Premax Chamois and Warm Up Cream Review

As a cyclist I have been through my fair share of chamois cream and whilst I know people who do not need this, I am a fan and on the road or turbo will always see me applying a generous amount of chamois cream pre ride and sometimes mid ride too depending on the distance.

I have a few people who are friends and that I follow on social media who use Premax products and so looked into them a little more. I was particularly interested in the warm up cream and seeing if this would help me when on the bike, especially during winter months in particular.

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Chris Hall yesterday finished his personal #107TDF Project, which is raising money for The Pace Centre. This challenge is following Chris Hall cycling from London to Land’s End to John O’Groats and back to London, covering at least 107 miles per day on the days the Tour de France is on. You can read more about this challenge here and during this epic ride Chris has had many questions about comfort whilst in the saddle and is using the Premax chamois cream and as I type this has suffered no issues.

The Internationelles, who are raising awareness for gender equality in cycling, are also using the Premax chamois cream and honestly whilst the Tour de France route was not possible this year they undertook the challenge on turbo trainers and followed this up with an Everesting challenge. For me products that help with challenges as noted above are always ones I am keen to try as they are tried and tested to such a high level.

I have been using the chamois cream now both on the road bike, gravel bike, MTB and the turbo so a real mix of riding and different terrain. I would always maintain that there are also other factors for saddle comfort to take into consideration such as the saddle itself and bike fit but for me chamois cream is also on that must have list. I have written a blog post about saddle soreness that you can read here and will need to update it to include reference to Premax also. I use a Mimic saddle on my road and turbo bikes but have a Brooks saddle on my gravel which is much stiffer but surprisingly comfortable. I have found a real difference in opinion on some creams with a lot of triathlete friends liking sudocream as it will not wash off in the water but I don’t personally like the consistency of cream like that for riding. I found the Premax cream to be pretty much perfect consistency, smells nice, noticeable difference when riding, easy application, doesn’t stain (this is important as some can leave some discolouration on chamois pads that no one wants!) and no chaffing experience whilst riding. The cream I used was women’s specific so was designed with a female specific PH formula too. Pretty much ticks all the boxes! What would be great would be individual sachets – an item I will often take on long rides in my saddle bag.

Now the warm up cream! Well I had been looking at another brand who offered something similar and was keen to see if this stuff worked. I always find the first 10 miles of a ride to be the hardest to warm up and get going so a cream that claims to warm up the muscles is something I was definitely interested in. I was keen to know the feel because having used magnesium sprays post ride previously I knew that using too much can pack a little bit of a sting and I had heard the same of some warm up creams too. This cream was smooth, easy to apply and smelt great! I have used it again on road, gravel, MTB and turbo and a real difference of short and endurance rides too with the shortest being one of the gravel rides at about 10 miles and the longest being just over 130 miles. Now I know I said it takes me about 10 miles to warm up but I also find off road riding much harder and will joke saying 10 miles off road feels like 20 on the road so that my comparison. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt that they were in fact ready to go sooner into the ride and will be keen to continue using this to test more especially in the winter months to see if it shows benefit then too. The only thing I haven’t yet done is take with me on a long ride to reapply and think that could be useful too.

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

Vinny’s Summer Bootcamp

I have been training with Emma for a while now and wrote a blog post about picking a personal trainer that you can read here.

Training I have done with Emma has been varied from in the gym, outdoor workouts, obstacle training and running.  Recently, however, Emma has started doing outdoor training more and this has worked well especially within the constrictions of government guidelines around COVID.  When she advertised for a 6-week summer bootcamp I was immediately interested.  My main focus is cycling right now but with all events cancelled for 2020 it has given me the opportunity to change my focus slightly and incorporating more strength work, I know from experience, would provide benefits in itself.

So what was included?  Well there were 3 packages on offer as follows:

  • Yellow – £50 – 3 x group PT sessions per week, access to online workout videos, 1 x face to face nutrition talk per week
  • Purple – £70 – unlimited group PT sessions per week, access to online workout videos, 1 x face to face nutrition talk per week
  • Black – £90 – unlimited group PT sessions per week, access to online workout videos, 1 x face to face nutrition talk per week, 2 x solo PT sessions to be used over the 6 week period

I opted for the yellow package as that fit in with my schedule the best and still allowed days for cycling.  I am currently working from home so have the benefit of being a little more flexible with time compared to if I was commuting into the city and with 17 bootcamp sessions on offer over each week it is easy to make this work with other commitments – no excuses!

