RAF Cycling and the CiCLE Classic

My adventure to the Cicle Classic started late last year when we decided that as 2018 was the 100th anniversary of the formation on the Royal Air Force, it would be pretty cool to get the RAF cycling team into one of the big races in the UK.

We asked the organisers of many of the UK’s premier races, but reduced field sizes and the large number of UK pro teams was making it difficult to fit us in. But then the amazing Colin Clews said he had space for a team of four riders.

Things had escalated; now we weren’t just racing a UK professional race, this race was part of the UCI European tour.

Time for some last minute panic training…

So what makes the Rutlan-Melton International CiCLE so special?

Now in its 14th year, it is widely regarded as the longest, hardest one day race in the UK, the CiCLE classic is contested by 36 teams over 117 miles. What makes this race unique in the UK is the 11 special sectors taking the race “off road” down farm tracks and dirt tracks. This makes punctures and mechanical issues very common, so spare wheels and support crew can make all the difference.

Race Day

We were the lowest ranked team in the race, and I was rider number 192 (the last man in the race). Turning up to the team area we realised just how deep we were. Team buses, following cars, mechanics, gazebos, turbo trainers for warm ups. All the riders had to do was turn up and get on their bikes. We on the other hand turned up in our own cars and set about sorting our bikes and kit out by ourselves.

We did have matching kit though…

We met our 2 dedicated helpers and passed them the array of random drinks bottles and spare wheels we had. As they made their way to points on the course, we donned our helmets and headed off to the start area to sign on.

The start area was buzzing with spectators. It was pretty cool to walk up on stage to sign on as we were introduced to the amassing crowd. Funny moment of the day, the commentator introduced us as the team of RAF Pro Cycling, ha, he must have been used to saying “pro cycling” at the end of every team. There is nothing “pro” about our team, we all have day jobs.

Lining up on the start line was a surreal experience; I was stood next to guys I have watched on TV! There were Olympians, former world and national champions and a handful of riders who had just returned from the Commonwealth Games. And there I was about to ride the same race as them!

So at 11.00 on the dot, the race started. The first mile was neutralised behind the lead car, which was scary as everyone was jockeying for position. The flag dropped and I found myself sprinting as hard as I could as everyone accelerated. I looked down at my computer and we were doing 45mph!!! It was at that point I knew we were in for a long hard day in the saddle.

The first 30 miles were on the wide roads around Rutland Water, and with the roads totally closed to traffic we had both sides of the road to ride on. I’ve never ridden in a group of 192 people, and I’m not going to lie it is rather scary, everyone was nervous and trying to move up towards the front. I was just trying to stay upright and not get dropped.

Going into the first special sector at 30 miles there was a huge acceleration, nearly 200 guys were going to do a 90 degree left turn from a 2 lane main road onto a single lane farm track. It was hairy to say the least.

I found myself about 2 thirds of the way down the bunch. Just as I thought “this isn’t too bad” 2 riders from the same team collided in front of me and went down forcing me onto the grass to get round. Thankfully it was dry and not muddy. So from then on the field would only thin out further.

Ian, one of the other RAF riders, was not so lucky. He punctured mid sector and then had to wait for the neutral service car to get a spare wheel.

Leaving the sector I was just relaxing and commending myself on surviving when the bunch accelerated and I was forced to sprint to keep up. I saw the gap get bigger in front of me and thought it could be all over. Thankfully the small group of riders around me wanted to work hard to try and get back on. We eventually made it back to the main group, which was now noticeably smaller than it was a few miles earlier. I saw my two remaining RAF teammates who were equally as shocked as I was.

The next 20 miles consisted of me hanging onto the rear part of the group as we went over hills and down narrow lanes. Every couple of miles I would see someone crash or puncture. Including one rider from a European team go careering off the road into an electric fence with barbed wire on the top. That looked very nasty.

In the early part of the sector at 53 miles the worst happened, I punctured. My heart sank, this was not good. The only thing to do was keep pedalling. I rode the rest of the sector on a flat, my rear wheel sliding all over the place as riders shot passed me.

