Welsh Climbs in Winter

Cycling in Wales

On my drive across Wales the radio presenter was suggesting anyone planning any sort of outdoor activity today to turn around, and having just defrosted my car I can see where he was coming from. The sun was rising over the Welsh coast with the sea eerily still as I made my way to Llanberis. With a 40 mile route planned, I was joining RAF Cycling as they come to the end of their training camp. I’d never previously been on a group training ride before, so didnt really know what to expect, just that tactical layers suitable for climbing and descending were necessary.

Going out in sub-zero temperature with Raynaud’s Syndrome playing up is always going to be emotional, but I knew once we got to some Welsh climbs my body would soon start generating some heat. Pen-Y-Pass more than delivered on that front and was a climb I weirdly enjoyed. I suppose its easier to climb when theres so much scenery to look at. I’d love to say I got photos to show you, but with it being a training ride I thought it was best to leave my camera at home…ha.

The climb meant a long descent to follow, which I was rubbish at. I felt like a snail. I just couldn’t pick up speed at all, but I was still on a high from the climb.

I can’t actually remember much of the route in between the two climbs. I was in my own little world for most of it I think. The last time I did a ride non-stop like this was Belgium and we all know how that went. So I guess I was wondering how my body was going to react and if my energy levels would drop.

A topic that kept cropping up in conversation was the last climb of the ride. It sounded interesting, but it just depended whether my legs were dead by that point. Once the climbing started I knew it would end up being a case of mind over matter. Once I let my mind give in that would be it.

Was I going the right way? Just keep pedalling.

Would I be able to descend, or was it too icy? Just keep pedalling.

‘Garmin going into power saving mode.’ Please don’t do this to me now.

It’s funny how precious you get about your Garmin when you’re three-quarters of the way up a climb you’ve buried yourself to get to the top of. I’m so close to the top, yet there I am battling to get my glove back on whilst still riding after making sure my Garmin didn’t die on me! I don’t recommend trying to get a glove back on at the top of a long climb…ha!

Eventually my wheels got to the summit of the reservoir climb and dropped to rest my head on my handlebars. Where the hell Ryan found that climb I don’t know. I had no idea where I was, but I’d got to the top. After doing said climb, I can possibly say it topped Sa Calobra. With no traffic on the road you can dig that little bit deeper knowing you’re not going to have to stop at all or get squeezed to the side of the road.

Don’t get me wrong cycling abroad is fab, but Wales is home for me. Most of the time I can just ride from my front door, but then I can make a short drive with minimal stress and ride somewhere like Snowdonia. Maybe I’ll be riding the distance there soon, who knows. Baby steps.

Autumn Cycling Must-Haves

Autumn Cycling Kit

Cycling at this time of year can be off-putting to say the least. Rain, wind and dark mornings aren’t exactly encouraging are they? On my recent ride of all weathers in Belgium I very nearly didn’t head out, but having good cycling kit with me pushed me out the door. I think having trust in your kit makes all the difference, which is why I’ve been having a look on the internet at what Autumn/Winter cycling kit is on offer.

  1. Castelli Perfetto RoS W Long Sleeve

Kicking my findings off is the Castelli Perfecto jacket, which I’ve actually tried and tested. If I’m completely honest I’m ‘borrowing’ Ryan’s, but I know Castelli don’t let the quality drop just because a product is for women. At £190 you’ll be please to hear you get some GORE-TEX technology for the price tag. On the front panels are made up of WINDSTOPPER and water-resistant material, but towards the back the material has more of a stretch and breathability. I’m particularly a fan of the dropped tail on the back of the jacket, which keeps more of your back covered when riding down water-logged country lanes.

2. dhb Classic Women’s Thermal Tights

With a warm jacket you’ll obviously need some cycling longs to go with it. I personally rides in some Castelli longs, but I thought for this post I’d look around a bit. If you’re active on Twitter you’ll find dhb is a brand that regularly pops up in kit recommendations. It doesn’t cost the earth, but still does the job. On the likes of Wiggle you find plenty of positive reviews on the brand and its products. Having a look around these Classic Women’s Thermal bib tights caught my eye as they help keep your torso warm too. Any extra warmth is always a bonus.

3. Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Glove

Sealskinz have been a market leader for as long as I can remember. They’re a logo I’ve seen around since the early days when I first started cycling (well MTB). The biggest benefit with these is the fact they’re waterproof and constructed with three layers for added warmth. I’m actually on the look out for some new gloves and I think these are high contenders.

4. Endura Pro SL Overshoes Black

When Ryan introduced me to overshoes a few years ago it was a revelation. Being a Raynaud’s sufferer the cold is certainly not my friend, but since using overshoes my toes stay toasty for longer. My recent Endura overshoes have been fab for a few years, but I was slightly heavy handed with a zip so have had to replace them. These are the closest thing I can find to them. Scottish brand Endura certainly know a thing or two about bad weather!

5. Castelli Fresca W Headband

Cold ears on a ride are never fun, so I normally go for one of two options being a Buff or thermal headband. Buff’s tend to speak for themselves. I’ve worn one since I was little hiking up Snowdon, but thermal headbands work rather well under a cycling helmet. When it’s ice cold you might opt for a Buff, but at this time of year I normally use a thermal headband. I was trying to keep the brands varied, but Castelli just do the thermal headbands so well. I hate it when mine’s in the wash and I can’t wear it. They’ve got some funky design this year too. You can even get a Fresca Jersey to match…I mean Christmas is coming up right?

6. Stolen Goat Women’s Mesh Base Layer

Just because it’s a base layer doesn’t mean it has to be plain. I think it’s just more of an excuse to be as exotic as you like and you can’t go wrong with polka dots. I’ve always seen Stolen Goat to be slightly ahead of the game when it comes to their designs and how colourful they are.

 

Amateur Photographer & Peaks Tour Sportive

Amateur Photographer

It’s so easy to get lost in a new place you’ve never visited before. Where you live you sort of get accustomed to what’s around you. You don’t notice the history and the stories there as much, but going somewhere new leaves the place open to your interpretation. Needless to say, whenever I visit somewhere new I’ll very quickly get lost in what’s around me, which normally involves me capturing it with a camera. Some say to experience moments rather than capture them to tell the story, but for a creative like myself that’s quite difficult to execute. Behind any photo I take there will normally be a story, regardless of whether that experience ends up on my blog or in a notebook.

Winnats Pass, Peak District

Heading to the Peak District I was very quickly taken aback by it all. The only way to describe it being large expanses of rolling hills. Granted you get this in Wales, but hills tend to be swapped for mountains so you normally have to walk quite a way to see the view. Any place will naturally have its good days and bad days, but I was definitely in the Peaks on a good day. The golden Autumnal light that makes me love this time of year.

Winnats Pass, Peak DistrictWinnats Pass, Peak District

After winning a competition I noticed Amateur Photographer were running, I found myself in Winnats Pass with camera equipment lent out by MPB waiting for cyclists to ascend the infamous Winnats Pass. A winding road that follows the valley making a climb for cyclists of 20% gradient at times. The sun bent its way around the hill tops casting a shadow on the route of the Peaks Tour Sportive, but it was the sun rays that made me want to take a photo.

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I had the opportunity to use a Canon EOS R camera body with a 24-105mm lens. My first time using a mirrorless camera, there were a few fancy features to get to grips with like the touch screen on the back. There was the simple fact I needed to get familiar with mirrorless too. I gave it my best shot and the photos in this blog post are the result.

The fact the camera was small and light made it easy to carry around all day, which was a stark difference to when I’d be on my feet all day at Weddings with heavy camera equipment. The Weddings were my first experience of using Canon, which is why I asked MPB if I could try a Canon camera. I’ve used Nikon for years, but loved the Canon’s I use to use. I thought I’d take to the Canon EOS R (and accompanying lens) like a duck to water, but I’ll be honest I’m not completely sold on it. The focus seems a little off and the photos just didn’t seem all that sharp. Now I hold my hands up, it might have just been the person operating it, but I can’t say I’ll be heading to the camera shop to get one. Not for cycling photography anyway.

Winners Pass, Derbyshire

When we’d finished on Winnats Pass we made our way to a quaint little village called Monyash, Derbyshire. With a church, pub and cafe it almost felt like you were on some sort of television set. The houses were quiet and everyone congregated outside the tiny Old Smithy Tearooms. I love going to these villages only accessible by country lanes that stretch out for miles purely because of the characters you meet there. Their way of life is different and its almost inspiring. It brings me back to every photo having a story. There will often be a reason I press the shutter.

