Friday, 31 January 2014

Total Women's Cycling Blogger of the Year Finalist!

So having last blogged to urge everybody to vote in the Total Women's Cycling Awards 2014, I have now found out that I have been shortlisted for Cycling Blogger of the Year!

HURRAH!

I'm a little embarrassed as I actually don't blog very often at the moment. Partly because I don't cycle anything like as often as I would like. That's life with a two-year-old and a five-month-old for you.

I'm lucky if I manage to ride twice a week. I'm making the most of it of course, and have spent many happy drizzly January weekend afternoons hurtling around a grey Richmond Park or hauling ass up Epsom Downs. But with a very young, exclusively breastfed baby to take into account I can't really be away for longer than three hours at the most.

Luckily Noel is hugely supportive and has been known to load the girls into the car and actually follow me on my bike to Richmond Park so I can ride and have a happy afternoon in the park with my family. Not exactly environmentally friendly, I know! Hopefully we'll atone for it when both our daughters are old enough to be on bikes with us or even better, ride their own.

The other reason I haven't been as attentive to the blog is I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write about cycling for mainstream and specialist publications. These have a far bigger reach than my little bike-shaped corner of the internet and have the double advantage, particularly in the case of the jolly old Telegraph, of reaching people who might not necessarily be looking for positive, upbeat cycling content.

So if you are craving more cycling writing from me - and why wouldn't you be - here's what I've been up to lately:

Writing about THAT appalling ASA ruling for The Telegraph. (Please note I do NOT get a say on where my work is published within the site's structure. Cycling content is, inexplicably, filed under 'men'. Clearly as a woman cyclist who has written a book about cycling for women, I cannot possibly believe cycling is 'only for men' but thank you anyway to the men who have chosen to lecture me about  feminism and the inequalities women face in cycling. Speaking no doubt from their first-hand experience. I'm so embarrassed I've been getting this being-a-woman thing wrong all these years.)

Reviewing some slamming AnaNichoola winter kit for Total Women's Cycling here and here. I'm also thrilled that AnaNichoola has been shortlisted for the best clothing brand award. VOTE STARS, EVERYBODY!

Interviewing Chris Hoy. As you do!

Talking about cycling with no knickers. One of the most fun pieces I've ever written but sadly also responsible for some of the most repulsive emails I have ever received.

Absolutely loving the reviews for my book The Girl's Guide to Life on Two Wheels, the project after which this blog was named! Here's gorgeous Jools at Velo-City-Girl enjoying a copy over tea and biscuits. Jools incidentally has also been nominated for Cycling Blogger of the Year and I'm voting for her as she's been doing this a lot longer than I have! And here's a very detailed and nice review from The Washing Machine Post.

I've also been approached about some really exciting ambassadorial work so watch this space….

A big thank you to Total Women's Cycling for the nomination and fingers crossed for the ceremony on February 13! Incidentally I turn 33 on February 15 and a night out at the London Bike Show is definitely top of my list of ideal birthday presents. See you there!


 *Final note for any PR types reading this. My bike is utterly banjaxed and I've just paid a huge tax bill so if any of your clients want to send me a bike….just sayin'!



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Vote in the Total Women's Cycling Awards 2014!

As if this year couldn't get any better for women's cycling along come the Total Women's Cycling Awards, sponsored by Velo Vixen.

Having actual awards dedicated to all things women's cycling is exciting beyond belief. If there were any doubt that women's cycling has 'arrived', this awards scheme must truly alleviate it.

If we can have awards for social media campaigns and HR policies we can bloody well have them for the brilliant women (and men) who make the world of women's cycling so exciting, entertaining, inclusive and all round awesome.

So please, PLEASE, head on over to Total Women's Cycling to vote in the awards. There are 16 categories in total, you don't have to vote in all of them but there's definitely something for everybody. Making these awards a success is the best way to ensure they're around for years to come.

Here are a few of my votes:

Cycle clothing brand of the year: No surprises here, I'm team AnaNichoola ALL THE WAY. I love everything founder and designer Anna Glowinski makes so much I'd divorce my husband and re-marry him in an AnaNichoola wedding dress if one was available. It's not just that her stuff is great - although it really is - I also hugely admire Anna's drive and ambition, and how she is making women's cycling aspirational, glamorous and fun.

