Taking their turn

I am delighted to hear that Sport England recently launched the next phase of #thisgirlcan campaign with a focus on women aged over 40. The original campaign was aimed at ages 14-40 and got over 1.6 million women exercising. It was well-received but I felt the campaign missed many women ouside of its original target age group.

“This Girl Can is a celebration of active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets. Developed by Sport England, we want to help women overcome the fear of judgement that is stopping too many women and girls from joining in.”
– Sport England.

Last autumn I set about planning a series of group cycling development sessions for women. As a Breeze leader, I became increasingly aware of a large number of ladies who wanted to join a cycling club and go on a Sunday club ride. When quizzed (over cake) on why these secret ambitions hadn’t become a reality the common response was “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never keep up.”

Having experienced these doubts as a new cyclist before my first club ride, I got the bit between my teeth and set up some coaching sessions. My friend and fellow Breeze leader, Emma Barraclough suggested using The Family Cycling Centre (the old Whitchurch running track) in south Bristol as a safe and traffic free venue. Emma and I used Facebook and Twitter to invite female cyclists across Bristol to the sessions and in early November the running track came to life with the chatter of women on bikes.

I was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the group in tackling each drill and activity. The group worked together to improve their skills and practise new techniques, challenging themselves and supporting each other. They asked me lots of questions and showed an eagerness to understand everything, giving me the opportunity to learn and reflect on my knowledge as a coach.

On signing up for the course, riders were asked to complete questions about their goals and reasons for taking part. The overwhelming reason for participating was to build or boost confidence. Well, there was confidence aplenty by the last session! Clear hand signals, shouts of “passing on your right” and “last rider” as they whizzed around the track communicating manouveres assertively.

Many of these women found cycling later in life and more than half of the group were aged over 40. Several women have already made it out on their first group ride so look out for them soon in your local club!

If you’re interested in learning more about group riding, join me at the ‘Where it Begins’ event at the Specialized Concept Store in Bristol on 28th March – you can book your place here.

Winter cycling hacks

It’s teeth chatteringly cold outside and my Strava feed is full of hardy cyclists heading out on their bikes and braving the elements. Although it’s starting to feel like it’s all downhill to spring, the recent cold snap has got me thinking about some of my favourite tried and tested cheats. Here are 5 tips that even your granny would be impressed with!

1. Tinfoil toes
Wrapping tinfoil around your toes really does provide insulation and keep the wintry nip off. Yes, it’s a bit odd but no one can see once your toes are firmly scrunched inside your shoes. The most important thing is to use a premium foil brand otherwise it will disintegrate and make a sparkly mess when you take your shoes off. I made the mistake of buying value tin foil when I first tried this so speak from experience!

2. Plastic fantastic
I like to keep a pair of plastic gloves (free at petrol stations) in my tool bag because I hate getting my hands dirty when faced with a puncture. I know it’s a bit pathetic, but there is another reason to pack these emergency freebees – they are great as an extra layer when your fingers get too cold. Simply pop them on under your more fashionable cycling gloves and you’ll notice your hands warm up really quickly.

3. Prevent punctures
Punctures are far more common in the winter due to mucky british roads. Getting a puncture when it is freezing cold or pouring with rain is the pits. This next tip requires a bit of planning but seriously pays off in the long run. Spend some time inspecting your tyres before a winter ride – let some air out, grab a torch and take a really close look. Squeeze the tyre between your thumb and forefinger to reveal any debris stuck in the rubber. These sharp nasties are likely to work their way through to puncture your inner tube if not removed. Grab a pair of tweezers and pick out glass and foreign objects. Re-inflate your tyres and voila! If you notice bald patches or large cuts in your tyres get down to your local bike shop and invest in a new set.

4. Wipe out
Wet wipes are my secret weapon against the elements. Use them to clean the rims of your wheels and your chain after every ride. There’s something in wet wipes that cleans grease and grime really well. This easy cleaning ritual will reduce wear and give your components lots of extra miles. Whilst this isn’t a replacement for a proper clean, it is a great solution during the week in between proper washes – oh and your bike will smell great too!

5. Yesterday’s news
If you go out on a ride and it turns wet you can dry your shoes out by using old newspaper. Remove your insoles and stuff the shoes with screwed up newspaper. The newspaper will soak up the moisture and speed up the drying process. Don’t forget to change the newspaper when it gets damp.