All sessions are held outside, no matter the weather, on private fenced tennis courts so the space being used is purely for Emma and the participants of the sessions she is taking.

In advance of the start I was added to a private facebook group, which was good as everyone on the course is in the group and you can all interact with each other and ask questions.  Emma emailed over a booklet, which included everything about the course, link for the booking system with timetable, exercise and food tracker, nutritional detail and more.  There would also be videos shared within the facebook group from Emma with nutritional information that we could benefit from.

Emma, by her own admission, is not a personal trainer who will opt to use lots of fancy equipment and so whilst there is pretty much all the equipment you would need for a bootcamp/circuit class for these sessions, some will use purely one tyre per person for the entire session – don’t be fooled by thinking the simpler the easier as these are often the harder sessions.  And I will admit those sessions are my favourite – how much can you do with one tyre?  The answer is a lot and you will definitely feel it by the end of the session!  She won’t scream and shout at you so you will get out what you put in and you just need yourself, a mat and a bottle of water.

The hardest session?  There was one where we completed 1,000 reps within the session.  There were 10 stations, 1 exercise per station, 1,000 reps in total (it was savage) but at the end I was all check me out I just did 1,000 reps!!

I like the bootcamp type of workout as it is great for strength and conditioning and as many of the sessions are high intensity aerobic intervals you tend to burn more calories.  I also find with group training I tend to push myself harder especially if I am paired up with someone else.

I knew a number of the people signed up for the bootcamp course but even those I didn’t  were all very friendly.  As my work returns to potentially going back into the city I won’t be able to keep these sessions up and will miss it, the structure is fab although I won’t miss the midges!  There is, however, the option for pay as you go so I am sure I will still be back for some of the sessions on offer.

If you are wondering what sort of thing is done during these sessions head over to the Trained By Vinny facebook page to see some of the videos and pictures that are shared to give you an idea.  For more info you can also check out Emma’s website here.

And with regards to COVID Emma has put in a number of measures including completion of a questionnaire in advance of attending sessions, providing a register on arrival, gloves for those that want them, antibacterial gel for us, wipes for people to use and all equipment is wiped down and sanitised before and after every session – my equipment at home will seem alien not smelling of anti bac ha ha!

There are also benefits from training outdoors including getting more fresh air, some people claim that being outside raises serotonin levels that regulate anxiety, happiness and moods, it is better for your well being, boosts your immune system, more time in the sun increases vitamin D levels and when it rains it hides the sweat!

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And the results speak for themselves!  During the 6 week period I got the following results:

  • I improved in all areas on my fitness test at the end of the course compared to when I started.  This test included how many sit ups, press ups and squats I could do within a minute and how long I could hold a plank.
  • I found as the weeks progressed certain exercises like chest press, shoulder press were noticeably easier.
  • I lost 9.5lbs in weight.
  • I lost a total of 16 inches across chest, waist, hips, thighs, arms, neck and wrists.

Just look at all the smiles!

My Favourite Cycling Jerseys

When I first started cycling I was adamant I would not be one of those people who were head to toe in colour matching lycra kit.  I am probably not the only person who has done this and now looks at their cycling kit and thinks well I couldn’t have been more wrong – I mean matchy matchy is everything!

But on a serious note cycling specific kit serves a purpose honestly.  I wrote a blog post about my top 5 bib short for cycling that you can read here.  So that was the bottom half and now I am talking about the top half.

You don’t want jerseys too big so they are flapping around, but you want them to be breathable and comfortable.  I mentioned kit having a purpose and you will find different jerseys have different designs but most with back pockets to store food, spares, phone etc and these are much more easily accessible than having to stop to get items from saddle bags as an example.

Now I find jerseys and more specifically the fit is personal preference.  For example, my husband prefers a more fitted jersey and I want to feel like I can breathe!  You will find a lot of brands will offer different designs such as casual fit, close fit, aero, light and heavier weight fabrics and much more including some with material that help protect from the sun too.  Being larger chested I often find sizing can be awkward and have experienced kit in the past that will fit around the bust and be too big elsewhere.  So here are my favourite cycling jerseys:

Foher – in addition to my ambassador kit from last year and this year my favourite is the Pegasus kit.  This will be no shock if you follow me – just take a look at the design, its gorgeous!  For my UK friends I would note that the size comes up smaller than ours so I would advise whatever you take here, you may want to consider sizing up.  Washes great and what I love most of all from the kit from Foher is that it is so different from the kit available elsewhere in the UK and really stands out!

