The January Slump

At the start of ‘off-season’ I was raring to go after not really accomplishing much on the bike last year. After the London Marathon, everything else seemed a little mediocre. It didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of London. Come off-season I was ready to wipe the slate clean and give 2020 a good go. Now with a Wattbike Atom to train on I really have no excuse, but with a Winter plagued by every bug under the sun that perfect off-season hasn’t really gone to plan. Neither has the blog writing…


Here I am writing again, so that’s got to be a good sign right?

I thought I’d kick things off with a bit of a motivation themed post, as I can imagine I’m not the only one struggling with those New Year’s Resolutions. So I’ve been trawling through the depths of Youtube to find some inspiring videos to get you (and me) back into the swing of things.

  1. Making It Work: The Lizzie Deignan Story

Years spent at the top of the sport on the track and on the road, this video shows Lizzie’s return to the sport after having her gorgeous little daughter, Orla.


2. WHAT IT TAKES: One of the boys

Annemiek van Vleuten is a force to be reckoned with to say the least. After a big crash during the Olympic Road Race in 2016 it was questionable whether she would be able to return to the sport. With lumbar spinal fractures (yes multiple fractures) she was back on the podium a month later taking 1st on a stage in the Lotto Belgium Women’s Tour. In this video she joins the boys of Mitchelton Scott on their training camp.


3. Rising: No Train No Gain w/ Kate Courtney

A bit of gym inspiration off XC rider Kate Courtney, who is another Scott rider. This video follows her at a gym session at Red Bull HQ.


4. Lucy Charles – Road to Kona

Regularly popping up on my Instagram, Lucy Charles-Barclay is one of the biggest names in Ironman. Her laid back persona doesn’t stop her putting her all into training and racing. This video follows her quest to get on the top step at Ironman’s biggest race in Kona, Hawaii.

5. Beyond the Bike – Casey Brown

Now this video is from the archives way back when I was racing downhill. This was a video I watched multiple times the Saturday night before a race. It would be this or mountain bike film ‘Life Cycles‘. This video is a bit different from the ones above, but it’s definitely one to watch to give you a nudge to follow your dreams.


So I hope you’ll be leaving  this blog post with the fire in your belly again. I’ve lost it a little this off-season. I’ve even questioned if I want to race anymore, but looking through Youtube’s many pages has helped me get that focus back.

Falling off the wagon is ok, it’s just if you’re going to stay on the ground or brush yourself off and get back on. Even if you fall off again, it’s just important you get back on.

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!

Major Milestones for 2018

I often get to this time of year and feel a bit deflated thinking I haven’t done a great deal throughout the year. So I’ve made myself sit down and write this blog post to summarise all of things I’ve done that I may have forgotten about!

The first exciting trip for Lucy’s Life and Bikes in 2018 was a trip to British Cycling HQ. We got to hear about British Cycling’s plans for the year and watch the National Track Champs. Nothing major really happened but it was a good way to kick off the year. It was quite odd meeting other cycling bloggers really with how rare we seem to be!

View this post on Instagram

Gosh…it’s been a #busy week! Rushing to get an assignment done so I could really chill out in #Manchester this #weekend . Cramming in the #gym to get myself back into a #training regime and have a day at British Cycling yesterday! _____________________________________ Watching the National Track Champs yesterday was mental. The tension of who’s going to cross the line first is intense 🙉 If you see local track races popping up near you, I definitely recommend you go and watch. The #power the #athletes produce is mind-boggling 🙈 _____________________________________ #cycling #BritishCycling #TrackChamps #ukcyclechat #ukblogger #activelife #ootd #anotheroutfitpost

A post shared by Lucy | Cycling Blogger (@lucyslifeandbikes) on

One memory I do want to take away from 2018 is when me and Ryan pulled a route map out of a magazine and walked up Cadair Berwyn. The walk wasn’t exactly up a mountain, but we still took in some amazing views that day. I think Ryan just wanted to get me out of the house really with #GirlsAtLlandegla coming up the following weekend!


So then came #GirlsAtLlandegla. I’m not as mountain bike focussed as I use to be, but I still love heading to the forest on my bike every now and then. I’m not exactly sure where the idea for #GirlsAtLlandegla came from, but all of a sudden Manon Carpenter was coming up from South Wales to attend the event. Due to snow, the brave 30 girls who attended the event got to follow Manon around the trails. Still to this day I think about all of the girls who rode that day and were completely amazing. As were One Planet Adventure, Llandegla who made sure the girls could quickly warm up when they got back! We also ended up raising nearly £300 for Help for Heroes!



