My Top 5 Bib Shorts For Cycling

Since lockdown started more people have been cycling and it has been great to see – my local bike shop was telling my husband and I they have had so many people in buying bikes during this time and if you want a turbo trainer well they are a bit like gold dust right now.  What I have also noticed in online groups and on social media are questions from people asking about comfort (you know in the downstairs area) and it sparks the debate on what is the best cycling short, chamois cream, saddle etc.  I wrote a blog post about being sore down there – its a thing and its good to question it!  You can read more about that here.

For me I would say things that can help with ensuring you have a comfortable ride fall into a few categories as follows:

  • saddle fit – a little bug bear of mine and almost always overlooked.  In a lot of groups I am on in facebook, particularly for women’s cycling, there are several questions on a weekly basis asking for recommendations for saddles and it’s one of those things that I will admit I roll my eyes at as it is personal and what works for one may not necessarily work for another.  A lot of people are simply unaware that a saddle fit is something that is done along with a lot of bike shops offering test saddles to try.  This is hugely valuable to ensure you get the right size as sit bones are measured so will be more specific to you and avoids a lot of cost and discomfort trying out various saddles on the market.  I ride with a Specialized Mimic saddle and was measured at the Chelmsford Concept store before purchasing.
  • cycling shorts – I always wear padded bib shorts when cycling (I personally prefer the bib style) and these have a chamois pad in them, which is intended to reduce pressure from points of contact with the saddle, prevent chafing as you pedal whilst riding and help with vibrations you may feel on the road when riding.  If you are unsure about what chamois even is then it is basically the padded part in the crotch of the shorts.  Also the fit of the shorts is important here – they should be tight but not so much so that they are restrictive, too big and you could get chaffing.
  • chamois cream – perhaps a little controversial here but I use chamois cream when riding outside or on the turbo but I do know many who do not and are fine.  Chamois cream is designed to eliminate bacteria build up and friction between your skin and clothing (yes its true cycling shorts are not designed to be worn with underwear).  However, I do believe from my experience once you start with chamois cream it is hard to go back to not using it!  I have recently move to using Assos Chamois Creme for women.
  • bike fit – important not just for cycling outside but also for indoor training to ensure your bike set up is correct, can help avoid injury and from personal experience the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences!  You can read more about the importance of a bike fit here.

So in this post I am talking about my favourite 5 cycling bib shorts (in no particular order):

  1. BioRacer – I am a huge fan of all kit from this brand and have numerous items from off the shelf, club kit and my own custom kit, all of which are different styles and designs from the standard style bibs to those with drop seat style (zip up the back for easy access) which I did a full review on and you can read here.  I also have a mix of some older shorts with elasticated finish to the legs and some that are laser cut.  I have said before but I have items from BioRacer that I am still wearing that I have had for 4/5 years and they are still going strong showing the quality.  BioRacer have developed their own chamois pad and on their website you can read more about that.  img_2917
  2. Foher – I am an ambassador for Foher but continue to be impressed by the kit and know from experience I can put them on and go straight for a longer ride (my last pair were worn first time on the turbo to complete the Alpe du Zwift climb) with no issues.  Super comfortable, great designs (for me the brighter the better), washes like new and because they are an Australian brand I am yet to find many people in the UK with the same kit and like to be a little different!  img_7003
  3. Stomp The Pedal – I actually wrote a full kit review for these shorts that you can read here, but after speaking to the founder and all round lovely who created the STP brand, Tarsh, I needed to try these shorts and I am pleased I did!  As I mention in the review Tarsh does a LOT of turbo training and at a bike show talk from Casquette about saddle sore we got into talks about her bibs.  Now one thing I really want to stress about Tarsh (and those that know her and her brand will know this and wholeheartedly agree) is that she is her brand.  I don’t mean that in a corny way but that whatever product she puts to market will only be done so following her approval and testing from valued clients who take part in the sporting discipline the item is intended for and that is invaluable in my opinion and I have huge respect for her.  img_8176
  4. Specialized SL Pro – one of my closest friends is an ambassador for this brand and I will admit that despite riding a Specialized bike I had very little of their kit until recently purchasing new road and MTB shoes but I now have two jerseys and bib shorts and they are great!  I really like the rear magnetic closure on the bib straps so I don’t need to take them off completely if I need to stop for a convenience break – when I first used this feature I was unsure how easy I would be able to get the fastening done back up again but it was super easy.  img_2528
  5. DHB – these are the cheapest bib shorts I own but prove that price doesn’t always mean they are better/worse as these are great and I have had for 2 seasons now.   I have two pairs and they do have the elasticated finish on the legs, where I do prefer the laser cut wide leg grip style but otherwise they are a great buy for the price. img_3140

What I would say (and apologies for repeating myself as I feel I say this a lot but I believe it to be true) is that like most things when it comes to kit is that you need to find what works for you.  I am noting my favourites but individual preference goes a long way.  I have friends who do hours on the turbo and take part in triathlon and prefer a thinner tri style chamois pad like you would find in a tri suit and I have others who prefer the more padding the better.

