Do You Like Bikes and Blogs? Then You Will Love These Links

Because my last post was a bit of a grumble about how I am sick of reading about ‘slow living‘ all the time (which I should have just said outright instead of ranting on as per usual! And, surely ‘slow’ is just blogland’s new trendy bandwagon word for procrastination, eh?!!), I now feel its time to redeem myself and balance out my internet karma by putting a little bit of love back out there.

I love blogs, I honestly do. They are the reason why I have an internet addiction, why I don’t buy magazines anymore and why my book reading productivity is at an all time low! I relax by sipping a cup of tea and working my way through my Feedly feed. I still enjoy blogging as a hobby too. I wish I had more time for it and I could make my blog better, both in appearance and content (plus I hate the name of it!) but I am far too lazy to up my blogging game. Maybe its because of all the slow living I do…..!

Anyhoo, I have discovered some brilliant blogs this year and I want to share them on here.

It just so happens that they all are blogs about cycling and written by thirty something women, but please don’t let that put you off!

I fully appreciate that not everyone is sporty or interested in cycling (TBH this time last year, I wasn’t either!) but if you give them a chance and click on the links, I promise you wont regret it. Some of these blogs are so thoughtfully and intelligently written (like Tour de Lindsey B!), that I want to approach random strangers in the street and tell them that they have got to read them!

BTW I have not done so yet. But I may well do if I am lubricated enough. Take this as a warning random strangers on the streets of Maidstone!

So if you like blogs that are positive, fun, stylish, well written and also sometimes inspire you to get your feminist ranty pants out of the wardrobe and wear them with pride (as cycling is traditionally a bit of a boys thing) then do click on the links below!

Total Womens Cycling – Technically not a blog, but an online magazine covering everything you need to know about cycling what ever skill level and interest you have. Even if you are not at all into cycling and you are just a total woman, then you should still read it anyway. Check out the lifestyle section, or this post, or this post to get them ranty pants on.

Velocity Girl – I love this blog. Its a fashion/cycling/lifestyle blog. What more could you want?

Lovely Bicycle – Lovely photography, writing, knitting, countryside and lovely bicycles(!) from Northern Ireland.

Bikes-N-Stuff – Juliette is passionate about female cycling and an all round awesome bird. Check out her about page for starters.

Tour de Linsay B – My current favourite. Read it.

I do have plenty more recommendations (I currently have 18 blogs filed in my Cycling section in Feedly!) but I have left them off here for various reasons like they are a bit more specialist, made up entirely of sponsored content or not really updated anymore.

And because I am blogging slow of course!*

*Ok, I will shut up now!

See also – Do You Like Pyrex? Then You Will Love These links & Do You Like Mid Century Modern? Then You Will Love These links.

I Did It!

I did it! I managed to cycle 35 miles!

It took two pieces of flapjack*, half a packet of jelly beans, one energy gel, three bottles of water and every swear word know to man, but me, the couch potato, did it!

And thats more or less ↑ what I put in my Facebook status last Sunday thanking everyone who sponsored me!IMG_20150628_135119

What I did not mention is that I was over taken time and time again by 70+ year old looking women, packs of MAMIL’s and one girl on a commuter bike, who I overheard later in the queue for the ladies telling her friend that she had not been on her bike this year, nor trained for the event!!!

Oh, and I had a minor crash into some railings at the end of a slope on a footbridge bruising my bottom in the process!

On the whole, it was not as bad as I expected. It was good to see so many other women take part in an event like this (I am still on the hunt for a cycling wifey female training partner!) And even better, after writing my last post on 15/06/15 saying that I would do it on my own, about a week before the event Rob was given the go ahead from the hospital to start doing some gentle road riding again! Hurrah, so I did not have to ride it solo!

Considering that I only rode up to 14 miles on my training, I felt OK and managed to keep pedalling right up until I hit the wall on the last 7 miles. Thankfully, an energy gel (yuck) and an increase in my rage levels all directed at poor Rob** kept me going and gave me enough strength to complete the course!

I am proud of myself for doing it and I have been really touched and humbled by peoples support, encouragement and generosity with their sponsorship. Thank you again to everyone who donated, it means a lot to me. You are all great!

Here are a couple of screen shots from our Strava accounts if you are interested in our times and stats etc. Mine had a bit of a technical error as you can see!
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.24.57Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.25.34
We did it in just under 3 hours moving time and 3 hours 35mins in total with breaks and pit stops. I am rounding the miles up to 35 BTW!