Online cycling retailer of the year: I do have a special place in my heart for sponsors Velo Vixen but my vote goes to minx-girl.com. Founder Debbie has been stocking women-specific kit that doesn't make one look like a complete penis and advising ladies on how to not make their bums look big whilst cycling for ten years. Also, she's completely lovely and has become one of my cycling BFF's on Twitter. Unrelated and boring fact, my elder daughter's nickname is Minx. This is sadly not in Debbie's honour but I like the coincidence.

UK cycling event of the year: IG London Nocturne. It was like London 2012 all over again. No, I can't talk about it. It's STILL TOO SOON.

Women's cycling event of the year: AnaNichoola VeloJam, baby! Read why here.

Women's cycling blogger of the year: No, not me. I am awesome, don't get me wrong, but the gorgeous Jools Walker, aka Lady Velo of Velo-City-Girl fame, has been blogging about all things bike for way longer and with way more dedication than I. Plus she's also a cycling BFF on Twitter and thoroughly lovely.

Women's cycling team of the year: MuleBar Girl - Sigma Sport. I am SUCH a fangirl. I absolutely love the ethos of this group of women. Read why here

Pro-rider of the year: There can only be one winner and when it comes to the UK cycling scene the winner is usually Hannah Barnes. So Hannah Barnes it is.

Women's cycling personality of the year: Kirsty Ho Fat, editor of Total Women's Cycling. Kirsty loves what she does so much and works so hard she once emailed me saying 'I wish I didn't actually need to sleep as it gets in the way'. Kirsty is a wonderful ambassador for her brand and is leading Total Women's Cycling to the success it truly deserves.

Unsung cycling heroine: I'm voting for the very gorgeous, very inspiring and very lovely Wiesia Kuczaj because I haven't met anybody more altruistically passionate about women's cycling. V manages and rides for MuleBar Girl and helps run weekly women's track sessions at Herne Hill Velodrome. VeloJam was her and Anna's brainchild and encompasses the inclusive attitude and sense of fun she brings to women's cycling. (She's also a model for AnaNichoola but is far too modest to shout about this from the rooftops)

There you go, these are my votes. Who gets yours?

Monday, 11 November 2013

F-E-A-R

Something has happened to me.

I took this photo on Sunday after a chat on Twitter about #dangerpanda, the brilliantly named phenomenon of a no-hands shot of yourself on a bike. The Flickr group is here if you're interested. Obviously as soon as I heard about it I knew I had to do my own shot.

The above was my best attempt. I couldn't take both hands off the handlebars for more than a split-second, let alone look up at the camera.

This is frankly absurd. I used to challenge myself to see how far I could get no-handed. I could easily manage several miles, including relatively challenging hills.

It's part of a bigger and more worrying phenomenon. Since getting back on the bike after having my second baby I've started to fear hills. Sounds sensible, I hear you say, ascending is tough when you're flabby and out of shape.

But it's not going up them that bothers me. It's descending.

I appear to have developed some kind of issue with my centre of balance. My balance was not affected when I was pregnant in the slightest. I wasn't aware it could be affected afterwards but I can't think of any other reason why descending suddenly feels so horrifically alien. I'm on the brakes the entire time.

Suddenly the prospect of skidding or losing control seems very real and terrifying. And I can't even think about taking my hands off the bars and looking up into the camera for a #dangerpanda. Just contemplating it makes me dizzy.

Incidentally I now also feel dizzy and off-kilter if I go on a roundabout with my elder daughter at the playground and last week I got vertigo watching her climb a slide I actually used to play on myself as a child.

God, I hope this is temporary. I've never been remotely afraid of - well, anything really, except scary films. Nothing real or tangible. I've ridden horses and bikes my entire life. I had a bit of a phase of not liking riding horses on the roads, thanks to a few too many bad falls, and I once felt a bit wobbly on the back of a tandem.

Other than that I've genuinely, honestly, never felt real fear on a bike.

Not of traffic, of obstacles, or of hills.

I can't even think why I would feel fear. I didn't after having my first child, less than two years ago. Whatever this second pregnancy has done to me I hope it fades or passes. The thought of a lifetime as a scaredy-cat does not appeal.

I can't even explain why I am afraid. I just know I am. It's not going to stop me riding of course. But I could definitely do without it. And I won't rest until I have my own #dangerpanda on this here blog. In the mean time if anybody knows of a route that's 100% ascent they can share I would be a very happy bunny!