What I would note though is that don’t believe every brand to have a different chamois pad – this is not true and in fact on this link you can see that many brands in fact use the chamois pad developed by Elastic Interface (EIT pads), including some of those I have mentioned above.

Some of the items mentioned in this post were gifted, but all opinions are my own.

Hedkayse Helmet Review

Now I am not shy in saying I am a firm believer in wearing a helmet whilst cycling.  I am aware it is not a legal requirement, however, having had 3 separate instances where my helmet has saved my head I personally choose not to ride without a helmet.  I do have a blog with more on this that you can read here.

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When the guys from Headkayse got in touch about reviewing their helmet I will admit I had not heard of them before and having a look into them a little more I found their mission statement as follows:

‘We believe that our heads are worth protecting and have made it our mission to provide the safest head protection possible for cyclists. We want to be the drivers of head protection innovation and believe that by introducing our Enkayse™ liner material we have changed the face of cycle helmet technology forever.’

You may or may not agree but I felt the above was a bold statement and so of course I was intrigued!

The main features are as follows:

  • multi impact – can retain the integrity upon impact (to a certain degree of course mentioning small bumps and knocks)
  • multi fit (all helmets are one size)
  • foldable
  • fully customisable

Lets dig into the areas above in a little more detail:

  • multi impact – I don’t plan on crashing in epic style to find out if this works but knowing first hand the damage that can be done from coming off your bike I am not sure how comfortable or confident I would feel to continue using a helmet if I know it has suffered a knock?  The helmet actually arrived in a material bag that was inside a brown envelope and no box – given how parcels and post get knocked around in transit this was not lost on me and I assume is to show how confident they are in their product that a box is unnecessary?  This claim comes from their inner material called Enkayse.  This lining they claim to be over 150 times safer than traditional helmets.  To quote the company:

‘Unlike EPS Enkayse is designed to manage the energy of impacts whilst retaining its integrity. Enkayse dissipates energy rather than deforming on impact, it also cushions small bumps. Protection from small knock and bumps may also have long-term benefits as researchers believe the cumulative effect of small knocks contributes to brain disease over time. Enkayse shrugs off the bumps, knocks and everyday abuse, so you can be sure that Hedkayse | ONE will provide continuous protection.’

and

‘Hedkayse | ONE is not a fragile one-hit wonder, our unique Enkayse liner enables the helmet to pass EN1078 safety tests after multiple impacts and provide unrivalled protection time and time again.’

  • multi fit – one size fits all, which again I was a little unsure of as all helmets I have come across come in different sizes and wearing the correct size helmet, in the right position and fitted securely is key to its effectiveness.  The helmet has a rear fastening strap, which will fit a size range of 49cm to 58.5cm.  A check I complete to know if my helmet is secure is to adjust the fastenings and without having to do the strap up under the chin you should be able to lean forward and the helmet not fall off your head as per British Cycling – this does not work with the Hedkayse helmet and fell straight off when tested.
  • foldable – the helmet can fold down to 50% of its original size although I couldn’t get it to fold down to that.  I would imagine for some commuters this may be a bonus as I know I try and carry as little as possible with me.  I am lucky to have a secure bike lock space at my work office and locker so I can put my kit in there easily but maybe if I were commuting out and about the ability to fold this to put in a bag could be good – many people work on the go especially in cities and move from location to location.  However, I must admit if I have been out and about with my helmet I will clip it on to my bag and it is no issue.
  • fully customisable – the team were super responsive and once they had my logo and checked what colour I would like they came back with designs ensuring they were totally happy with the finished product.

Lets dig a little deeper here and I will start with the weight as this was the first thing I noticed when I unpacked the helmet.  It is heavy!  Not like a bowling ball heavy obviously but compared to four helmets I have really very heavy and on wearing you can really notice this.  I did a little comparison with some of my helmets as follows:

  • the Hedkayse helmet weighs 1.2lbs
  • my Kask Protone helmet with the classic polystyrene casing weighs 0.5lbs
  • my Endura Pro SL helmet with the Koroyd core casing weighs 0.5lbs

Now for comfort – there are 3 foam pads inside the helmet on the inner lining material, however, these are not that secure and on the second use had already come unstuck.  The lining of the helmet (the special Enkayse material) is bulky and honestly not comfortable when on your head.  I have been out before on my bike and touched my head to check if my helmet is on (sounds silly especially as I am such a pro helmet cyclist but it can happen) and I wouldn’t need to do that with this helmet as I would be aware at all times I was wearing it and that is not a positive.  It also feels like the front is too far away from my  head – I could easily fit a couple of fingers between the helmet and my forehead, which is not a confidence builder.

