Reasons you don’t need to worry about British Cycling

April 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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Worried about what’s happening at British Cycling? Concerned that recent revelations indicate it’s a fundamentally sick institution rife with sexism, racism and ableism? Relax! I’m here to explain why you can carry on cheering and waving flags and just generally LOVING how totally brilliant we are at everything.



1. Nobody ever complained about anything at BC before now, so everything must have been fine.
2. Well, apart from that review in 2012.
3. Nobody changed anything after the 2012 report, though, so it can’t have found out anything that important.
4. Oh, yeah, there was that book in 2012, too. But, well, she was never a team player. You know.
5. All the people who’ve complained about their treatment have chips on their shoulders because they didn’t get picked for stuff.
6. Well, okay, some of them got picked for stuff. But all the other people who’ve complained are well-known for crying a lot.
7. Well, all the women are well-known for crying a lot.
8. Top-level sportswomen cry at, like, EVERYTHING. They’re just bags of nerves. Honestly.
9. Okay, only some of the women are well-known for crying a lot. Maybe only one. Whatever. You get my drift.
10. Women have REALLY good imaginations. They’re always imagining stuff like sexism, when all anyone was doing was commenting on their arse in a totally supportive way and calling them ‘man one’ because, well, what, hang on, you mean there’s a WOMEN’S team sprint? Gosh.
11. No men have reported sexist comments being made about them, so there can’t have been any.
12. Lots of able-bodied athletes have said nobody ever called them ‘wobblies’ or ‘gimps’, so the others are obviously imagining it.
13. Lots of high-profile men have said everyone was always totally lovely to them, and they’re the REALLY successful athletes – you know, the PROPER ones that get lots of funding and everything – so we should listen to them.
14.None of the men said anyone told them they should go and have a baby. If anyone said it to a woman, he was probably just concerned about her making the right choices. Women always appreciate help with that.
15. No white athletes have ever been called ‘dirty terrorists’, so that must have been just banter. Where would we be without banter? What do you mean, in a more equitable and tolerant society?
16. Everyone at BC is always nice to their old mum.
17. Anyway that bloke’s resigned now, hasn’t he, so it’s all fine. Phew. Carry on!

Bike maintenance for LADIES

April 20, 2016 at 9:12 am | Posted in advice, cycling | 1 Comment
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girl bike tyreGood morning, and welcome to Bike Maintenance For Ladies, episode 37 in an occasional series. Observe the picture above*. There’s a lot we can learn from this neat demonstration of how to change a bicycle puncture.

First, note that the bicycle has been removed from the road, away from passing traffic, and leant gently up against a rock or tree stump. Do not lie your bicycle on its side, especially with the chainset downwards; you risk scratching the paintwork and damaging your derailleur. NEVER balance your bicycle upside down to effect repairs, as this will scuff the saddle and ruin your handlebar tape.

Protective sheeting has been put down to protect the floor from dirt and debris – although if you keep your bicycle scrupulously clean, as in the picture, you’ll find less maintenance is required overall.

Always carry spares and tools. If, like this rider, you prefer to ride without mudguards, you may feel a seatpack detracts from the clean lines of your machine. Simply use your spare inner tube as a hair scrunchie until required.

The rider has removed the front wheel carefully and propped it against her knee, saving the spindle from potential damage caused by contact with the tarmac. Observe how she lines up the valve on the replacement tube with the hole in the rim. Tyre levers are not always necessary: a good strong set of gel fingernails makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.

There are, however, some points for improvement in this demonstration. Firstly, the rider does not appear to be wearing socks. This is unhygienic, allowing the bacteria naturally present in sweat to propagate unfettered in your trainers. Secondly, road riders should always wear a helmet.


* Thanks to @JEmptyloo on twitter for sharing the picture.

Why it is perfectly OK to still like professional cycling

February 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Posted in cycling | 1 Comment
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1. Only impressionable under-23s with Machiavellian parent-managers motordope. The pros have been definitely not motordoping since at least 2010. Everyone knows that.