*Many, many thanks to lovely Minx for this sexy little dress I am flashing! LOVE it. Have been wearing over gorgeous, warm AnaNichoola cafe tights and Terry knickers, the latter also courtesy of Minx.




Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Quick change

I only miss one thing about office life and that's the commute.

In my previous life as deputy editor of PRWeek I rode to work every day and became expert at 'the quick change'. This skill came in particularly handy when cycling to the many long and enjoyable lunches at fancy dining establishments that was part and parcel of my role. It was HELL, I can tell you.

Yesterday I was invited to tutor some bright young things at a leading PR agency. Apart from the obvious excitement about sharing my wisdom with future generations, I was pathetically buzzed about the fact I could ride there. The agency is based in Clerkenwell and we live in Surrey (just) so it was a pleasingly challenging but manageable distance.

Challenging for somebody who gave birth nine weeks ago, anyway.

Once on site I put the quick change into practice. Here's a brief guide:
Begin red-faced, sweaty and happy in AnaNichoola, Sweaty Betty, Bern helmet and hot pink legwarmers, origin indeterminate. Fab sweat-wicking top and breathable jacket means despite excessive fat-girl sweating, zero noxious odours are present. Star leggings elevate one, naturally, to 'legend' status.

 Open up Bag of Tricks.
Put sample cleanser from a magazine, flannel and old tub of Hydraquench into action to remove aforementioned sweat from boat race. Wonder when you developed such discerning skincare tastes and  started turning your nose up at wipes. Blame Caroline Hirons.
Disrobe. Brush barnet. Shove on pants, leggings, boots, Seraphine vest and Boden tunic. Accept YOU ARE A MUM NOW AND THEREFORE YOU SHOP AT BODEN.
God, I love Boden.
Chilly? Just add knitwear (Jack Wills). Commence tutoring, consider it a triumph when none of your group appears to develop narcolepsy.
Then back into the cycling clobber for the ride home!

Amusingly, if you're very easily amused, I set off on my bike at the same time my tutoring tutor (not his official job title) left for the tube. He later emailed to say he'd been walking home in Clapham and saw me whizz by on the bike. Public transport or post-partum girl on bike - there really is no difference, timing wise!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Bike prints: A bit of cycle style

So I've been banging on for years about how bikes are like totes IN. And finally I have some evidence, in the form of these these gorgeous bike-print pretties I have rounded up during my hiatus from my actual bike.

I am in love with the bicycle print on this cute little dress from Yumi.
It's a bit on the snug side, but in my defence I did give birth two weeks ago. It comes in red too and I am sorely tempted, but then I'd need a cobalt-blue suede jacket to go with it and it could all get a bit pricey.
It's technically a sundress but I can't wait to wear it with leggings or thick tights and a nice chunky cardigan. Once I can zip it up without doing myself an injury.

Elsewhere I picked up this scarf from Gap, which I also love. And look, I do have a face. 


Friday, 13 September 2013

A quiet summer for me but an amazing summer for cycling

It's been a quiet summer here at the Girl's Guide and this is why.


The very adorable Violet finally joined us on August 31!

I finally packed in cycling at 30 weeks. A combination of the incredible summer heatwave, an energetic  toddler, moving house and work meant I had zero energy left over. I also couldn't really fit on the bike any more with Cherry! So it's been a while since I was on two wheels. I'm looking forward to being back on the bike soon but won't be rushing until I feel ready - a bike saddle isn't the most forgiving item post-childbirth!

It may have been a quiet summer for me but it's been an amazing summer for cycling, and women's cycling in particular. It's amazing to see a group of professional cyclists, headed up by Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos and triathlete Chrissy Wellington, lobby for a women's Tour de France. Their campaign is gathering a head of steam and you can read more here and sign the petition here.

I was also excited to follow fitness blogger and all round inspiration Muireann Carey-Campbell, aka Bangs and a Bun, in her challenge to complete the legendary Etape du Tour. Muireann is known the internet over for her love of running and thousands followed her journey from couch potato to marathon runner. She applied her trademark steely determination and enthusiasm to cycling with great success and I loved reading her training diaries and blogs on her site Spikes and Heels and in Women's Cycling magazine as she shared her ups, downs, hopes and fears.

This year also marked the inaugural Ride London festival including the amazing London 100. A huge number of my cycling buddies on Twitter took part in the 100-mile London-Surrey epic. They are all my heroes. Naturally I have entered the ballot for next year's event, which looks set to become as iconic and places as hotly contested as the London Marathon.