It didn’t take me too long to defrost after #GirlsAtLlandegla, but the thought of getting to the beach in Majorca the following week got me round those snow-covered trails! My first cycling holiday, I had the best time cycling roads that dreams were made of. The climbs went on forever, but the views took your mind off the pain in your legs. Despite only being out there for a few days, quite a few blog posts came out of it!

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

One of my big goals for 2018 was to race more on my Liv, so post-Majorca a lot of my time was spent ‘attempting’ to train. Paired with wanting to gain more confidence with open-water swimming, I was either on my road bike or in a lake! I also had to chuck some running in there after going back to Oulton Park at the end of April for their Spring Duathlon.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

When we started to enter the road racing season, that’s when I ended up making an appearance in Cycling Weekly for a ‘Training Makeover’. They looked at my training and gave me some pointers on how to tackle it during the Summer.

Unfinished Business

The closer we got to the Summer, the more my confidence with open-water swimming came, meaning I wanted to tackle the unfinished business I had in the lake at the top of Cadair Idris. I don’t know why I felt I needed to return to the lake and actually swim in it, but I went back and somehow managed it. It may have taken me a while, but I got there. This was quite a major milestone for me, because, anyone who knows me will know the mental battles I’m sometimes up against. Getting to the point I’m at now has been a long road, back to before Chirk Triathlon even. Some might say I should have gone to the Doctors, but when their only response was to put me on medication, I knew it was getting out of my comfort zone that was going to help me. I’d often feel anxious sitting in a classroom, but now I’ll talk to anyone. I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘cured’, but it certainly doesn’t seem to control me anymore. Unfinished Business was the biggest blog post for me this year. Letting my mind stop me from doing something as simple as swim in a lake had been a weight on my shoulders I had finally lifted. For 2019 I’m hoping I can find some sort of open-water swimming event to enter.

After Cadair I had a busy few weekends getting to concerts. Thankfully Stereophonics was local, but I also travelled to Manchester to see Taylor Swift with Georgia. Taylor Swift was something that was completely spontaneous and booked last minute, so maybe the getting out of my comfort zone was starting to pay off!

After some sad news about someone I use to race Downhill MTB with, I soon found myself booking an uplift day at Revolution Bike Park with my brother. It was funny going on a road trip with my downhill bike again, especially with my brother. He took me to a few of my races, mostly thanks to my bike fitting into his car a lot easier than anyone else’s! It would normally mean a trip to Chirk McDonald’s after college on a Friday with a packed car heading to the Ludlow area for a Pearce DH race. The good old days that I miss massively and all the people I use to ride with too. I wasn’t as quick as I used to be, but I don’t think I ever will be…

Mountain biking aside, I was soon back on my road bike leading the Women’s Tour out of Dolgellau as a Breeze Champion. Ryan even gave me a taste of how much pain the pro’s would have been in after taking me up the Bwlch Y Groes…

View this post on Instagram

The aftermath of the Bwlch Y Groes 😰 •••• Head to my Instastory to hear what I thought after I got my breath back 😂 •••• I’ve never ridden a climb like it…I can’t compare it to anything 🙈 Sa Calobra was longer, but the Bwlch Y Groes felt so much harder 😂 My chest hurts from breathing so hard 😂 Ryan shows me some pretty epic places 🙈 •••• This is my entry for @hayleyjanewarnes competition to win a spot on the #OakleyCyclingTour 😍 •••• #womencycling #LivCyclingUK #ukcyclechat #100climbs #roadielife #digdeep #wildernessculture #adventurevisuals #goexplore #outdooradventures #outdooradventurephotos #SheAdventures #fromwhereiride #outdoorbloggers #ukblogger #ASSOSofSwitzerland #HaveAGoodRide #shareyourkask #RideLife #RideGiant #lovecycling #ridelikeagirl #roadslikethese #bikeridewithaview #knackered #jellylegs

A post shared by Lucy | Cycling Blogger (@lucyslifeandbikes) on

Following that soon came the time I started road/crit racing. There were some rookie errors (like the major one of miscalculating how many laps we’d done) but then there were some bonkers moves I made by accident that completely changed the race. I never placed very well in the races, but I just loved the buzz of being in the action for once rather than just ‘getting round’. I’d finally got an adrenaline buzz from road racing…ha!