2. EPO is like, so last season. Procyclists are FAR too fashion-forward to be doing it now. They won’t even wear the same shades as last year. You’re telling me they’re still doing drugs?

3. Testing is really amazing these days. Everyone has basically given up because they know they’ll get caught, as soon as they’ve retired. Their reputation will be in tatters and they won’t be national treasures or get commentating gigs or anything.

4. The UCI are committed to routing out cheats and punishing them severely, by giving them two-year bans and only letting them have Cat 2 licences when they come back.

5. The really bad offenders have to sit on anti-drugs-in-sport boards, and become the Mr Mackeys of cycling.

6. It’s only a few bad apples. Well, and their dads. And their spouses. And their brothers. And their doctors. And their mechanics. And their team managers.

7. If Modern Cycling gets too much, you can squinch your eyes tight shut and imagine you’re back in seventy-something and Eddy’s bossing the peloton with a single sneer like the Brabantse Elvis and Hinault’s knocking bystanders out with a mere EYEBROW and cycling is marvellous and epic and heroic and totally believable and nobody ever falls off their bike suddenly.

8. Or you can go back to the nineties when nobody wears a helmet so you can still tell who is who and there are real climbers and rouleurs and nobody is good at everything and there are proper CYCLING HEROES like Pantani.

9. Anyway, there are BRITISH PEOPLE winning bike races these days, and THEY can’t possibly be cheating, because it just wouldn’t be cricket. So, marginal gains, and, you know. Beetroot. I’m cheering for beetroot. GO BEETROOT.beet

The real worst cycling inventions

October 27, 2015 at 10:09 am | Posted in cycling | 2 Comments
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Cycling Weekly’s Worst Cycling Inventions were all a bit foreign to me. My cycling’s firmly at the ‘enthusiastic but a bit rubbish’ end of the spectrum, so I’ve felt no need for Spinaci bar extensions or Spinergy wheels (although my first commuter bike did feature Biopace rings; it’s nice to think there’s a reason I was so slow). However, cycling is RIFE with other rubbish things. Here’s my list of the REAL worst cycling inventions.


Arsey bastardy buggety bloodery

1. Pannier fixings with those stupid elastic hooks. How many hours I wasted fiddling with these, tightening them, loosening them, snapping my fingers on them, swearing, then losing them when I took the panniers off, while the Manchester rain beat down upon me and local dogs revved themselves up, I don’t know. A lot.

2. Gel seat covers. Designed to give terrible saddles a momentary illusion of comfort, all they’re really good for is carefully storing the rain you avoid while you’re at work and timed-releasing it all over your arse on the way home.

3. Mini LED lights. After a lifetime of lugging battery lights around in case you get invited out for a drink, these look like THE ANSWER. So teeny! So cute! So light! So bright! Just pop them in your pocket! Except they don’t work in the cold. Or in the rain. And they go out suddenly if you go over a bump, and don’t tell you. And when you take them off to give them technical taps, you drop the elastic things in a puddle.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - Even The Bikes Are Lit

Only acceptable use of LEDs on a bike

4. Single-sided pedals. As if getting clipped back in while going uphill wasn’t difficult enough already.

5. Tyres that are physically impossible to get back onto the rims if you’re a woman. A gent once stopped, kindly, as I cursed and wept over a flat. He must have been seventy. He offered to help. I let him.


accidento’s Guide To Transparency In Pro Cycling

July 21, 2015 at 9:03 am | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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In the latest of my handy Guides, I explain why you shouldn’t worry about transparency, but just go back to shouting ‘That’s ADAM, not SIMON!’ at the telly. Ah! Doesn’t that feel better?

1. Power data cannot be released because it is DEEPLY PERSONAL. Skilled analysts can ascertain riders’ sexual peccadilloes, how they like their tea, and how frequently they call their mothers from power data. One prominent rider got into trouble with his sponsor when his power data revealed that he spent the whole of the 2013 Mont Ventoux climb muttering under his breath that he’d be better off riding a Raleigh Vector.

