Tuesday, 7 July 2015

2wheel kid meets Islabikes

I have heard of Islabikes but I have never ridden one. I guess it stands to reason as I am not a child or a small person - which is the target market for this range of bikes. A few local female cycle racers who are 5ft tall (1m 50) ride them and they have given good feedback about them.

When I was offered the chance to test one out I was obviously unable to try it out myself. Instead I found a willing volunteer - my niece.

As she is only just starting out with bike riding she is trying the Cnoc 16. I must say the bike looks pretty cool. We've got it in pink, one of her favourite colours - no surprises there for a little girl!

The first thing I noticed when I lifted the Cnoc 16 out of the box was how light it was. Some children's bikes can be quite heavy. But this was surprisingly light. It would surely be an advantage for the little girl who will have to wheel it around and ride it!

I haven't put the pedals on it yet, as right now we are using it as a pseudo balance bike. Apparently that is the more modern approach to teaching children how to ride a two-wheeler.

And the verdict so far on the Cnoc 16 from my niece? "It's great!" she says.
More updates on how she is getting on will follow.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Shoot Story - Virginia Water

In the latest edition of Cycling Active is my article on a bicycle ride around Virgnia Water and Windsor Great Park.

The photo shoot for this took place almost a year ago - in August, on the day of the Ride London bike festival. As I was also going to be reporting on that event which was taking place in Central London I needed to do this photo shoot quite early in the morning so as to finish early.

I met with Roo, the photographer at around 8pm. It was a lovely sunny morning for this - perfect for a leisure ride around the park. It was also handy to get there early as there were more and more dog walkers turning up - and in those areas the pooch rules the roost! The folks around there turn up with their prestigious purebreds, and they have priority over the paths. This is no place for a cyclist to be hogging the path when people are giving their King Charles Spaniels and their Dalmatians and their Beagles a doggie parade along the catwalk in front of Virginia Water Lake!

It had been a couple of years since I was last at Virginia Water. The last time I was there was about four years ago - this time with a different photographer, and on a longer route. That was a more challenging day for me as I hadn't been feeling very well and the photographer had travelled down from Sheffield to do the work. I hadn't even been able to appreciate the beauty and splendour of Virgina Water Lake and the adjoining Windsor Great Park.

Today was a different matter. I had a real feel-good factor as it was the height of summer. Also, as I was on a leisure bike dressed in civvies everything felt quite leisurely, especially as the ride was just 10 miles. Having said that, the ride wasn't without effort. The ride up to the Copper Statue near the Long Walk was still just as challenging, and I had to push a fair bit. My bike for the day was a Raleigh Cameo Green, which I was testing out. I have to say that even though the bike doesn't have the range of gears on a road bike it still did the trick getting me up the hill and I felt quite comfortable in the saddle.

Also there was a long section around the Savill Building where the path was unsurfaced so it was more like an off-road ride. I was later rewarded by a lovely descent from the Windsor Great Park Village back into Virginia Water. We stopped off at the Village Store and Post Office for a tea stop - a popular stopping point for cyclists. But I have to admit I was more in the mood for an ice cream from one of the many Wall's Vans dispersed around the route.

I would definitely recommend this route - even if you're not on a bike this is a lovely place to hang out. And you don't even need to have a dog!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

10 soundbites from.....the Aviva Women's Tour

So the Women's Tour has been and gone. I wasn't able to follow the first edition of the race last year, but I managed to follow the different stages this year. Trying to second guess how the race would unfold each day, and who would be the overall winner was pretty exciting, and there was some exciting racing throughout the week. This has become a great event on the women's pro cycling calendar. I caught up with some of the riders and they were very positive about how their week had been.

Stefan Wyman (Director Sportive, Matrix Pro Cycling): "We had a few goals in the race and to be in the feature break was one of them, and to be on the podium either with a stage or a jersey was the key goal for us, so we did it. Elinor [Barker] is an unsung hero, and it is really difficult to transition from the track to the road so it was nice that she had the best British rider jersey for a time. It wasn’t all Laura [Trott] and it took the pressure off Laura. I think they did really well as a team so they should be really happy."

