Blog — Culture

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

The art of cycling kit...the do's and don'ts...the things that people don't talk about...

Unless you've been cycling for a while or have a friend that's taught you the ropes and has let you in on the secrets, you might not know all of the in's and out's of cycling and cycling kit - what's recommended, what's taboo etc etc.

It does come down to personal style and preference, however there are some unspoken rules that we wanted to let you in on...

(1) No panties / knickers / underpants are to be worn under your cycling shorts (!)

If you're new to cycling, this could be a little baffling. Reason why we don't wear underwear underneath our cycling (padded) shorts is because the seams and fabric cause additional friction and will lead to saddle sores. 

If you've got a great pair of shorts, they will do the trick!

(2) Sock length - 6 inches or to the top of the calf muscle

Long gone are the days of ankle socks and short ones. No socks is a definite no-no too. Longer socks are the way forward, just not too long. Take a look at these hashtags on Instagram #sockdoping #newkitday and you'll see it's all about 6 inches or up to the calf muscle.

(3) Tan lines - they are totally acceptable, the more razor sharp the better. 

We try to avoid the burn and protect our skin from the sun most of the time. But if you're in the saddle a lot, your limbs will inevitably tan up no matter how much UV Factor 50 you apply. Be proud of the line, especially when worn with short shorts or skirts in the summer!

(4) Where possible, match your handle bar tape with your saddle. 

(5) When joining a new cycling group, introduce yourself. Or if you're jumping on the wheel, let the person know in front and ask if it's ok to join them. 

(6) Leg pain, or burning in the thighs on those first few long rides or going uphill is totally normal. Per the Velominati Rule #20, if your quads start to hurt shift forward in the saddle and use your calves and hamstrings (or try using your glutes/butt muscle). If your calves and hamstrings start to hurt, shift back and use your quads. We also like to stand out of the saddle every now and then. If all of the above fail, revert to Rule #5 (or take a coffee break!)

(7) Remember, you were once a beginner, let people in on those unspoken rules. 

Announcing a new retail partnership with Cafe Ventoux

Announcing a new retail partnership with Cafe Ventoux

Written by Brian Jordan, founder of Cafe Ventoux

Café Ventoux is excited to announce the launch of its ‘FEMALE PELOTON ZONE’. The creation of this women’s specific retail area within Cafe Ventoux will be the ‘go-to’ destination for premium women’s cycling apparel, providing women with an unparalleled selection of the best women’s cycling clothing available. This area will host our existing labels and will showcase our brand new partnership with the hottest brand in women’s cycling, Queen of the Mountains

Queen of the Mountains creates beautiful, high-performance cycling clothing for women. Each garment is designed specifically for the female form in the riding position and the distinctive colours and designs for each collection are all inspired by a particular mountain. Appropriately, Queen of the Mountains’ inaugural collection took inspiration from the infamous Mont Ventoux.

Queen of the Mountains’ purpose is to inspire and empower women to ride. They’re not only doing this through their outstanding clothing range, but also through hosting regular women rides and cycling holidays in Europe.

Café Ventoux had been looking for a female brand to complement its philosophy of being a ‘cycling destination and experience’ and Queen of the Mountains fits this perfectly.  

The full range of Queen of the Mountains cycling clothing and accessories will be arriving in-store at Café Ventoux from Thursday the 8th of June. 

To celebrate the launch, Café Ventoux will be hosting a celebratory event with bubbles and nibbles on the evening of the 8th. Queen of the Mountains founder and avid road cyclist Alicia Bamford will be speaking about why she founded the brand, the clothes, what inspires her and she will also touch upon the upcoming rides and events, including cycling holidays that will be available to Café Ventoux customers.

If you would like to join us for this exclusive event, then please sign up here: 

http://bit.ly/2pfC80E

As the creators of Cafe Ventoux Brian and Rosie are passionate about good food, a relaxing environment, and outdoor activities particularly cycling, running and snow sports. Our aim is to create a vibe at Cafe Ventoux which brings all these passions together, under one roof, to create a unique experience for all our customers, but remember you do not have to ride a bike to enjoy the buzz of Cafe Ventoux, so why not stop by for a bite to eat, a refreshing beer or glass of wine from our a fully licensed bar.