Now puncturing is bad luck, but this was the luckiest puncture I could have had. As I excited the sector I saw an RAF jersey at the side of the road. Of all the places for Silky, one of our two helpers to stand it was here. After a slightly fumbled wheel change I was back on my bike and beginning the chase back on. Soon enough I was back in to convoy of cars following the race and working my way up. The convoy is a scary place, the vehicles can be unpredictable, especially on narrow roads. Team cars suddenly stopping to help their riders, riders being dropped and going backwards, and all in a cloud of dust kicked up by the 40+ vehicles.

After 10 miles of chasing I finally got back to the back of the bunch. As I made it back on who should I see sitting pretty at the back, Dan, one of my teammates. We had a quick chat and swapped drinks bottles (I had one of his flavoured powders and he had one with just plain water).

Back in the bunch I was sitting fairly happy and then just before the 80 mile point I cramped bad on one of the steep climbs losing contact with the back of the bunch. Bizarrely, Dan suffered the same fate at the same time. After giving each other a quick pep talk, we decided to not give up and press on as a pair and try and get back.

We spent 10 miles weaving through the convoy trying as hard as we could; we got within 25m of the bunch as it hit a sector. The acceleration was too much for us to live with and the bunch disappeared into the distance.

We kept working, knowing that if we could get to the finishing circuit after the 100 mile point we could finish the race. The only thing stopping us was the broom wagon, the last car in the race convoy. Once this car catches you, you are eliminated from the race.

As we pushed on Dan cramped again and dropped back. Now on my own I had the painful experience of carrying on as best I could, all the time passing riders that had been dropped and given up.

Then the inevitable happened, I was caught by the broom waggon at 97 miles. So close to the finishing circuit, but part of me was relieved that the suffering was over.

I took the straight line to the finish to watch the last part of the race. And eventually meeting up with Dan and Ian. Both of us stood there, covered in mud/dust and totally empty. We must have looked bad, the photographers all started taking photos of us and the state we were in.

Incredibly, Antony, the remaining RAF rider, was still in the race. He’d hung in there as the race exploded and was in one of the chasing groups. We all stood there to cheer him on, it didn’t matter that we were tired, cold, hungry and no longer in the race.

We started as a team and we would finish as a team.

Antony came down the finish straight leading his group, about 8 minutes down on the winner. But just surviving and finishing this race is a major achievement. That day, over 100 riders didn’t finish, many of them full time professionals.

In summary, that was the hardest 4.5 hours of my cycling career, and I’ve never been so proud of a DNF. This race is something special, totally unique and incredibly hard. I may never get another chance to ride it or even compete at this level, but I’m proud to have been part of it.

The CiCLE classic takes place at the end of April each year, and if you find yourself in the Rutland area I’d thoroughly recommend going to spectate. The crowds were amazing, and with the race making several passes of the same area, you can watch the race several times from one location.

The RAF 100 Baton Relay is currently on its way around the country, so go and find them on Facebook and see who how they’re celebrating 100 years of the RAF.

Finding People To Cycle With

Finding People to Cycle With

Starting something new, like cycling, or getting the motivation to go out and ride can be difficult sometimes. There’s always something to tick off the to-do list, or you haven’t got enough time. Whatever the scenario, sometimes organising to go out with other people can be just the ticket to get you out. Whether you go 5 miles or 50, on the road or on the trail.

1.Find a cycling group to join.

Some of you might have ‘training’ rides you need to go on, and others may just cycle for the social side of it. Either way, riding with others is always more fun, or at least having the option to ride with others is. I totally relate to those day you just want to spend with yourself on the road or in the mountains. Anyway, my first top tip is to set aside days you can go on rides to meet new people. Find a Facebook group to organise a group of cyclists together and meet up to ride with no agenda or intentions. You don’t need to get back by a certain time, or obtain a certain amount of PB’s. All you need to do is get to know the new people you’re riding with. You’ll be able to gauge their ability against yours and if they go at a social pace for you to keep up with. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new cycling buddy, and if not you’ve met someone new and had a good day on your bike.

