Sera

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Riding again.

2011 was without a doubt, my worst year yet as a cyclist. I’m not counting years previous to becoming a cyclist in the first place, of course.

Thanks to spectacularly throwing my back out at the peak of my fitness 3/4 the way through 2010, I’ve mostly spent the last year suffering various degrees of back pain and a new knee pain which has also manifested. I’ve not spent the entire year off the bike, but my total miles for 2011, spread across 12 rides, was a pitiful 220 miles. The longer rides I did manage were plagued as much by my lack of fitness as the knowledge that after the ride I would suffer more back pain. Too much riding and not enough other exercise is pretty much what set my back off in the first place, and wasn’t a psychological help, either.

On the up side, having spoken to a lot of health & fitness professionals, and one or two world-leading physiotherapists and read a few books on self re-alignment techniques, I feel I now have the tools to get off my ass, fix my own back and start riding again.

So in the hopes that starting in the dark winter months will mean I’m fit enough to enjoy the summer months, I started out small at the end of November, doing one short ride a week in the pitch black, freezing cold mornings. Not the easiest thing to do but I didn’t want to leave it till January, New Year’s Resolutions are bound to fail. After having a week long head cold over the Christmas period, I’ve just been out for another, very slightly longer ride earlier today. 17 miles rather than 10-12.

It feels REALLY LAME going for such short, flat rides when mentally you feel like you should be out for much longer, and climb at least a few Coteswold hills along the way, but I’m determined not to blow out my limited engines too soon, and stress my back out.

I thought perhaps sharing my progress back to riding ‘properly’ on Talking Treads would be a good thing. Maybe some readers have struggled with similar issues. If you’re interested, I’m using the methods found in ‘Pain Free’ by Peter Egoscue to set my back right, as well as using the FKPro Bodyweight suspension system to build up my laughably weak core, which is basically resposible for holding my spine up like it should be.

So, for anyone interested, you can see my first ride of the new year here.

Happy riding!
– Sera

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Teenage BMX racer’s views on rioting & opportunities…

A new British Cycling video from my friend Corrine Walder (@corrinewalder)

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Romford Psycho!

An unbelievable reaction to a cyclist turning right at a roundabout in Romford, London on Wednesday:

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British Cycling launches Breeze to get more women on bikes

British Cycling has today launched Breeze, the biggest ever programme focused on getting more women into riding bikes. Breeze is a National Lottery funded nationwide network of fun, local and flexible bike rides designed to close the gap between the number of men and women cycling regularly, and introduce over 80,000 new women to bike riding.

Led by women for women, Breeze bike rides are local, friendly and informal. The short, traffic-free rides are ideal for busy mums and anyone who hasn’t been on a bike for a while and would like to go for a casual bike ride with a small group of women from their area.

Breeze is British Cycling’s response to the growing gap between the number of men and women riding their bikes. Currently three times as many men take part in cycling regularly and the gap is growing, yet research suggests that nearly one million British women would like to ride a bike more often.

In 2011 British Cycling surveyed over 1,000 women to find out what was discouraging them from riding. Results showed that safety concerns, lack of knowledge of routes and having no-one to cycle with were the key barriers to getting involved.

Breeze addresses these concerns and offers women flexible, safe, accessible and fun opportunities to ride a bike as well training and support. The rides are organised by British Cycling trained local Breeze champions and fit around busy work and family lives. Breeze bike rides are free, friendly and open to women of all ages and abilities.

Natalie Justice, Network Manager at British Cycling, said: “Currently only two per cent of women cycle regularly compared to six per cent of men yet we know that nearly one million women would like the opportunity to get out on their bikes and socialise with other women.

The first Breeze bike rides will start in June and roll out in towns and cities across England over the coming months. As part of the programme, British Cycling will train and support 1,000 local Breeze champions, female volunteers who will add their riders to the Breeze network at times to suit them and their groups.

Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, said: “Breeze is responding to what women want by offering them a fun and flexible way to get involved in cycling. Our investment of almost one million pounds of Lottery funding in Breeze will help us to tackle the gender gap in sport and deliver a mass participation legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Breeze is funded by the National Lottery via Sport England’s Active Women’s Fund and designed to get over 80,000 women back on a bike or riding for the first time. It also aims to convert 20,000 of them into regular cyclists over the next three years, reversing a trend that has seen 35,000 women drop out of bike riding in recent years.

To find a Breeze bike ride in your local area or to find out how to become a Local Breeze Champion, go to www.breezebikerides.com.

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2012 Olympic MTB course

Check out Bike Radar’s sped up video from the recently completed Olympic MTB course.

I’m pretty cack on the old nobbly tires but I think even I could manage this, I’ve never seen such a sterelized looking MTB course…

Dullsville, Iowa.

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A Hill In Spain

A new MTB film by Chris Akrigg… Beautiful, we are so spoiled these days for great looking MTB films. Keep ’em coming I say.

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NZ earthquake: Cyclists dodge boulders during training

Unbelievable… imagine dodging boulders the size of buses and ovens while out on your training loop! These guys were so lucky.

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11th Bicycle Film Festival: Call for submissions

A nice mash up of previous submissions…

…including a nun on a BMX.

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UCI Track World Cup: Manchester Velodrome

There’s some seriously entertaining racing going on at the Track World Cup, which is coming to a close today. I wish I could have made it up to Manchester to catch some of this racing, but alas I’m watching it on the telly, from the comfort of the couch instead. It’s quite a buzz to see so many top Team GB cyclists performing on a world stage at a Velodrome I’ve spent many evenings at. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of the GB squad and indeed interview some of them for various projects, and I can’t help feeling extreamly patriotic towards our star British cyclists.