Dame Sarah Storey: "The first four stages were very samey, but the last stage was a lot more interesting. We need to get to a point where we don’t have five bunch sprints. It’s quite exciting potentially for watching, but as riders it’s nice to have another opportunity to put other types of riders up to win a stage. I would have liked to have seen long hilly climbs. They are the races I tend to target. The support we got from the side of the road was absolutely phenomenal, so to the people who supported us, I can’t thank them enough."

Lisa Brennauer (Yellow Jersey): "This is the biggest victory of my career so far. I have really enjoyed the racing here in the UK and it was great to see so many crowds when we were racing."

Melissa Hoskins
(Queen of the Mountains): "I came into the QOM competition for a bit of fun and something for the team to do, but then I decided to do everything I could to defend it. It was something unexpected, even for myself. It’s been brilliant racing in England. The crowds have been fantastic.  I was overwhelmed with how many people were so interested in what we are doing. We don’t get that anywhere else in Europe. It’s a nice change to feel important for what you are doing, and inspiring young kids to do cycling."

Helen Wyman: "I have found the week fun, with really safe riding. There’s not been very many crashes. This is fantastic training for the 'cross season. You need to be as fit as you can be to train hard for 'cross. These are just really great base miles."   

Hannah Barnes (Best British Rider/Stage 5 winner): "In America we are one of the biggest teams, but here we are one of the small teams so we wanted to get stuck in and not be afraid to show our face. I’ve been focussing on my climbing this winter and my coach Jenny Gretton has helped me improve a lot this year. I always made sure I was in a good position when going into the bottom of the climb and I was on the right side of the split. In the last stage I just stayed near the front and hoped for it to come down to a sprint. I love following Alexis’s [Ryan] wheel during the race. She’s really nice to follow. I call her the Alexis bubble! The roads are wider in the States. So in terms of positioning you get a bit lazy because you know that in two seconds you can be at the front, whereas here it can take you an hour to get to the front, and less than a minute to drop to the back!"

Rachel Heal (Director Sportive, UnitedHealthcare Procycling): "With Hannah being at home and with the race being local to her she has had a lot of other pressures to deal with so the last couple of days we tried to kind of relax Hannah so she could be able to just focus on bike racing. Hannah has been sprinting really well all week and she had got top 5 a few times so we knew that she was fast enough
to get a win. To put it all together, and to be in the right place and to sprint at the right time, is just fantastic, especially on the last day." 

Sue Barnes (Hannah Barnes's mum): "It was so close, and I didn’t realise Hannah had won until they said so on the tannoy, and I was just jumping up and down. I am very proud of her right now. I work in a stationery shop – Colemans in Arundel. I did a Hannah window in the shop. It’s gone a bit viral on Twitter and the takings have gone up massively this week! I am keeping it there until the end of the National Championships where my other daughter, Alice will be racing too. We all do a bit of cycling but the girls' granddad was a very good time triallist in his day so they must get that from him as well. I have been to all the stages, and Hannah's gran, who is 87,
has been to three of the stages with me. We were at the start, the finish and lots of different parts of he course. It has meant a lot to Hannah to have her family there."

Will Mangar (Race doctor): "I have felt the racing has been faster this year and more flowing and more seamless. There's been a palpable shift in quality and skill level with the ladies' riding this year. It was difficult last year, with the rain. We had so many girls spinning off and there was lots and lots of road rash, This year everyone's been good. What I've noticed is there's less injuries but to be honest, these girls are tough. They are really made of strong stuff and it takes a lot for them to not want to get back on the bike."

Marianne Vos: "The crowd support has been fantastic! It's really cool to see all the schoolkids around and coming out of their schools, supporting, cheering for the riders and cheering for the Tour. You really feel that cycling is really popular in Britain."

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