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BioRacer – I have a lot of kit from BioRacer and all fab but hands down is my custom kit.  This kit never fails!  Good for all rides – short or long, washes fab and lasts for years!  I mean literally years – I have not had the custom kit for that long yet but other same cut/fit I do and it’s literally as good as new.  You can see here another style similar as an example.

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Fat Lad At the Back – as I mentioned I am larger chested and so find sizing for jerseys can sometimes be an issue.  This brand has a female arm called Fat Lass At The Back and the female jerseys don’t come in standard sizing.  Instead they go by bust size so you literally select the same inch measurement as you would for the bra you wear and the result is such a comfortable fit.  I have a number but my favourite would have to be the ride for cake jersey.

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Stomp The Pedal – I have the signature jersey in guess what colour?  Neon pink of course!  Tarsh (the founder of this brand) most definitely lets her personality shine through her collections and I love how bright and different they are.  The pink is very me and as such matches a lot of my other kit and bikes too.  Similar to the Foher kit I would perhaps size up in this fit.

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Specialized – I have a couple of jerseys from Specialized and can’t fault it one bit both in terms of design and comfort.  I am actually looking at some of their off road jerseys for my gravel bike so will be checking out what they have on offer for that cycling discipline too.  Here is another jersey I have which is similar and again fab – also need this one in grey as my friend has it and I have kit envy!

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Liv – this jersey was a gift from a friend and is more of a classic design but the fit is fab and very comfortable when cycling.  It also goes with all the black bib shorts I have so win win!  However, sadly not available on their website any longer.

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DHB – this is Wiggle own brand and again like I mentioned for some of the above I really like some of their brighter kits.  A lot of their kit is also much cheaper compared to some other brands but the quality is still fab.  They have a number of items in their current sale at the moment too, which is where I got the jersey in the below photo from!

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All of the above jerseys are comfortable, wash fantastic and very importantly for me don’t move around whilst riding!  I cannot stand wearing jerseys that move up and down whilst riding as I spend too much time trying to pull them back down again and well lets face it that is just annoying!

Some of the items mentioned above were gifted, however, all opinions are my own.

Numb Hands Whilst Cycling?

When you ride do you find you ever get numbness in the fingers or hands?  I know I do, especially on longer rides and it is actually very common!

When I first started cycling I was on a group ride and it had been explained to me the various hand signals that I may see being used and what they meant.  Obviously it takes a while to get to grips with these but most are self explanatory.  However, the kind gentleman who I was following during the ride had pointed out holes, parked cars to indicate he was moving out into the road, and indicated slowing but when he started shaking his right hand I went into panic mode and was frantically searching the road surface for some kind of debris or obstacle and there was nothing.  Shortly after we stopped and I asked what he was indicating to and he said nothing his hand was numb ha ha (yeah I felt a bit stupid).  But I find myself doing the same thing when I get numb hands by shaking them out.

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So what causes this when cycling?  There are a number of things that can cause this but the two most common being handlebar palsy (otherwise known as cyclists palsy) and sometimes carpel tunnel syndrome though this is more rare.  Sounds a bit medical right?  So if we take it back to basics a little both are effectively caused by compression of nerves (radial, medial and ulnar) and this is largely because when riding you may (mostly unknowingly or unintentionally) find you are putting pressure on your wrists/hands when cycling.

There will be instances that are unavoidable such as poor road surface or roads that are cobbled as they will inevitably cause vibrations that will travel up the bike frame to the bars and ultimately your hands and this can also cause tingling and numbness over a period of time.