Cafe Ventoux is far more than just a cafe, we call it a ‘destination cafe’. A place to eat, drink, chill out and shop. You will find good food and great retail cycle brands which reflect our passions, including a Unique Boardman Elite Bikes experience centre. We have our own Wattbike studio and sports massage suite. We host Sportives, Boardman Bikes Experience Days and product launches, all within our 20 acre site.

For more information on Cafe Ventoux visit www.cafe-ventoux.cc
Address: Cafe Ventoux, Tugby Orchads, Wood Lane LE7 9WE

Our guide to cycling Girona

Our guide to cycling Girona

Words written by Nikki Le Brocq, cyclist blogger.

I didn’t know much about Girona when I got my invite to ride there for a week in June last year. I knew some pro teams were based there and that the old town featured heavily in the latest series of Game of Thrones(!); but that was about it.   Having done my spring training in Calpe earlier in March I was excited to be going to another beautiful part of Spain (Catalonia to be precise) to conquer a few new climbs.

Transferring from Girona airport, following a direct flight from the UK was quick and straightforward although getting my bike box up the ancient narrow windy staircase leading to my apartment was less so! But to be situated right in the heart of this magical medieval old town was completely worth the effort.

Waking early the next morning for my first ride out couldn’t have been easier thanks to the chorus of bells (no chance of sleeping-in when in Girona!) reverberating around the old stone walls.   Breakfast meet was La Fabrica, a coffee house and cycle café in the Barri Vell (old town) run by Amber and Christian Meier who’s mantra ‘life is too short for bad coffee’ is religiously applied to their fabulous menu of specialty grade coffee which is carefully sourced from importers who pay fair and sustainable price to the farmers.

Christian, a pro cyclist for Orica-GreenEdge together with Amber, the most wonderful hostess certainly have made it a welcoming community for cyclists, amateur and pros alike and local non cycling folk. As tempting as it is to sit in La Fabrica for the morning drinking coffee and spotting the odd ‘pro’ come and go, I don my helmet and roll out with my friends fully fuelled up and ready to explore.

There are many routes to ride in Girona, all providing different challenges and scenic backdrops. First day was very much about acclimatizing to the Catalonian heat which was going to hit mid to high 30’s that day (above average for this time of year) so we headed out to Els Angels, not far out of Girona and the location for the Hill Climb race event at the annual Girona Festival of Cycling week. It’s a nice steady 13km climb perfect to test our heat tolerance and find our legs. I personally love this climb; there are two ways to ascent, one definitely harder than the other. It stands at 484m and at the top there are spectacular views, a large al fresco area for the café and the Sanctuary Els Angels (Sanctuary of the Angels), a beautiful catholic church dating back to 1780 where the surrealist artist Salvador Dali (who was born in Catalonia) married in 1958.

Another of my favorite rides during the week was on day 4, where we rode out to a place frequented by the pros; Sant Marti Sacalm near the little town of Amer.

You can get into a lovely rhythm on this pretty 8km climb, which is why it’s a favorite of mine, with an average gradient of 7% it’s testing in places.

There isn’t a great deal at the top (a café that seemed to be eternally closed and a defibrillator unit, which I guess is handy for such a remote area.

Towards the end of the week we planned a 130km route and included the infamous mountain “Rocacorba”. It’s a beast! In fact it’s so worthy the British ex pro cyclist David Millar who now lives in Girona named his cycle club after it.

Standing at 979m, the pros are known to use Rocacorba as their fitness test before any big race. I was excited but I won’t lie, I felt a little sick with anticipation about this. At 13.8km long with parts said to be 15% I think its fair to say my anticipation was justified.

The route itself was lovely, heading out to Banyoles we stopped for coffee by the lake, which is by far the most idyllic coffee stop I’ve ever had.

Climbing the Rocacorba definitely lived up to what people had told me about it... the first 3 km’s were okay, not too steep, but officially those first few kms aren't included in the segment! It’s quite cruel, that mentally tests you in every way. The road surface is not great, the lack of shade means the heat can be unbearable on some stretches and unhelpful when you are struggling to keep your HR in the right zone. The second part is the hardest with 3km of 9% average gradient and I can still remember the feeling of despair after tackling a 10-15% section promising myself it will ease off on the next bend only to find it just doesn’t let up. Finding a rhythm, I found was impossible. Seeing the telecommunication mast provides a much needed uplift and by the time you summit and have taken a few moments to get your lungs back in the right place it becomes clear why we do this. The feeling of achievement and view is absolutely mind-blowing, totally worth every km!

