I was really interested to read over the weekend about a new women’s international cycling initiative called Strongher. I must admit that when I first saw the name I thought it was some sort of weird European spelling for the word ‘Stronger’, but on my second attempt I realised it was the combination of ‘Strong’ and ‘Her’ which is quite clever.
The founders of the movement, aiming to “give women a stage to show themselves”, are a large bunch of female professional cyclists. It was launched in London over the weekend by professional cyclists Marianne Vos, Hannah Barnes, Lauren Kitchen, Manon Carpenter, Marijn de Vries, Lucinda Brand, Juliet Elliott and Rebecca Charlton.
They describe it as a unique international movement with the impressive title of “Strongher, The Stage for Women Who Ride” with the goals of the continued development of women’s cycling, giving women a stage to show themselves and getting more women on bikes.
Last week I watched a fascinating episode of the ABC TV program catalyst which was all about interval training and the mitochondria in our cells. It wasn’t specifically about cycling, more about exercise in general and how it can benefit our bodies as we age. But I think it has huge implications for cyclists and the way we choose to train. It certainly supports the idea that interval training can play a huge role in exercise programs.
Here’s an extract from the program, you can read the whole transcript of it here:
Why do we lose energy as we grow older? Why are some of us prone to disease? Why do our bodies deteriorate with age? The answers to some of the most intriguing questions about life may be found in parts of our body a billion times smaller than a grain of sand. Mitochondria.
Mitochondria are critical for health. The more mitochondria you have, the lower your risk for developing many chronic diseases.
A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine sent me a distressed message via text to tell me she’d been attacked by a couple of magpies on her morning ride and come off the bike, injuring herself and damaging her stead. And since her story I’ve heard quite a few tales of woe about bird attacks so I thought I should tackle this topic again.
Native birds such as Australian Magpies are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often swoop at unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened. Other native Australian birds that are also common culprits include butcherbirds, kookaburras and plovers, but even invasive species like Indian Mynas can attack at this time of year. Magpies seem to cop the majority of the blame but from my experience butcherbirds are more vicious.
Only a small proportion of birds swoop on people and these often have a preference for a few individuals that the birds recognise or certain types of ‘targets’ like cyclists. A magpie will only defend its nest within a ‘defence zone’. For cyclists, this is usually an area within 150 metres.
As regular readers of this blog probably know I work in a bike shop and one of the most regular questions I’m asked by both men and women is: Should I buy a flat bar road bike and a drop bar road bike. So I thought it would be useful to talk about the pros and cons of both types of road bike.
Firstly I have to confess that I ride a drop bar road bike and love it, so I won’t be changing to a flat bar any time soon, but I can see some merit in them, and for some riders they are definitely the best option.
A flat bar road bike is similar to a standard road bike, but with flat bars as opposed to the drop bars seen on most road bicycles. Some people call them hybrids but strictly speaking a hybrid normally has front suspension which flat bar road bikes do not.
A few months ago I was lucky enough to attend a workshop run by Angelo from Pedal Stroke Yoga, a variation of hatha yoga developed by Angelo to utilise the benefits of yoga especially for cyclists. I used to attend yoga classes on a regular basis so I know the benefits that yoga can bring. Unfortunately I’ve not managed to fit regular yoga into my schedule of late but I’m eager to change that in the near future. Despite my own lack of attendance at yoga classes I’m a true believer in the benefits it can bring to your life and your performance on the bike.
A few interesting points I learnt from Angelo in the workshop include:
- Yoga helps you create a body that is pain free
- Cycling keeps your body in a linear motion whereas yoga is about twisting
- In cycling you use your big muscles & sympathetic nervous system, in yoga you use small muscles & your parasympathetic system which controls rest & digestion
- Yoga helps you learn diaphragmatic breathing (it’s something I learned through yoga and it helps me on and off the bike – you breathe deep into the bottom of you lungs rather than shallow breathing)
- As a cyclist you need to strengthen your glutes and core and yoga can help you do that – strengthening your core allows you to hold a forward-leaning position for longer.
Juliana in the Australian outback
I’m not sure how this amazing story has passed my notice, but I’m glad I’ve finally stumbled upon it. Juliana Buhring is clearly an extraordinary person. Wikipedia describes her as a British-German ultra-endurance cyclist and writer. Having read a little background about her I think she could only be described as an internationalist.
I didn’t interview her for this blog post, instead I’ve compiled this from a few articles I found about Juliana from the past few years.
It all began in December 2012, when she set the first Guinness World Record as the Fastest Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Bike, riding over 29,000 kilometres in a total time of 152 days (144 actual days in the saddle).
In order to qualify for the title, Guinness World Records requires the rider to cover 28,970km – the world’s circumference – by bike, passing through two antipodal points. The ride must commence and end in the same location and must not deviate more than five degrees off course. The same bicycle must be used throughout and the clock does not stop on any occasion.
It was fantastic to visit Eurobike in Friedrichshafen in Germany last week. It is unlike any trade show I’ve visited before. Here’s a few statistics just to give you an idea: 1,350 exhibitors; 46,000 visitors from 100 different countries; 2,000 journalists including Women Who Cycle from 40 nations; 100,000 square metres of exhibition space.
Huge is the only description I can give you. Hundreds of well known brands but also lots and lots I’d never heard of before. It took a whole day and a half to walk slowly through the major halls and I’m sure I didn’t see it all.
Based on what I saw e-bikes are set to become more and more popular. There were literally hundreds of exhibitors with everything from electric downhill mountain bikes to electric conversion kits for existing bikes.
I’m always interested in research relating to women’s cycling. It helps me and others understand what barriers women see to cycling. Is it the lack of safe places to ride? Is it the blokey bike shops? Is it that they have to wear a helmet even for a short trip? (in Australia where I live helmets are mandatory for any type of bike).
A US group called PeopleForBikes commissioned the US Bicycling Participation Study in late 2014. They measured all kinds of riding by all kinds of people, including women. Here are six important and interesting findings from the study:
1. The gap between men and women isn’t so large
They surveyed more than 16,000 individuals and weighted that sample to represent the US population and found that 104 million people—a third of the population—rode a bicycle last year and of those, 45 million (43%) were women compared to 59 million men (57%). The findings revealed less of a gender gap than the 2009 National Household Travel Survey which (using a different methodology) found that just 24% of bicycle trips were made by women.
I was contacted recently by a company called Pure Adventures that offers self-guided cycling tours around the world and when I looked into the detail I realised they are exactly the type of cycling tour I’d like to do myself.
Self-guided touring offers almost all the conveniences of a guided trip with more flexibility and personalised style and the cost is closer to doing it yourself. In short, Pure Adventures organises the itinerary for you, books the hotels, arranges luggage transfers, hands over the maps and instructions and off you go. Sounds like an ideal to way to tour on a bike to me.
Durations can be modified to meet your needs, hotels are available for many budgets and there is no minimum participation, eliminating the threat of cancellation by the operator.
You’ll have to forgive me for this slightly self-indulgent post but I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been writing Women Who Cycle for four years. My first post was on 13 August 2011 and ever since then I’ve been writing a weekly post to share with the world. That’s around 200 posts on all sorts of topics.
During those four years my own life has changed quite a bit and I hope through reading my posts there are other female (or even male) cyclists who can say the same. Since I bought my first road bike nearly seven years ago, cycling has had a positive impact on my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but it is completely true that riding a bike on a regular basis has changed my life in a number of ways.
Writing this blog on a weekly basis has given my life a real purpose. It’s not that I was unhappy or without purpose before cycling, and before this blog began, but I really feel it’s my life’s mission to share the positive benefits of riding with other women.