2. Power data cannot be released because it is a TRADE SECRET. If teams knew other teams’ power data, it would be the End Of Cycling As We Know It. Which would be awful.

3. Power meters are, like, totally unreliable anyway. Which is why everyone puts $6,492,830 p.a. into their development, and everyone uses them, and even people who regularly come thirty-fourth in local cyclocross races fantasise about owning them.

4. All sorts of things can affect power readings. Having one leg stronger than the other; riding over ley lines; phases of the moon; sitting a bit wonky on the saddle; the sun being in your eyes; not being ready. Just knowing I was only a mile from home was responsible for a 0.5w/kg spike in my power data the other day. I’m just saying.

5. VO2max testing was invented solely to heighten the dramatic tension in American Flyers. Just like Vangelis soundtracks and Keira Knightley doing keepy-uppies, it has no application in real-life sport.


NOT professional cycling

6. Weight can fluctuate by KILOGRAMS, like, every MINUTE. Nobody weighs themselves in professional sport, because sport cares about its people, and it’s more important that they feel beautiful on the INSIDE.

7. Heart rate is REALLY complicated. It’s down low sometimes, then it’s up high sometimes. NOBODY understands this. So weird!

8. On no account should anyone other than a trained professional employed by a cycling team attempt to interpret ANY data. This is DEEPLY dangerous to Cycling As We Know It. Mathematicians are NOT qualified. Nor are sports scientists. I don’t care how many PhDs you’ve got. Stick to what you know. Quantum physics? Yeah, that. Run along.

I go to YORK for the Women and Cycling conference

May 2, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Posted in cycling | 7 Comments
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Women And Cycling 2015 attracted delegates from all over the place. Kersten England (Chief Exec of City of York Council) said the aims were to ‘share experiences of what’s working’ and ‘build a network of people who can make a difference across disciplines.’ We had short talks from six people in the field (which Carlton Reid summarises nicely), then a set of roundtable discussions*.

It did start off a bit gloomily. According to surveys, 75% of women want to do more exercise. What stops them? Well, Survey Woman doesn’t like the word ‘sport’, for a start. She doesn’t like competition, doesn’t have time to exercise, doesn’t feel facilities are designed for her. She fears being seen as sporty and ‘butch’, but she worries about being ‘rubbish’, too. She’s pretty risk-averse. She doesn’t like intimidating-looking bike shops, though you might entice her into places that are open and airy and don’t have much stock in them. She ‘thrives in a no-pressure environment’.

It was hard not to feel that Survey Woman needed a bit of a pep talk. Come on, love! It’s not that bad! I did wonder whether a) we were fighting a losing battle, if women really ARE that pathetic and b) whether all the women at the conference weren’t actually women at all. They didn’t look like a bunch of crazy cycling-nut population outliers; there were women who evidently cared what they looked like, women who wouldn’t necessarily dominate a conversation, women who probably felt a bit worried about stuff sometimes, maybe even women who didn’t know one end of a crank extractor from the other. But they were out there, getting on with it, with passion and intelligence and commitment and humour. I felt a bit like Graham from Twenty Twelve: ‘If you ask the wrong people the wrong questions, you get the wrong answers.’ Survey Woman, having resigned herself to her sofa-bound fate, probably didn’t have much idea what might work for her. These people, however, had a lot of answers, and a lot of new questions, too.

150 delegates at Women and Cycling Conference

150 delegates at Women and Cycling conference, 30 April 2015. Picture by Carlton Reid.

Some of the answers were relatively simple: organise events, lead rides, reorganise your shop or website, train your staff. Other answers needed more than just the hard work of individuals: build high-quality infrastructure that allows people to cycle safely with children, encourage more women into the cycle trade, tackle the culture that puts teenage girls off cycling. But the point is, there were ideas. So many ideas. I particularly loved how the roundtables – simply groups of people sitting round discussing a theme – meshed research with the knowledge of those who worked or volunteered in the area and the experiences of non-experts. In contrast to other conferences I’ve been to, there was no floor-hogging by people going, ‘Well, the research says…’ or ‘My many years of experience indicate…’; all ideas and viewpoints were fed into the discussions.

