you just need
Monday morning: a rude awakening by my iPhone’s alarming alarm - it’s 6am and there’s a coffee machine across town waiting for me. Shower, tea, porridge, pants (hot off the radiator), jeans, the top t-shirt in the clean t-shirt pile. Socks. Chuck things into a musette, clip keys on to belt loop, lace up trainers, throw on jacket. Don't forget the bike pump -you never know when you might get a flat tyre. Scruffle the cat’s head and yell “see you later” to the sofa, grabbing Claud by the handlebars on my way out the door.
It takes me 8 and a half minutes to get to work on this bike if I turn the corner before the number 7 bus does and time it right with the lights at the bottom of the hill. I can see my imaginary line drawn down the length of the hill, it skirts around the holes, bumps and the slippery-as-hell metal man-hole covers.
Road turns in to cycle path and every little bend is known like the back of my hand, probably better – who actually studies their hands? Avoid that pothole, go left around the tree on the bit where the lane goes narrow (otherwise you hit people going the other way), assume time trial position for 5 seconds where the low hanging leaves smack the faces of cyclists less familiar with the route.
Slow down just a tiny bit so that I catch the green man without putting my foot down.
Sharp left in to work – wave at the gardener – jump off bike – find bike lock keys.
Today Claud’s company in the staff-bike-bit is a tiny bike with stabilisers. I have no idea who it belongs to. Later there will be a fixie, a BMX and a hybrid joining the party. I wonder what they’d say if they could have a conversation.
A busy day, the happy kind of tired, weary legs. My bike is just where I left her, and she spins me back home.
It isn’t Epic – it’s barely a ride, but these moments bookend my days, and I’d go mad without them.
30 Days of Biking begins tomorrow, so I thought I’d share a little bit more with you about myself, and my bike.
I wanted to start this blog for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one was to prove that you don’t have to be super-fit, experienced or the owner of an expensive bike to enjoy cycling and see its benefits.
I’ve had a couple of bicycles over the years. My last bike that I have any memory of was a hand-me-down from my mum: it was 20 years old when I inherited it, but a nice old bike nonetheless. It had a basket on the front and I used it for my weekly shop. Shortly after moving to a new flat in Brighton, some nasty bugger stole that bike from the railings it was chained to (lesson learnt: keep your bike inside if you live in the city).
A family friend gave me an (old, rusty) bike to replace the stolen one, which I was very thankful for, but did not enjoy riding. After a few months of riding the rust-bucket, the gears had given up. The final nail in the coffin was when my boyfriend at the time rode it through a muddy field and got the chain stuck…permanently. Once again, I was left bikeless! So, naturally, in this time of need I turned to Twitter…
After my friend Mark retweeted me, the wonderful Kim replied to say that she had a Claud Butler road bike sitting in her shed, which she would happily give to a loving home free of charge. Claud (as he will now be known) had been Kim’s first road bike, and she’d cycled London to Paris on him. I drove to Kim’s work place, and took Claud home in the back of my car. The next day I took him to be serviced by the lads at Future Cycles in Lewes, and rode him proudly home! The rest, as they say, is history.
So now you know a little about Claud, allow me to tell you just a bit about myself.
Before March of this year, when I started some training for the London to Brighton night ride, I had never cycled more than 10 miles. Ask any of my friends about my ‘hobbies’ and I can absolutely guarantee that anything sport, exercise or fitness related will not feature. Up until fairly recently I didn’t even own a pair of trainers, let alone any lycra!
That should have you convinced that I am neither experienced nor particularly fit. I still regularly feel like I might die when ascending a steep hill. All that said, it gets a bit easier every time I ride, and you learn to love the hills (no, really, you do.)
Words can’t quite portray the feeling of riding a bike. All your senses are heightened, and you notice things that you would whizz past without a second thought in a car. You can stop, just to take it all in, still sat on your top tube. And the satisfaction of covering distance on two wheels is infinitely more than on four.
I think I have fallen in love with cycling. If I still feel that way after the next 30 days, then it must be true love. Watch this space!
Review: Velocio Wind Vest
Velocio are a fairly new name on the cycle clothing scene. They don’t describe themselves as a women’s brand (in fact, they have some men’s stuff in their collection), but their focus is on creating performance cycling kit that is beautiful, functional and thoughtfully designed. It just so happens that the focus is on women’s clothing. I like the way their products are presented: a women’s-centric collection developed from scratch for women. Kit which is “in no way an adaptation of a men’s line.”
As a brand with such an on-point attitude to female cyclists, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it was started by a woman. Velocio was started by Kristy Scrymgeour – who owns professional women’s racing team Specialized-lululemon. The other name behind the brand is Brad Sheehan, a designer with a background in the cycling industry. In their own words:
We aren’t a women’s brand. We’re a let’s-look-at-this-differently brand.
Anyway, enough about the brand. Is their kit actually any good?
