Blog — Journal

How to plan a mini cycling adventure

How to plan a mini cycling adventure

When you work in an office all day, 5 days a week the weekends become a precious oasis. As a cyclist it becomes a time of freedom that can be spent outside, enjoying good weather and time for riding. Whether that is club rides, solo rides or mini adventures. The joy of being a cyclist is that the journey becomes the adventure. You no longer need to take a train somewhere, instead we ride!

For me, weekends are a perfect opportunity to have an adventure, from a one day 2 wheeled adventure to one that starts as I leave the office on a Friday to Sunday evening.

Following a few simple steps, you too can plan a mini cycling adventure that will transform the way you live your weekends and holidays going forward.

 

  1. Make a list of places you wish to visit

With so many weekends, bank holidays etc you want options. A trip for a regular weekend needs to be nearer home than those over a 4 day weekend. Make sure you have a mix of places that you can ride to/get the train to/fly to, to cover off all length of trip. What I would say is, start with a small weekend or single day adventure. My first was London>Brighton>London. Some might call that just a long ride but I did it solo in January – and it was definitely an adventure. Decide on your first destination, then….

 

  1. Pick a date

Don’t go too far in advance. The joy of using is a weekend is that you already have it off work. Choose something between 2 - 4 weeks away. Block it out and if you want to go with someone make sure they do too.

 

  1. Commit

Book whatever is required. Whether that’s a train, accommodation, a restaurant for dinner. Once this is done, it means there is no going back. Obviously if you are planning a single day adventure this is harder, but maybe book a lunch spot, or plan to meet a friend, whether it’s for the ride, at the destination or even at the start line.

 

  1. Plan your route

Hopefully you will have a rough idea of distance from step 1, I usually create a mass of routes on Strava when I am brainstorming adventure destinations. Some end up being feasible, some I park for 6 months, a year or even further down the line. If you want to start ‘weekend-adventuring’ I cannot recommend Strava premium and the route planning function highly enough.

Plan your route – checking roads on Google Earth is a great way to ensure you don’t end up cycling on horribly busy roads all day.

 

  1. Equipment

When you are heading out further afield it is crucial to have the correct equipment, whether it’s super light packable camping kit, powerful long lasting lights and bike bags to put it all in. This can prove a minefield and expensive. Not ideal, especially when one of my main reasons for cycling adventures is because they are usually affordable. However, investing in some good kit is crucial and you will end up getting a lot of use out of it. Or if like me you have a lot of cyclist friends you can usually pool equipment from them, as long as they aren’t coming with you!

 

  1. Know your limitations

As with anything, an adventure can grow and develop from a sapling into an oak. This is why it is crucial to remember it is only a weekend and understand what your limitations are. I would always say push yourself, but equally don’t overstretch yourself. After all this is a holiday and the point is to love every second!

 

  1. Get excited, get others involved, get the lowdown

By now you have a plan, everything is booked, your route is created and your equipment is borrowed or bought. It’s time to get excited, invite others if you want, or get them to celebrate your achievement with you after. Do any extra research on the destination you want to do, places to eat/drink/visit.

 

  1. Be flexible and enjoy!

On the day, remember the plan is not finite, be flexible, especially when it comes to the weather and listening to your body. More importantly though – ENJOY it. Even through the darker patches when you are tired and dreaming of a hot chocolate on the sofa, remember you are having an adventure, you are making memories, living life and on Monday when asked about your weekend – just think of the story you can tell!

 

MY Top Destinations (some done, some still on the list)

Day –

Brighton

Windsor

Tunbridge Wells

Henley

Hambleden

Surrey Hills

 

Weekend –

Surrey (this might be where you often do your long cycles, perfect then for your first weekend/camping adventure if you are a bit anxious about going further afield)

Somerset (incl. Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor)

Paris

Bruges

Cotswolds

South Downs

New Forest

Winchester

Bath

 

Longer -

Scotland

Ireland

Lake Annecy

French Alps

London > Amsterdam

Snowdonia

Brecon

Lake District

Northumberland

Peak District

Mallorca

Dolomites

Tuscany

Iceland

 

My clothing recommendations (for a 1 day / overnight adventure) - 

Comfortable padded cycling shorts, a quick-dry cycling jersey (3 pockets absolutely required), a mesh base layer (to be worn under the jersey), windproof Gilet, waterproof jacket (packable), arm warmers and cap (to keep the  sun out of your eyes and face).

Any other recommendations, please share and HAPPY ADVENTURING!

Queen of the Mountains Ambassador, adventurer, blogger and keen cyclist Helena (aka The Fit Advisor) cycled to Bruges for Easter solo.