Lets talk sweat because the Enkayse lining does not feel breathable at all.  We have had warm weather but this was noticeably moist when I took it off – I definitely would not want to take it off and put it back on again at a cake stop mid ride.

Instructions – there is a tag on the helmet although I also referred to the website where there is a video also on how to fit your helmet, which starts from its folded position.  It just seemed to me over complicated for no reason.  When you get a helmet even though you will only need to refer to it once do you really want to have to log online for further instructions?

Looks – I am firmly safety first but I will admit the shape is odd looking and does appear to sit on the head when you look at it.  I would liken the shape to a helmet for another sport and not cycling, maybe horse riding or climbing although I cannot quite put my finger on it.  It feels like it sits on top of your head, I noticed immediately it seems to sit away from my forehead and as I mentioned earlier I can easily fit a few fingers in between the front of the helmet and my head, which I don’t believe to be right and it felt not as protective as a normal cycling helmet feels.  Whilst I get that appearance is not the top priority here it is a valid point and adjustments are needed when using a cycling cap under the helmet which I always do.

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I also noticed on the website that the Hedkayse helmet has passed safety EN1078 safety certification, which passes for the UK and Europe but they are still waiting to achieve this for other countries/continents and as I often travel with my bike and not always in Europe this would be another blocker for me using this helmet.

Long and short is that this is not the helmet for me unfortunately.  Helmets are personal preference and being in a cycling club I know first hand when you find the helmet you like you tend to stick to the same brand, especially if you have had a knock and needed it replaced as you know it has withstood the job it is intended for.  So just because it is not for me does not mean it might not be for you, I am just not sure if this product is answering a question that is just not being asked in the market currently.

The helmets retail at £150 and if yo are interested you can use the code YK193LJ7 for a 10% discount.  I was gifted the helmet, but all opinions are my own.

 

The Virtual Vatternrundan

The Vatternrundan is a bike ride that starts and finished in Motala in Sweden.   The first Vatternrundan was in 1966 when the event started as a loop that followed the lake counter clockwise though the direction was reversed in 1974 when right handed driving was introduced in Sweden, and you will see on the course many veterans who have completed this ride for decades!

I have completed this ride twice before and I think it is my favourite cycling event to date.  I love the roads, the people, the atmosphere, that you ride through the night and catch the sunset and sunrise and the scenery as you complete the route around the Lake Vattern.

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I first completed the ride in 2017 with some friends and you can read more about that here.  I then went back last year in 2019 and completed the ride with my husband as well as completing the Tjejvattern 100km and Halvattern 150km and I wrote a blog post on what the bike week is that you can read here.

This year the course changed and instead of being a 300km loop it had increased slightly to 315km and I was looking forward to seeing the changes and completing this for the third time with hopes of bagging myself a PB.

Unfortunately the event had to be cancelled, as is the case for most, due to COVID-19.  As disappointing as this was I was expecting the announcement and it is the right decision with the safety of staff and participants in mind.

As I mentioned above the cancellation of events has been widespread regardless of sporting discipline and one interesting outcome is how brands/companies have handled this.  I have seen some that have given no offer of deferring or refunds and others that have offered both.  Although I was gifted my place to the Vatternrundan I was pleased when I was offered the chance to defer to 2021 (hell yes I will be there next year) and also the opportunity to complete the mileage virtually and be sent my medal.

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When we take part in the event the mileage is in one go but for the virtual event or as they have called it Minvatternrundan (which means My Vatternrundan) you are given the option to complete either out on the road or on the turbo and either in one go or across multiple rides within the time period from 5 to 13 June.

Typical British weather meant that in the run up to this we had glorious sunshine and then for the start weekend it was wind and rain and so it continued.  This meant we have had a mix of outdoor rides and turbo sessions to complete the mileage (the actual breakdown was 85km outside and 237.74km inside, which was not the plan – the plan was outside riding but nevermind).  The main downside overall to completing the challenge from the UK was the lack of blueberry soup – if you know you know!