Looking ahead to autumn there are still plenty of brilliant cycling events on the horizon, including the return of Ana Nichoola and Mule Bar Girl's VeloJam to Herne Hill Velodrome on October 5. This women-only day of track racing will feature three separate categories, which means for once women will be able to race those of similar ability, not all flung into the same pot. I am desperately envious of all of those taking part and very much hope to take Violet along so we can noisily lend our support.

Once I have the all-clear from the doctor to start cycling again (and the all-clear from myself too) I will be putting together my own cycling to-do list for late 2013 and 2014. The former is likely to involve building up my fitness on my trusty old mumsy hybrid, getting back into cycling with Cherry, checking out the A/W cycling and fitness fashions from my favourite designers, continuing to write for Total Women's Cycling, the Telegraph and anywhere else that'll have me, and looking at ways to get two children onto one bike! I will be investigating trailers and various seating options in the hope of starting cycling with both girls when Violet is a little older and less fragile. As 2014 beckons so will a new bike, hopefully, and some serious training so I can complete some of these amazing cycling challenges that I have sat and watched enviously in 2013. I will probably draw the line at the women's TdF, should it go ahead, but other than that, who knows....?






Saturday, 22 June 2013

Loving legs

Because they work hard, on and off a bike. And because they're currently the only part of my body I still vaguely recognise as my own!

Here are my favourite things for taking care of, showing off, and generally loving your hard-cycling legs:

1. Yoga: I started yoga after having my little girl and was astonished at the difference it made to me both mentally and physically. Even if you're not into omm-ing, many positions are excellent for stretching out each and every muscle in the legs, essential to keep yourself cycling fit and ward off injury. I go to classes run by Anja Brierley-Lange at Yoga Embodied, and I can't recommend them highly enough. For those not in the vicinity here are Anja's three top yoga positions for cyclists. They're also perfectly suitable for pregnant women but considering my current size I thought I'd get Anja to model them rather than do it myself.
Downward-facing dog
A yoga classic that stretches out the calf muscles, hamstrings and back. From a hands and knees position tuck your toes under, lift the knees off the floor, extend the legs and stretch your hips up and away from the ribcage. If you find your legs are too tight for the full position modify by placing your hands on a wall, and keep your torso and arms parallel to the floor or higher.
Warrior 1
Gives the calves and hip flexors a good stretch! From a standing pose step one foot a long step behind. Keep hips level and torso upright. Getting into the hips lifts the pubic bone to the navel so you feel the hip flexors of the back leg. Press the back heel into the floor and enjoy length and space in your calf muscle. Repeat on the other side.
Pigeon pose
This stretches the hip flexors, quads and externally rotates the hips - great for all the parts that get tense and tight on a bike.
From hands and knees, slide the right knee towards the right hand and the foot towards the left side of your belly button. Stretch the left leg away from you until the pelvis moves towards the floor. Lower the torso forwards and down, resting on your forearms or forehead. Repeat on the other side. This is a strong stretch but you should not feel any pain in your knees. 

If you like these, Total Women's Cycling ran a great series on yoga for cyclists looking at the whole body. Check it out here. You can also download Anja's classes from her website. 

2. Ana Nichoola star tights. Loud, lairy, technical specs, what's not to love? Literally cannot WAIT to ride in these. At the moment it's far too hot, and I'm far too pregnant for the signature Ana Nichoola dropped waist....

I'm having a bit of a 'moment' with oil and this is just amazing. Rich and divine-smelling, it turns into a milky lotion once you add water to keep your pins clean and shiny. I like to use it with a body brush and have noticed a definite improvement in skintone, probably thanks to the miraculous firming properties of almond oil. It's also ideal for days when you haven't got time to slap on a body lotion or cream post-shower.
This is actually for pregnant women, which is how I came to discover it. It's a cooling, soothing cream that helps to relieve heavy, tense muscles and keep legs cool and feeling light. It's also effective on restless legs - to a degree. I currently get horrendous hot, restless legs at night - one of the many wonderful side-effects of pregnancy - and slap on this minty-smelling delight in retaliation. It helps. I can't say it completely stops my legs twitching and fidgeting but it definitely helps. So for anybody who suffers from restless legs, which is not restricted to those of us 'in the club' or who finds their muscles aching after a long ride, this is a lovely treat.