There are many things that can help with this, such as:

  • Bike fit – I am a huge advocate of a proper bike fit!  The smallest of changes can make such a positive difference to your riding experience, prevent injuries and give more enjoyment whilst riding.  I won’t go into detail here but I do have a separate blog posts that goes into the importance of a bike fit in more detail that you can read here.  With regards to numbness you could find you may benefit from checking brake and handlebar position, which could play a part especially if they are too high/low or close/far from you.  It could also be related to seat height.
  • Strong core – the better your core, the less you will be leaning heavily and applying pressure on the handlebars when cycling so there is work that can be done off the bike to see benefits whilst on it too.  A good strong core should be able to see you able to ride using just fingertips or even hands free – though maybe practice on a turbo and keep safe on the road!
  • Gloves – I do believe this is personal preference.  I always wear gloves when riding but I know others who don’t like or feel the need for them and neither is right or wrong but could protect you in the case of an accident.  However, if you do suffer from numbness in the hands or fingers then the padding in some gloves may be of a benefit to you.  The padding in the gloves are normally placed exactly where you will have more pressure in the riding position and done so in order to stop compression of the nerves that cause this. My glove of choice is from BioRacer and you can find them here.
  • Arm position – you may have cycled before and heard the term chicken wings?  You should not be in a position where your arms are fully out stretched and rigid.  You should have relaxed shoulders and a slight bend in the elbow and be able to hold the bars and move your arms a bit like a chicken wing.  This is a result of a relaxed upper body position.
  • Hand/Handlebar position/movement – when I ride I ride on my hoods but when climbing I shift my hand position to the tops so you naturally have pressure on different areas.  I rarely (if ever) use my drops but that would be another position also.  You would be less likely to experience this if riding in a time trial position or using TT bars because of the position on the bike being so different and having different pressure points.
  • Handlebars – the bike I currently ride has aerobars and I find these to be the most comfortable I have used whilst cycling as there is more surface area to navigate and use for different riding positions.
  • Bar tape – not just to look good but also for comfort and you will notice a difference if using super thing tape on your bars.  I am currently riding with Specialized bar tape but I am also a fan of Lizard Skin too, both of which have a cushion that I find comfortable.

Happy cycling!

Why Do Cyclists Do That?

I was cycling recently and one stretch of road had some truly awful road surface with so many holes, wide cracks and uneven surface on the left hand side where I would normally be positioned when riding.  I had to indicate several times to move out to the right and thankfully the driver behind me was very patient and this was not an issue.  Shortly after we came to a set of traffic lights and it was red so I stopped and the driver pulled up beside me.  They politely asked why I kept moving out and so I explained that the holes and cracks that he could drive over in a car could have terrible consequences for a cyclist.  He said that made sense and when the lights changed we both set off on our way.

Now don’t get me wrong there are some terrible cyclists out there, but there are also some terrible drivers so lets not tar everyone with the same brush as there could be a very plausible reason.  There are so many things like what I outlined above, that I am sure are unknown to those who do not cycle and so I thought I would list a few and share why cyclists may behave differently on the road to a car user.