For the turbo I changed my avatar to be wearing my Vatternrundan kit (obviously) that I earned during some of the training rides that were hosted on Zwift in the run up to when the event was scheduled for.  This was open to all but there were many people talking on the rides who were signed up and the structure built on distance as the weeks went by to assist with training.

It was also a great way to keep up with training and stay motivated as events are cancelled, seeing others on social media who were also completing the challenge at the same time and I look forward to receiving my medal in the post and planning my trip for 2021!

If you are interested in taking part in the ride next year I cannot recommend it enough.  The registration process is different to most and you need to complete a series of steps as follows:

  • step 1 – head to the Vatternrundan website and create a profile
  • step 2 – register interest for the event next year (this is not yet open but is usually online before the end of June)
  • step 3 – you will then receive an email with instructions on dates for registration
  • step 4 – if you are successful you will then receive details on how to complete the process and make payment – get in quick to avoid disappointment (this is usually around October time)

You need to complete the above in sequence to sign up ie if you don’t register interest you can’t then sign up at a later date so don’t miss out!  If you do sign up I also wrote a blog post about training for an endurance event like this that you can read here.

Hopefully I will see you there next year and will share my medal on my socials when I receive it!

Book Review – Gears for Queers

At a time when we are in COVID-19 Lockdown, self-isolation, lots of turbo bike miles and my company have said we cannot carry over holiday entitlement to the new holiday year I found myself with two weeks leave (should have been cycling in Sweden, Denmark and Norway but lets not dwell on that) and the offer of a book review – perfect timing!

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So the above was how I came about the book Gears for Queers.  Now I will admit when I first got the book I saw the title and thought eek, will that offend anyone?  Well the book is written by Abi and Lili who are a couple and refer to themselves as queer.  The book quotes:

‘to queer something is to trouble boundaries, to question the division into binaries, success/failure, commuter/cyclist, made/sane, travel/migrate, leave/remain’

The book documents the couples journey of bike touring from Amsterdam to Spain.  Lili is from Cambridge and having cycled there myself I know it is flat albeit very windy at times, not Lanzarote windy but windy nonetheless.  I did a 100 mile cycling sportive in Cambridge with two girlfriends and we practically flew for the first 50 miles and then turned and battled wind for the remainder of the ride!  Lots of people cycle in Cambridge and Lili is one of those very people.  Abi, however, had not cycled more than 20 minutes as part of her commute before agreeing to take on this trip!

Both Lili and Abi had second hand steel framed bikes for this bike tour, one of which cost only £40, and these were the bikes they cycled in Amsterdam, through The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland as part of this tour.  Two steel framed bikes, a printed route from Google Maps, many pannier bags filled with all sorts (I have 2 items they took that my firm favourites but I won’t give away what they were), leaving technology behind and they were set for an epic adventure!

There was so much in this book I could relate to as a cyclist including aching legs, saddle sore, grimacing at hills as you approach them, navigating busy roads and traffic, trying to understanding signage in different languages when cycling abroad and much more.

Both Lili and Abi are vegan and so a bike tour of this nature is made even harder when trying to find vegan friendly places to eat and buy food – I know this first hand as my husband is plant based and we have cycled in many countries abroad and the concept in some countries is just not known as much so you need to adapt and be creative at mealtimes.

The book is an honest account of their journey, including periods, hormones and the moods that go with that.  It is a refreshing account including warts and all and not just the good fun stuff that went to plan but all the bits that didn’t too.  It shows the kindness and generosity of people who are perfect strangers.  I learned about Warmshowers, a non-profit organisation that is a community of like minded people who bike tour around the world and host other people bike touring – I didn’t even know this existed before reading this book and love that there is something like this out there.

Oh and there are cats!  Not cycling with them obviously!  Camping, wild camping, interesting hosts along the way and lots of chickpeas!

I loved this book and finished it in two sessions.  I struggled to start with the gender neutral pronouns used as Lili is non-binary but only briefly at the start and then it naturally flowed as I read more and more.

Bravo to Lili and Abi for completing approximately 2,000km over a two month period – what a way to see different countries than by your own speed and power on a bike.  I am completely envious of such an experience and hopefully one day will experience something similar.

 

Füd – Energy Drink Review

Füd is a new healthy alternative energy drink that claims to be a natural energy boost.  I will admit I am not a fan of energy drinks and also not a fan of anything with the consistency of milkshakes or smoothies though I know many are.  When I was offered some samples of this new drink I was keen to try.

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The drink was developed by Philip Udeh after struggling for years with chronic fatigue due to sickle cell anaemia, looking to create something better than the sugary energy drinks being offered at the time in the market.

