Monday, 21 December 2009

If you go down to Sports Direct today....

One of the most persistent bugbears for female cyclists is the lack of practical, ladylike cycling clothing available out there. Until recently you'd be hard-pushed to see anything more feminine than a pair of black 'unisex' cycling shorts on the shelves of a bike or sports shop.

However budget sportswear chain SportsDirect appears to have woken up a little. I won't go as far as to say its shelves are heaving with pretty panniers and ladylike accessories but my local branch does now have a cycling section. More excitingly, this cycling section includes clothes for women. Cycling tights, tops, t-shirts and jerseys are all available in ladies sizes and some are even available in colours that are not black!

Admittedly the range is limited to pink, baby blue and black, but it's a start. These tights are ideal for winter cycling, and the zip-up pink top has a handy pocket at the back for carrying bits and bobs. Best of all none of the products will break the bank.

Profile of a London cyclist: The Basket Babe

There is only one cyclist slower than the Not-So-Cool Commuter and that's the Basket Babe. Not that it matters, as nothing actually starts until Basket Babe arrives anyway - she's that kind of girl.
Basket Babe breezes through town on her vintage shopper, the basket on the front loaded down with her handbag, a bit of shopping and possibly a bunch of flowers. She usually favours floaty dresses or cute cropped jeans, sandals and chiffon tops. Her choice of attire means once the weather gets a bit parky Basket Babe tends to put her bike away for the winter - and who can blame her? The braver Basket Babes may foray out in belted trench-coats and soft cashmere gloves.

Like most of her cycling sisters, Basket Babe never does anything as unladylike as break a sweat. She is always bright, breezy and cool as a cucumber, even if the weather is hotter than the Sahara, and her perfectly-applied natural-looking makeup never runs.

Effortlessly stylish and endlessly chic, the Basket Babe is the poster-girl for fashion-conscious female cyclists. Her bike is as much an accessory as her handbag or shoes and she treats it with great care, lovingly wiping it down after each use. She's unlikely to get her hands dirty if she gets a puncture or her chain comes off, but there's never any shortage of eager young men to help her out.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Profile of a London cyclist: The Not-So-Cool Commuter

The Not-So-Cool Commuter tries her best, she really does, and she loves cycling to work, but there's the element of the shambolic about her.

She rides a sturdy hybrid or a mountain bike - less chance of punctures. Unfortunately the Not-So-Cool-Commuter's choice of bike means she has a top speed of approximately two miles per hour. Despite her painfully slow progress, she is always inevitably sweaty and out of breath. She watches, astonished, as Cool Commuters, Lycra-ed Ladies and Fixies simply breeze past her even though her legs seem to be working at twice the rate of theirs.

The Not-So-Cool-Commuter doesn't wear Lycra and cycling shorts - she feels she's quite happy cycling in her own regular gear. More often than not, this comprises of a pair of tatty leggings or tracksuit bottoms and a series of cheap tops from Primark made from that kind of fabric that makes you sweat just looking at it, and that begins to smell within about five seconds of being put on. She wears a helmet but it probably doesn't fit properly, and her jacket is too hot and not waterproof.

The Not-So-Cool-Commuter is also incapable of judging the correct level of layering to match the weather. She's always too hot, but refuses to take off her hoodie as then she'll be too cold. Her attire is a curious combination of sports-casual and she wears trainers, but often finds they are too chunky to fit in the toe-clips on her pedals.

She lights her bike up like a Christmas tree but as she fitted the lights herself, more often than not they slip round the handlebars and serve no useful purpose. Her average speed is brought down still further by the fact her brakes stick - again, she tried to fix them herself but couldn't quite manage it. She carries a rucksack or has a pannier on the rack of her bike, which is always stuffed full of a change of clothes, towel, makeup and other equipment for showering and changing at work. However she often forgets to pack a bra and has to sit at work freshly-showered in a soggy sports bra she's sweated into on her commute in. She always carries a map, but still manages to get lost with alarming frequency.

How do I know so much about the Not-So-Cool Commuter? Well, I am half-proud and half-ashamed to admit, I am one.