Monyash, DerbyshireMonyash, Derbyshire

The dog below was curled up basking in the sun next to a bench on which sat two older men chatting about a sketch book in one of their hands. They were completely lost talking about painting techniques and it took them a while to notice I was even photographing their dog. Meanwhile, their dog couldn’t care less at what was going on around him. It’s just little moments like that you don’t forget. They keep these little hidden gems of the world stuck in your head wanting to go back and explore further.

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Easily distracted, a lot of the photos I took in Monyash weren’t actually of bikes like was intended. I wandered down public paths and through farmer’s field, just to see what I could find. I was naturally drawn to other dogs in the village two, one wanting to make sure his presence was known where as another was quite happy doing pirouette’s.

Monyash, Derbyshire

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I suppose I should actually talk about the sportive itself run by UK Cycling Events, which is named the Peaks Tour Sportive. From the name you can imagine it’s no easy challenge, especially when the cyclists were barely warmed up they were tackling Winnats Pass. If they weren’t warm before the climb, then they certainly would be after. Routes covering 50, 75 and 100 miles you had varying abilities tackling the route, but all in good spirit. It was certainly different from photographing criterium and road races.

So essentially I went to the Peak District with Amateur Photographer to use some fancy cameras equipment, but its the places I got to see I’ll remember the most and probably go back to. I met some amazing photographers on the day too who were great to chat to, some just as interested in cycling as I was.

 

Bringing Back Your Childhood Memories

Bringing Back Your Childhood MemoriesLike cycling, swimming is one of those things you do as a child. Whether that was jumping in a river in the summer, or having it forced upon you in P.E. at school. (How cool would it be if cycling was part of the curriculum at school though?).

You may not do either seriously, they’re purely a recreational activity. Yet both can open up door to adventures that haven’t been accessible to you before. With cycling you can cover that little bit of extra distance. With swimming you can enjoy the sea on holiday and see things from a different perspective. Some of my strongest memories as a child are water or cycling related. Long jump into the pool on holiday. Bobbing up and down in the sea resting on a bodyboard in the sea at Pwllheli. Looking up at my neighbour after I’d landing head first in his hedge after a race around our street went slightly wrong…

Combine the two sports and you get a whole host of new adventures available to you. Ride up a mountain, then jump in the lake at the top. Go bike-packing in a foreign country experiencing new cultures, then cool off in the sea after covering so many miles.

Both offer the opportunity to escape. Pushing off the side of a swimming pool wall, like the pressure of the water on your shoulders taking all of the stress away. The adrenaline rush following a downhill section on a mountain bike, where there’s no time to think about anything but the trail ahead.

Mountain Biking

Sometimes it feels like the rush of cold water over your body is required to relax. Other times it requires hammering the pedals on a trail ride. To completely switch off I don’t think there will ever be one solution. The variety has a greater impact and puts a smile on your face. You’ve just got to go wherever your mind takes you.

Open Water Swimming

Some might find comfort in repetition of only ever doing one sport, but honestly? I find everything so much more exciting having a go at whatever comes to mind. Yet cycling and swimming will always be something I come back to. They take me back to my childhood and both are invigorating in their own ways. And living in Wales it means I can do both in so many different places. You’ve just got to know where to look.

MTB Meet Up 2019

Check me out…actually riding a mountain bike!

MTB Meet Up

It’s certainly been a while, but I think I’m slowly getting the mountain bike bug again. I’ve bought new mountain biking kit and everything…ha!

When I saw MTB Meet Up was coming up at Llandegla, I thought I’d head up there. Rolling up to the cafe it was marquee galore taking up pretty much everywhere near the cafe. Marquees full of expensive bikes to demo, but I resisted the temptation to try bikes I’ll never be able to afford. Because naturally I was eyeing up the Hope bikes ha!

We started off as 3 women hitting the trails to ride bikes. The trails were obviously busier than normal so we found ourselves getting overtaken (rather aggressively at times) by multiple E-Bikes. I have nothing against them, but do they really need to barge past when there really wasn’t a gap there? I’d rather not eat part of a tree branch thanks to being pushed to the side of the trail, but hey we’ve got to share the trails right…

With the bonkers heatwave the UK has been having you’d expect me to be say I was riding in blue skies and a vest top. Yet it was drizzly and overcast. The sort of weather I love the most when riding in the forest. Blue skies and dust are great, but nothing beats the forest when it’s damp and muggy. That’s probably the Welsh blood in me though.