Getting such a buzz from racing again soon saw me organising a day of racing at Marsh Tracks in Rhyl, which I somehow even managed to interview Coryn Rivera as a result of organising it too. Whilst I didn’t get the entries I’d hoped for, I still won’t forget that day of racing seeing so many under 12 riders racing round Marsh Tracks. Stay tuned whilst I finalise the date(s!!!) for 2019. I’m not going to lie, the event was a massive learning curve, so I’m hoping I can fine tune it slightly for 2019.


I sort of wound everything down after Marsh Tracks. I’d put so much time into the event like making the trophies and understanding the logistics of it all, I didn’t really have much energy left for racing! I started running Breeze rides instead, which is how I met Lucy…who happens to have the exact same Liv Envie as me…ha! From our first Breeze rides, 7 days later I had managed to persuade Lucy to do the local hillclimb up the Horseshoe Pass! She did an amazing job and I can’t wait to organise more Breeze rides for 2019.


To finish off the year I found myself skiing in France with my brother. I’d done my normal thing of being hesitant to book it. So my brother took the deciding out of my hands and booked it for me. It was pretty much a week of eat, sleep, ski, repeat so I was knackered by the end of it!

So looking back, 2018 has been pretty jam packed! I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me this year with events. They couldn’t have happened without you! I really do appreciate it!

What would you like to see from Lucy’s Life and Bikes in 2019? I’d love to hear, so don’t hesitate to drop me a message!

Getting to know Grade x Union

Cover Image

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.


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.


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?


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.


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”.


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.”


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.”


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!”

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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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…


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!

Trail Running and Labradors

I was suppose to be meeting Ffion at Llandegla, but after waking up with a sore upper body after going a little too hard in the gym, for some reason I thought I’d go running at Llandegla instead. I don’t get to see/walk Jenson much these days, so I brought him along too.

We parked up in Llandegla and went to see where the running trails started. It felt weird seeing the #GirlsAtLlandegla posters up! I can’t wait to see everyone riding the trails!

I eventually found the start of the running trails and could let Jenson off the lead. His tail was up and wagging. He loves it in the forest and I’m pretty sure it’s because of all the muddy puddles.

I’ve not been running for a while and it felt good to do it again really. It’s just simple. Chuck your running trainers in the car (possibly a dog too if there’s one available) and find a forest to go and run around.

I desperately wanted to go and ride my mountain bike, but the downpours forecast on the weather didn’t fill me with confidence.

There’s two 10km running trails at Llandegla, the red or the blue. As much as I’d like to think I could get round the red, the vertical inclines up a boggy bank that the red entailed meant I’d leave it for another day. The blue was enough really. There were plenty of hills for me and Jenson to get up to get my glutes burning…and that they did!

I’m not going to be the ‘hero’ and say I ran all the way round. I had to have a few breaks and I couldn’t not take a few photos right?

When the running trails went away from the mountain bike ones, the forest was so quiet. Seeing all of the mountain bikers ride past with mud splattered faces, part of me did feel a little jealous. But I couldn’t have brought Jenson if I was mountain biking.

On one part where the running trail runs near the start of the long climb on the red MTB trail, I just assumed Jenson had followed a scent into the bushes.

“Oh hello”

He decided to go and say hello to the mountain bikers…

Thankfully they were happy mountain bikers and didn’t bother too much! Ha!

Once Jenson and I had got back to the car park and had past the 10km finish post I just wandered back to the car.

Only the have a young shredder racing through the car park with his Dad and the BIGGEST grin on his muddy face. You could tell he had love every second of being out on his bike.

Next thing his Dad is saying close to their van…


And they skid round the corner to their van in sync. The young lad must have been about 5 years old. 5 years old and he was skidding in sync with his Dad.

That is what cycling is about…having the BIGGEST grin on your face.

I mentioned about the posters for Girls At Llandegla and I thought I’d post the links again here in case you’ve lost them! So…

Click here for the blog post!

Click here to book on!

Girls, Gossip and Bikes

When you’re a child you always want to be older, but as an adult you’ll often want to be a child again. Keeping in contact with friends was so much simpler back then, but as an adult there’s always something on the to-do list.

