Bella Velo Grand Opening

Last night I was lucky enough to be able to attend the grand opening of a groundbreaking new enterprise in Surbiton.

Bella Velo


I believe this is the country’s first bike shop created and run specifically for women.Bella Velo Cupcakes

It was a lush affair.  There were drinks; nibbles and cupcakes.



Bella Velo Tiffany Lizzie

There were celebrities; the fabulous Lizzie Armistead and Tiffany Cromwell from team Specialized Lululemon.Tiffany Lizzie



There were auction lots to die for, although people were encouraged to bid for them instead.  I bid on the stunning Specialized Lululemon team kit but the price slipped swiftly out of my budget.  Also on offer were top of the line Specialized road shoes, signed by the ladies; a signed, limited edition print of Lizzie and a training weekend in Majorca (which my boyfriend insists I should have tried to win).

There were so many people there that forward movement was impossible and all progress had to be made sideways.Bella Velo Crowd 2

Bella Velo Clock



The shop itself is lovely.  It is spacious (at least it was on Sunday when I went back) and beautifully laid out with plenty of room to scrutinise the merchandise.  There are some wonderfully stylish little touches like this stunning clock hanging above the large changing room and these gorgeous lampshades which gave us a fabulous idea for the hall…  Honestly, I think you should go and look for yourself.Bella Velo Lights 2




Bella Velo Pete Lizzie Tiffany Barnaby

The night was an unqualified success.  The store was beautiful; the crowd was enthusiastic; the celebrities were interesting, friendly and approachable.  All in all I have to say a huge congratulations to Pete and Barnaby and a big thank you to all the guys at Specialized UK for their hard work.

Bella Velo Specialized

On a more sombre note, I wish this kind of enterprise wasn’t necessary, that as a woman I could walk into any bike shop, confident of a warm welcome and sufficient range of products to stand a good chance of finding what I want but, the way things are at the moment, it is necessary.  So many bike shops are male domains, whether they intend to be or not.  Less than a quarter of the gender-specific merchandise is going to be for women and often this is mixed amongst the men’s products, resulting in a needle-in-a-haystack scenario, which isn’t the most enjoyable way of shopping.

Attitude-wise, I don’t think I have as much trouble as some.  I am a tom-boy at heart with a love of finding out how things work and how to fix them and I’m used to dealing with people who deal with bikes but I can easily see how a lot of women would easily be intimidated, occasionally by the men themselves (if for no other reason than these men are often more used to dealing with other men), often by the fact that they are all men, maybe by the oppressive, workshop-like atmosphere which can pervade the premises.

Just knowing that this shop is for women is a huge confidence boost before you even set out for the store; the open space, large changing room, uncluttered displays and genuinely friendly and open staff only serve to reinforce this.

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Posts I need to write

There has been so much happening recently that I need, NEED to write about; to share with you, but there has just been so happening recently that I haven’t had time! I would call it a Catch 22 situation except, as I discussed with my other half on Sunday night when we heard Gary Imlach use the phrase on the Vuelta programme, it just isn’t. It may be verging on irony but I’d have to give that one more thought too and right now I’m just too tired.

So I decided what I would do was write a post listing all the things I need to write about. As I get around to writing these posts I can link them back to here.

  • Continued Improvements (draft) – this is a follow up to A Good Swim and is about my progress with the coached swim sessions I attend on Wednesday evenings.
  • The Culmination – Ride 100 (draft) – this follows the two training posts I did, Ten to Fifty Five and Fifty Five to Seventy about the Prudential Ride 100 event and my part in it.
  • A Spur of the Moment Decision – this will follow on from Continued Improvements so I’m reluctant to give away too much at the moment, although I might merge the two posts together.  Apart from anything else, the details are getting fuzzy.
  • Val d’Isere 2014 – this will be a series of posts about the activity holiday I went on with my boyfriend.
  • 8 Months Early -this is the result of my Spur of the Moment Decision and a significant personal achievement.

As you can see, I have a fair bit of work to do.  The first decision I need to make is whether to make notes on everything I need to write before I forget it all or to just crack on with the writing rather than wasting time duplicating work…

In either case, even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (towards the airport for that distance) so here is the first step in my metaphorical journey towards bringing my blog up to date.  *publish!*

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A Good Swim

The seem to be as rare as hens’ teeth but on Wednesday night last week I had A Good Swim.