MTB Meet Up, Llandegla

Riding down the trails I’ve ridden since I was 10, it’s almost like muscle memory riding there now. No matter how long it’s been, I still know them like the back of my hand. Memories came back even more so this week after building up my old Scott hardtail for Ryan’s little brother. It’s been given a new lease of life and he loves it just as much as I did by the sounds of it!

Doing a mixture of Red and Blue, 3 riders grew to 5 after bumping into 2 who wanted to avoid the Black trail.

Rolling back to the centre I queued up for the bike wash, which had kindly been paid for by Fenwick’s. I left with my bike cleaner than when I arrived ha! Fenwick’s is the only cleaner I’ll use on my bike if I’m honest.

MTB Meet Up, Llandegla

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to an uplift soon too. I got rather jealous when I saw everyone’s photos from National Champs the other week!

Skoda UK Cycling Academy with Storey Racing

Skoda Cycling Academy

Rolling up to the pringle shaped building that is the Lee Valley Velodrome, the weather was still as grey as when I was last there before the hustle and bustle of the 2012 London Olympics. On a school trip with school, my eagle eyes were out for olympic athletes, but at the time the Olympic Park was still in construction so unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky! We’d gone to the top of the Olympic Tower glad to be inside spotting all the Olympic Buildings.

With the London Olympics having left a big stamp in history, everywhere felt rather quiet when hoards of people would have been there a few years before. Another stark difference being the Skoda branded signs around the main entrance, because I was here for the Skoda Cycling Academy.

A few weeks ago the advert popped up in my feed thanks to Skoda Ambassador, Juliet Elliot, giving it a share. With a spot on Storey Racing being a possibility after the academy, I had no expectation whatsoever on getting a spot on the day at Lee Valley Velopark. After luckily not missing the ‘Congratulations’ email in my Junk inbox (thanks email inbox…this email was certainly NOT junk!), I confirmed my attendance to the day. With the women I race with on a regular basis, I did not feel in any way good enough to take part! Yet here I was, a second trip to London this year, signing on and picking up my number 4 that I would later pin onto my jersey.

I’ve not even been back on my bike that long…how was I going to cope with fitness testing on one?!?

Nerves aside, there was a certain changing room I had to go to as they’d split us up by surname. So I walked into a buzzing changing room with a few of the other girls eagerly getting into their Skoda Le Col jerseys and peeking in the Skoda bags full of goodies, me paying particular attention to one that will become rather useful when out mountain biking!

Skoda Cycling Academy

Jersey numbered up and cycling kit on, we all made our way to the Velodrome. Our bikes were dropped off at a secure container, as the first lot of testing was going to be on Wattbikes. With an introduction from Skoda UK and Dame Sarah Storey, thanks to being number 4 I was one of the first to head over for the 12 minute test! Out of all the tests, I for some reason got it in my head that this was the one I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted to ride consistently for the 12 minutes rather than go off too easy or too hard. When it got tough I took myself back to running down the Mall in April. I think that will also be a memory that sticks with me as motivation when the going gets tough. With injuries, I’d mentally endured those 6 months of Marathon training, so I could get through 12 minutes. I also battled the Welsh hills for 57 miles a week or two previously for Welsh Champs, a lot of it solo, which would have been unthinkable last year. I was getting through this 12 minutes!

Skoda Cycling Academy

Arms on the TT bars, my head kept bobbing up to see the Wattbike screen, battling to keep my average power over 200 Watts. I knew it was possible, I just needed to dig deep to get there. My eyes were closed. Sweat dripping off me from quite early on. Even breathing felt like it wasn’t helping with the air being so dry.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…STOP.

Thank god.

I looked up to the Wattbike screen and there was an average power of over 200. Possibly 207 Watts? My head was such a mess I can’t really remember ha!

I’d done it. The adrenaline started pumping as a result after doing what I’d set out to. Week by week I’m gaining confidence in my mental ability to push myself on the bike. Running round London in 4 hours has benefitted me more than I thought!