Earlier, someone had tweeted grumpily along the lines of ‘How to get women into cycling? That’ll be a short conference. Infrastructure.’ While there’s obvious truth to this – in particular the need for high-quality infrastructure to allow children to cycle safely in cities – different stories emerged from different places. One council simply got rid of its car park (apart from the disabled spaces) and installed a bike park instead. Elsewhere, a critical mass was needed in order to argue for infrastructure changes where the purse-strings are held by people who see bicycles as a distraction. Differences in types of trips made by women and men were fascinating; the challenge is not just to design safe infrastructure, but to create spaces in which people can ‘trip-chain’ (e.g. come home from work, pick up the shopping, collect the kids from school, all in the same trip). Unexpected reasons emerged for stopping cycling; teenage girls gave up cycling to school, not just for the stereotypical reasons of helmet hair and looking daft, but also because the walk or bus ride to and from school is an essential part of their social life.

We chatted about the continuing difficulties getting women into the bike industry, as customers, bike shop staff, or working for bike-related companies. Chris Garrison tells her Trek dealers that the best way to make women feel welcome is to have women on the staff; if they can’t get women to apply, she suggests asking customers if they’d like a few hours in the shop, emphasising that tech skills can be taught if needed. Isla Rowntree, founder of children’s bike company Islabikes, said for some positions she has no applications from women at all (despite posts not requiring any technical knowledge). So the bike industry still has an image problem, though Melissa Henry from Sustrans said women are better-represented in jobs that emphasise people skills, like marketing and communications. We talked about the dreaded ‘women’s corner’ in bike shops, and the way tabs on some websites read Road, MTB, Urban, Women. Some participants relished ‘women-only’ events and provision, though Sustrans’ Sheridan Piggott said York Bike Belles had welcomed the few men who enquired about joining in their ‘no-pressure’ rides. Bernie Cullen, who was one of the founders of York Cycleworks all-women co-op in the 1980s**, said women-only spaces are needed for ‘counter-cultural’ activities (e.g. learning how to use tools).

women and cycling conference logo

Click here for the full programme

Delegates commented on how great it was to see an entirely-female panel of speakers, and to be largely among women in the discussions. (There were a few chaps about: I greeted Phil from VeloVixen with ‘Hallo, token man!’) I wasn’t too conscious of the female dominance, but someone who’d been to a lot of transport conferences found it ‘refreshing’. (And I did get on the train afterwards and think, ‘Ooh, look at all the MEN. Weird.’)

I’ve never felt like I wanted to go round an entire conference hall, shaking each individual’s hand and talking to them excitedly about what they were doing and what they had found out and what their ideas were. Not until this one. I left wondering all sorts of things, which I might have been able to find answers to if I’d only I’d had the whole weekend. Next year…

* I asked twitter which sessions I should go to, and got nothing approaching a consensus. In the end I opted for Cycling and teenage girls, The bike business: the role women could play, Cities fit for children and Cycling for everyone. So my observations are based on going to these roundtables, plus conversations I had with random people who weren’t quick enough to get away.

** Me: I used to take my bike to Cycleworks in the 80s! Her: I probably served you!

I spot a gap in the market and launch my own cycling magazine

April 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Posted in cycling | 1 Comment
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Screenshot (96)

Go-Round: how to organise your own Hour attempt

February 8, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Posted in cycling | 3 Comments
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Everyone’s talking about the Hour record. Why not do more than just spectate? My handy guide shows you how to organise your own attempt at the Hour, using facilities that are readily available in your local area. Grab a bike and a ruler and Go-Round!

Venue. Velodromes are pricey, but there are plenty of alternatives.

Sports halls provide hot snacks and seating for spectators; a range of helpful lines are painted on the floor for guidance and with all those aerobics classes, someone’s bound to have Eye Of The Tiger in a drawer somewhere. If you want to take advantage of altitude, look for one at the top of a hill.