  • Potholes – as mentioned earlier a hole that a vehicle could easily drive over could cause an accident with horrible consequences for a cyclist.  This could cause punctures, bent wheels or cause a flip off the bike.  You may see a cyclist move further out into the road, after indicating and when safe, to avoid such obstacles.
  • Manhole covers – particularly dangerous when wet, especially on slick road tyres, as they can cause wheels the slide but also can be sunk into the ground and have the same effect as potholes so similar behaviour may be observed as mentioned above.
  • Speed bumps – the same as a car driver, a cyclist needs to anticipate the obstacle whilst also checking the road surface on the other side so you may notice a cyclist lower their speed before going over speed bumps.
  • Cycle paths – I commute on the CS3 and it is great to have a safe space to cycle that separates the car users and cyclists, however, if there are roadworks the signs are very often put in the cycle path.  These paths are not cleaned that often either and more often than not end up with debris that can cause accidents and punctures.  The surface can (as is the case on the CS3) be savage in winter when the wet and the result of cold weather such as icy surfaces can make bike handling particularly difficult.  As per rule no 63 of the Highway Code it is not a legal requirement to use a cycle path so cyclists may choose not to do so, so you may see cyclists opt to ride in the road if it is the safer option to do so.  The design speed on these paths is 12mph as per London Cycle Design Standards and a lot of cyclists will exceed this.  cycle paths are also intermittent and will very rarely, if at all, take a cyclist from their start to end destination and this could be another reason they opt not to use them and instead use a different route.
  • Railway crossings – same principle for cyclists as car users in that if barriers are down they must stop and wait and when riding across maintaining your line is key so wheels do not get caught and wedged on the tracks so you may find a cyclist may move out slightly to ensure they go over at the right angle.  Cyclists may even need to dismount and walk across depending on the angle of the tracks for safety.
  • Cattle grids – these are more common when cycling off road but I have had to cross these on a number of events and if I am honest they terrify me!  Mostly the same principle as railway crossings apply, however, on some the gaps can be way too wide for a road bike and so you may see people choose to get off their bike and walk over to be safe.
  • Cobbles – again super slippery when wet and depending on the gap between the cobbles, cyclists need to ensure they maintain momentum to avoid having an accident or fall.  If a wheel were to jam between the gap the momentum you had up until that point would more than likely see you going over your handlebars.  They may also increase the gear, which can slow the speed slightly but this is to ensure the chain does not slip.
  • Traffic lights – same rules for all road users so if it is red then you stop and wait!! It is key for cyclists to be aware of vehicles on the road with them and vice versa especially when you may be travelling forward and a vehicle next to you may turn left across your path.  Rule no 69 and 71 of the Highway Code cements that all traffic signals and signs are to be obeyed.
  • Puddles – never trust them as a cyclist as you can’t see what is underneath!  Much the same principle as potholes so you may see a cyclist indicate to move out to avoid it in the road and that is the reason why.
  • Riding two abreast – in line with the Highway Code it is suggested to ride two abreast so there is a shorter distance for vehicles to overtake.  This of course should be exercised with common sense and changed to single file especially in more urban areas, narrow roads and around corners.
  • Road tax – that old favourite that cyclists don’t pay road tax, well neither do cars.  It was abolished in the 1930’s and now emissions tax is paid and bikes have no emissions hence no fee required.
  • It’s illegal to ride on the road – I have been told this by drivers a number of times and it is just incorrect.  Rule no 64 of the Highway Code states that cyclists must not cycle on a pavement.  Very often car users would prefer for cyclists to ride on the pavements and cyclists will wonder why other cyclists are riding on the pavements and not the road?!
  • Hand signals – cyclists use a number of hand signals when riding with others.  If you are not a cyclist you may drive behind one thinking what on earth are they doing.  Mostly this is to indicate the direction they are going so other road users are aware, but it could also be to point out holes or obstacles, indicate if there is a car parked and they need to move out in the road, hold their hand up or pushing down gesture to signal stopping or slowing down, or gesture to vehicles behind that it is safe to overtake.
  • Horses – cyclists should slow down if approaching a horse rider on the road and this should be done regardless of what direction you are approaching it.  Cyclists should keep pedalling but slow down and not freewheel as the sound can scare the horse.  They will pass carefully and wide.
  • Parked cars – cyclists may allow ample space between them and a parked car just in case of opening car doors so you may notice cyclists move out further into the road as they pass parked cars and this is the reason why.
  • Riding out of the gutter – it is believed that cyclists should be positioned right next to the gutter/pavement when on the road and most cyclists will position themselves to the left.  However, cyclists are within their right to cycle on the road and the gutter is where debris collects and so it is often the safer choice to position yourself just outside of that so that is why you may see a cyclist choose to ride slightly further out in the road.
  • Wind – the effect of wind on a cyclist can cause your position to shift especially if you are passing a gap in a hedge, for example, and a crosswind appears suddenly.  As a cyclist I can honestly say my last wish is to be a hazard to other road users and involuntary movement is often scary but out of our control.
  • Being visible – as a cyclist I prefer to be safe and seen and will always use adequate lights and reflective clothing when necessary.  I do not want to assume another road user has seen me and this assists with that.  Rule no 60 of the Highway Code states cyclist must have a white front light and red rear light lit.
  • Bus lanes – if road signs indicate it is permitted then cyclists may use the bus lane.  On my commute there is a busy road in London that I always opt to use the bike lane as it is safer and I ensure I pass any parked buses with care in case a pedestrian is walking in front.

As a cyclist I can honestly say I do not wish to hold up other road users at all.  There is nothing worse than being on your bike knowing you are holding people up, especially if there is no obvious passing place or safe place to stop.

There are a number of resources available online on this matter as follows:

Happy cycling, and driving!  Let’s all share the road in a positive way.

Safety Whilst Cycling

I often bang on about being safe and seen on the bike as I believe it is important, but what else can you do to help with safety on the bike?  Thinking of accidents, injuries and even so far as worst case scenarios it is important to forward think of what can help in these sorts of situations both for riding solo and as part of a group to enable others to help you should the need arise.