There will be a post coming out next week on good Facebook groups to join!

2.Go to cycling events local or further afield.

The best thing about Girls At Llandegla was so many of the girls managed to find new people to go cycling with. Some had only ridden with men before, so now they have a group of girls to go out with. To stop and take those all important Instagram snaps with and enjoy what’s around them.

3.Join a Breeze ride.

A few years ago British Cycling set up the Breeze initiative to encourage more women to ride bikes. With rides both on the road and trails, whatever you fancy doing you can head over to the British Cycling website to search for a ride in your area. Breeze rides are risk assessed roots graded on their difficulty, and mean you’ve got guaranteed riding buddies if you fancy riding somewhere new or local.

Oulton Park Spring Duathlon 2018

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

My never ending habit of entering races last minute came about again recently. Less than two weeks prior to Oulton Park Duathlon I put in an entry. I was getting restless not competing, so I just thought I’d wing it as per normal. People train months for these things…I just chuck myself in at the deep end ha!

The closer the Duathlon got the more I wondered what the hell I was doing. I massively upped my training and managed to get a lot of running in. I felt guilty not getting out on my bike much, so I knew I’d rely on my ability to dig deep on my bike.

Feeling rather lethargic throughout the week I was praying that I wasn’t coming down with an illness. Luckily I felt a lot better come race day, but those nerves were still there questioning if I’d even complete it.

Arriving at Oulton Park, I (we including Ryan) were actually on time for once. I have a habit of making race mornings stressful because I’m running late.

I got my numbers all sorted and jumped on the turbo trainer. Most people were running up and down the paddock to warm up, but I was in the mood for sitting on the turbo spinning my legs with my headphones on. And when some of my favourite Stereophonics songs came on I switched off from what everyone else was doing and focussed on beating my last time at Oulton Park of one hour 28 minutes. Out of all the years I’ve spent racing, from downhill to road cycling races, this was the first time I managed to not let my nerves get the better of me. This came as quite a shock to me to be honest.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

Following race briefing we were soon lining up on the pit straight waiting for the whistle.  Now last time at Oulton Park I ended up getting a PB for 1 mile in the first mile of the race, so I was trying to pace myself…nope I ended up running a 7:22 which is by far quicker than what I run in training! I thought, one lap is just over two miles and I’m use to running longer than that now, so I just got on with it. Not going to lie though, Oulton Park does lure you in with a fairly easy start, but chucks hills in at the end.

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I come back in from the first run feeling fairly ok. I thought I’d be struggling with my non existent training plan prior, but I hopped on my bike avoiding slipping in my road cycling shoes running through transition. Thankfully the marshals reminded me to move my number round to the back!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

I exited the pits where transition was and onto the race track, again surprised by how much power I had in my legs. I settled into the bike leg rather quick. I’m not sure whether I just find it easier to get into a rhythm on the bike. I loved being back on my Liv, as I’ve not ridden it since Mallorca. That also reminds me…the 70 mile ride from Mallorca possibly became more useful than I first thought as I was use to my legs hurting a lot more after Sa Calobra!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

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Unsure on what lap I was on, I was lucky I didn’t do one too many laps! Making sure I got off my bike before the dismount line I swapped back over to my running trainers. My legs feeling like jelly going straight from bike to run. I was looking down at my watch trying to figure out what time I had left to beat 1:28.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

I wanted to up the pace, but knew the short climbs were still to come. So I stuck to my pace until I got the hills out of the way. Then it was a sprint finish to make sure I beat that time. If I hadn’t of sprinted and been a few seconds over 1:28, I would have been gutted.

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I completely forgot to grab my time at the end. I must have looked a right mess because the girl handing out the medals asked if I was ok…ha! I’d dug deep…

Going back to the gazebo to get my time I somehow managed to get confused by the system to get it. The Duathlon really messed with my head ha! Either way, I printed my little slip out revealing I’d done 1:23…thank god! I could be in a good mood for the rest of the day…ha! I came 20th overall in the women and second (out of three…) in my age group.