If you can’t persuade the dodgeballers to vacate the premises, use the swimming pool. Once you’ve sent someone with a Bronze Survival award down to pull the plug out, the tiles provide a nice smooth surface, there’s a welcome second or two of respite as you roll back down towards the deep end, and your lycra trunks are half a skinsuit already.

Indoor venues are good for keeping things predictable, but they get noisy and hot. What about the park? Outside, you face unpredictable weather, but you won’t be distracted by the smell of the spectators’ chips, and if you make a bad start, well, the sun must have been in your eyes.

91:180 on 5-20-11Why leave home at all? Move the table into the middle of the room and bingo, kitchen velodrome. The audience will have to sit on the stairs and the timekeeper in the sink, but that’s a small price to pay for the familiarity and cost-effectiveness of a home-based attempt. Family members can enjoy VIP dining while you whizz past their ears, and if you run up and down the stairs a few times afterwards then get in the bath, that’s basically a triathlon.

Come to think of it, the bath itself provides the smooth corners and steep angles that could propel you to a new record. Just remember to bunnyhop the taps.

Equipment: Go-Round regulations are less strict that those imposed by the UCI on professionals, in order to encourage participation. Any human-powered vehicle with fewer than four wheels is acceptable (vehicles with stabilisers are exempt). No motors, sails, wings, clockwork or rubber bands.

Validation: All Hour attempts require officials to measure the track, time the attempt, and do the maths. Primary school children are ideal, as these are Key Stage 1 skills, and the sound of a classful of six-year-olds chanting one-banana, two-banana should take your mind off the pain. Failing this, just put your Garmin on. You won’t make it into Cycling Weekly’s Ten Strava Maps That Look Like Guinea Pigs feature, but it’ll prevent arguments over your dad’s measuring-the-OS-Landranger-with-a-bit-of-string technique.

Publicity: You may wish to invite the local press along to write about how you are tearing up the grass and trampling the daffodils and ruining the park for law-abiding motorists and bringing house prices down and wasn’t the Tour de France last year, anyway? Alternatively, just bribe the above-mentioned schoolchildren with Percy Pigs to yell HOORAY and KEEP ‘ER LIT and NNNEAAOOOWWW YAKATAKATAKATAK and IS THAT MUMMY WELL IT LOOKS LIKE MUMMY.

Heineken Beer Advertising BikeSupport team: Friends and family may be keen to paint banners, wave pompoms and tweet using the official hashtag. But even if your only spectators are a couple of seagulls and a pre-teen practising endoes, someone to put your bike in the shed and run you a bath will make you feel loved, and a takeaway will alleviate the post-race comedown. Don’t forget to scrub the tyre marks off the bath.

Why cyclists get five copies of Cav’s autobiography for Christmas

December 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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Every December, cyclists helpfully leave their copy of Cycling Monthly open at the ‘On Test: Fifteen Windproofs To Blow You Away’ page, and drop oh-so-subtle hints while wandering round the Ratha Coffee Club, in the hope that some lovely, sparkly new bicycle kit will find its way under the tree.

Vintage Ad #2,274: Family Christmas...Schwinn StyleAnd on Christmas Day, they open three Tour de France DVDs, some bicycle coasters and another copy of Cav’s autobiography. Where did they go wrong? Why are people so insensitive to their needs?

What they forget, of course, is that this conversation happened a few weeks previously.

Significant Other: Right. Christmas. New waterproof? You’re always complaining about that one flapping.

Cyclist: Ah. Nice idea. But not unless it’s, well, you won’t be able to afford it, and I’m pretty sure they’re sold out in my size anyway. Apart from in fluoro. And I don’t want fluoro.

S.O.: All right. Jersey, then? You said you wanted a new longsleeve one.

Cyclist: Ah. Yeah. If it has a full zip. And you can work the zipper with one hand. And three pockets, and a separate zipped pocket, a waterproof one. And the arms are long enough. And it’s not too long at the front. And you’ll need an XS, and they always sell out first. Unless it’s Italian, in which case it’ll be an S.