I wasn’t expecting it, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been in a pool, but I was less reluctant than I would normally be (recently I’ve been finding reasons to pull on the running shoes or get out my bike in lieu of swimming) which was a good start.

It was nice to note that I was swimming faster in lane 6 than my boyfriend in lane 5 a couple of times during the evening but the real achievement was more personal than that.

Usually I can be found at the end of each length hauling in huge lungfuls of air as I try to control my heart rate, particularly in the longer, 36m pool where we go on Wednesday nights, spending at least as long between lengths as I spend swimming them, the concept of swimming continually for 100m as distant as the concept of running the London Marathon.

Usually there is at least one pair of lengths, often more, during which I bob at the end of the pool watching as everyone else swims on, catching my breath; stretching out the cramp in my legs; almost reveling in the sensation of huddling under my personal cloud of DOOM! as I mentally track how inferior I am to the others.

This time things were different.  My turns at the end of laps took the kind of seconds which can be counted on fingers, one handed!  I completed every single length, from the first warm up length through drills; through fin-induced cramp, dragging one or other leg behind me as I pulled myself through the water; to the bemused sense of achievement at the end.

Technique helps, and mine has been steadily improving over the year:

  • Stomach in to keep a flat, hydrodynamic position in the water
  • Drive rotation from the hips, twisting the body to spear hands, fingers first, into the water
  • Use the hips as a metronome, keeping regular time to moderate the stroke
  • Small kicks with straight legs, aimed more at stabilisation and buoyancy than propulsion
  • Push more strongly against the water to go faster

There are so many more things I need to be thinking about, but this combination seemed to be working for me.

For a change, last night I was really disappointed to not be able to go swimming.  The first time I have a genuine reason preventing me from swimming is the first time I genuinely wanted to go.

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Fifty Five to Seventy

The 55 mile ride was hard but I was still on my feet at the end of it, still went out with the boys and their bikes that afternoon, although my boyfriend and I swapped roles so he was riding with the boys while I was on foot providing support to those less confident.  I was pleased that I was recovering so well, so much so that the following evening I once again suggested going out for a ride rather than our swimming session (do you get the impression I’m not actually that keen on swimming?) and once again my boyfriend agreed.

My seldom used bike computer had worked fairly well the previous day so we got it out, updated it as requested and uploaded a route onto it, up through Wimbledon and back through Richmond Park but something wasn’t right.  It seemed fine with the idea of telling us which way to go and recording where we’d been but it wasn’t showing any roads and, when we were forced to deviate from the route by a locked park gate, could not recalculate to get us back on the route.

The update had wiped the maps from the unit.  Not good.

Fortunately my boyfriend knew the area fairly well so we managed to get a decent ride in, around Wimbledon Common, past the All England Lawn Tennis Club with all its police and traffic cones and up to Richmond Park.  At this point we reasoned that if the park earlier had been closed because of the time of day, the chances of us getting through Richmond Park were minimal so we took the easy option of the A3 back down.

A small accident (I’ll write about it in a separate post) curtailed our ride, sending us back to the house via the most direct route for a total of 13 miles.Finisher T-shirt

At this point we were working towards the Cycle Surgery Surrey Sportive – a fairly gentle 70 mile loop heading down southwest from Guildford.  The day before, however, I encouraged my boyfriend to show the hand he injured in the accident the previous Monday to a GP friend who was hosting the barbecue we were attending.  The news was good; it was healing fairly well, but riding with it would soon put a stop to that.  He did the sensible thing and pulled out of the Sportive.

I stayed in and I’m not sure I could have done it alone, but my boyfriend was there driving me to the start; getting coffee for me while I signed in; attaching my number while I made a comfort stop and kissing me goodbye at the start line.

It turned out that the majority of the riding wouldn’t be done alone either; having bumped into a chap from my swimming lane in our tri club shortly before the start, we met up again at the first feed station and rode the rest of the way together.  I had been resigned to riding the whole distance alone (I am naturally a solitary type of person) but I suspect I was a lot faster trying to be less of a burden to a friend than I would have been just slogging my way around on my own.  I do worry that I hold people back though as they wait for me, particularly when he commented near the end that a couple of riders who overtook us had started in the same wave as him.