Finishing 18th in the Elite Women's Race, Nicole's love of the London Nocturne continues

Finishing 18th in the Elite Women's Race, Nicole's love of the London Nocturne continues

Written by Nicole Oh, racing for Les Filles Queen of the Mountains

For years this has been my favourite race on the calendar. Every year I think it will be my last. That the next year I will be (just) a spectator and join in the off-bike festivities (i.e. drinking and cheering!) Then right after the race has finished I am buzzing with excitement, already committing myself to “one more year”.

The problem (maybe a good problem) with being in the Elite Women’s race is that it's the second last race of the program, usually around 8.30pm, by which time all your friends and supporters have been getting stuck into the beers for the last 4 hours! I'm never really sure if they want to stay and watch or make their merry way home by this time.

Personally, I've never done so well at the Nocturne. After all, the line up is generally pretty daunting. These days it involves a scattering of pros, Olympians, and World champions. I’ve never been close to sticking with the lead group and in my first few attempts, I’m sure I was lapped. Luckily none of this really fazes me. Somehow I seem to be getting either faster or smarter with my advancing years, so I had high hopes that this year, I might just stay up there.

Like most other city centre crits, a bad start can ruin your race. Hence why the “neutralised” lap is pretty much the scariest lap of the whole race. EVERYONE wants to be up the front, and with 70 riders, that just isn’t possible. I’m not very good at the neutralised lap, which generally requires being able to go from 0 to 100 at the blink of an eye, get the elbows out and play chicken on who’s going to give way on each off the corners. This year I found myself 3 rows back on the start line. I managed to clip in first go, but two girls in front of me failed to do so and with that 5 second delay, it meant that I had to chase from the word GO!

There is something to be said about the new course around St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the City. I agree that it is not as atmospheric as the old Smithfield circuit, but it is less technical and far safer in my opinion, although a few people still managed to put themselves into the fence. It also means that if you have a bad start, there is some chance that you can rescue your race, as there are long straights and a few corners where you are able to make up ground. I tried not to panic, to be patient and gradually move myself up through the group. I looked around for other riders that I knew were strong, and could perhaps be in the front group and I tried to follow their wheels as they moved up. Don’t get me wrong, I was still going pretty much full gas - my HR was around 176 (of max 182) and at one point I thought I might vomit - but I don’t think I ever completely emptied the tank past the point of no return. I guess this tactic worked, as eventually, I made contact with the front group.

However, this wasn’t to last long. The pace picked up from a sprint lap (the sound of the klaxon made my heart sink) and I was off the back and chasing again. This is how the rest of my race went - just yo-yoing on and off the rear of the front peloton with a few familiar faces. Just one near miss - we swung round a fast right-hander to find riders on the ground so I pulled my brakes, my back wheel lifted and landed sideways, but to my surprise I was still upright, so carried on (quickly).

I sprinted all the way to the line and finished in 18th! Probably my best result ever. I was super pleased.

We had 7 riders in this year’s race with some mixed fortunes. Both our Lou’s were up there in the front group, until Lou Mori had a bit of a lie down and Lou Mahe blew up. The other chicks in the team, Lyds, Suze, Tracey (TC as we call her) and Sophie all rode strong and finished in the same group between 28-34th. Just finishing the Nocturne in one piece can be quite an achievement.

And so my love affair with the Nocturne continues. You just can't beat the speed and the excitement. Especially the speed you shoot round the corners! I've reflected on the race afterwards at just how mental it must look from the sidelines. Hearing the crowds cheering and hearing your name being shouted on every corner and on every lap sure does push that little bit extra out of you.

To summarise, in the words of a still unidentified voice in the crowd, “Go on Nic, you love this sh*t!”. Yep, I sure do.

(Already in training for 2018!)

Fireflies Blog 1: Channelling my anxiety & nerves

Fireflies Blog 1: Channelling my anxiety & nerves

Anxious before a climb? It happens to the best of us. 

As I write, this I’m hours ahead of flying out for 8 days of riding with the Fireflies. It is an 8 day tour where we cycle from Geneva to Cannes (south of France) and cover over 1,000kms and climb over 3x the height of Mt Everest. This group has been a rock for me over the years, and this year is more important for me to ride with them than ever before.

However, I am anxious about this trip, even though I’ve ridden with this group for years and years.

Of recent, life has come at me in full force: launching a business while working full-time has taken it's toll on my body, my mind and occasionally my spirit. I haven’t trained as much as I usually do for big tours like this. I’ve gained a few kilos. I’m very fatigued and I'm carrying a niggling injury. Some days it’s difficult to find the energy and passion that I know I need to make up the climb. The worry of this tour has loomed over me and I’m not sure I’m fully ready and prepared.

So why am I even riding, if I’m so nervous?

Because I absolutely love this event, this group and the cause. After pushing myself up to the top of those many Cols, I’ll go back down to help someone who is on their first Col ever, to give them encouragement to make it up the mountain. It’s life-changing to conquer your first climb and to watch someone find their inner strength and resilience for the first time is truly touching. I had support on my first climb and I want to pay it forward as much as I can, to inspire more people to love cycling and climbing as much as I do.

