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Category: inspiration

The start of a New Year is a fantastic time to make a few changes in your life. Whether it’s deciding to drop a couple of extra pounds that you’ve been carrying since gorging yourself on Quality Street over Christmas or trying to get back to peak fitness – now is as good a time as any to do something different.

In the past our New Year’s resolutions have always ended up broken by mid-way through February, but this year we’re determined it WILL be different. That’s why we’re switching things up and doing New Year’s reVolutions, not reSolutions. That means focusing on cycling only, and no more caving in at the first sign of peer pressure, or sacking off a ride with friends because the forecast looks less than favourable! 

Here are a few different revolutions you might want to try, as well as our advice for how to make them a success. 

Upgrade your gear

Sometimes we need a little push to invest in new bike stuff, especially if it’s a step up from what you’re used to riding with. Handbuilt wheels, custom frames and carbon fibre componentry don’t come cheap, but when you pay a bit extra you’ll find the riding experience is so much better – not to mention that it’ll last wayyy longer and could end up saving you money on replacement parts.

So this New Year, choose to treat yourself with a new set of wheels, an upgraded drivetrain (like the gorgeous Campag Chrous one in the picture above), or maybe just a flashier choice in bar tape. The rewards will be many and you’ll get to enjoy improved performance all year long.

Ride a 40/80/100-miler

Whether you’ve only dipped your toe into long-distance expeditions, or you’re a seasoned rider looking for a new challenge, setting yourself a new ‘longest ever distance’ target to beat in 2016 is a brilliant way to get and stay motivated. 

And imagine the satisfaction after some hard work in the early season when you finally cross the finish line, able to say you just rode further than you ever have before.

The only downside with this one is there’s always another distance. Just done 50 miles? Next time do 75. Just done 100 miles? Ever heard of a double century?

Get back on the bike

From being involved in a bad traffic accident, to recently having had a baby, to going backpacking round Asia for eight months – as far as reasons for not having ridden a bike in a while, we’ve heard them all!

But we’re here to tell you that NOW is the time to get back in the saddle, start turning those pedals and rediscover the joys of life on two wheels. Remember when you used to commute to work by bike, and now you spend an hour and a half on the sweaty tube everyday? Which did you prefer? Exactly. 

That’s what friends are for

There are few better things in this life than riding bikes with your good friends, so perhaps this year you should start recruiting some new cyclists into this amazing sub-culture of ours. 

They might need a little bit of persuading to begin with – but once you’ve got ’em hooked that’s another riding buddy you’ll be able to call on yourself!

Reach your peak!

When was the last time you were in really good shape? As in absolute ‘top of your game’-type shape? For us it was about four years ago. Or maybe it was five…

Well friends, this is the year we get back to being those peak physical specimens* that we once were. It all starts with getting back on the bike and putting in some major miles in the early season, so you’re poised and ready to get your best results ever all year long.

Imagine checking Strava and finding you’ve beaten an old time you set three years ago. Or absolutely blowing away your usual riding buddies on a particularly tough climb! 

* this may be a slight exaggeration

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Stuck for what to buy the cyclist in your life this Christmas? Fear not, we’ve got a whole bunch of top tips on what to buy, from simple stocking fillers, to some stuff that’ll truly blow them away and secure your position as the ultimate gift-giver.

First up is this rather ballsy way of making sure you’re seen out at night on the roads. 

The Bike Balls rear bike light is designed to look, you guessed it, exactly like a pair of ‘nads. After successfully campaigning on Kickstarter, you may have seen the product featured on the Daily Mail (they were outraged, no shocks there) and the Metro.

Just £16.99 and 100% guaranteed to raise a smile with even the most strait-laced riders.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more, shall we say, ‘practical’, then you could do much, much worse than this beautifully styled Lumo riding jacket, the Regents Parka

 Lumo Regents Parka. £399.

Lumo Regents Parka. £399.

Blending performance fabrics with looks inspired by the classic British mod look – this is an absolute must-buy for any cycling style-hunters. It’s available online in both men’s and women’s sizes, alongside its companion the Herne Hill Harrington jacket.

For those looking to get the most out of their riding, a bike fit session can be a way of really amping up your performance. Not only that but it’s also great for reducing injuries.

We do regular bike fit sessions in our shop on Store Street in London (pictured above), so if you or someone you know is looking to hit the next level in terms of performance or rid themselves of those troublesome back and knee twinges then book them into a bike fit session with us. We have dates available in January and February, but we can also create a voucher for you that can be used at a later date.