Skoda Cycling Academy

There was a quick chat to Cycling Podcast about cycling, whilst trying to get my breathe back, I was talking at a million mph, so I’m surprised any of it made sense. With all the questions, it made me realise just how much I’ve accomplished in cycling now. From the events I’ve organised to racing downhill, to now standing in an Olympic Velodrome with so many amazing women.

So yea, to the Cycling Podcast, I hope even just a small amount of what I said made some sort of sense. I enjoyed chatting to you!

It was a good while before the next lot of testing, as they had 40 women to get through the 12 minute test. Then it was a 3 minute test followed by a 6 second peak power test. After some time chatting to the other women, who hopefully I’ll be able to organise some rides with soon, I was called up for the next lot of testing. For any of the riders reading this and want to come on a ride, just drop me a line! There were so many amazing cyclists there, I really hope we can all stay in touch.

Skoda Cycling Academy

I didn’t feel like the 3 minute test and 6 second peak power test went as well as the first test, but I still gave it my all. Most of it come from not knocking that resistance level up high enough. Never mind, I still gave it my all!

Then the fun really kicked up a notch with 2 flying laps round the crit circuit outside. It was windy. It was chucking it down with rain. And I still had deep section carbon rims on my bike from racing at Darley Moor the day before, I was looking forward to the carnage that would unfold on this one…ha! If there was even a time to rely on skills I learnt from mountain biking…it would be now!

Kitted up with bikes and helmets, we had two sighting laps around the circuit from which we got wet and muddy rather quickly! Regardless the circuit was ace. Lots of ascents, descents and tight corners. I’m hoping I can go back in the future and see if there’s a race on there! See how close I can get that knee to the floor Moto GP style…ha!

Skoda Cycling Academy

I can’t say I was particularly graceful on my way round with how I was throwing my bike left to right on the sections I could sprint. I nearly decked it twice, including an up hill corner where I just kept drifting to the outside of the corner making my way to the finish straight. It was a relief when I got to the finish line without hitting the floor!

Ryan laughed at the huge grin on my face when the inevitable adrenaline came back. I was soaking wet, but grinning from ear to ear. With events I do in the future, I’m certainly considering throwing some timed flying laps in there if funding allows! It’s a great way to give riders nervous about racing a taste of what it’s like, but give more experienced riders a chance to go flat out against the clock.

Glad about the chance to change out of our soggy (slightly smelly…) cycling kit, I could get warm and grab a good cup of tea. I’d avoided caffeine all day due to having no idea how my body would respond to this sort of fitness testing. You can’t not have a cup of tea in London I guess.

With closing messages from Skoda UK and Dame Sarah Storey, we obviously finished with a group photo!

Skoda Cycling Academy

Now I’m looking back on the day, I just wanted to thank everyone for making it so memorable. I’ve never been around so many female cyclists at once, it was ace! Without Ryan I wouldn’t have been able to make it down there in the first place. Meeting Dame Sarah Storey and Storey Racing rider, Chanel Mason, was amazing. They were so encouraging, albeit a little intimidating when they’re looking over your shoulder watching the numbers you’re throwing out on the Wattbike!

One of Skoda UK’s sales managers, Alan, also needs a big thank you for giving me a lift back home, cutting Ryan’s journey back to work by over half!

I hope I can stay in touch with all the amazing female cyclists I met and regardless of whether I go onto the next stage or not, I’ve got an even stronger focus on collecting BC points to get my 3rd Cat license. Road racing gives me such a buzz, I can’t wait to get the next one booked.

Getting Back on the Bike

Getting back on the Bike

It was pretty much a straight swap after the Marathon when it came to my running shoes and cycling shoes. Both pink…of course! I had a week off hobbling round trying to function to some sort of extent. I probably only needed a basket, but had to use a trolley to get me round the supermarket! Running 26.2 miles definitely has a lasting effect on you…!

I was almost scared to get back on my bike to tell you the truth. How much bike fitness had I lost? Would I remember my old favourite routes? Finding all of my cycling kit was the first hurdle!

Ryan pushed me out the door so I couldn’t procrastinate anymore and I followed a route I’d followed many a time the year before. It was a route I could roll round, or a route I could ride hard round. The Cheshire lanes are good for routes like that. You just have to make sure the tail winds don’t lure you into riding too hard before you have to turn around and ride back into the head wind!

It was definitely an odd feeling being back on my bike. Odd being on my Liv too. It felt like I’d missed the off season. I think I rode my winter bike once. Thinking about it, I should probably check it hasn’t seized up, but that’s just something to add to my to-do list.