If you watch Dragons Den you may have seen the pitch from these guys and also saw that they managed to bag investment from Peter Jones as a result.

So what is in it?  Just sparkling water, real fruit juices, natural caffeine and B-vitamins, low calories and vegan friendly.

What did I think of the taste?  There are two flavours currently being Berry & Coconut and also Pineapple & Ginger.

So first with the pros:

  • Now normally what puts me off the most about some energy drinks is the over powering smell and how fizzy some of them are.  The berry and coconut flavour definitely smelt stronger but was nice and not off-putting and the pineapple and ginger didn’t have much of a smell.
  • Natural flavours and no added sugar or sweeteners.
  • Vegan friendly.
  • Packaging is nice and simple, all information clearly displayed that you could want as a consumer and recyclable.

And the cons:

  • I found both flavours had a clear dominant flavour in each with the berry and coconut one tasting mostly of coconut and the pineapple and ginger tasting mostly of ginger.  I think I am maybe one of the few people not to like coconut water or similar drinks so this was not a pro for me but I am sure others won’t mind it so much.
  • I found the flavours quite bland overall.
  • The taste was actually ok but probably not something I would purchase myself.  Not too much flavour but equally not enough and the same with the fizziness, not too fizzy but not still somewhere in between that didn’t seem quite right.
  • We won’t get into the name……….

I only had one can of each so can’t comment on the effects as that is not enough to form any real result with regards to noticeable difference in feeling, performance etc. 

Looking at the composition of the ingredients, and I should state I am not a qualified nutritionist, it would appear that I would not gain anything from switching from my nutrition I currently use for both energy and electrolytes.

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If I were given this I would drink it, I didn’t dislike the taste and it was much more palatable than other energy drinks I’ve had, but I wouldn’t buy it myself specifically.  Unfortunately not for me but give it a go for yourself and see if you like it maybe?

When you visit the website you can subscribe to their newsletter to get 10% off your first order.

I was gifted the products, but all opinions are my own.

 

Pre Ride Bike Checks

Ready to head out for a bike ride?  What do you check before you head off?

I guess the answer has elements that largely depend on what sort of ride you are doing, for example a short local recovery ride would see different items in saddle bags/pockets than an endurance event but some aspects remain the same.

Here is my pre ride checklist:

  • M Check – if you have not heard of this then you can find more info over at British Cycling here but it is a quick check you should complete on your bike before riding to ensure everything is in good working order.  It is called the M check as the order in which you check makes the shape of the letter M on the bike.
  • Tyres – I always check that there is no flint from previous rides, tread is not worn, and inflate to the required PSI (pressure per square inch).  Depending on the type of  bike you are riding, tyre, weather/conditions and personal preference the PSI differs.  The PSI will affect the grip on the road as you ride and the rolling resistance.  If your tyre does not have enough PSI you will find the tyre doesn’t roll smoothly – the aim is obviously for good grip and resistance.  On my road bike I use Continental GP 5000 tyres (that you can see here) and run my PSI at 110/120 in good weather and less if it is wet though as I say this is personal preference and you should find a range provided for advice when you purchase your tyre.  Some people calculate depending on weight but I have never done that.
  • Chain – I opt to use a chain from NRG, which I can highly recommend, and these are prepared and waxed so I have no need to add chain lube or check it before I ride. When I am due for further treatment NRG check for wear before they re-wax all chains and will feedback if it is worn out and avise next steps.
  • Saddle Bag – I did a whole post on what I have in my saddle bag that you can read here but I always check pre ride that everything is in there.  If you were unfortunate enough to experience the dreaded ‘p’ word on a previous ride you may need to replace an inner tube and gas canister.
  • Nutrition – both food and drink and will differ depending on length of ride etc
  • Tech – always make sure my Di2 is charged (I have found this the hard way when out on a ride and stuck in the wrong gear because I didn’t check!) and Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is charged and ready – I mean if it is not on Strava did it even happen?
  • Helmet – not a legal requirement but I personally wouldn’t ride without one (more on that here) and so having that ready and fitted properly.

For endurance I would also add:

  • Top tube bag – easy access for nutrition whilst riding.  I use the Topeak Tri bag with cover that you can see here, and I like having the cover in case weather is bad but also not having to faff about with zips etc whilst riding.
  • Spares – I would take more inner tubes, gas canisters, spare layers of clothing and lights also either in a bigger saddle bag or in jersey/jacket pockets.
  • Nutrition – stands to reason you will want more for longer rides although if part of an event they may have stops with food
  • Tech – my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is set to beep every 20 minutes to remind me to drink and eat (stop the bonk!).