 

*Not my usual healthy, banana-ery, coconut oil type of slice. A flapjack that was full of sugar and golden syrup.

**I was tired and grumpy, and he was telling me what to do, i.e keep going, so of course he got on my nerves!

 

Riding Solo

Its less than two weeks now until I do my cycling challenge, riding 35 miles in The Great Kent Bike Ride.

I will admit that at the beginning of this month I had a bit of a wobble about it. Its because we still do not know if Rob will be recovered from his shoulder injury in time. Gah, its so frustrating! He still has not got the go ahead from the hospital to start cycling again after 10 weeks!

So I was being a bit of a Debbie Downer, thinking shitty, over dramatic thoughts like “how comes every time that I get my hopes up about something, it never works out for me?” etc and generally being a self indulgent one women pity party. I also didn’t train for two weeks.

Thankfully, I snapped out of it. And after asking everyone under the sun if they would like take Robs place to no avail, I have decided to do it on my own.

So yeah, I am going to be brave and ride alone, and hope that I will not get lost on route! (Im planning to just follow the crowd, that is if I can keep up with them, of course!)

My main concern about going it alone is who the hell is going to hold my bike for me when I go to the toilet? I guess I am going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers for that one! As I said to Rob – “its alright for you men, you can hold your bike with one hand and your **** with the other hand!” Rob reassured me that this is an organised, civilised event, with plenty of portaloos on route and snack stations to refill my water bottle etc. Phew!

As per usual, I have panicked and left everything to the last minute with my training! I have been out riding once a week around my local park since April, clocking up around 10 – 14 miles each session. But not done anything this month! I now need to push it up to 20 miles and get out more frequently.

I have also done the majority of my training on my own, as I could not find anyone to train with, and my work colleague only came out with me 1.5 times (she went home early on the 2nd session as she felt sick!)

In a way though, training on my own has been good. Rob pushes me too much and confuses me with too much technical information about gears and stuff (its like a driving lesson with your Dad, it never works! And you never listen to you OH!) On my own I have been able to go at my own pace and learn and improve as I go along. And I have got to know a few of the regular dog walkers in the park!

To encourage me to do the ride Rob has treated me to some new fancy pants cycling bib shorts (again causing more toilet concerns for me, but I won’t bore you with them!) that have some super-duper padding in them, so that I will feel like a pro (I hope) and not walk like John Wayne for the next few days afterwards! (I really, really hope!)

I have also bought myself a new bike. Yep, I own two bikes now! Its a cheap secondhand road bike which I need to learn how to use. We bought it from a local company who refit and restore old retro road bikes. Alas, mine is not a cool, vintage, retro, hipster type bike, its another recent Halfords model. It has been serviced, cleaned, has a new chain, stem, brake pads, tires and some other important parts that I cannot remember fitted. More importantly its recycling and supporting a small business and a good cheap way of getting a decent bike!

Its me at the Cyclopark in Gravesend yesterday!

Its me at the Cyclopark on my new bike smiling awkwardly in Gravesend yesterday!

Road bikes are better for riding on roads apparently! Who’d a thought, eh! Rob was going to put some road tires onto my mountain bike for my ride, because according to him I would have less friction and go faster etc (ha!). But I decided to take a punt and invest in a road bike, as I definitely want to do more cycling events like this in the future. If I cannot get on with the curved handles and the different riding position, I will just sell the bike on. At the end of the day, I will still be better off than if I had hired a road bike to try out etc.

So anyway, please don’t feel obliged to, but if anyone fancies throwing some of their hard earned pounds at me for encouragement and to support a charity raising money for vital hospital equipment, here is my Just Giving page! (Well technically its Robs, and was meant for the both of us, but now its just for me! – You know what I mean!)

Why Did It Take Me So Long To Get Back On The Saddle?

So I tried to write a blog post about how more of us women should get out on our bikes. You know, a clever, encouraging, well written type of post like this one from the Veggie Runners.

Instead I failed miserably, and ended up writing a post about why I wear cheap, pink lycra!

So yeah, I wrote a blogpost about cycling from a female’s point of view all about clothes. Nice one Hels…Which I then edited several times after publishing, which was really unprofessional. Even for me. Oops!

I don’t know why women do not cycle as much as men. Maybe its because of our periods according to this website here (!!!). Or maybe its a feminist issue because we do not earn as much?!!?