And because the mountains call to me, and calm me. Reconnecting with these giants is my way of finding my centre, of reconnecting with what I love to do.

But finally — this year it will be a completely different ride for me. Last year I lost my Step Mum, Linda, to Leukaemia. She was a vibrant and beautiful individual and at 53 years she had so much more to give and to live. She was struck down with Leukaemia and in less than 12 months she was gone. Linda knew I loved riding my bike and she knew how much the Fireflies meant to me. She is why I’ll help the newer riders on the Tour - it’s what Linda would have done.

Even though I am anxious I can’t wait to board that plane and to start this journey (and to keep climbing those mountains).

Alicia will be writing a blog every couple of days on the Fireflies Tour. Stay tuned to read about her journey. 

If you'd like to support her ride for Bloodwise, Leukaemia Research charity, please donate here.

Announcing our Sponsorship of Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Announcing our Sponsorship of Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Queen of the Mountains is delighted to announce that they are the 2017 title and clothing sponsors of the newly formed Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team

Les Filles has been racing in the UK for 4 years, making tremendous progress and inspiring women from all over to race and get involved in competitive cycling. 

The team is concentrating on Elite and National level races during the Spring/Summer season, from Criterium, Time Trials and Road races – including the London Nocturne on the 11th of June.

Queen of the Mountains has designed their new racing kit – called Racetangles.

The Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team is the brainchild of Nicole Oh and Alicia Bamford (founder of Queen of the Mountains), who share the goals of premium performance and encouraging greater participation of women in sport.

The partnership is a natural fit to promote awareness of women's cycling and, in turn, encourage more women to take up the sport. Increased participation in racing will build the profile of women's participation in the sport both competitively and recreationally.

Alicia and Nicole are ecstatic about the partnership and what the future holds for the team.

 

The team members are all incredible athletes in their own right. Their love of the sport and encouragement of others to race is infectious and was a key reason Queen of the Mountains wanted to partner and sponsor the team. These women are incredible ambassadors for women’s cycling. Together, the team want to break down the barriers (or perceived barriers) that preventing women from racing and riding. 

As partners, Les Filles and Queen of the Mountains will organise a social ride in London, open to the public. It will be another forum to encourage women to learn more about racing and training in order to build the sport. Details will be announced on the Queen of the Mountains website, www.queenofthemountains.cc

 

This year the team welcomes two new faces – Louise Moriarty and Lucy Burgess. Those racing for a number of years with the team are: Tracy Corbett, Delia Beddis, Helen McKay, Louise Mahe, Sophie Curle and Nicole Oh.

They also have a number of rotating members, including Clem Copie (now based in Annecy), Laura Greenhalgh, and Alexie Shaw. Coralie Glaunes and Clare Gillott continue as support crew.

Louise brings a wealth of experience (and sprinting prowess) to the team, having raced for Pro teams on the Continent, as well as racing in World Cups and World Championships on the track and road. She has a number of Irish National titles to her name, as well as winning the Ras na mBan general classification on two occasions.

Lucy has recently moved to London from Bristol, and is keen to test herself in National-level events. She raced with Radeon-Bike Science last year, until an injury cut her season short.

 

For any team enquiries, please contact Team Manager Nicole Oh at lesfillesracingteam@gmail.com.

 

Twitter: @LesFillesRT

Facebook: LesFillesRT

Instagram: lesfilles_qom_rt

www.lesfillesrt.co.uk

Laura's Dirty Kanza Adventure - Gravel, Grit and Lady Luck

Laura's Dirty Kanza Adventure - Gravel, Grit and Lady Luck

I met Laura on a ride in Hampshire two weeks ago, at a pop up store we had in Fitique, New Arlesford. We got chatting about our ride goals for 2017 and she lightly dropped into the conversation that the following week she was jet setting to the USA to tackle the Dirty Kanza.

What the heck is the Dirty Kanza I asked?!? Well, it is a 200 mile gravel-grinding race in Kansas, the Mid-West. The race commences in the morning before the sun rises and heads across some of the most stunning and open parts of the USA, all on gravel and grit roads. Most riders finish in something between 12-16 hours. 

Laura's longest ride pre-DK was 120 miles (on smooth tarmac), so this was going to be a test for both her mind, body and butt! She had studied the weather, worked with her coach and read many previous race blogs - she knew that the weather (wind and storms) and 'Lady Luck' as she describes, would play a huge part in how her day was going to turn out.

You can read more about Laura's race and how she went here.

All I can say is Laura, you have definitely inspired me to take to the gravel and grit later this year. Chapeau!

Written by Alicia Bamford, images courtesy of Laura Bailey

Laura at the start