For commuting I would also add:

  • Tyres – Further to the above, for my commute I use a gravel bike and on that I use Schwalbe G1 tyres and they run at a much lower PSI of 70.
  • Lights – I commute early and it can be pretty dark so always one to bang on about being safe and seen, its safety after all!  I make sure I have a front and back light, helmet light, arm band with light and fibre flare light as well.  I also take cables so I can charge them back up at work ready for my return journey.
  • Hi vis – again its all about being safe and seen so I have a bag cover and reflective clothing.  ProViz have a huge range or items that are great.

 

Happy riding!

How I Chose My Custom Bike Kit

For a while now I have looked at getting some custom bike kit for when I am cycling but then never really pushed it forward until this year.

My cycling club Romford CC have used BioRacer for over 5 years now and the kit is such good quality with excellent customer service that they were definitely the brand that came to mind.  I deal with club kit for Romford CC and so it was an easy process to get in touch and discuss the idea further with them.

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I’d like to think I was an easy customer but they would have to be the judge on that.  I knew roughly that I wanted something simple, nothing with an over complicated design or too busy if that makes sense?  Of course I wanted my blog logo and colour was no question that I was looking at there being a lot of pink – it is not for everyone but it most definitely is for me!

After speaking with the team I sent over my logo and then pretty much left them with my vague brief for the design knowing I was in capable hands.  I was introduced by email to the designer who was dealing with my kit and within a couple of weeks I was sent some ideas.

You are sent a link to the design portal with a password specific to me to see the designs, which are 3D so you can move the image of each piece of kit to see what it looks like from a number of angles.

I think there were only 3 or 4 iterations of the kit including the addition of the strapline for my blog ‘be fearlessly unapologetically you’ being added to the back centre pocket of the jersey and gillet.  One design looked a little similar to something else I had seen and they were quick on hand to change.

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What I really like about the team is that they are so easy to talk to and bounce ideas off of, always happy to help.  They also keep you updated from the start, when the order is placed and when it has been received and sent out.

What I was also impressed with is that the quality was exactly the same as my club kit and kit sent to me that can be ordered off the website.  Perhaps this is an odd thing to note but I have experienced first hand before where kit ordered from a brand has a different quality with the custom kit compared to off the shelf range, with custom kit being a lesser quality.

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I should note that as I stated I have used BioRacer for a number of years with my cycling club for kit and have also worked with them to review products but all opinions are my own and I chose to work with them on my kit as I know how good it is.  So I can highly recommend them if you are looking for either off the shelf kit or custom range.  I am incredibly happy with the finished product!

A Personal One From Me

This year marks ten years since I had a hysterectomy – getting a little personal with this one.

I won’t go into details but after having our son quite young and then years of pretty horrific gynae experiences it was decided this was the best course of action. And yes all other options had been exhausted (you’d be amazed at the amount of comments I get around this as if it was a throw away decision)!

It took me a long time to really get to grips with this – for my husband and I to go from years of trying to get pregnant including fertility treatment to need this was a massive blow. However, it was the sensible option.

Once I turned 30 I was booked in and one month later it was a done deed. I had what is called a total hysterectomy, which is removal of the uterus, including the cervix.  It’s a major operation and whilst I still have my tubes and ovaries recovery was nonetheless a long and depressing road. There was lots of tears, I can only describe it to feeling grief. Having very little mobility as I recovered meant I piled on a lot of weight.  I felt sluggish, tired and out of breath all the time but as I was still coming to terms with the op I’d had done I just wallowed in a lot of self pity, which ultimately made it worse, simply compounding the issue.

Earlier this year, in March, I went to a talk at Look Mum No Hands with Jasmijn Muller called Train Like A Woman, which was focused around how to train and work with your hormones in mind.  May seem a little odd for someone who has had a hysterectomy to attend but as I still have my tubes and ovaries they continue to make hormones, so whilst I do not have periods I still feel the symptoms and on top of that over the past year I sometimes get hot flashes, and was told by my GP that this is because the surgery may have blocked blood flow to the ovaries, which can also prevent the ovaries from releasing estrogen.  The joy of being a woman!

There is a high chance I will experience menopause earlier than the usual average age of early 50s and recently I was talking to a couple of ladies I know who are experiencing perimenopausal or linked symptoms.  Perimenopause usually starts in the 40s but can begin earlier for some.  It is when the ovaries stop making eggs and a transitional period before menopause but it can last for up to 10 years.  One friend made a great point that people have an instinctive reaction to compare themselves to others but that we are all at different stages in our lives and going through different experiences and challenges.  Energy levels can reduce but you could be working just as hard, if not harder, to maintain the minimum output.

