and did her first hill climb race last year. With dedicated training, and help from her club Pankhurst Cycles she only went and won this year's championships, even beating the experienced hotly tipped favourite Mary Wilkinson. As an also-ran in the race who finished quite at the opposite end of the result sheet from Bithja, I was interested in talking to this single mum of two, who is also an artist, and finding out how she rolls. 

(Photo: Tim Phillips)

Bithja Jones (aka B, to her friends) aged 41

From: Kaltenkirchen (near Hamburg), Germany

Lives: Reading

Occupation: Support Assistant at a Special needs school

I have always been a keen cyclist, and cycled everywhere. I didn't get a driving licence until my son was born in 2012. As a 15-year old, when I had my first little jobs -  a paper round and then a cleaning job at a hair dressers - I saved up all that money to buy myself a decent bike. It was a Schwinn Crosspoint and I was really proud of it. My father took me and my siblings on bike packing holidays and those weeks were always very special. My longest ride was when I did a cycle tour from Germany to Croatia and back. I was 20 at the time, studying sculpture at Dresden University. 

Always cycling with the kids - even as toddlers
When my kids were in preschool, I started cycling with them. 

Then as soon as my daughter was old enough to sit on a bike seat I bought a Dutch-style Bakfiets. Like that, I could ride my bike with them and didn’t feel stuck at home. That was a great investment and it made me very happy. 

When I moved house 18 months ago, we started cycling the 4km-journey to school every morning, each of us on our own bikes. My daughter had just turned 5, and my son was 7 at that time.

I had a couple of years of running, which I loved. I enjoyed competitive events and got quite fast, coming 3rd at the Windsor 10k. But then at the end of 2018 I had to stop because of injuries. So I went to my local bike shop, Pankhurst Cycles, and bought my first proper road bike - another really good investment.

At Windsor 10k
I joined Pankhurst Cycles cycle club and started going on their weekly shop rides, recording my rides on Strava. My club mates commented on my speed and my power up hills. At first I was a bit embarrassed, because I got between 10 an 20 new Queen of the Mountains (QOMs) every time I went on a ride.  I thought my Garmin was broken, but it turned out that wasn't the case - I was just quite fast! 

Olly and Rikki from the shop supported me when I said I wanted to give track cycling a go. They prepared a bike for me, and gave some helpful tips and advice (I had never ridden a fixie before). Then after a successful track season I took part in my first hill climb race up Wittenham Clumps, near Didcot, in August 2019.

Next, I did the Reading CC double Hill climbs on Flint Hill and Streatley Hill and won both, including breaking Maryka Sennema's record on Streatley Hill in a time of 3:03.  I also raced the National Championships in Haytor Hill, Devon and came 13th.

After more training, I did the warm-up hill climb on Streatley Hill in September, run by Didcot Phoenix and Reading CC and broke the record again in 2:54. At the Nationals I went even faster. It's true I like to really immerse myself in what I do and try to do things as well as I can. 

Breaking the record on Walbury Hill
(photo: Steve Dixon)
Then nationals were definitely my biggest win so far. This has only been my second hill climb season and the Nationals this year was my 12th hill climb race.

This year's event was very different from what I had anticipated a year ago. Streatley is a short course and it would have been lined with spectators and would have been very noisy. 

I was hoping to get loads of my friends to support me and cheer me on and, of course, members of our cycling club Pankhurst Cycles which is very local. But given that there were no spectators allowed, it was great that the marshals on the course made an effort and cheered everyone on. It felt good!

I knew I had given everything on the climb, I had nothing left, and I think I also knew somehow that I had done well. I heard someone shouting ”new course record”. I couldn’t stand on my legs and I had a massive headache and quickly found a patch of grass to sit down and recover.

I knew my time quite quickly after I finished and when I heard I had done 2:47 I was very happy. It had been my goal to ride a sub 2:50. But I knew that the strongest rider, Mary Wilkinson was still to come. I had never raced against her but had heard a lot about her. Someone came over after a few minutes (maybe just 2 minutes or so after I had crossed the line) and told me that I had won. It all felt very strange and surreal, sitting there on the grass feeling awful and so happy at the same time!