No sooner has I got back on my bike, I was back on a start line racing the chequered flag at Darley Moor Motor Circuit. A circuit I quite enjoyed racing at. The track isn’t anything special, but it’s the group of girls you end up racing with. There’s enough for it to feel like a race! It was also a 3/4 race, so I was hopefully not too out of my depth. My head was mush by the time I’d got there. Was my number on right? Would I get dropped? What tactics would everyone else be running?

Getting back on the Bike

Luckily Ryan stopped me from completely losing my head.

When the gun went the girls shot off like rockets, so my legs were pedalling frantically to not get left for dust. (Must remember to not start in my easiest gear…that only really works at road junctions on normal rides!)

Getting back on the Bike

When I managed to settle my chimp I just focussed on relying on the good ‘engine’ I had from running the marathon. I might not have been on my bike all winter, but I was determined not to let that winter training to go to waste. There were a few games played on the way round, but I just decided to sit at the back. I might have a good engine, but I had no idea what my sprint was like. I just needed to not get dropped. And that’s what I kept telling myself.

I kept spinning and spinning. I did feel anxious not getting involved in doing a turn on the front, but it was my first race of the year. I’m sure that’s allowed to get myself use to things…

Getting back on the Bike

Unfortunately being at the back for the sprint finish (which is a common occurrence at Darley Moor) meant me having the longest sprint out of everyone just to keep up with the girls. In all the chaos that unfolded in that final race, I somehow grabbed 8th. This hopefully means some points on my BC license, but the results haven’t been put online yet so fingers crossed!

Getting back on the Bike

Granted I’d not been heavily involved in the race, but I was happy coming away having been able to battle it out at the finish. That’s what I always hope for in races, that I can get involved in the action! Even if I mess up, sprints or other events in the race give me such a buzz!

Less can be said when I crossed the line of the longest Time Trial I’ve ever done on the weekend just passed. A 30 Mile TT not far from Market Drayton. Sometimes I like the idea of TT. In the end, all it is is pushing as hard as you can for the duration of the course. And that’s exactly what I did…for 30 miles! I was chucking out a stupid amounts of watts and I was only 5 miles in. I was going harder than my FTP, but instead of toning it back I my chimp decided well you’re in it for the long haul now. This would have been fine if there wasn’t new tarmac that felt like I was cycling through treacle and going nowhere!

Getting back on the Bike

Needless to say I didn’t exactly feel myself at the end! That TT did mean I got a stern look from my coach when I’d managed to increase my FTP by 18 watts…maybe I didn’t try as hard in my FTP test the other week as I initially thought…

(Thanks to Ryan for taking all these amazing photos!)

Roles Reversed

Being a Breeze Champion has been a bit of an eye opener for me really as well as being incredibly rewarding.

I quickly got involved with road cycling after a switch from mountain biking nearly 3 years ago now. I still mountain bike, but road cycling has just been easier to fit in for the past few years. Whilst my endurance has taken a while to get it to where it is, it’s easy to forget about the rides you previously struggled with.

When I first started riding with Ryan I could just manage a ride out to a cafe and back. Call it fitness or just pure grit, I just like being out now. But on a Breeze ride with Lucy today I quickly realised how the roles had reversed. It use to be Ryan pushing me up the last hill to get home. On the same route with Lucy, we were both cold and ready for a cup of tea. So close to the end, the last stretch of road is always a bugger and they chuck a deceiving climb in at the end too! All of a sudden I found me encouraging Lucy to get past the last few hurdles back to the start.

Every ride is a learning curve as a Breeze Champion. Not every ride will be perfect, but you’ll always take a funny memory away from it.

Getting to know Grade x Union

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Spanning across multiple sports, Grade x Union is the latest lifestyle and streetwear brand to hit our social media feeds. Created by graphic designer, James Webber, the union is fuelled by a love for sport, beer and good times.

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Starting with photography at the age of 16, James bought his first camera. Creative flows started and graphic design soon came onto the seen thanks to making profile pages for bands on MySpace. Fast forward a few years James has graduated from the Cambridge School of Art with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design. Something he put into good use as he was one of two behind the Girls At Moelfre t-shirts and branding.