Yesterday Chris Hoy (below) again won the Men’s Keirin final, pulling ahead by a few bike lengths with a lap and a half to go. But the real drama unfolded behind him, where all 5 other riders crashed heavily, and the race was on for silver and bronze – the bruised and battered riders limping over the finish line, with their bikes.

Sir Chris Hoy. And me!

New Zealand’s Edward Dawkins shuffled over the line in second, before collapsing. A medic asks him “Where do you hurt?” and feared Dawkins had head trauma as he answered “I’m from New Zealand”. The medic asks again “No, where do you hurt?” he answers “I heard you mate. I’m from New Zealand. We don’t feel pain”

But without a doubt the gutsiest show of strength had to be from Azizulhasni Awang from Malasia, who got back on his bike and rolled across the line for the bronze medal, having sustained about the most horrific track injury I’ve ever seen – a ‘splinter’ of wood (more like a steak) from the track impaled his left leg, straight through his calf.

Holy crap, that looks painful. This happened yesterday, and apparently they left it in overnight so they could remove it in surgery today. Mmm let’s have a closer look…

Yep, that’s just nasty.

Update on the crash and Awang’s condition:

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing Vicky Pendleton pull her finger out in 4 weeks time for the Track Championship in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.

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Review: Scarlet-X Tech Knicker by Harlot

It’s taken a while for me to get around to giving these knickers a good few tries, up until two weeks ago they’d been sitting in their packaging, staring accusingly at me for a few weeks, waiting to be reviewed. The last few months haven’t been particularly fun for me, back problems causing knock-on pain in my left knee has prevented me from riding for far too long. Even my short commute has had to be walked, and stairs have been avoided.

But as of the last few weeks it’s eased enough that I’ve taken a few tentative rides and in doing so, I’ve had a chance to test out these knickers. That’s the last time I’m calling them knickers though, I’m English and we don’t talk about our knickers on a public forum, so I’m calling these “Scarlets”.

My first impression of the Scarlets was a good one. They appear well put together, the outer material has a familiar soft-shell feel to it, and the inner material also feels technical, in fact it looks like that’s where your money is going. It’s made with “X-Static”, a silver lined stretchy fabric which amongst other things, helps prevent odours. Now I’ve owned some cycling socks for several years which share the same silver threads. I can definitely speak for their longevity and lack of odour, they are easily the best cycling socks I own, and I’ve amassed quite a few more pairs over the years to compare them to, so I’m sold on the X-Static material.

On closer inspection of the outer material I was surprised to note that it has almost no stretch to it. This panicked me a little at first because looking at the size of them I wasn’t sure I’d squeeze in unless they were stretchy, but I needn’t have worried, trying them on they were snug but comfortable. I like the reflective strip down the sides although I would have liked it more if there was some sewn onto the back, perhaps a strip on the back pockets. I’m more worried about drivers not seeing me as they approach from behind rather than the side.

On to how they ride. My first ride in these was a cold one. A really cold one actually, the temperature was hovering around freezing, and to be honest I think it was a bit below what these were intended to be used in. I was suitably wrapped up but my shins and my feet were uncomfortably cold after 20 minutes or so, and that was a bit distracting. However it was noticeable that from the knee up, the Scarlet’s outer material was doing a fine job of blocking the wind, and the inner lining was insulating my upper legs against the cold.

The Scarlets were also noticeably comfortable. I like how snug they feel around the middle, without cutting into you when you’re leaning forward on the bike. They have a nice wide waist band which fits comfortably high at the back and a little lower at the front. There’s no stitching digging in anywhere either, the stitching of the lining seems to have been thoughtfully laid out.

The pad in these shorts is minimal, it’s not a traditional bulky foam affair, its basically several layers of slightly cushioned silky material. According to Harlet’s website the decision not to use a traditional pad was very much a conscious one, and it seems that feedback from the women who wear these ranges from “the pad is great for all length of rides” to “the pad is only good for shorter rides”. After this first ride I went on, I’d agree with the latter statement – on my race bike with a 135 gram Selle Italia saddle, I needed something bulkier between me and the thinly padded leather.

Since that ride though, the freezing temperatures have subsided (for now) and I’ve been able to take the Scarlets out in some positively tropical 10ºC (50ºF) weather. For the purposes of giving them a fair test, I also swapped my rock hard race saddle for a Charge ‘Spoon’ off one of my fixed gear bikes. I figured it’s more like the kind of saddle that fits the style of riding these …shorts… were intended for. Sure enough, sit-bone comfort was no longer an issue. On my warmer rides I was practically unaware of even wearing the Scarlets, which is they way it should be.

Today’s ride took me over to my parent’s house, my anterior motive being to watch the RBS 6 Nations game on their huge tv, and after showering I was somewhat dismayed to realise my stash of slouchy clothing usually kept in the spare room for such occasions had been moved/thrown away, so I threw the Scarlets back on to watch the game. That’s clearly going to be one of the better features of these shorts, especially compared to all the Assos lycra shorts I own – these are not only comfy to sit around in, they look casual enough to not feel self conscious in when you’re off the bike, and even with my parent’s dog climbing al over them, the dirt and dog hair was easily brushed off when I left. In warmer months I will definitely be rocking these on my rides to pubs / back yard BBQs.

I think the Scarlets will really come into their own when the weather warms up even more. I’d like to see how they deal with a bit of sweat and some rain, so no doubt I’ll do a longer-term review eventually, for for the time being I’m pretty satisfied with them, both from a technical and an aesthetic point of view.

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