At once, everyone around was very nice to me and congratulated me. I think the hill climbers are a fantastic lot. They are so friendly and welcoming and everyone cheers everyone on and every rider gets the respect they deserve. 

A hill climb is always hard. Even if you end up with the slowest time, it is still a hard effort and you get applauded for doing it and for putting in that amazing effort. And, of course, I am massively proud that I was able to keep up and even beat some amazing and experienced riders!

A very supportive environment at Pankhurst Cycles
This was such a special and fantastic event with a great atmosphere despite the difficulties of the pandemic.

Pankhurst Cycles is a very cool bike shop with very friendly people running it. They have a cycling club affiliated with the shop and organise weekly group rides and there are a handful of people racing in the track league in Reading, and a few do cyclocross races. 

They have always been very supportive and I love going there at the weekend for a coffee and just to hang around and catch up. Their support in the run-up to the Nationals this year was amazing. A friend from the club sponsored me and provided the Tifosi Mons frame that I rode this season, and Pankhurst Cycles equipped it with all the right gear for my hill climb races. Rikki Pankhurst was my supporter at most of the races this season and I didn’t have to worry about anything other than cycling up a hill as fast as possible.

The campaign run by Laura Hayley to get more women entrants was very successful. It made this year’s event very special, and seeing so many women at the Nationals was just fantastic. It would be so great to see more of that!  I hope lots of women get inspired and feel encouraged to enter events. We are getting a road bike ready for my daughter.

To get more women to participate in events there are a few things like equal prize money and separate results on the Cycling Time Trials webpage that need to be sorted. It’s a surprise really that things are so unequal still in some places, when you think about it. 

But I think it is also really important that we women encourage and motivate each other and set good examples. The press could help with that too and give the women’s event more coverage. 

To any woman who is considering doing a hill climb race I'd say just do it! If you are scared or feel intimidated, find someone to support you. Enter events together as friends, never hesitate to ask other women who are already racing. I am 100% sure they would love to help anyone with worries or concerns and would love to be helpful and supportive. I am always happy to chat if anyone has got questions. Get in touch and just do it!

Hopefully there'll track cycling in 2021
Rumours are that next year's race will be on Winnats Pass. I don’t know the hill but it looks great on Strava! I can’t wait, and will train hard, explore the course and do my best to defend my title! I am planning to do a bike packing holiday next summer and will cycle to the Peak District for some climbing practice.

I also do track cycling but because of the pandemic there were no events this year and I have only done one season since gaining my accreditation in April 2019. My first season on the track went quite well, as I became the track champion at the Reading league.

Next year, hopefully, track cycling will go ahead again. I also want to do lots of rides to the sea, get a little stronger and faster, and maybe give road racing a go if I can fit it in. I also hope I can win some hill climbs, and of course defend my title. The children and I want to fly to Hamburg to collect a tandem that is still at my sister's place. We will fit a tag-along to it and then cycle from Hamburg back home to Reading. That’s going to be our first cycling adventure holiday together.

My everyday schedule means I am quite busy, and often feel like there is not enough time to do all the things that I want to do. I am a single mum-of-two, with a full time job. I also love doing art and book illustrations and go cycling as much as I can. 

It’s a good balance though and it’s great to be able to go for an explosive quick ride after a tough day at work, or go cycling with my children. They are very passionate about cycling too, and hope to cycle around the world with me in a few years. 

Bithja's cycle-themed art
My art is often about cycling as well, so all the different areas of my life feed into each other. So I get ideas from my work for my art, or go cycling for mindful recovery time, and it all works together really well. I also cycle with my children 4km to school every morning, then cycle to work (another 6km), then do the same thing again in the afternoon. Some of my training is done on this daily commute.

Overall, my cycling is done for fun. I don’t really feel the pressure so much, but I do get nervous before a race. Mind you, I think you need that to perform well. 