S.O.: Hmm. How about some kneewarmers? Those ones are full of holes.

Cyclist: Well, if they have those wide grippers, maybe. And they don’t make my legs look like a string of sausages, or cut off circulation in my calves. But they mustn’t slip down, either. And no daft colours. And not Roubaix. I mean, Roubaix kneewarmers? Who thought that up?

S.O.: Base layer?

Cyclist: Oooh. Well, I’d love a shortsleeve merino one. As long as it’s proper merino, not that itchy stuff. And the sleeves need to be long enough to tuck into my armwarmers, but not so long that they poke out under my jersey. And it’s got to be nice and long at the back. But not too long, or it’ll bunch up, and people’ll think I’m wearing pants under my shorts.

S.O.: Look! These t-shirts are great. Funny! And you like that colour.

Cyclist: Yeah! That’s an MTB, though. I don’t ride MTB.

S.O. [patiently]: Okay. Socks?

Cyclist: I dunno. They have to be right. Not too long, not too short, not too thick, not too thin. They need to go with my new shoes. No, not those ones: they’ve got LOGOS on them.

S.O.: Bidons?

Cyclist: Um. They don’t all fit my bottle cages. And those ones, they’re really hard to get open with your teeth. Not those, either: the necks are so narrow, you just get Science in Sport all over the kitchen.

S.O.: Book?

Cyclist: That should do it. WP_001462

Women only

November 12, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Posted in cycling | Leave a comment
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There’s a lot of energy being put into women-only cycling projects at the moment. Don’t like how bike shops fail to cater for women properly? Start a women-only shop! Tired of how the cycling press continues to pretend women don’t exist, never mind ride bikes? Start a women’s cycling magazine! Sick of  cycling anthologies that claim to showcase ‘brilliant writing’, and include one female writer in five issues? Start a women-only anthology!

temple newsam in the trees

The author, doing a bit of women’s cycling

I love the energy and optimism and ‘fuck you’ attitude behind projects like these. But I’ve finally figured out why they make me uncomfortable.

It’s not ‘what about teh menz’. People tweeted at Standard Issue magazine, which is run and written exclusively by women, saying that it was ‘unfair’ not to let men write for it. Men are struggling writers, too! To which my response is, MEN ALREADY HAVE ALL THE STUFF.

It’s not #NotAllMen. Yes, I know, lots of men are lovely and welcoming and inclusive and everything, and lots of men are bemused, feeling they haven’t benefited personally from patriarchy (though that’s a WHOLE other issue, of course). But it’s not about you, this time.

It’s not because plenty of women are happy in male-dominated environments. I feel like this, mostly; chances are, a lot of women who go to bike shops and ride with clubs and read the cycling press already do. But I know plenty of women who aren’t comfortable with this. What about their needs?

And it’s DEFINITELY not because this is some kind of ‘reverse sexism’. This is a thing that doesn’t even exist (but if you feel aggrieved by women’s need for all-female spaces, read this).

It’s because it feels like we’re letting everyone off the hook.

If we make our own bike shops, our own magazines, our own media, the mainstream continues to be run by people who think of men – their experiences, their priorities, their needs, even their bodies – as the default, and women as some kind of exotic mutant version, with less spending power, less influence, and less importance. They aren’t forced to look at themselves, to change their practice, to make their efforts inclusive; instead, we make it really easy for them to say, ‘You don’t belong over here, with the boys. Run along, back to your little club. They’ll sort you out.’

I want to be optimistic. I want to hope that women-only spaces will help women to make the most of cycling, to feel that they are part of the cycling community, and that their issues and interests and skills are represented throughout it. I really want to hope that the presence of women-only spaces will gradually change the mainstream, by becoming a big enough part of it that our needs and our contributions can’t be ignored or sidelined any more. But in the meantime, we have to keep digging away at the mainstream too. Asking questions, being bolshy, being irritating, holding them to account. We can’t let them get away with it.

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