Lets also not forget hormonal anxiety, which can be debilitating for ladies who were otherwise confident.  It can be a huge problem for some people (although not all), as what you used to do instinctively ie group rides with people, can then mean you second guess yourself and your ability to do things, which then affects your cycling and your morale.  This was a great point from a friend of mine that I can totally relate to.

Another friend of mine noted that she had been on the pill with artificial hormones for so long that when she came off it at the age of 40 it was a massive shock for her to deal with the peaks and troughs of hormones through the month and heavier periods.  Ironically she feels like she knows and understands her body better as a result and wished she had known how to do that 25 years ago!

Another friend I know who  has also had a hysterectomy has experienced hot sweats that just came on like a wave and went just as quickly.  She also notices lack of energy some days and feels she is definitely more angry on occasion.  Weight is another area she has noticed is easy to put on and increasingly harder to keep off.

The symptoms of menopause, and perimenopause, can be reduced through regular exercise and many find exercise to improve quality of life (though of course exercise will not stop these symptoms).

I have personally found over the last year I can cycle one day and feel amazing and super strong and then an easy recovery ride another day can seem like the hardest thing in the world.  Something I am sure many people can relate to.

There was an article on BBC News featuring a lady called Emily Barclay called ‘Perimenopause: I went from triathlon training to needing naps’ that can be read from here.

I realise a subject like this is not often talked about but why not?  A lot of us don’t identify these symptoms with certain stages of female development and talking about it more will raise awareness, share experiences and advice.

Any questions please feel free to ask as I am more than happy to break down the barriers and talk around this.

 

Training Update

Six weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was changing up my training and was intentionally trying to lose weight whilst doing so.  This was not because I believed losing weight would solve my problems or make me happier as I am more than aware that is not a healthy way to make life changes but because I was uncomfortable, had put on weight and wanted to make positive changes.

I have said before but I am lucky that my husband is a qualified cycle coach so he writes my bike training plan and my best friend is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist and she writes my strength and conditioning plan.

The new plan was for a six week period and on day 1 I received a message from Emma, which included the following:

‘This is a kickstart not a diet!!  I’m looking to change your way of thinking when it comes to exercise and good decisions.’

Before we began we had a consultation and completed starting measurements, weight and dress size and Emma also completed a fitness challenge that saw how many reps of squats, press ups and sit ups I could complete in one minute and how long I could hold the plank position for.

The six week period is not just about weight but about fitness, mental health and healthy eating.  Each week included 2 personal training sessions and 3 home workouts/classes.

For the 3 home workouts Emma would send me the complete workout so I knew exactly what to do, for what time, with what rest in between and no two workouts were the same so always something new to keep it interesting.

Emma gave me a booklet to complete which included a lot of information, pages to complete and also a food diary, mood checker, taking note of things during your week and noting them down, a wellness checking with the focus on being more mindful, self love and gratitude.

Fight Klub was a new addition to the schedule on a Tuesday night and so much fun!  Great music, cardio for an hour working with others.  I have terrible coordination when it comes to classes like this but I got it in the end and it was a great release too!

Emma and I used to train together all the time and I had missed that so was great to get back to training with her.

Every week I would complete a food diary and send to Emma for feedback so I could amend as needed.  It was interesting writing a food diary as I soon noticed my meals were often quite repetitive and often not enough especially on training days.

  • Week 1 and 2 – went great!
  • Week 3 – was my first week of working from home due to COVID-19 and that was when I was extremely busy with getting things organised as my company prepared to work from home for the foreseeable.  Whilst training sessions continued from home (I am lucky to have a home gym), I reviewed my food diary at the end of the week and found I had skipped meals all over the place and I’d had way less water than I should!
  • Week 4 – I was making a conscious effort to pre plan and have a huge bottle of water with me at all times and that worked so much better.
  • Week 5 – I was in the swing of things and even not having the face to face sessions and different structure meant things were kept on track and kept interesting.  Emma continued with clients via video for PT and spent a lot of time recording workouts that clients had access to – this meant I started some different workouts than I had done before including Power Wave and Boxercise.
  • Week 6 – in all honesty I hadn’t even noticed I was six weeks in.  On some plans I have reviewed before I have been on count down until the finish but with every workout until the end being different this was definitely not the case here.

Working in a gym meant Emma had her workplace shut down due to COVID-19 but was on the end of the phone at all times to assist and send me over workouts to complete, review the food diary and check up on how I was doing.

In addition to the above I also continued with cycling and saw myself complete a 30 day streak on Zwift since working from home.

