You will know I love all things bike and so having the opportunity to attend an evening with Bianchi Dama to try some of their bikes and find out more about their collaboration with Charles James was something I was quite excited about.
Arriving at the venue, with my friend Helen from 1 Vision 2 Girls, we were two of the first and so had a chance to admire the bikes they had with them. Helen and I are both keen cyclists and have several bikes each but the rule is always n plus one right so no technically always on the look out for the next. Especially true for me as I am actually looking for my next bike and could it be a Bianchi?
It was an interesting opportunity for both of us as I mentioned we are both keen cyclists but neither of us wear a lot of make up and don’t have a skin care regime either (I know shock horror) so mostly we use water in the shower on our skin so finding out more about the active skin care range was going to be good for us both.
Once we got the right size bike and had helmets on we set off in a small group with Tasha, Bethany and Becky, three of the ladies from the Bianchi Dama women’s performance cycling team. It was a short easy spin around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and gave the opportunity to talk to the ladies about their recent trip completing the Tour of Belgium and what they really thought of the bikes. I think when venturing into cycling it’s easy to be swayed by those around you when it comes to picking a bike for example I have always had the same brand as it is the preferred one of my husband who is a keen cyclist and cycling coach. I am open to others as I search for the next one and the ladies were saying how they’ve tried many over the years and genuinely found the Bianchi bikes to be super comfortable from the start. This was good news and whilst I can’t give a full review based on a 10/15 minute ride the bike was light, smooth, easy to change gear and really comfortable – it’s a good start!
When we got back there was a short straight stretch which gave the opportunity to test the bikes a little more and have some fun.
After mingling for a while there was a talk, which again as a keen female cyclist I found really interesting. I mean it started with the comment ‘Women’s cycling is the place to be’ and that got my attention as I am biased but of course agree wholeheartedly!
The three ladies we cycled with from the team were on the panel and as mentioned earlier they have recently returned from the Tour of Belgium which is a female pro race over ending up in Flanders after four days riding. There are 9 on the team and they spoke of how they are all great friends and real friendships too, which makes a massive difference and sees great retention within the team which speaks volumes and they always look like they’re enjoying it. I am more than aware that being part of a cycle club you join with a common interest and goal but these people end up like an extended family and friendships are soon forged and that makes the sport even more enjoyable.
These are ladies who all work full time and so being at the level they are have to fit in training to their busy lives. They spoke about how they run off that energy level and it becomes a habit, often seeing them scratching the walls when resting, which is something that I think a lot of people, myself included, can relate to as it is always a balancing act. On average these ladies train for 15/20 hours per week on the bike with one member of the team who has covered 20,000km per year for the previous three years – and is a full time vet too!
Having to fit in such rigorous training alongside full time jobs requires a certain level of dedication and the ladies spoke about how their typical week is comprised. It is no surprise that longer rides take place at the weekend and are often 4/5 hours with the aim of completing around 3 sessions during the week, often being early morning, but making these count with some focused structure ie including efforts. There are always tired with achey legs but the fun that comes with this makes you want to do again and all whilst still smiling. Through the winter there is an increased focus in the gym with strength and core work, which sees many benefits in cycling; if your core is strong it really helps for sprints and climbing. Some add running, which is difficult as different fitness to cycling but does allows for fitness in all weather outside which cycling doesn’t always lend itself to. Cyclocross is something that some of the ladies also take part in through the winter and really takes on the extremes of weather and mud – I love mud so maybe this is something I might explore in future?
The team are keen to use the heritage of Bianchi to represent in an honourable and exciting way and the trademark turquoise kit and bikes was seen throughout the event. The girls spoke of the collaboration with Charles James and how cycling can be semi glamorous, being equally surprised that until now no one has got involved in this area previously with most not making skincare regime a priority (that would include me!) but how they genuinely feel the new range is fab. When cycling your skin really comes into contact with all the elements often finishing a ride or training session with skin that can be covered in mud, dust, grit, wet, and sweat and naturally this all affects your skin. The range includes two products with one being an active cleanse and the second a cream to enhance and protect. It absorbs easily, contains spf which sounds amazing as sun cream whilst cycling and sweating is not the best mix, it can be worn with make up over it, and is light enough to wear on a daily basis, so is a massive help as a product for sportspeople and those with an active lifestyle.
A huge positive for me to hear was how this innovative sponsorship with Charles James and Bianchi has been developed for the team and with the team and I quote ‘is a partnership that works’. Leading an active lifestyle and cycling several times a week I’ve admitted I don’t have a strict skincare regime, however, I have noticed how the elements can leave my skin feeling very dry and when products like these are developed actually involving the very people who they are aimed for my interest naturally peaks. The ladies tested the products during the Tour of Belgium ride with positive results, taken to protect their skin whilst cycling.
Caroline, the mechanic for the team, was also present and I found her parts of the talk really interesting to learn more about the behind the scenes elements that being part of the pro team involves. She spoke about how technology is important for the bikes especially with regards to lightness and strength amongst other things. One of the key things in Bianchi bikes is countervail (membrane in carbon) reduces the vibration you can experience on some carbon bikes. All of the Bianchi bikes are entirely Shimano equipped, some with di2 and some with mechanical gearing, which Caroline noted is easier to fix. The team experienced a Di2 failure at a national championship this but managed to rectify even though you cannot see the issue with di2. Caroline also spoke of how it is harder to find bad kit now but the benefits of this is that you don’t have to go to the very top end to get the benefits, for example the last iteration of Shimano 105 and Ultegra have under a 200g difference but a £600 price difference.
I was really impressed to hear that the entire list of mechanicals for the team over the season was limited to:
- 1 di2
- 3 punctures
- 1 skipped chain
Awesome work Caroline!
When it comes to cycling the race that most know is of course Tour de France and unfortunately there is not one halo event that stands above everything else to showcase women’s cycling. The main events to note are:
Whilst the above is great it shows that women’s cycling is not yet at the same level as the mens. Getting live coverage of cycling is a big thing and there is a need to make the good women’s races better and have more media coverage and more money to be invested. This is an area that is growing but it is a long slow process, which is unfortunate as women’s cycling is exciting and less predictable. Caroline mentioned that the women’s races tend to be far more attacking.
One thing the ladies were surprised in Belgium about was that there are genuine fans and at present women’s cycling is also more accessible than the men’s racing, often working out of the back of cars so fans have access to the riders for autographs and photos.
Today is the first day of me using the new active skincare products and I walked to the station noticing how nice the scent was. I am looking forward to carrying on using it whilst I train and will follow up with how I found it.
In the meantime I have been online and fully customised the Bianchi bike that is on my wish list – it’s Christmas soon right?