.A big favourite with bike messengers, Bagaboo make unbeatable quality bike bags for carting stuff with you all over town. The brand was founded in Budapest by a former courier, who continues to draw on his experience to produce some of the very best bike kit around.

Bagaboo bags are tough, durable and they look good too – designed to be worn with you on all your daily cycle trips, whether you’re a messenger or a ‘civilian’.

For any cyclist worth their salt, a handbuilt, custom bike is at the very, very top of their wishlist. Going custom means a bike that’ll fit you perfectly, that will last for years over an off-the-peg model, and allows you to choose every single element of the design – it’s the chance to build your dream bike. 

 Awesome red Mixte custom build. £849.

Awesome red Mixte custom build. £849.

Give someone (or even yourself, you deserve it) the ultimate gift this year and go for a custom Cloud 9 Cycles bike. You can check out the section of our shop devoted to custom builds, or read this post from our blog to fire your imagination.

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We’re yet to meet a cyclist who prefers cycling in winter. It is an awkward and unpredictable time of year to be on a bike, especially in the UK – do you fit heavyweight tyres, or risk it on the slicks? Do you buy a whole new bike to ride through the winter and store your ‘nice’ bike in the shed? Or trash the one you have and buy a new nice bike in summer? It’s a minefield!

Of course, if you can look beyond the cold, wind and rain, there are a lot of great things about cycling through the winter months. Here’s a few of our faves.

Hero points

Some cyclists will baulk at the idea of riding in wintery conditions. If you summon up the courage to take on the wind, those other riders who stayed indoors will worship you! 

Once you’re back from your ride you can hit the shower, open a pack of biscuits then sit back and watch the Strava Kudos roll in!

Beat the Christmas bulge

Which leads us nicely on to food! Who doesn’t just love hearty winter food? We all do, and that’s why it is so easy to put on weight over winter. But if you’re regularly still out on your bike, you should be able to get away with it. You can put those additional calories to good use and as long as tasty treats such as mince pies, gingerbread men, etc., are just that; a treat, then you shouldn’t see any (too much) weight gain. Once again, imagine the pleasure of leading your paunchier pals over the finish line – thankful for those extra miles you put in while they were cramming their faceholes with turkey and cake.

Get fit, stay fit

This is the most obvious one. We’ve probably all had a year when we failed to maintain a regular cycling routine for a period of time, for whatever reason. We all know what is lost in terms of fitness in this time. We also know what it takes to get up to the same level as before is a bit of an Alpe d’Huez; AKA, ‘a long uphill struggle’.

If you’re struggling for motivation then think how much fun it’ll be dropping all your regular riding buddies on the climbs at the start of next season. Or even better, remember the Sufferfest motto, “I Will Beat My Ass Today, So I Can Kick Yours Tomorrow.”

The five Ps!

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. For the pros winter is when Grand Tour campaigns really begin. It’s when all the hard and focussed training takes place to prepare for the following season.

After the last race of the season, pro cyclists typically spend about a month on what’s referred to as ’off-season’ when they will invariably take a break from the bike, go on holiday and eat unfair amounts of guilt-free unhealthy food. After this well-earned break has passed though, it’s back to target-setting, long-training days and number-crunching data.

Two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has recently spoken about the nature of preparing for a Grand Tour assault, describing the eight months between November and July as time in which to live a very full-on lifestyle bent solely on getting into tip-top condition for the start line (in Normandy on July 2nd, 2016).

Most of us amateurs have no aspirations of racing, but we can all benefit from building a base for the following spring and summer. Perhaps you are building towards a mid-season trip to take on some Alpine climbs, or improve on your time in a 100-mile sportive. Take a leaf out of the pro book and start preparing now.

Hit the target

Fewer daylight hours mean there is less time to be productive. If you want to be a better rider next year, the winter months are where you can work towards specific targets – better technique, greater efficiency on ascents, better cadence – with greater focus.

The best way to do this is to break down your main objectives into smaller more palatable targets. This way they are far more likely to be achievable and see you becoming a better cyclist by the time the thermometer unfreezes itself and the mercury begins to rise again.

Blitz spirit

Any ride is easier when shared with others, and nothing is more true of winter riding. They say that you save 20-30% of your energy when riding in a group, which is always much appreciated on long, wet and windy rides. And when you get home, you can pat each other on the back, sharing in the adventure you’ve had together over mince pies and brandy butter!