A degree in hand, James landed a job in Madison where he has worked his way up to becoming a Middleweight Designer for Ridgeback Bikes.

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If the love for bikes isn’t already obvious, this is where the big Grade x Union idea stemmed from. Although James is a big lover of cycling, his roots delve into extreme sports too. He grew up in the early/mid noughties surrounding himself with extreme sports. “I’ve tried it all. BMX, Snowboarding, Trials Bikes, Running, Skateboarding and Mountain Biking only to name a few!”. He had a few idols along the way like Martyn Ashton and Tony Hawk too. Who remembers the Extreme Sports channel?

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It was the unions these athletes had with each other in their sports that gave James the Grade x Union idea. “The Unions these athletes had amongst their chosen sport was admirable and I liked that everyone supported each other. There was no rivalry, no hatred, just camaraderie.

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Witnessing such things between athletes was where the Grade x Union mantra’s were formed. Mantra’s sounding a little like:

“Born from the Love of Terrain”

“Ride for the Same Love”

Grade x Union wants to bring “together athletes of all sports, all terrains, under one union”.

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Not just wanting to be another lifestyle brand on the market, James’ main focus is to form a union. “The creation of the union was forged by a love of terrain, as mentioned earlier. Within our various sports we tackle all sorts of terrain and different grades of it. Hence the ‘Grade x Union’. Mountain bikers shoot down their mountains and road cyclists go up them. Climbers scale their rocks. Skateboarders trick their stair sets. BMXers carve their bowls and skiers and snowboarders flow with an abundance of style down anything. The idea behind the brand was to bring people together through them all having the same love for enjoying their sport. Them taking on all terrain and loving it all the same.”

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While Grade x Union’s products will hopefully represent this, they’re also taking things that little bit further by working with the Fair Wear Foundation. “Fair Wear Foundation work hard to improve the conditions for those working in garment factories across Asia, Europe and Africa. They ensure that wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet at least the legal or industry minimum standards. They make sure working hours are fair with safe and hygienic working environments. Most importantly, they make sure there is no child labour.”

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You might be thinking when will we start to see Grade x Union products on the trails or slopes? “We’re still finalising a few things. We want to make sure we take our time and come out with a bang and not look half done! So with that in mind, expect to see Grade x Union in early 2019! It’s safe to say we’re excited!”

Cake Power vs Steam Power

Cycling in the winter requires a huge amount of motivation! With winter upon us, finding that motivation is hard! After hanging up the best bike until next year, putting all of the summer kit away and pulling out the winter kit you get really sad that you can’t top up your epic tan lines (or show them off) for a few months. 

When it’s cold, rainy and windy all you want to do is curl up by the fire, but you have a little voice in the back of your mind reminding you that if you don’t keep riding all your hard work through the summer will go to waste. There’s the turbo option, but realistically where’s the fun in that? Besides, how many times have we promised ourselves we’d do a session on the turbo then never do!

Cycling in the winter doesn’t have to be a chore, find a buddy and just ride! You’ll soon forget how cold you are.

A few weeks ago even the thought of going for a ride in the winter months was laughable! “Do I want to go out and get really cold or do I want to sit in bed watching YouTube?” For me, riding the same roads as I would do in the summer in the winter is dull! However, since getting to know Lucy all I’ve wanted to do is ride my bike! 

This was the third time I’ve been on a ride with Lucy and it might just have been my favourite one. With two GCSE Maths exams last week for me and another busy week for Lucy, a ride was much needed to clear our heads for the following week. 

We left Alf’s at 10 then chatted about anything and everything(with the mudguards making as much noise as us!) on beautiful country lanes with the misty views even more beautiful, until we reached Old Ma’s Coffee Shop.

Even though it’s mid November, it’s unusually warm, so we made the most of it and sat outside. We both had a lovely warm drink and a big piece of cake to fuel us for the way home.

A while later, we left Old Ma’s and realised we had both come down with a bad case of ‘Post Café Legs’.

After shaking the café legs off it was more relaxed pedalling along the country lanes in the winter sun until we got back to Alf’s with just over 30 miles under our belts… I mean bibs.

Lucy is going to be putting on Breeze Rides for girls aged 16-20. Come along and meet new people to ride with. You’ll have a great time!

Read about it here Breeze rides I’ve been on here:

Breeze Poppy Ride

Breeze Ride to Hill Climb in 7 Days