I tested a wind vest – in other words, a zip up gilet designed to be worn over your jersey as an extra layer on cooler days.
The fabric is windproof on the front and sides, with a mesh material to the back for breathability (is that a word?). The mesh has served it’s purpose on some warm but breezy rides – it didn’t give me that stifled, sticky feeling that some jackets do. The fabric is soft to the touch – not crunchy or anorak-like – and has a small but noticeable amount of stretch in it, meaning it fits over lumps and bumps comfortably. Being not particularly um, bumpy, myself – I conducted a scientific test involving stuffing socks down my bra – and the fabric coped well. I take this job seriously.
This item isn’t designed to be waterproof, but it does give a bit of protection if you get caught in a shower.
The colour of the vest is described as Herringbone. I’ll admit that I had to Google that word to discover it refers to the zig-zag pattern (like a kitchen floor…). The actual colour of the pattern is a light and dark grey contrast with a brownish/purpleish tint to it. It’s a warm hue that makes a nice change from black, whilst remaining neutral enough to go with most of my cycling kit. The herringbone pattern is barely noticeable from a distance but adds a nice depth to the design when seen closer up.
The lining around the arms and pockets and the zip are a contrasting white. The inside of the 5cm collar sports Velocio’s trademark colour combination: turquoise, a warm orangey red and dark magenta. Some might consider this a challenge to find matching kit in those exact colours… or not – whatever. The little tag on the back pocket also has these colours on it. It’s amazing how those little details can turn a bit of clothing from average to ‘really rather nice.’
The vest is a bit short in the body for my liking – it fits fine, but I would prefer it longer to protect more of my lower back/arse from the elements.
Sizing wise this garment is verging on the Italian side of things. Which, seeing as all Velocio products are made in Italy, would make sense. I optimistically started with a size Small which I quickly swapped for the next size up. Velocio do warn you about this on their website:
The Wind Vest is cut to fit close to the body. If you prefer a bit more room, or like to layer under your vest, we recommend sizing up.
The Medium gives me a snug but comfy ‘race fit’ with a jersey and base layer on underneath. I’m a size 10, so I’m guessing that makes the S around a UK 8, and XS a UK 6. Meaning that XL is around a UK 14. It seems a shame that 14 is considered Extra Large, but that’s Italian sizing for you. This isn’t good news for big-busted or broader women, who are probably very bored of this problem by now. Still – Velocio have given us 5 sizes which is a good start for a brand that have just launched. I get the impression that they’re the kind of company who listen to their customers and would produce more sizes if the demand was there.
The wind vest has three decent sized pockets in the back. I’m an appreciator of pockets in vests – I like to keep the stuff I need quick access to in my top layer – not having to hoik it up to get things out of my jersey underneath. I managed to fit phone, keys, money, pump, tube, levers, some food and a multitool all in there. That said, a bit of stitching from the lining of the pocket has started to unravel slightly – but to be fair I did deliberately over-fill the pockets in the name of thorough testing. There is no zip pocket, but bearing in mind that I’d always be wearing this on top of a jersey, that isn’t a problem. In fact I think it would just add extra weight for no good reason. Speaking of weight, the vest is nice and light – I compared it to a Rapha gilet in the same size and they weigh about the same. The vest also folds up small enough to fit in a jersey pocket if you get too warm.
This isn’t a high-viz vest, clearly, but it does boast a few reflective features: a strip on the back middle pocket, and two small reflective logos. If you want a more high visibility option you could opt for the Warm Red version of the vest, which is beautifully bright without looking like a builder’s jacket.
A few more details then: There is a no-slip silicone gripper below the pockets to keep the vest in place whilst riding – and I didn’t have any issues with it riding up, even when moving between being bent right down in to the drops and sitting upright. The little guard that goes over the the zip is really soft and stops any kind of rubbing or itching on your chin. There’s another one at the bottom of the zip to stop it digging in or catching on whatever you’re wearing underneath, too.
I’ve worn and washed the vest a bunch of times (at 40 degrees, against the label’s advice, as my washing machine is from c.1924 and has no 30 degree option) and so far there is no fading, shrinking or loss of shape.
In conclusion – this is a smart and stylish bit of kit that will fit in with whatever you’re wearing. It has a proper women’s fit and does it’s job of protecting you from the worst of windy conditions. If I could change one thing I would make it a little longer in the body. All in all: a really decent bit of kit which I will continue to wear lots.
What I like most about it
The design (that colour pop that makes me go ‘oooh’), the soft feel of the fabric and the flattering women’s fit.
What I like least about it
There’s nothing I don’t like about it, but I would prefer a slightly longer fit.
An extra layer of wind protection on Spring, Autumn and cooler Summer rides
Available from velocio.cc
If you'd like to get in touch about anything cycling-related (or anything, really!) just drop me a line below. I'd be delighted to hear from you.
Lois (and Claud)