Profile of a London cyclist: The Lycra-ed Lady

See that blur on the horizon? That's the Lycra-ed Lady. This hardcore roadie is the ultimate in cycling technology. Her Dawes road bike is so light you could lift it with your little finger, and she is dressed head to foot in the latest, most advanced gear. Her base layer (Lycra-ed Ladies never wear 'tops', they wear 'base layers') is designed to wick sweat away from the skin and keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, and her cycling shorts are ultra-padded for maximum comfort and performance.

Lycra-ed Lady's bike is geared up with a speedometer that tells her how far she's travelled, how fast, and how many calories she's burned. She frequents bike shops where she purchases things with names like 'wet lube' and 'performance gel', and her rucksack or pannier is full of puncture repair gear, spare inner tubes, a copy of the Highway Code, a lightweight waterproof hi-vis jacket and various complicated looking levers and multi-tools.

A passionate and dedicated cyclist, Lycra-ed Lady does things by the book. She stops at red traffic lights, assumes primary position wherever possible, and is quick to point out to other road users that she had right of way. Lycra-ed Lady is a forceful lobbyist for cycling rights and reads up on the latest developments and technology around cycling. She's a super-fast cyclist who always wants to beat her personal best, however the number of punctures her wafer-thin tyres pick up mean she's often found at the side of the road, fixing the latest hole secure in the knowledge she still has plenty of time to get to her destination.

Winter cycling - get gloved

Although proper 'cycling gloves' may be terribly functional and practical, let's face it, they don't really look that nice. And most of them won't keep your arms warm. When cycling in winter, a thick hoodie or jumper may be a bit much and get you too sweaty, but the problem remains - how to keep arms cosy?
I'm currently loving these gorgeous long gloves from Accessorize, particularly the stripy ones. They're absolutely adorable, and will keep your arms toasty-warm. I also love the little mittens although you may want to flip these off when you're on a bike or wear them over regular cycling gloves.

I'm also loving these cable-knit ones, again from Accessorize. There's something about a chunky-knit, I just can't resist them. These have no fingers so are again best worn over cycling gloves - chic and practical, who could ask for more?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Profile of a London cyclist: The Fixie

Miss Fixie is as skinny, trendy and hip as her customised fixed-gear bicycle. As befits someone who laughs in the face of comforts such as brakes and gears, she is unlikely to be found sporting hi-vis and a helmet. Instead, Miss Fixie wears skinny jeans, often very low-slung at the back and teamed with brightly coloured girl-boxers, and slim-fit tees. She cycles in Converse or ballet flats and seems completely impervious to the elements. That said, if it's sub-zero outside, she might throw on a lightweight black jacket and a beanie.

Typically weighing in at approximately six stone and a size 6, Miss Fixie nonetheless packs a speedy punch. She flits through traffic effortlessly and retains an aura of distant cool even in the face of the most terrifying HGV. Like The Cool Commuter, Miss Fixie has never been known to break an actual sweat, even though she is capable of travelling at the speed of light.

A skilled cyclist, Miss Fixie's one concession to traditional road safety is a tiny flashing red rear light, which she often wears on the back of her t-shirt or on the strap of her messenger bag, to avoid weighing down her lightweight bicycle.

Profile of a London Cyclist: The Cool Commuter

Anyone who cycles regularly will be aware there are different types of cyclist. We're going to take a tongue-in-cheek look at each type, see if you recognise yourself!

The Cool Commuter

Impeccably dressed for work and with perfect hair and makeup, the Cool Commuter breezes in to work atop her hybrid bike with apparent ease. She doesn't let the fact she's dressed in work attire and six inch heels hold her back, and she frequently overtakes Lycra-ed Ladies and Not-So-Cool Commuters. Despite the fact she cycles at about 50mph, she never breaks a sweat and arrives at work glossy, flawless and without a hair out of place.

You'll never find the Cool Commuter carrying a rucksack. Her handbag is either slung over her handlebars or on the rack on the back of her bike. You'll also never find her in high-vis or waterproofs yet if she is caught out in a shower, she somehow doesn't ever seem to get wet and her hair doesn't frizz into a soggy mess.