As much as I take those articles with a pinch of salt, there is a element of truth to them. After all, I would much rather sit on my arse and eat Maltesers all day than do any exercise when its my time of the month! I cannot speak on behalf of 50% of the population as to why cycling is not so popular with women. All I can do is talk about is why I never wanted to go cycling until recently, and why it took me so long to get back on the saddle.

Lets start with a little background info. When I was a kid, I was a tomboy. A proper Shiloh Jolie-Pitt kind of tomboy. It is still is a running joke in my family that when I was little I insisted everyone called me George and I only wore trousers (still do), loved football and most of my friends were boys. Primary school aged me rode my bike a lot. In fact, I loved riding it! I was forever riding around my (Mum approved allocated) local area with my male BFF.

But then I went to secondary school. An all girls secondary school.

It was around the time that I entered secondary education that I stopped riding my bike. I don’t know if the going to an all girls school thing had anything to do with it, or if it was because I became a teenager and just outgrew it. The boys my age were losers and the last thing that I wanted to do was ride around the block with them. I was only interested in older (unobtainable) boys in bands and figuring out how I could sneak into pubs and get served.

In my late teens and for the majority of my twenties the last thing I that wanted to do was any exercise. I was only interested in partying (because by then, I could get into pubs and get served!) Then later on, laziness, work and general life stuff all got in the way. Recreational exercise was the last thing I wanted to do in my free time.

Thankfully I have seen the light! I now know that my health and fitness levels effect my wellbeing, so I try to keep them in check. I am not a spin class/cardio/zumba/kettle bell/gym bunny type, nor will I ever be. I much prefer to enjoy the great outdoors rather than sweating indoors in front of too many mirrors in exchange for a large monthly fee. I try to keep fit with my long walks, swimming and (new to the list) riding my bike.

I was a couch potato for most of my twenties and I hugely relate to this online magazine article, I too am a late bloomer to this exercise lark! Here’s my excuses why I didn’t ride a bike between the ages of 11 to 33 –

Lack of spare time. I do have more free time now that I work part time. But in my twenties I should have made time for more exercise. If you enjoy something, you will find the time for a your hobby.

From my Pinterest. Original source tribesports.com (I hope - you know what Pinterest is like!)

From Pinterest. Original source tribesports.com (I hope – you know what Pinterest is like!)

I am too scared to ride on the road. I still am. It is illegal to ride bikes on the pavement, but I hate riding on roads because the cars scare the shit out of me. The only way for me to get round this is to stick to riding woodland trails, parks and ridiculously quiet country lanes. I rode on roads on our holiday in the New Forest, but I was only over taken by about eight cars in three days and they all stuck to the 40 mile national park speed limit. I could just about handle that! Although I nearly shat myself when a coach load of tourists drove past me! I do need to get my confidence up more. I now ride to my local park (5 minutes away) on the road. I am still a bag of nerves, and Rob tells me that I slow down every time a car comes near me (sorry drivers!). However, I will continue sticking to riding only on woodland trails, parks and ridiculously quiet country lanes, thank you.

I was intimidated by the pros. By pros, I mean people who are fast. I think we are all a little proud and don’t want to look silly. Its human nature to want to be good at what we do, and generally if we feel we are no good at something, instead of trying to improve, we stop doing it (or at least I do – take my crafting and bread making attempts). But even the super sporty pros were beginners once. So ignore the show offs (which luckily there aren’t that many of around in the cycling community) and just concentrate on enjoying yourself.

I was worried about being too slow. I have stopped caring about being slow. Its as simple as that, really. See above. I figure doing something active is better than doing nothing.

From Pinterest. Original source unknown.

From Pinterest. Original source unknown.

The daft clothing. Again I have stopped caring. Also, padded cycling bottoms are worth every penny spent.

I was scared of falling off. I still am. But its a chance you take. Ride cautiously and don’t run before you can walk. Rob has recently fallen off his bike and fractured his shoulder in two places, proving that accidents do happen. But please don’t let that put you off from riding your bike!

I am too old to start cycling. Surely I should have started cycling in my twenties when I would have been at the peak of my fitness levels? I will admit that is something that I have thought before, but its nonsense! Yes, I might have found it easier to pick up where I had left off with my childhood cycling if I had started cycling again earlier. But look at all the 50/60 something year old MAMIL’s out there – if they can do it so can we! Plus I need to give myself more credit as I am fairly fit thanks to walking everywhere and a decent diet, and my cycling is improving slowly but surely. I recently had a morale booster when I went cycling with my 21 year old work colleague as, to my pleasant surprise, I was quicker than her going up the hills. In fact, I am going to blow my own trumpet now and say that I am currently the 8th quickest woman on Strava going up the steepest hill in my local park! (I know, Im as shocked as you are!) To be honest, I think the numbers go in my favour with the lack of cycling women out there, but hey ho!