Smugness

Never underestimate how fun it is to be smug. Drawing open the curtains to see horizontal rain in a desaturated world conjures up doubts in even the toughest cyclists. But with a belly full of porridge and coffee, layered up in lycra – even if you only manage 20 minutes in the cold – you have ample reason to feel smug on your return. You will feel good about yourself, you will collect ‘Hero points’ from other cyclists, and family and friends will look on in awe, jealous that you are single-handedly winning the Battle of the (Christmas) Bulge.

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Over the past ten days, British ultra–endurance cyclist Josh Ibbett has covered 4,239 kilometres, travelled through 10 countries and tackled Mont Ventoux in France, the Strada dell’Assietta in Italy and the 25 switchbacks to Mount Lovcen National Park in Montenegro. 

Why did he do it? It was all part of the third edition of the Transcontinental Race. The rules of the Transcontinental state that each competitor must complete the distance alone and unsupported – that means no team cars, no help with repairs and nobody to take a share of the work when there’s a brutal headwind. In short you have to be completely nails to finish the thing, never mind win it.

But win it Josh did, in a stunning time of 9 days, 23 hours and 54 minutes – that means he averaged more than 400km per day. Ibbett finished second to Kristof Allegaert in last year’s edition, so he had plenty to prove this time around, but also plenty of experience to draw on.

His victory was largely down to his savvy racing skill and a small dash of good fortune, with several of his close competitors faring worse than he – with a host of punctures, minor traffic accidents and injuries befalling many of the participants.

175 people started the race, as yet none but Josh has finished. There have been many withdrawals – as is to be expected with such an attritional contest. To be honest, just completing is a monumental achievement worthy of a lot of respect.

Riders in the Transcontinental – which is supported by Brooks England, one of our favourite bike brands – have to make their own way between a set of checkpoints that are scattered roughly along the way to the finishing point – but there are no hard and fast rules about the route each rider must take. This year competitors had to travel from the finish to checkpoint one atop Mont Ventoux in the south of France. Next they headed east to Sestriere in northern Italy, before striking out again for the Hotel Lav in the town of Vukovar, Croatia. After that it was the mere matter of popping down to Montenegro to a fourth control point, then through Albania and Macedonia, into Bulgaria and all the way across to the Turkish border. 150 more kilometres and Josh reached Istanbul. 

The word epic just doesn’t do it justice

So next time you’re not really feeling it when it comes to getting out on your bike, just remember this simple acronym, “W.W.J.D”*

 Josh Ibbett's epic route in full.

Josh Ibbett’s epic route in full.

*What Would Josh Do?


You can read more about the Transcontinental on the official website. Or follow them on Instagram

Cover image property of the Transcontinental. 

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There are some books every cyclist should read, while we couldn’t ever hope to collect them all we’ve had a go at putting together a handful of our favourites. Whether they are tales of heroism in the pro peloton or travelogues that inspire you to plan a bikepacking adventure – these tomes will truly fuel your spirit of adventure and your passion for two-wheels. You don’t have to be a keen cyclist to read them either, there’s something for even the most ardent anti-bikers.

Full Tilt – Dervla Murphy

Imagine riding your bike from Dunkerque in France all the way to Delhi in India. It’d be a tough ask for even the hardiest of riders. Now imagine doing it in the 1960s as a solo female traveller and making your way through barely-visited countries like Afghanistan, Persia (modern day Iran) and Pakistan, traversing glaciers and the infamous Khyber pass along the way. This is exactly what Dervla Murphy did and her adventures along the way make up the pages of Full Tilt, a funny, inspiring book about the unending kindness of strangers and the limitless potential for adventure opened up by a bicycle. Dervla probably belongs on our list of awesome women cyclists too.

It’s All About The Bike – Robert Penn

A must-read for anyone thinking of buying a custom bike, in this relatively short book, author and journalist Robert Penn takes you on a fantastic journey around the world as he searches for the very best components to build his ‘dream bike’. He visits some very familiar companies along the way, including Cinelli, Chris King and Brooks England – all of whom we’ve featured on our blog this year.

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France – Max Leonard

The Tour de France, cycling’s most famous event. Its winners are the biggest names in the sport, known by fans and non-fans alike. But what becomes of those at the back of the peloton, the ones struggling just to hang on, finishing hours and hours behind in the GC? In his amazingly well-researched book, Max Leonard delves into the lesser-known stories of la Grand Boucle, the men who, for various reasons finished dead last. Its pages hold tales of breakaway artists, dogged competitors, the unlucky and the indomitable. It’s out in paperback soon too.