Whatever way I look at it, I can somehow still push myself despite not having the winter I wanted. I just want to find another event to enter now!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

Alderford Lake & Open Water Swimming

Swimming in Alderford Lake

A lot of what I do is overcoming the mental barrier to do it. This year a big goal is to gain confidence open water swimming. I’ve got confident in the pool now, so why not swimming outside too?

With the weather we’re having I knew it would be a good time to get my wetsuit back out. My last and first trip out in it wasn’t very successful at Manley Mere.

I messaged some friends I use to work with about Alderford Lake and I suddenly had plans to go open water swimming. With friends and not on my own this time.

Swimming in Alderford Lake

For newbies to open water swimming I’d definitely say Alderford Lake is better than Manley Mere. Alderford has an island in the middle and jetty’s you can swim too. Once you start swimming at Manley you’re committed to the 250m loop.

Squeezing into my wetsuit, we ventured into the lake. The expanse of water between me and the island was daunting. I knew I could do it if I managed to stay calm, but it was that weird situation of stressing about being able to stay calm.

Swimming in Alderford Lake

A few breaststroke’s in I was off. Slowly, but I was moving. I tried not to think about not being able to put my feet down and to just concentrate on my stroke instead.

I wasn’t quite ready to do front crawl, so I just carried on smoothly and calmly with breaststroke.

I must admit I was making my shoulders works that’s for certain!

Swimming in Alderford Lake

Getting to the island was a massive hurdle for me. How far I swam probably wasn’t even that far, but I’d managed to keep my Chimp in its cage for once.

It was a big hurdle that also came as a massive relief. Like a massive weight off my shoulders had lifted. Open water triathlons have always been something I’ve wanted to do, but the swimming has stopped me doing it.

I’d love to have stayed in the water longer, but knew my body had dealt with quite a lot for the hour we were in there. It was better to get out when I felt good in the water, than let myself get too tired.

From the island we went to the other side of the lake, I had another break, then took the same route back. Swimming with other people definitely makes difference and I can’t thank Natalie and Emma for being so patient!

Swimming in Alderford Lake

I’ve overcome the first big hurdle…onto front crawl in open water next!

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Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

With another scorching day on the cards, Ryan wanted to take me to Mallorca’s infamous climb, Sa Calobra. He warned me however there was going to be a lot of climbing! Formentor had possibly been the most climbing I had ever done, but now it was going to be Sa Calobra.

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Heading up the Col de Femenia, the long ascents of the day began. This first climb was possibly one of my favourites of the day. It was quiet and everything was so untouched. Being so early in the ride, the climb wasn’t easy. The encouraging writing on the roads may have been just that…if I had a clue what any of it meant being in every language but ones I understand. I make that sound like I can speak a few languages, but it’s just English unfortunately. Learning Spanish or French would be good though.

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Finally hitting the top of Col de Femenia, I could spin my legs a little. Normally I’d stop and have a breather, but I’ve figured it’s better to keep going past the top of climbs so my legs don’t seize up. My body definitely doesn’t like stopping and starting!

So we passed a few cyclists and had a little descent to ride, but climbing would soon resume. We had a break at a T-Junction where Ryan said this was the point I could bail on the ride if I wanted to, and we could go left to go and do more riding on the flat, or right to Sa Calobra.

Whether I could cope with the ride or not, we went to Sa Calobra. I knew I would have regretted turning left and not going to see what Sa Calobra was all about.

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

I don’t remember much about the climb to Sa Calobra if I’m honest, what has stuck is getting to the Orange Seller at the top of it.

6 miles of descending lay ahead to the Port at the bottom.

I imagine going early, the descent would have been a lot less cluttered. Buses, cars and other cyclists not too confident on the descent meant it wasn’t as flowing as it could have been. Next time, I think I’d love to get up earlier and get there before the crowds did. Ascending wasn’t too bad when it’s busy, but descending can be a bit sketchy!