Image from Pinterest. Original source ilovebicycling.com.

Image from Pinterest. Original source ilovebicycling.com.

Its too expensive. Bikes are not cheap, nor is the clothing. I am lucky that Rob paid for my bike and that I have enough disposable income to spend on entry level clothing and accessories. And then there is the money spent on petrol to go to country parks etc to ride around and entrance fees for sportive’s and events – it all adds up. But I look at it like I look at my choice to buy organic milk and yogurt. Yes, it is more expensive, but I bloody hope that it does me good!!!! Money spent on things like swimming at my local leisure centre (the same price as a sandwich meal deal) and healthy pursuits is money well spent. Even if it does mean less meals out, take aways and pints, its better for me!

Sad but true I am slightly addicted to pinning cycling motivational quotes at the moment! I need to get out more!

I Want To Ride My Bicycle, I Want To Ride My Bike

Disclaimer – This post about cycling will not be your typical lifestyle blogger post about bikes. I will not be posing in a cute outfit on a cute bike like this. This is real life peeps. You will not be jealous of my lifestyle!…..And I am not trying to sell you anything!

I want to write a post about cycling and what I have learnt since I acquired my bike nearly a year ago. This will not be a post that offers a lot of advice, as I am still very much a beginner. I just want to share what I have learnt so far and my thoughts and feelings from a female perspective in what is a very male dominated hobby and sport.

I live with a MAMIL. Rob is a fully fledged bike nut, who owns far too many bikes (apparently he needs both a winter and a summer road bike?!?), regularly enters 50 mile bike races for fun and dreams of being a bike mechanic. The staff at our local bike shop know him by name, in fact some of the other regular customers in the shop also know him by name (!?!) as he spends far too much time (and money) in there.

He also spends far too much time talking to me about gears, cranks, lightening his bike and other stuff I have no interest in. To be fair, I bore him going on about what Princess Monster Truck and Lil’ Bub are up to on Instagram, so we are evens Stevens really!

For years Rob had been trying to convince me to join him riding. But I am not an active, sporty person in the slightest, and I try to avoid doing anything that involves any effort and getting out of puff! As documented on my blog here, I eventually relented, hiring a bike at a  local country park, and I actually enjoyed it! The good stuff out weighed all the bad stuff, in the end. Just about.

I would like to say now, that if you can, buy a your next new bike from your local independent bike shop. I don’t like to mention this kind of stuff on here, but we had some shocking customer service when we bought my bike from Halfords. They resolved the issue and gave us some money back – so all’s good. Your local bike shop will offer much more knowledge and advice and will fit and service your bike better. The staff in our local bike shop live and breath cycling, its their passion and they take pride in their work. And learn your name, let you hang out there and give you doughnuts apparently!

I think from a beginners perspective cycling can seem intimidating. It is like this cult with its own language that only men (sorry to say, but its true) seem to belong in. Unfortunately cycling is a little more complicated than it looks and there is some technical stuff involved, but the basics are easy to master. If I can do it anyone can!

An image I pinned. Original source unknown. Sorry!

An image I pinned. Sorry original source unknown.

Another thing that puts some people off cycling is the clothes. Middle aged men in lycra are an easy target for jokes and irreverent articles from the Daily Mail. But as Rob pointed out, people have no problem wearing swimming costumes to swim in and gym gear when exercising, so why do they have such an issue with cyclists wearing cycling clothing?

My personal beef with cycling clothing is that a lot of the cheaper female options only come in pink. Come on cheap sports clothes manufacturers, use your imagination more!

Male or female, it is worth investing in a pair of cycling shorts/trousers/leggings, as the padding does help (thats help, rather than stop) with the saddle soreness, even if you do feel like you have a massive incontinence pad between your legs! I have a couple of cheap 3/4 length trousers, which might not flatter my tree trunk legs, but they are comfortable to ride in.

Well, one pair of my cycling pants are comfortable at least. My second pair that I bought recently from Aldi and wore in the New Forest, are my correct size, but an odd fit. The crotch piece was almost halfway down my legs, and when I sat on my bike it kept getting caught up on the saddle. I looked like I was packing more down there than Jon Hamm! I must have confused a few ponies that we passed!