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A good friend of mine gave me an ID band as a gift one year – I have the pink because well, pink, and she has the yellow and the idea behind that is because we are both part of the same cycling club and the colours are yellow and pink (see what we did there).  The bands are from a company called OneLife iD and they offer many items that hold personal information including medical conditions, emergency contacts and more.

A great image on the website from OneLife iD is their vital signs information sheet, which shows some of the ways you can benefit from their products with a little more information, below:

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I have personally ended up post accident on the bike in the back of an ambulance and luckily I was riding with two very good friends, with my husband and one of their partners not too far from us in a car.  Obviously I was not alone and they knew my husbands number to phone him as my emergency contact but if I were riding alone and without ID it could be slightly different.  In this instance (you cannot make this up) the road was closed as I was out on the floor and the traffic was stopped in both directions.  On one side of the stopped traffic there was a driver who was an off duty fireman and on the other side an off duty paramedic so I could not have been in better hands all round but that is obviously not always the case.

I had a friend who found someone at the side of the road and had the unfortunate experience of having to phone his wife to explain to her what was happening.

The items I have from OneLife iD include the following:

  • Sports ID band – £18.99 – this is one of the newer products and strap is similar to a silicone apple watch style strap and totally adjustable.  I have it in red as pink was not an option (ha ha).
  • Sticker pack – £9.99 – this is a packet of 7 stickers that you can use as you wish whether you put them on your bike, helmet, phone or other kit or a mix of all as you have enough to cover all options really.  Very discreet and waterproof so if you were putting on the outside of something it will withstand the weather.
  • Mini tag – £6.99 – super small and can attach to a key ring or be put inside a wallet.
  • Lumo ID – £22.99 – obviously I had to go for the pink option but this is one style of the bands they offer.  Super comfortable and I don’t event realise I have it on.  Comes with a strap that is easy to cut down so the fit is right just for you.
  • Medical card – £5.49 – same size as a credit card so could go in a bag, wallet or the back of your phone case and includes all emergency info needed including medical details.  There is also the option for the same sort of card but for allergies specifically.  This information is crucial for a medical responder to ensure you receive the appropriate care/treatment that you need.
  • Adventure ID wristband – £16.99 – this was my first OneLifeiD band that I mentioned earlier was a gift and I have had it now for over 3 years and it is still going strong!

Carrying emergency ID is such a small, easy and inexpensive thing to do and OneLife iD offer so many options including, but not limited to stickers, tags and bands.  When you purchase an item you set up an ID and this acts as your account and includes all relevant information that would be needed in case of an emergency and this can be set as read only and emergency details that can be accessed via your personal profile and pin given on your ID.  You can read more and view a demo page here.  You can also see in further detail the concept behind OneLife iD here.

You can really add as much or as little as you wish to your profile depending on your needs and there are tips on the website giving examples of information you may wish to include.  I, for example, have no allergies or medical conditions but if I did I could include documents and detail that could be accessed should it need to be, including insurance documents, social media details if you want to add, photos and more.  You can also update the online profile whenever needed and as the information is stored on your profile there is no need to purchase more items, unless of course you want to!

When you receive the items there is an easy to follow activation link you receive via email to activate the products and you are good to go.  I was also impressed when I tested the QR codes and I received an email to tell me that my profile was accessed using the secure pin with date, time and approximate location.  The purpose of this is to identify if it was unauthorised access should you be concerned your pin has been compromised.  For me this was ok as it was me testing it but it does give instruction to contact OneLife iD to de-activate the pin if it was a security breach, which is good to know.

The cons?  There are not many but a couple of things I would note:

  • For the Sports ID band and Lumo ID band the pin needed to access information is on the underside of the metal tag, which means if someone was going to use it to get your details to assist they would need to know to take it off and turn it the other way round.  In the case of a real emergency would this be obvious?
  • For the items with details available via a QR code you are reliant on good mobile signal, which may not always be the case wherever you are.

I use for cycling but actually you can use for any sport and even outside of sport can use as an ID.  This includes options for a social ID to share information with others both from a personal and business perspective, and IDs for other things such as luggage, kit, equipment and even the dog!

If you are part of a sports club these are great to have as something members can use whilst participating in whatever sporting discipline.  They can be customised and start from as little as £4.99.

I was gifted these items but as mentioned I had a band beforehand and all opinions are my own.

 

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.