Getting to the bottom I realised I’d not quite filled my pockets with enough snacks to get me round. So although Ryan advised me not to, I grabbed a baguette as it felt like I’d already burned through my breakfast! I’ve hit a wall like that before, where you’re stomach feels empty. It’s just a downward slope for me from there. Even with the 6 mile climb we had to go back up, as long as I wasn’t going to sprint up Sa Calobra I’d be fine.

It’s funny what you learn from cycling when you’re younger and how useful growing up on the trails at Llandegla has been…ha! That climb taught me how important pacing was, which not many other cyclists going up the Sa Calobra seemed to understand. It wasn’t easy but I managed to ride all the way up. I stopped for one photo…but soon regretted it so just carried on to the top after that.

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Going down Sa Calobra you don’t really get chance to take in the view because you’ve got to have your full attention on the road. But going back up makes up for that.

I was happy to leave the busy Port that had a train of buses dropping people off every few minutes. There’s a few cafes, but that’s all there is down there.

Ryan sprinted off to try and beat his last time up there, but I wasn’t up for that. As long as my pedals were still turning I’d be alright…I hoped!

Making sure to take in the view, Ryan managed to come back down to meet me before I got to a corner where photographers were. Operation get photo for above the fireplace was go…ha!

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Now it was the last push to the top.

When the Orange Seller came back into view, it was a big relief. A 6 mile climb may not sound like much, but I’ve never ridden anything close to it before!

You’d think the blog post would stop there, but unfortunately my stubborness meant the ride didnt’t stop there. It didn’t stop going up either.

Puj Major, Mallorca

Back when we got off the coach at Hoposa Villaconcha, the driver joked if we were going up Puj Major, which is the biggest climb on the island. You can get to from by the Orange Seller. We were on the slightly easier side up and I asked Ryan how far it was to the top of it.

5 miles, which meant an extra 10 miles onto the ride.

The 5 back will be downhill I thought, so why not? I was most of the way there…

It turns out, the climb up Puj Major wasn’t bad in comparison to Sa Calobra. It wasn’t as steep, and there were plenty of views to take my attention away from my aching legs.

It was like cycling through a holiday brochure…ha! A glimmering blue lake, blue skies and mountains dominating the skyline.

Puj Major, Mallorca

This road was so quiet compared to the Sa Calobra. Only one or two cars and coaches, rather than the streams of them which were on Sa Calobra. For such a picturesque view, I was surprised so many tourists were letting it pass them by.

The higher you got the more of the valleys revealed themselves. With a tunnel marking the top, the end of the tunnel opened up to the top of Puj Major.

Puj Major, Mallorca

That’s one skill you should master before riding in Mallorca, removing your sunglasses whilst still riding. It’s not ideal stopping to take them off whilst riding uphill!

With the view from the top, riding up Puj Major from the other (and longer) side will definitely be on the list. However the other side is 14km long, so I’ll ork up to that…or just be as stubborn as this holiday and do it regardless.

Puj Major, Mallorca

Then there was the bonk.

My legs started feeling weird and I was struggling to ride straight.

I needed to stop.

Pulling over, luckily Ryan had brought more food than me. So I had an energy bar and a gel. I normally don’t go for the emergy bars/gels. I’d rather eat normal food that isn’t so packed with sugar.

I’d hit rock bottom though, which is no real surprise when the longest rides I’d ever done were 40 miles and this one turned into a 70 mile ride….

A quick stop at a petrol station where I debated between a Mars Bar and Twix (ironic when I’ve just been talking about sugar I know…desperate times ok?). We soon got back on the bikes, as the wind was picking up and I was starting to get cold. All I wanted right then was a warm shower. No jumping in the pool to cool off unfortunately, I needed the opposite!

Close to tea when we got back to the hotel, I jumped straight in the shower so we could be the first in line! I was so hungry and craving pasta…ha.