If you are going to wear the trousers, you might as well wear the rest of the kit, I say! I have a couple of cheap tops from Sports direct and a jacket from Aldi. Cycling tops are cut lower at the back to keep your bum warm, to stop them from riding up your back while you are riding and have a handy zip pockets to keep your essentials in. And they are made in breathable fabrics that are quick drying etc. So basically they make life easier, so why wouldn’t you want to wear them? Don’t worry, not all cycling gear looks like the Colombian female cycle team!

Image from telegraph.co.uk

Image from telegraph.co.uk

I also wear wrap around sunglasses on brighter days. They stop me squinting and the flies and dirt going in my eyes. On one of our first rides together Rob lent me a pair of his glasses. I took them off and popped them in my back pocket, only to forget about them and sit on them while messing around with my nephew going down a slide at Bedgebury. Oops!

Forgetting the fact that I shouldn’t have been on the climbing equipment etc, Rob was not amused that I broke his fancy glasses! Now I only wear his cheap ones. We have bought a couple of pairs for £3.99 in Lidl with inter changeable lenses (budget supermarkets are so good for this kind of thing) which will hopefully last me a while!

Its me!

Its me!

If anyone reading this is worried about their ability and looking stupid pushing up hills in front of the more experienced riders on cycling routes etc, try not to let it stop you from having a go. I will admit that I have turned down invites to ride in a mixed group that Rob has organised because I did not want them to wait for me to catch up. I am not very confident in my abilities, but I know that the more I get out on my bike, the better I will get at cycling. So just go, don’t be silly like me! You will catch up with your friends eventually. Even if it is in the car park! Cycling is for all ages and abilities.

While we were on holiday last week, we went biking every day. I went from thinking that I would never be able to do this sponsored 35 mile cycle race that I have signed up for in June, to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could manage it, if I train more towards it….eek!

From my Instagram @helshelshels

From my Instagram account @helshelshels

Right, I have waffled on far too much in this post (as per usual), so its time for some bullet points on what I have learnt!

  • You need to clean and maintain your bike regularly to keep it in top notch condition. Much like a car it will need a service and parts replaced from time to time. You local independent bike shop will help you with this. And always clean the mud off after rides to prevent rusting etc.
  • One thing that I always wear while riding are gloves. They help you grip your handle bars better and I don’t have to worry about having an attack of the clammy hands while I am panicking going down hills fast (I got up to 28 miles per hour downhill on gravel paths last week!). Again, mine are pink cheapies from Aldi.
  • I always thought that a bike is a bike, that they are all the same really. But I have learnt that like most things in life, you get what you pay for. The cheaper bikes will be harder to ride, you will feel every bump that you go over and the bike is more likely to break as its made from cheap materials etc. So get the best bike that you can afford.
  • Make sure that you get the correct type of bike for what you will use it for. Do not be seduced by looks. Pretty pastel bikes with baskets are fine for short leisurely town and city journeys. But if you want to commute on your bike you will be better off with a much lighter road bike or a more practical hybrid. My sister has one of these vintage style type of bikes with a basket and luggage rack on the back. On our family bike rides we all give her our jumpers and bits n bobs to carry and she looks like a pack mule, the poor thing! She is planning to sell her bike and buy a more practical mountain bike for the country parks we ride in, as she finds it too heavy and difficult to ride (and thats without carrying all our crap).
  • BTW I would like to point out that you do not have to buy a female specific bike if you are a girl, you can have any bike you want as long as it is the right frame size for you. And you like it of course!
  • Lets talk gears. I still struggle with mine and need to get to grips with them more. I often find myself peddling away and getting nowhere fast going slightly uphill as I am in a too high gear (or is it low?). Practice, practice, practice is the only thing I can say (and what I need to do more of). Cycling is all about keeping the momentum going and using your gears to do so. Rob told me something that helped me click (boom, gettit!) with the gears – that I need to feel like I am putting the same effort in with my peddling all the time, no matter if its flat, uphill or downhill ground, and that I should use my gears to do so. I hope that makes sense!
  • When you are going downhill fast use your back wheel’s brake more, rather than your front wheel’s break to prevent you from going over your handlebars.
  • Seat height matters, even a centimetre either way can make a difference in the comfort factor with your ride. We are constantly adjusting mine (luckily Rob carries a small tool kit with him on rides) as it seems to sink down after a while.
  • As for female cycling role models, in mountain biking there is Rachel Atherton. But look no further than these girls in Afghanistan. Truly inspirational stuff.
  • And finally, just look at this status from Rob. Bless him, he is such a big kid when it comes to bikes!Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.34.19