The ride itself was not as difficult as I had anticipated.  I had loaded my pockets with so many gels; energy bars; even a banana (which I “drank” at the second feed stations, such was its condition by then) but with the excellent feed stations offering cake; flapjack; bananas; gels; water; even energy drink at the second I found that, other than the banana which I ate mainly to get it out of my back pocket, I only used 2 gels.  I also didn’t drink all that much but I suspect I should have done so more.

Some time after the second feed station my bike began to feel odd.  I called to my friend and we pulled over at the side of the road.  I had a flat.  Not a problem; I am not some stereotypical girly girl who bursts into tears and looks around for a Prince to save her.  Unfortunately, the wedge bag I borrowed from a work colleague (“there’s everything in here you could possibly need”) didn’t have any tyre levers in it (when I mentioned this I was told I didn’t need them and he would show me how).  Fortunately, my friend did have a couple so I borrowed his (to be specific, he took the tyre off my bike while I faffed around with a CO2 cannister), changed the inner tube; checked inside the tyre for possible causes and reassembled the whole thing.  It wasn’t exactly a Tour de France wheel change but I thought we did OK.  I could probably have done it faster but with my relative unfamiliarity with the process I figured once, carefully, was still quicker than twice, hurriedly.

My overall time for the full 70 miles, including feed stops and the puncture, was 5 hrs 36 mins.

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Ten to Fifty Five

I’m getting a little frustrated with myself.  I rarely post anything on either of my blogs these days and when I do it always seems to be a “back in the saddle” type post, bemoaning my recent lack of cycling and resolving to do better. But I do need to do better!

I have contrived to get my name down for the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 (henceforth known as the 100), and if I am going to hope to beat the broom wagon round I am going to have to up my game on my recent form.  Seriously.  It has been established that I can ride 10 miles a day, providing I have a good eight and a half hours sit down in the middle but it’s a bit of a jump from that to 100 miles…

So I have started “training”.  I don’t have a training plan, even if I did I doubt I would be able to stick to it with life, the universe, small children and everything getting in the way. Two weeks ago I suggested to my boyfriend that instead of accompanying him to our usual Monday night swim session I head out and get a few quality miles on my bike, he agreed that it was a great idea.  In fact, would I mind if he came along with me?  We had a lovely ride and a lovely evening.  I was slower than him on the slight rises but was able to convincingly demonstrate the benefits of a good aero position combined with a few too many croissants when it came to the descents.  17 miles later, we got home smiling and laughing.

That weekend my boys were with their father for the weekend and my boyfriend’s boys were with him.  I treated myself to a day out on the Saturday but on Sunday morning, at 8:30, I fired up my bike computer with the 43 mile route from a work colleague and headed out of the house.  The computer informed me it was 3.4 miles to the route which would round it out to around 50 miles, an excellent step in the direction of my 100 mile ride in August.

Things started off really well!  I was very happy with my progress after the first hour and a half when I stopped to have an energy bar and text my boyfriend.  That was before I got to the hills.  Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?  Out of the three main hills I had to climb I didn’t make it up a single one of them without getting off and pushing for a while.  As if that weren’t humiliating enough (on a personal level) the glorious, flying descents which previously I had loved became narrow, twisted, horrific free-falls, my tired arms barely holding on, my knees shaking as the tree-dappled sunlight masked wrist-jarring potholes and my bike computer was less interested in keeping me abreast of the turns and twists in the road than in trying to pair with every heart rate monitor which passed.

The pushing had taken its toll and the lunchtime deadline for when my children were being returned was closer than I would have liked.  I saw an opportunity to cut out a 6 mile loop, getting me home that much faster and I took it, set the bike computer for Home and turned into my road as my ex was pulling suitcases from his boot.

At the end of all that, my total distance according to my bike computer was 55 miles.  Now, I’m not much of a mathematician (unless you count the A* at GCSE, the two A-levels and the career in accountancy) but even if I wasn’t, it’s not hard to work out that a 43 mile track, plus 7 miles to and from, less 6 miles missed out should be somewhat less than 55 miles, but I’ll take it!  It’s all good.  4 hours dead is less good, particularly the feeling dead bit…

This post is getting long though, so I’ll make this part 1 and post a part 2 to bring you up to date on my “training regime”.