How I Won The Yellow Jumper – Ned Boulting

This is just a good fun read for anyone interested in professional cycling, with a particular focus on the Tour de France. It’s by Ned Boulting, known for his appearances on ITV’s coverage of the race and a self-confessed newbie to cycling (at least when he first took the job he was). It’s a great peek into a life spent chasing the pros around France, interspersed with thoughtful meditations on the way cycling has changed Boulting’s perspective. There’s also a very funny follow-up called On The Road Bike, which looks at the even weirder world of British road cycling.

Bikenomics – Elly Blue

Be warned, you may find yourself becoming a fanatical bike evangelist after reading this one. It’s a slim volume but packs in loads and loads of amazing stats about cycling. Did you know for instance that the more cyclists a city has, the fewer crashes there are involving cyclists? Or that despite paying road tax, car drivers actually cost the state more than they put in, due to the enormous amount of damage each automobile does to road surfaces every year? Elly Blue’s book is full of gems like this and a definite one to keep handy when you’re arguing in the pub with your car-driving mates.

We know we’ve missed some, so leave your suggestions in the comments, or tweet them at us using the hashtag #bikebooks.

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Women are awesome. Cyclists are awesome. But who are the most awesome women cyclists? We’ve put together a list of our five favourites. Who else belongs in this list? Tell us in the comments!

Beryl Burton

  Image Credit

Image Credit

Beryl Burton was a British women’s road cyclist. In fact, for two decades or more she was the British Women’s road cyclist. Burton won everything it was possible for a woman to win on a bike, including 90 domestic championships and seven world titles.

One of our favourite cycling legends is attributed to Burton, who set the 12-hour distance record in 1967, surpassing both the previous women’s and men’s records. The story goes that while out on that record beating ride she actually passed another rider, Mike McNamara, on his way to setting the equivalent men’s record miles. Old Beryl is reputed to have given him a liquorice allsort as she passed before leaving him in her dust. McNamara ate the sweet.

Burton also gets 10 extra awesome points for rocking the name Beryl like a boss.

Marianne Vos

She’s fast, she’s Dutch, she’s won all there is to win in road and CX – she is Marianne Vos. Few riders living or dead have ever held such dominance over the competition that they could really lay claim to the title of ‘greatest cyclist of a generation’. Vos can.

Here’s some fast and furious on bike footage of ‘the Cannibal’ bossing it around Paris at last year’s ‘La Course’. At about 40 seconds she hits a gap, grabs the wheel of the German champ then drops everybody in the final metres.

Give yourself 10 awesome points if you can name Vos’ home town. Clue, it begins with an apostrophe.

Frances Willard

Not quite a ‘pro’ bike rider, but most certainly an impressive woman who definitely believed in the power of two wheels to change the world, Frances Willard was a suffragette, an author and a bicycle advocate. She wrote a book called ‘A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle’, which explained her perspective on cycling as a way for women to gain independence, develop confidence, and be seen by men as equals in skill. 

On the massive popularity of cycling at the end of the 19th century she had this to say: “Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed and stable a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life.” Amen, Frances, amen.

Laura Trott

With the potential to become the best out and out track rider Britain has ever produced, the diminutive Laura Trott is a specialist when it comes to the omnium and team pursuit. She’s got 14 national titles titles to her name, two Olympic golds, 10 euro championships and five sets of rainbow bands too. The most terrifying part, she’s only 22.

Trott is beloved by the British public, not just for her uncompromising attitude on the track, but for her bubbly personality away from competition. Who could forget the snap of her chugging Heineken with Prince Harry at London 2012, or this refreshingly honest and perfectly unscripted interview from 2013. Skip to the 1:30 for the best story about sausage pasta you’ll ever, ever hear.

We love her a bit.

Annie Londonderry

   Image Credit

Image Credit

Annie Londonderry’s story is so impressive it’s actually a total nightmare to retell. There are so many details, angles and incredible aspects that you don’t want to miss out, we could end up writing a thousand word essay on her exploits alone. 

Here are the essentials. Born in Latvia in 1870, she was the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world. When she set off from Boston in the United States she had never ridden a bike before. Londonderry was not her real name, she ‘sold’ her surname to the Londonderry Spring Water company to raise sponsorship cash. Her trip was called “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman” by one New York newspaper. She visited France, Egypt, Jerusalem, Yemen, Sri Lanka and Singapore en route around the world, before sailing back to California. She even entered (and won) a few local races on her way back to the east coast of the US.


Got another awesome woman cyclist we need to add to this list?

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