The rest of the cycling sisterhood doesn't know what to make of the Cool Commuter. How can someone in heels and a pencil skirt cycle so fast? How can she balance with that Prada handbag slung over her handlebars? And most importantly, how can she possibly maintain her immaculate appearance in the face of all the British weather has to throw at her?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Christmas at Cyclechic!

Firstly a disclaimer. I adore Cyclechic. This website started me out on the path to realising that cycling can be stylish and if I were to have a wish-list of cycling products, you can bet your boots most of them would come from there.

Unfortunately I can't claim to be as inherently stylish as the team who founded the site, and despite my best efforts I'm still more often than not found wearing a disastrous combination of leggings, shorts and football socks to commute to work in - but I consider myself a work in progress.

So, I got sent a cute Christmas card the other day and in it was Cyclechic's Christmas gift guide. I cannot encourage you enough to check the site out. Top of my list of things I want want want are:

This awesome Bern hard hat with winter knit. Cute, stylish and warm. I'll be begging Santa for one of these, in pink, naturally.

These Knog Love 'n' Hate gloves. Actually, I already have them, but I love them so much I want two pairs!

This Po Campi rack bag. Just inspired. Would look perfect on the back of my pink Pashley Poppy.

Ah, a girl can dream. But it's great that there are sites like Cyclechic out there, digging out the best and most fabulous cycling products for women. Walk into a bike shop and the most elegant item you'll see is a hot-pink Lycra jersey. At least, with sites like Cyclechic and the like, we ladies have options.

New London cycling mag

In between whacking on lippy whilst on my bike, I've been thinking for a while that we need a proper cycling magazine. If you're female, there's not much available in the shops - cycling magazines are unashamedly aimed at men and tend to feature Lycra-clad daredevils on the front cover. Not much to relate to if your cycling is limited to a potter to the shops or a trip in to work and the odd sponsored ride.

Now along comes Cycle Lifestyle, a new, free magazine for London cyclists. Billed as a magazine 'for every Londoner who is looking for an exciting and cool way to get around', it certainly looks the business and is printed on quality paper with an expensive feel. Better still, the front cover trails 'Romantic cycling' and 'Cycling fashion', both of which tick my personal boxes.

There are also first-person accounts from London cyclists and first-time commuters. But surprise, surprise, they are all men. There is one feature written by a woman - on 'cycling fashion', and it's about cycling tights - and one female case study.

When I contacted the editor, he admitted he had worried the magazine may be too 'blokey'. Unfortunately he's right. I like what he has done with the magazine and it looks like one to watch, but on the face of it this magazine isn't going to plug the need for accessible, friendly and encouraging advice for female cyclists.

That said, a lot of the content is practical and is not overtly laddish. It's a nice enough read and there are some spot on tips and suggestions, not least a guest piece of editorial from Sustrans and tips on safe cycling. All in all, for a new launch it looks slick, professional, fairly arty and reassuringly full of 'normal' people as opposed to angry tiny-bottomed men in Lycra. I'll be interested to see the second issue. In fact, I hope I'll be contributing to it!

Welcome to the Girl's Guide to Life on Two Wheels

Hello and welcome to the blog!

The purpose of this blog is to celebrate female cyclists, discuss all things cycling (girly or not so girly), highlight all the great products and services out there (without overtly trying to flog you anything) and keep you updated on the latest news and views from the wonderful world of two wheels.

Statistics show men are three times more likely to cycle than women. But we refuse to accept that cycling is a man's world. So throughout the blog we'll be looking at the reasons why women don't cycle - and the reasons why they should.

Newspapers are full of stories about cycling, whether it's the debate over cycle lanes, horror stories about cyclists being crushed by HGVs, tales of 'Lycra louts' terrorising pedestrians and other road-users alike, or alarmist statistic-twisting claiming cycling is more dangerous than selling ones soul to Lucifer. And yes, much of these stories are written by men, for men.

Let's redress the balance and portray cycling as it actually is - a fantastic hobby, a quick, convenient and healthy form of transport, and a positive lifestyle choice.

I hope you enjoy the blog, and please get in touch with any feedback. Pix courtesy of the lovely folk at Sustrans.