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The Turning of the Seasons

As the seasons turn and Spring, slowly but inexorably, becomes Summer (or, as we like to call it in Britain, “Summer”), I gradually expose more and more flesh (with a very definite upper limit) to the elements.

This week, for the first time this year, not only were my arms exposed up past the elbow but there was also a good nine inches of leg on display from the hems of my cropped running leggings to the tops of my short riding socks as I turned my own wheels inexorably towards work.

Palpable changes include worrying more about sunburn than frostbite and faster changing times at the end of the day.  I don’t dislike cycling in bad weather but it does come with complications which melt away in the heat of sunny summer days.

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Swimming Against the Tide

I don’t think it’s a great secret that, out of the three triathlon disciplines, I have most trouble with swimming.

I have come to dread Monday evenings, when the arrival of the babysitter initiates a mad flurry of kit bags, towels, bottles of electrolytic drinks and car keys.  Ten minutes of smooth, confident swimming followed by fifty minutes of panicked thrashing, then ten minutes of standing in the cold, with everyone else in the club finishing at the same time, waiting for a free shower.

Last week, still riding the high of Friday’s 10k run.  I could do anything!  Set a PB at next Saturday’s 10k; finish the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100; swim 100m without stopping to get my breath back at each end of the pool!  Even high (no drugs involved) my goals are modest and achievable – apart from the last one, evidently.

After a quick comfort break around forty minutes in to the session I found I just couldn’t face getting back into the pool.  Chatting things through with the coach after the session she suggested that my technique is good, but if that’s the case, why am I still so slow and exhausted all the time?  She suggested that, before I take the decision to give up on swimming, I should make arrangements so that for a month I go to both the Monday and Wednesday swim sessions run by the club.  I would notice the difference.  She also suggested I go swimming at a normal time too, so I could compare myself with “normal” swimmers rather than a group of triathletes.

I’m thinking it wouldn’t be fair on myself to give up swimming without giving the best shot I can so, after discussing it at length with my boyfriend, we agreed this is what I would do.

So last night I found myself at the open air Hampton pool, shivering my way across the paving slabs to the mercifully (if erratically) heated water.  While the pool doesn’t look substantially bigger from my vantage point, hanging onto the edge, fiddling with the lap timer on my Pebble smart watch, its 33m (over Monday’s Kingfisher pool at 25m) becomes painfully evident at around 26m into each length.

So, how did I do?

There were five of us in the slow lane, four men and me.  The whole evening was sparsely populated due to a sunny overseas Ironman, understandably popular with the club members, so there was plenty of space in our double-width lane (I guess they think us less competent swimmers need the extra space for flailing around).  The lengths were long but the taskmaster was understanding and lenient (or possibly just distracted by being the only coach across all five (maybe six?) lanes.  There were various elements of warm up at different levels of exertion (“don’t try to swim faster, just put in more effort; push harder and longer”), then into the main set.

Pairs of 100m sets, so we always finished at the same end of the pool.  First two sets were one length fast; one length easy; one length fast.  Repeat.  The next set was the one which crippled me; fins on!  Two thirds of a length of sideways drills (twelve kicks on one side, swap sides, twelve kicks on the other side) followed by a cry of pain, removal of fins and vague flapping to the side of the pool and creeping back to the end where the coach was.

I managed to get through the rest of the evening, although my usual poor (according to me) techniques was further compromised.

Saying that, I do remember one of the lengths near to the end, when we were doing half a length of sideways drills (no fins) followed by the rest of the way swimming normally.  I was doing OK with the sideways drill, in fact by this point of the evening the men were all indicating for me to go first, as I seemed to be the fastest swimmer in the lane (!!!) then I reached the halfway mark, switched to a full front crawl and powered my way through the water, feeling the thrill of unexpected speed in a hostile environment; the rush of muscles doing exactly what they are supposed to.  The next length was a little anticlimactic.  The following one I got cramp.

This is so nearly the end of the post except for one thing.  Normally I spend the drive home from swimming sneezing, my body rejecting the chlorine which has found its way into my stomach; lungs and skin, but the water in the Hampton pool is saline.  I spent the drive home feeling worn and tired but not one sneeze!

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