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

It was all a bit surreal really. I’d always wanted a big day on my bike, but never been able to do more than 30 or 40 miles. I’d seen so many new places and didn’t realise how many miles had passed by. I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed riding in the hills over Winter too.

Do you still remember your first cycling holiday? Have you got any memories? Drop them below!

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Lighthouse of Cap de Formentor

On the first day in Puerto Pollenca, the manic handful of early mornings and jam packed days had caught up with me. So whilst Ryan went off on his bike, I went for a run along the seafront.

A fairly chilled first day however lead to a day on our bikes with Ryan showing me around Puerto Pollenca. To ‘ease’ me into cycling in Mallorca we made our way out to the Lighthouse in Formentor. A road that climbed out of Puerto Pollenca before meandering down and down to the lighthouse.

Unfortunately it was far from a ‘training’ ride for Ryan as I felt the need to take photos at every viewpoint. Everywhere was just so damn pretty! It was pretty obvious I was the newbie to Mallorca.

Blue sea. Blue skies. A lot of the time all you could hear were birds and your tyres on the road.

It was bliss.

The first time riding my Liv and on dry roads for a good few months, I was certainly hesitant to descend. I was following Ryan and then all of a sudden it was like I flicked a switcn. Literally at the snap of my fingers my nerves went.

I’ve never ridden corners like it.

No potholes either, which was a definite bonus!

At the Lighthouse we didn’t actually stay that long. It was getting pretty busy and I didnt fancy getting cafe legs 15 mile in. We had a lot of hills to go back up…ha! Luckily our 30 mile loop could take us back along the seafront in Puerto Pollenca to Tollo’s. A cafe extremely popular with cyclists thanks to it being full of Bradley Wiggins memrobilia. With Nacho’s and coffee ordered we could of happily sat there in the sun all afternoon.

Dragging ourselves away from the sun, I ended up doing a session in the pool whilst Ryan went to do hill reps…you know the normal things you do on a holiday…!

I don’t think I could have anything but an active holiday to be honest. Training and then sitting by the pool in the afternoon seems to be a winning combination for me.

Got any traditions or habits you do on holiday? Got memories from routes you’ve ridden round Mallorca. Feel free to drop them in the comments below!

Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca Cycling Holiday

Over the past few weeks I got to a point where some time off was long overdue. My weekly routine was feeling monotonous and I craved being in the sun so bad. The result? Me and Ryan booked a holiday a week before flying and had the most amazing few days away.

Mallorca

Exploring Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca

The last time I went abroad was something like 2010, so it was a mad rush to figure out what I needed to take with me. The mad rush put aside, we were checking in at the airport on our way to the cycling mecca of Mallorca.

Puerto Pollenca Beach, Mallorca

Puerto Pollenca Beach, Mallorca

Sun, smooth roads and beaches were all this girl needed to switch off for a few days.

After the nerves of hoping my bike got there ok, the first time I’d be riding my Liv this year was on the lush roads around the island of Mallorca.

A hotel with a big presence of triathletes, I could even jump in the heated training pool or go for a run if Ryan wanted to do a crazy training ride.

Hoposa Villaconcha Training Pool

Hoposa Villaconcha Training Pool

We were staying in Hoposa Villaconcha in Puerto Pollenca and I was so happy to be so close to the beach. A short walk and the golden expanse of sand revealed itself with cafe’s and their bike stands lining the sea front. I’ve never seen somewhere with such a focus on cycling. There were families that had hired bikes mixed in with seasoned roadies going on mega rides into the mountains. Hills aren’t really a thing in Mallorca, they’re definitely mountains.

We managed to fit so much in to the few days we were there, I’m going to split in all into a few blog posts rather than one HUGE one! So look out for what happened when we tackled:

  • The Lighthouse of Formentor
Formentor, Mallorca

Formentor, Mallorca

  • Sa Calobra
Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

  • Walking Puerto Pollensa to Cala Boquer
Cala Boquer, Mallorca

Cala Boquer, Mallorca

So I’ll be posting more about each day, so keep an eye out on my Instagram so you don’t miss a thing!