With my art, it's the other way around. I feel more pressure doing a commissioned piece of art that someone is paying for, than I do for a bike race, as it has to be perfect. Having said that, I do a lot of art for myself, and I still do my best because it gives me great satisfaction and I love it!

When I first arrived in the UK 12 years ago I was terrified of cycling on the roads, but now I find it a lot easier.  I don’t know whether cycling has improved or maybe I have just got used to it. 

Reading is not bad for cycling. There is the cycle path along the River Thames, which I use a lot with the kids, and lots of short cuts where you can avoid the major roads and the traffic. Also I just love the countryside around Reading. The Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs are beautiful, and on a long ride you can cycle to the South coast and back.

At work in Pankhurst Cycles
Overall, I think it’s much more common in Germany to use a bike as a means of transport than in the UK. Therefore there are more cyclists on the road, and the awareness for cyclists by motorists is much better. The road surfaces are a lot nicer as well. Schools have large bike parking areas as most students ride to school on their bikes.

Dealing with the Covid pandemic has not been easy. I live in a small flat with my kids and we haven’t got a garden. We are all outdoorsy people, so it is hard to deal with, but you just have to get on with it and make it work. 

The pre-school I was working in closed down for good partly due to the pandemic, so I lost my job there. I continued my other job, working two days a week at Pankhurst Cycles but it was not an easy time. 

Luckily, I found a new job in a school for children with special needs and I absolutely love my work. But sadly, this new job didn’t leave me enough time to carry on with my work in the bike shop.

When it comes to favourite places to cycle - I went on a cycling holiday in the Alps in the Summer 2019 and that was brilliant. I really want to go back again. Slovenia is also a very beautiful place to cycle through, and there are so many places I haven’t explored yet, even quite close here in Britain. I hope my children’s passion for cycling will carry on and we can go do our round-the-world trip, exploring many new places together.  

My favourite person to cycle with is someone a tiny bit stronger and faster than me so I have to work hard to keep up. I just like pushing myself! For a long tour I would like to go with my sister, Sarah. We haven’t been on a bike ride together for many years but we did lots of bike packing tours together in the past and we would get on very well. She visited me here in England last year when I won on Streatley Hill the first time. It was great to see her here and to have her support.

Bithja Moor Illustrations

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Name our London cycle lanes - Maurice Burton and Beryl Burton in the frame

The beady eyed among you will have noticed that London has a number of segregated cycle lanes. As well as the coronavirus-led pop-up lanes there are also the permanent ones that existed back when Corona was just a beer people wanted to be seen sipping to look trendy while in a bar on the River Thames. (Sadly, this word has set a different sort of trend.) 

The permanent lanes are cycleways with official names, or rather alpha-numerical names. As a south Londoner I regularly use CS7 that goes through Tooting and Clapham. I also use CS6, which starts at Elephant and Castle and goes through Southwark, over Blackfriars Bridge and all the way to Kings Cross. Sometimes I use CS3 when riding from Docklands to Tower Bridge, along the Thames and onwards to Westminster.

Instead of having letters and numbers for these cycleways, why not give them actual names? So the bike manufacturers Brompton, in partnership with a climate change charity, Possible, and Covent Garden, asked for nominations for names for the different cycleways, and we have been given the chance to vote for the different names proposed.  

Among these names are this year's Giro d'Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart and former Tottenham Labour MP Bernie Grant for CS1 in North London. There is also Mary Seacole, a black nurse who set up a hospital during the Crimean War, for CS3 that goes through Central London where she was based, and Charlie Chaplin, a comic actor, for CS4 in Southwark.

Maurice Burton - read more about his life on

A couple of names that I am pleased to see nominated are two people by the name of Burton. Maurice Burton for CS7 in South London, and Beryl Burton for CS2 to Stratford/Olympic Park. They are no relation to each other, but they are very prominent people in cycling.

Maurice Burton is very well known among club cyclists all over the UK and beyond, though London is his home town. Thousands of people will have bought bikes from him at his shop De Ver Cycles on Streatham High Road, South London. But do all the people who go in his shop know that he is a British Cycling Champion? Maurice Burton had a successful racing career on the track during the early 70s, having won British National titles in 1974 and 1975, and representing Britain at the Commonwealth Games in 1974. 