With some time off over Christmas I’ve thankfully been able to catch up with friends I’ve not seen for so long! Including Ffion who I’ve been up to Llandegla with today. With both of us having assignments to be handed in, catching up with each other hasn’t been that easy. Yet today both of us has some time to go and ride round Llandegla. We could have maybe gone somewhere a bit different as I ride there so much, but my confidence on the bike lately isn’t great!

Parking up at Llandegla I’d made sure to wrap up warm, although with the 10 degrees temperatures it turned out I didn’t need to. We pedalled our way to the top with conversation in full flow.

Going round the two berms right at the top of the forest we knew we’d both want to stop to take some photos of the view. With even more logging taking place at the top of the forest, it made way for being able to see fog sitting at the bottom of the valley. With all the times I’ve been to Llandegla, I’ve never seen anything similar happen.

With the start of the black closed off we followed the red round, whilst I was forever in the wrong gear. I’ve somehow still not got use to having two chain rings as opposed to 3, or I’m just more familiar with road bike gearing these days…

The forest was rather quiet, so we didn’t see too many people out on the trails, which helped make it a really relaxed ride. We stopped a few times, then quickly started pedalling again after realising we’d been chatting for 20 minutes.

Rolling back down to the trail centre I washed my bike down whilst Ffion tried out the Freeride. I don’t think me or my bike would have coped with that…ha! However, thanks to a revamped section at the top of the red I did actually manage to get my bike off the ground…I think!

With a piece of doorstop toast & cheese on top and an americano (although I was torn between the toast or a cake!), we both refuelled before heading home. I also had a quick chat with the guys at Llandegla about next year’s event ‘Girls at Llandegla‘, which I’m super excited about now! It’s registered with Help For Heroes now, I just need to make a few adjustments to the poster and I can fully get to work on organising it after everyone’s had a great Christmas & New Year.

Maybe you know someone with a New Year’s Resolution of trying a new sport or exercising more…why not bring them to ‘Girls At Llandegla’?

Review: Juliana Strega

It was certainly odd jumping onto the Strega. You know the familiarity you get from jumping onto your own bike – how it will respond and where to put your weight. Despite having never ridden the Strega before, or any Juliana bike for that matter, I felt comfortable and confident on it.

The Rockshox Lyrik fork & Super Deluxe shock were set up for my weight, so it felt good to not be battling with a coil over various terrain. Air suspension is definitely one of my favourite developments in mountain bikes as I’ve never been able to put the weight behind coil suspension and use it to it fullest.

The SRAM Eagle drivetrain was something to get use to. I’m so use to being able to change up and down the cassette quickly, that I needed to remember I only had a single chain ring on the front and a big cassette to go through on the rear. The Eagle did however help get up the long climb Lundy took us up on our demo ride. 

The Rockshox Reverb dropper post was another thing to get use to, since I’ve not got one on my own mountain bike. I’d be going down descents with the seat still up, but the bike was still easy to handle. Granted, it was much easier to handle when the seat was down. There was enough space to move my weight around and the geometry only made this easier. It made the bike playful and this will have helped with its confidence boosting handling of the terrain. I did find the bike hard to get back onto on that long climb though if the seat was still up! (Short leg problems…)

After having a few dramas with SRAM brakes in the past (being a nightmare to maintain) I wasn’t sure how I would get on with them. I’ll admit, since changing to Shimano XT’s on my downhill bike I’ve been able to one finger brake. With my old Avid’s I couldn’t, and with the SRAM Code brakes on the Juliana I had the same issue. I just don’t seem to get on with the big levers on the SRAM brakes. Saying that, they were extremely powerful brakes. It was just the levers I couldn’t get on with.

As I said in my previous blog post, part of the ride was on terrain that was almost like a patchwork of slippy and grippy conditions. If by chance the bike was close to sliding out, it would soon bounce back onto the line you had chosen. It put the same smile on my face as my downhill bike does. The only difference was, this was a bike that would feel comfortable in a bike park as much as on a trail. With a bike this light, either was possible. 

I just wanted to keep riding it. 

The Strega just felt right. I’ve never previously got onto a bike that just seems to fit straight away. Even the handlebar width was spot on. The Strega I rode was at 770mm. I’ve always had to mess around with my bikes to get them to fit. I did a lot one Winter to my downhill bike to set it up right. I don’t think I’d need to change anything on the Strega.

Juliana Demo Day with Alf Jones Cycles

I’ve rarely heard of women-only demo days, but this is the approach Alf Jones Cycles have taken to allow their customers to try the vibrant Juliana range. With the new Strega on the list of bikes to demo, it was going to be one of the first chances to try out their 170mm travel bike. Yoga, food and coaching was also on the cards so it was definitely going to be a jam-packed day.