Are you off on a cycling holiday this year? Mountain bike or road, leave your favourite destinations below!

#GirlsAtLlandegla

Well I wasn’t expecting Narnia when we started riding at Llandegla this morning!

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Phil Bulkeley Photography

After setting up in the café at Llandegla we finally got on the trails. We had a late start as not everyone turned up that I was expecting. I can’t thank the girls enough for being so patient! I just didn’t want anyone left behind!

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Phil Bulkeley Photography

We set off up the climb and as soon as we got out of the trees the ground was covered in thick snow. I’d never ridden in the snow before, so it was definitely a learning curve for me. Going across slightly off camber bits and thinking in my head ‘it’s just slippery mud’.

The group went ahead and did the red and I was with Gwen and Heledd on the blue. We got to the top of the blue and much preferred the idea of the blue than the red as its more covered. As much as I wanted to go on the red with Heledd, we actually had a really fun time on the blue! There were some slushy sections we could have fun on, then clear sections we could go fast on. It was a good combo.

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Phil Bulkeley Photography

Manon and the rest of the crew went on the red. Some wanted to try the black, but thought it was best to stay together.

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Llandegla Forest, Phil Bulkeley Photography

Following riding the trail it was a mad dash to get changed, get warm and get fed. Just to get feeling in our toes again! It was great to chat to more to the girls and how they found riding in the snow.

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Llandegla Forest, Phil Bulkeley Photgraphy

All full up, half 1 came and we started the talk about mountain biking and women participating particularly. We brought up a few interesting topics. We started on how mountain biking could become a more desirable sport to take part in. We all get directed to sports like netball, so what can we do to highlight it the potential next generation of mountain bikers.

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One Planet Adventure Llandegla, Phil Bulkeley Photography

Organising group rides was a solution, as girls riding on their own isn’t likely to happen if their venturing out for the first time. With social media being a big part of the younger generation these days, this was also brought up. More Breeze rides were also a good way of encouraging newbies to the sport, so they can find people to go out with. It’s always easier to stick at something when you’ve got someone to do it with right?

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Manon & Ffion, Phil Bulkeley Photography

Another good topic was independence on the trails with the likes of first aid and bike mechanics. We talked about what would help female cyclists give bike maintenance a go. The ability to be able to do bike maintenance would maybe open up the opportunities for mountain bikers in general really to ride that little bit further, and maybe away from trail centres.

We also brought up the ‘all out’ approach to mountain biking and the pressures to do the most difficult trails, or only riding difficult trails. I know I’ve certainly realised I don’t need to be doing difficult riding all of the time, as long as I’m out on my bike does it really matter? I definitely need to venture a bit further afield on my bike, but I shouldn’t feel pressured to. I ride now because I want to, not because I have to. I do other outdoor sports now too and enjoy them just as much.

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Phil Bulkeley Photography

After all that was said I was happy everyone went away with a smile on their face, even if the weather was atrocious. It was certainly a different day on the bike, but I enjoyed it immensely at the same time.

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Before we entered Narnia! One Planet Adventure, Llandegla

I’m hoping to keep the social rides going really. Maybe Becky can show us round some more natural trails whilst we learn to map read…

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Thank you to these lovely girls for joining the talk!

Manon also mentioned the second Monday of every month being ladies night at Rampworx in South Wales, so hopefully a group can make a trip down there and try that too.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped today and the run up to the event. Especially One Planet Adventure for being so accommodating. I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it and we managed to raise £276.55 for Help for Heroes.

Head to ‘Lucy’s Life and Bikes‘ on Facebook for more of the photos!

Cadair Berwyn

When my alarm started blaring out early on a Sunday morning I wasn’t the most enthused about getting out of bed. But when Ryan said it was blue skies outside, I knew I’d regret turning over and falling back to sleep.