Rolling back to Girona town after a morning out on the bike is always an inviting prospect, because of the fabulous and plentiful cafes, tapas and gelato bars all very bike friendly. River Café, at the bottom of the steps of the basilica of Sant Fèlix is one of my personal favourites.

Leaving this cycling paradise was really, really tough. So much so I returned in September for another 2 weeks and explored more climbs around the foothills of the Pyrenees. Although there were a few less tourists at this time, it was just as perfect for cycling and post-cycling rituals. During that second trip, I encountered a problem with my Di2 and luckily found a bike shop called Bike Breaks run by Dave and Saskia who fixed it that day. The shop is fabulous, fully stocked including a range of pro team kit and pro seconds. They are supporting the Festival of Cycling again this year and Queen of the Mountains is running a week-long cycling holiday over the festival -  click here for details.

Although not covered here for the sake of word count there are fabulous coastal routes along the Costa Brava with climbs that are equally as rewarding.

Until next year Girona..... adéu !

Winter warmer: Sweet potato & Butternut Squash Soup with Lemon & Garlic Cheese Toast

Winter warmer: Sweet potato & Butternut Squash Soup with Lemon & Garlic Cheese Toast

This soup is one of our favourites! It's delicious, hearty and warms the soul especially after a winter ride. You can make it in advance - on a Thursday or Friday evening - and the flavours will intensify, making it even more flavoursome to eat on the weekend.

Feel free to add pearl barley or lentils for additional density and even some seeds on top for crunch! We hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

For the soup

  • 500g sweet potato, peeled & diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1L vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 100ml double cream or creme fraiche for a lighter option

For the toast

  • 2 ciabatta loaves, cut into slices
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 2 tbsp snipped chives

Method

  1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Put the sweet potato and butternut squash on a baking tray and add the honey and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast for 40-45 mins until soft and starting to caramelise at the edges, stirring occasionally.

  2. Meanwhile, fry the onions in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft, then add the garlic, chicken stock, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 mins.

  3. Remove the sweet potatoes and butternut squash from the oven and add to the pan with the stock. Blend everything until smooth using a stick blender. Stir in most of the cream and bring back to a gentle simmer, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. To make the lemon & garlic toasts, gently warm the olive oil and garlic in a pan over a low heat for a few mins; the garlic should be softened but not browned. Remove from the heat and mix in the butter and lemon zest until smooth. Leave to cool, then stir in the chives and thyme.

The Art of Layering - Part II

The Art of Layering - Part II

As the weather changes and becomes a little unpredictable, choosing the right clothing for your ride can be a tricky endeavour.

Here are a few handy hints to keep you warm, dry and happy during the changes of season.

(1) Wear a sweat-wicking base layer. We recommend a mesh base layer or merino layer for cooler rides, to be worn directly against the skin under your jersey. Wearing this wicking layer will help to keep you dry and warm, even during a hard, sweaty ride. This base layer will move the sweat away from your skin, transferring it to the next outer layer. 

(2) Keeping the wind out can be key. Adding a strong wind chill to already low temperatures can make a ride almost unbearable at times. Keep the wind at bay by wearing a wind-proof Gilet or jacket, a cap, ear warmers and also a snood or buff around your neck. To cover your ears you can wear a thicker / wider headband. Your face, neck and chest are all very sensitive to changes in temperature, so be sure to cover your skin as much as possible. 

(3) Cold feet. A lot of women suffer from cold toes and fingers. Double layering your socks, without restricting the blood flow, can be a good start to keeping the cold and wind from chilling your toes. Also try wearing shoe covers (or toe covers) - these are real winners on a terribly cold day and do a great job at keeping your shoes dry from road spray (and clean!) Another reason for cold feet and hands can be due to poor circulation. Ginger is known to aid circulation, perhaps try a warming ginger tea this season.

(4) Layer up baby. During those in-between months, when the temperature is changing constantly throughout the day, it's wise to regulate your temperature on the bike through wearing, or packing in your jersey pocket, additional layers of kit. Start with a base layer, then jersey, Gilet, arm warmers, leg/knee warmers under your bib shorts. Carry in your back pocket a rain cape or wind proof jacket. This will then give you several options on the ride no matter what the conditions. You can always wear more and then peel off the layers as the day warms up. Remember it's much better to be warm than to be cold on a ride. Err on the side of caution - layer it up baby!