Unfortunately, racist attitudes in those days meant that Maurice's efforts to bid for greater success were thwarted, notably when he tried to qualify for the Montreal Olympics in 1976. He later moved to Belgium and raced on the demanding six-day circuits - track races that take place over six days. While there he made many friends with other racers - mainly Belgian riders, and also Gary Wiggins, father of Bradley.

When I got into competitive cycling I bought my first few bikes from De Ver Cycles - a hyrid, and two road bikes. Maurice was always very helpful and took the time to explain the bikes and make sure I had the most suitable one for me. Other customers have given similar feedback about how helpful and encouraging he has been. As well as that De Ver Cycles have sponsored local children's cycling clubs like Sutton Cycling Club, supported other youngsters getting into cycling, and they have an inclusive cycling club, welcoming people of all abilities. 

So given his success and involvement in his local community, I think it is only fitting that a bike lane in South London be named after Maurice Burton.

Beryl at a race in Morecambe (1966) (photo: Brian Townley)

Beryl Burton is probably the most successful female bike racer of any era. She had 90 wins over a period of  20 years between the 1950s and 70s. In her day, women's racing was restricted, with a lot of it being time trials, a bit of track and limited road racing. Racing was over quite short distances and was not a professional sport for women. 

A women's road race wasn't included in the Olympics until 1984, long after Beryl had retired. In her time, she won seven world championship titles, and held the 12-hour record, of 277.25 miles - for a time, more miles done than any man or woman. 

Sadly, Beryl didn't get to meet some of our modern-day female champions like Lizzie Deignan, Laura Kenny, or Marianne Vos. Burton died from heart failure in 1996, while cycling around her home town, near Leeds, delivering invitations for people to attend her 59th birthday party a few days later.

Beryl Burton's daughter Denise Burton-Cole was also a good racer and competed against her mother in the 70s. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Denise recently at the Tour de Yorkshire bike race. She still cycles now with her husband, and I am sure Denise will drop more than a few of us on those Pennine Hills!

Beryl Burton already has a cycle lane named after her, a 2.8km path between Harrogate and Knaresborough, not far from her home town, which is fitting. However, we see very few other references to Beryl Burton considering all her success in the cycling, so I think that a lane named after her that goes to the Olympic Velodrome would be an inspirational legacy for this great rider. The Velodrome in Lee Valley has been the scene of some of our greatest achievements by British female cyclists (notably at the London 2012 Olympics), so it would be good to have her honoured at a place synonymous with British success in cycling. 

Voting closes today at 23:59 hours.

The full list of lanes and the various nominees can be found on the Possible website.  

Saturday 14 November 2020

Enjoying my time with Brompton

Earlier this year I took part in a photo shoot for Brompton, as part of their new marketing campaign. It was a pretty fun day out, going around different parts of central London and being photographed with other models. I wasn't exactly sure when or even where the photos would be published, and as I got busy doing other things I didn't pay that much attention. The job was done and dusted, and I probably had my head immersed in another writing project. 

Is a nice surprise to see yourself featured on Instagram

So it was quite a surprise yesterday to see myself tagged in a friend's post on Instagram, and discover that I was featured in one of Brompton's Instagram stories. As well as a few photos of me on the bike, they published the mini interview about cycling that I did for their blog.

Even though I write for different publications and have done so for a number of years, it still warms my cockles to see something I wrote being published to a mass audience - especially when it's unexpected.

Brompton sent me that very bike after shoot, so I am now the proud owner of these outstanding folding bikes. I really like the racing green colour. That fits very much my style, and I am thankful that the bike is 6-speed given that I have a hill to go up practically as soon as I leave my home! I look forward to having many more pleasant moments riding this bike.

Related posts

New bike day - Brompton

Bike life with the Liv Thrive E+ e-bike

Cycle route: South London to Central (mainly traffic-free)

Shoot story - Como