With the day based at One Giant Leap Llangollen, all of the bikes were racked at the top of the finish field on what was a gloomy start to the day. All of the women got set up with the bike they wished to demo and the day kicked off with some coaching off Ally from Campbell Coaching. 

I was lucky enough to get one of two small Strega’s, which was launched recently. However, having spent a lot more time on the road bike than mountain bike, I was unsure how I’d get on through the day. I was definitely happy to not be riding my hardtail with everyone on full suspension bikes. 

The Strega however became a real confidence booster. 

At half ten we made our way over to the skills area, which is hidden away in the woods at One Giant Leap, Llangollen. Ally started from the bottom up by making sure everyone’s feet were level when descending on trail with a slight gradient. She highlighted where to put your weight in different situations as well as going off small drops with ease. Her main focus was ensuring everyone was in control of the bike they were riding and not the bike being in control of them. 

Everyone was making their way down the trail multiple times to try and get better each time, so much so we were nearly late for the uplift. 

Now hands up who is the worst for faffing? I most certainly am guilty for that and that there was plenty going on before our ride out on the Juliana’s. I had to pick up a bag as I didn’t put a bottle cage onto the Juliana. Making sure I had enough bug spray on. Checking a million times my bag was shut. Ha!

The ride I’m talking about is a guided route from Andy Lund alongside Ally Campbell on the bridelways near the Llangollen downhill tracks. I couldn’t tell you exactly where we went, purely due to the fact of me not knowing, but I can tell you there were some descents that came as a surprise. You would turn off country lanes and all of a sudden find yourself on crazy descents that you could possibly find at Revolution Bike Park (just slightly less gnarly). I just seemed to get on with it on board the Strega. No second guessing something. I focussed on a line and the Strega stuck to it. Every time I thought it was going to spin out, the Strega would bounce back straight to keep me on my line. 

The Strega was a confidence booster and made it feel like I’d been regularly riding mountain bikes for weeks, which I’d definitely not been doing.

The route popped out into various villages, even on part of the Chirk Triathlon route, then swerve off onto dirt tracks that would soon become almost singletrack. Small rock slabs turning the trail into a patchwork of slippy and grippy conditions. You had to play poker in terms of where you put your tyres. 

Then there was a rather large climb.

And I mean large.

The Strega had been getting up previous climbs fine, especially as I had the use of a dropper post. A dropper post I kept forgetting to drop mind thanks to not having one on my mountain bike. It’s just something I’ve never had to think about! I still managed to get down the odd descent ok with the seat still up. 

The long climb was like a rain damaged fire road up onto some moors, with baby pheasants running round everywhere. I never really thought there was a difference between mountain bike fitness and road bike fitness. There’s definitely a difference. So the rather long climb and my struggles to conquer it were more down to my lack of mountain bike fitness.

So I survived and managed to get to the top of the hill. Lundy informed me the Strega is more of a bike you have to just power up to the top on. Short climbs it still felt incredibly efficient, but I was struggling up that extremely long climb! I suppose using it to go up familiar climbs, I would maybe see the difference.  

Thankfully the long climb made way for a long descent. I got arm pump on the descent, but I didn’t feel like I was battling with the bike at all. The benefits of air suspension I guess! And a carbon bike. And an up to date bike…ha!

We made our way back to the finish field of the downhill tracks with stomach’s rumbling due to it being past 3 o’clock, so food was first on the cards before anything else. Very good food at that. No BBQ in site, but lots of pasta and wraps containing food all colours of the rainbow. I ate way too much, but I was just so hungry!

There was a chance to go up the hill on the uplift, but I was way to tired to try out the Strega on the downhill tracks. Some of the girls tried the final drops, but I knew I needed to stop riding. 

There was still yoga off Bodhi Movements to finish off the day. Doing which, I realised I needed to do yoga more often.

Thankfully the day turned from a gloomy start to a sunny Sunday evening where yoga on mats in a field just felt good to do. 

I was so tired at the end of the day, but had finally got the chance to see what the Juliana hype was all about. Thank you to everyone who was helping out on the day! I’d recommend any future demo days by Alf Jones Cycles in the future!

Why not drop them a vote in the Cycling Weekly ‘Britain’s Best Bike Shop‘ poll?