At the end of the six weeks I completed the following again to see if I had made any improvements:

  • my fitness test – improvements in reps for all exercises and time to hold a plank
  • measurements – overall loss of 11 inches
  • weight – overall loss of 8lbs

It was just the kickstart I needed and definitely kept me on track and helped with focus during the lockdown and now I move on to start my new cycling plan and will ensure strength and conditioning continues to go alongside this.

Cycling Terminology

Have you started cycling and people are asking you things you have no idea what they mean or get confused with the terminology?  I know that was my experience when I first started and even four years on there are some things I am unsure of so you are not alone!

It is easy when you know this stuff not to think about it too much but there is so much to learn and understand, and it does come with time!

So here is some terminology that you may find useful:

  • Cadence – the number of revolutions (complete turns) of the crank per minute and the rate which you are turning the pedals as you ride (revolutions per minute, RPM).
  • Di2 – Shimano electronic gear system.
  • Crank – the arm that your pedals connect to.
  • Aero – serious cyclists will do anything to be more aero, meaning be more aerodynamic.  This can include many elements not just the bike but also kit and anything to help with less wind resistance for maximum speed.
  • Drops – most road bikes have handlebars with a curved part at the widest point, which is referred to as the drops – used by cyclists mostly for sprinting or on flat roads.
  • Bottle cages – the attachments to the frame to hold your water bottles.
  • Stem – the part of the bike that connects the handlebars to the front fork steerer tube.
  • Lid – another name for your helmet.
  • Chaingang – cyclists riding in a group that rotate turns on the front to share the effort load.
  • Peloton – cyclists riding in a large group.
  • Bibs – shorts or tights worn as cycling kit that have straps that go over your shoulders (they are more comfortable even if you do look like a wrestler).
  • Chamois – the pad in bib shorts/cycling shorts/bib tights.
  • Chamois cream – cream applied to under areas (most polite way of describing the area) to avoid chaffing when cycling.
  • Power – energy you are putting out when cycling, measured in watts.
  • Presta – the valve you can see on your wheel that is used to inflate/deflate the inner tube.
  • Shifters – the gear levers on your handlebars used to change gear.
  • Cleats – the attachment to the cycling shoe that clips in to your pedal.
  • Bike fit – conducted by a specialist or qualified bike shop to ensure the set up of your bike is correct for both comfort and performance.
  • Sit bones – the area that carries most of your weight when sitting, I would recommend having a fit for a saddle where they measure your sit bones to recommend you the best saddle.
  • Drafting – when you ride directly behind another rider and by doing so you use less energy.
  • Tempo – not quite full maximum effort, but roughly 76% to 90%.
  • Bonk – nutrition is key when cycling (as in many other sports) and if you bonk it is basically a sudden loss of energy if you have not fuelled correctly.
  • Chainring – some bikes have a triple chain set up but most are double which has the big ring and little ring.  They are the metal discs with ‘teeth’ that the chain sits on, connected to the crank.
  • Carbon – carbon fibre material used for some bikes, benefits claimed to be a more comfortable ride and they are generally lighter in weight.
  • Clincher – reference for tyres that are used that clinch to the rim of the wheel as the inner tube is inflated.
  • Cassette – rear gears, cogs found attached to the back wheel of the bike.
  • Derailleur – front derailleur guides the chain into either the big or little ring in the front. The rear derailleur guides the chain on to your selected gear while keeping tension in the chain.
  • Granny gear – the little ring often used for climbing.
  • Strava – an app to record your rides – if it’s not on Strava did it even happen?
  • Audax – latin word for bold and in cycling terms refers to a long distance ride that is completed within a set time limit having a brevit card stamped to prove that you have been to necessary check points.
  • Sportive – an organised cycling event.

And lets not forget the acronyms:

  • SPD – Shimano Pedalling Dynamics – one of the many clip in pedal/cleats, more commonly used for mountain biking but often also used for road cycling too.
  • SPD-SL – as above, more commonly found on road bikes.
  • MTB – mountain bike.
  • RPM – revolutions per minute or how many full rotations of the pedal per minute when you are cycling.
  • FTP – functional threshold power – maximum power you can sustain for a given period.
  • AP – average power – what it says really – the average power put out when cycling over a set time/distance.
  • CRIT – criterium race – which is general a short distance, high speed, including many corners type of cycle race.
  • TT – time trial – a ride that covers a set distance and is timed.  These can be done solo or 2-up, which is where you can work with another person. Also known as the race of truth as it is you and the bike!
  • MAMIL – middle aged man in lycra (a term often used by those who are not as fond of cyclists).

You’re welcome – now chat like a cycling pro!