We chucked some sandwiches in a bag with our walking stuff and made our way to Pistyll Rhaedr, which isn’t too far from Llangynog. I was expecting the car park to be full, but we were the first ones there! The cafe wasn’t even open to pay to park.

Cadair Berwyn, Wales

We changed our shoes and started to head out of the car park and up into the hills. We could go left to the top of the waterfall or straight to end up at the top of Cadair Berwyn, which is what we wanted to climb.

Cadair Berwyn, WalesCadair Berwyn, Wales

There was nobody else on the path but us and the skies were clear blue. Not even aeroplane trails in sight.

Cadair Berwyn, Wales

With a lot of climbing, stream hopping and bogginess later, Llyn Lluncaws reveals itself. Looking back on the paths we’ve just walked, there no civilisation in sight. No houses or busy roads, just rolling Welsh hills.

But we weren’t at the top yet. We were about to have our breathe taken away once again.

We had the ridge line to climb to say we were at the top, so it only got steeper.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough going, but at the same time it was so pretty up there we just couldn’t wait to see what the view was like from the top.

We finally made it to the top, and had a 360 degree view from the top. Again still on our own.

The rest of the walk we were following in Trail Magazine meant we went up and down nearby hill tops. The next one we got to had a little fort on the top, which meant we could get out of the wind for lunch.

By this point we were both knackered so we’re glad we’d packed an Easter egg to share at the top. And yes we split it straight down the middle!

The later it got through the day we started to see more people making the most of the weather. We even saw a family on one of the peaks and offered to help them take a family photo. I’ve never seen two young boys so happy to be up such a steep hill! We couldn’t let them get a photo without heir Dad in too!

We may have deviated off the path, but we never got round to figure it out. We got caught out in snow drifts we though were solid, but swallowed Ryan’s legs up to his knees! We got stuck in bog and wandered across a hill trying to get back to the path.

As spontaneous as it was, Cadair Berwyn is yet another hill that captured my heart to stay in my collection of memories forevermore.

Going into the hills is such an escape from everyday life. Polar opposite to what I fill my weekdays with. The weekend is when I can explore.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

On our trip around North Wales last weekend I finally managed to pick up some new walking boots. I’ve been looking for some for so long now, I’m just glad I’ve found some!

I’ve had some Salomon boots for a few years now, and they’ve been good enough for the walks I was doing. They’re just starting to show their age a bit now. Letting water in and a well used sole having been battered by plenty of dog walking miles with Jenson.

Looking for a new pair of boots, I knew I’d need to spend a little bit more this time. (Well my Dad actually bought my last pair but that’s another story!) If I want the boots to last and look after my feet, cheap boots just wouldn’t make the cut. I also want to be a little more adventurous this year with the routes I’m keen to try, so it’s important I have the right kit.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

I did actually buy some Mammut boots last year from Go Outdoors, but they only lasted two weeks before one of the eyelets came off.

To avoid disappointment with another pair of boots, I went to where the knowledge of walking kit would be…Betws Y Coed. I spent so much time there as a kid, I always love going back there.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

Me and my Dad went round a few shops, but it was only in Cunningham’s where the staff filled me with confidence in what they were saying. Grant, one of the staff, was extremely helpful and wasn’t just about selling me the most expensive boots.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking BootsScarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

I tried on a few pairs just see what different styles felt like, but took a liking to these Scarpa boots fairly quickly. A firm sole and they really hugged my feet. I’ve not been able to wear Scarpa in the past due to having wide feet, but I’m getting on with these really well.

What do you get from the boot?

– When I get a little more adventurous next Winter, I can fit crampons to them to go exploring in the snow!

– Anti-Abrasion rubber in high wear areas of the boot

– Memory foam padding for a better fit

– Gore-Tex for a breathable but waterproof boot

– Stiff sole for stability on more rugged terrain

I’ve done this post as a little first look I guess. I’ve not tried them in the vast Welsh mountains yet, just Bulkeley Hill Woods in Cheshire. But the 6 mile loop we did was enough to break them in!