My ill-informed views on Cycling clubs

My opinions on road cycling clubs have been formed by those clubs I have been involved with. That is really not very many clubs at all. I can count them all on the fingers of one hand. I wrote an earlier post about my first experience with a cycling club.

In addition to my very limited first hand experience, I have also chatted to other women about cycle clubs.

So, it is more than likely that my views on cycle clubs are entirely unfounded and unfair. Nevertheless, my experiences with these clubs had a huge impact on me and on my cycling. I thought I’d share my views. Feel free to disagree with me.

I think bike clubs can be quite intimidating, especially for women.

I think women often lack the confidence to try riding in a club. The fear of not being fast enough or skilled enough stops women from giving it a go.

This is not helped when existing club riders don’t always remember to identify and help new riders. If you are new to group riding then the gestures used to communicate in groups can be something of a mystery.

It is also not helped when club riders forget to consider how they come across to others on the road. If a bunch of riders wearing club kit speed past me without as much as a wave, I am unlikely to consider joining them.

I wonder too if women look for something different in a club to men.

Personally, what I want out of a club is that feeling of being a part of something. I’m not too bothered about training hard when I ride with a club. I can do that by myself. I really just want to ride my bike and have a good natter.

I am now a member of a cycling club which I absolutely love. Hervelo Cycling is a womens club. It is split between the ‘skinnies’ (road cyclists) and ‘mudhonies’ (mountain bikers). There are women in the club who race, there are women in the club who ride sportives and audaxes, there are women in the club competing in triathlons.

I do not believe that there is a single woman in the club who would not give a friendly wave to another cyclist.

I do not believe that there has ever been a rider with Hervelo dropped and left behind on a club ride.

I don’t know if this is down to being a womens club or just down to being a small club.

I do know that it is the club I will remain loyal to and whose kit I am proud to wear.

I think great things have happened in womens cycling in the past few years. But there is still a long way to go. We need to encourage more women to get out on a bike at all levels.

I would like to see more women racing, more women using bikes on the school run, more women riding together.

More women gaining all the benefits that cycling can bring. Health, sustainable transport, time outdoors, time in nature, time with like minded others, time with their children, time without their children, time to think, time to not think.

Cycle clubs have a huge roll to play in encouraging more women to get out and ride their bikes.

If you’re not already a member of a club, give it a go. Take a leap of faith and go out with your local club. And if it’s not what you hoped or what you’re looking for, start your own. Make it what you want. That’s what Hervelo came from and in my opinion, Hervelo is a fantastic club.

Good Enough?

This weekend has not been great. In fact it’s been awful. My 4 year old pushed me to breaking point and beyond.

I go through occasional phases of reading parenting books. I take them with a pinch of salt but there is usually something useful in them.

My reading this time took me into the realms of emotional intelligence. I totally agree with the principles. We should talk to our children about emotions. We should acknowledge their feelings and help them to accept them and to act appropriately on them.

So I bought some books to read with the children. ‘The Big Bag of Worries’ and ‘How are you Feeling Today’. Both great books.

The books arrived on Friday and we read them through the day and at bedtime. 4 year old and 2 year old both enjoyed them and kept asking for them.

Go me. Great parenting.

Then we reached bedtime.

4 year old announced that he was scared of his bedroom. He did not know what was scaring him and he did not know what we could do do help him with this. Over the next two hours, he whined, shouted, cried, clung and made no sense whatsoever. I really didn’t think he was scared. He didn’t look scared. He didn’t sound scared. But still he said he was scared.

At the same time, 2 year old sang at the top of her voice while running around her bedroom throwing toys and repeatedly taking her nappy off.

I wish I was a more patient person. I wish I could say that I hung in there and talked 4 year old through his feelings. I wish I could say that I calmly explained to 2 year old that it was bedtime and she must go back to bed until she accepted it.

I did not.

I hung in there and stayed calm for as long as I could. This was nowhere near long enough. It was not really very long at all.

I yelled, I swore. In the end I curled up in a ball on the landing and sobbed for an hour.

Not so great parenting.

It didn’t end there. 4 year old then repeated the “I’m scared” performance every 20 minutes from midnight to 4am. 2 year old got up at 6:30am as usual.

This was followed by a day full of the kind of behaviour you would expect from an exhausted 4 year old with two exhausted parents.

This was followed by the exact same bedtime performance.

Not a good weekend.

I wanted to be there for my children. I wanted to support them through their difficulties. I wanted to understand how they were feeling and how I could help them.

I really wanted to know if this was real or if he was just taking the mickey.

I really really wanted to just get on my bike and ride off into the sunset.

I didn’t achieve any of those things.

It was one of those weekends which reminded me just how hard it is to be a parent and to be human and to be yourself.

I think everyone wishes they were a better person to some degree. Is that insecurity or just being human?

I realise that I am able to accept my limits in most areas of my life.

When I am at work, I am a good teacher. I am not a great teacher because I am not that exceptional. But I will do the best I can for the children in my class because I care about them.

When I time trialled, I was a good time triallist. I won a few races. I was not a great time triallist – I could look at a start list and name the women who would definitely beat me. I will never ride at the olympics. But I enjoyed doing the best that I could; beating my times and occasionally getting placed.

Now I am a parent, I am a good parent. I do my best for my children. But I so often feel that my best isn’t good enough, that I am failing. I say the wrong things. I shout. I am impatient. I worry that I am scarring my children for life. It is just not good enough that I am not a great parent. It is not good enough to be good enough.

In all other aspects of my life, I can accept that I am not perfect but I am doing my very best and that is good enough.

Parenting is hard.


Culinary Challenges

I’m watching ‘How to Lose Weight Well’ while I type.

I have no experience using any of the ‘fad diet’ approaches to losing weight. I don’t think I ever will, for a simple reason:

For an active person I am really quite lazy. Lots of these diets seem like a lot of work. I am just too lazy to work out proportions of protein to carbohydrate or any such nonsense.

Years ago (actually on honeymoon – how romantic) I read Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. His approach makes a lot of sense and is really very simple. This is the essence of it, as I interpreted it (rightly or wrongly):

  • Calories – if you eat more than you use, you will gain weight; if you eat less than you use, you will lose weight.
  • Quality – high quality foods tend to be lower in calories and tend to make you feel fuller. Think fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, little or no processing.

I have always aimed for a healthy diet, which to me means plenty of just such high quality foods.

Sadly, some of the things I really love aren’t really all that high quality. I love red wine. I love chocolate. I love cheese. I love lattes and cake. All entirely acceptable in moderation.

I’m not great at moderation. ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard with’ might as well be my motto. This is possibly one reason why  could really do with losing a bit of weight.

As a mum and cook to a family of four it is not as simple as just deciding to change my diet. I face a number of culinary challenges:

  • I enjoy cooking. But I don’t enjoy it enough to cook more than one evening meal a day – everyone eats the same in my house.
  • I don’t really want to cook an evening meal every day. I like big meals which can be re-heated for a second night.
  • I don’t have a huge amount of spare time so cooking time needs to be planned for.
  • Cooking cannot be too involved. If I can’t pause midway through cooking something to change a nappy / sort out an argument / wipe a bottom / locate an essential toy without the meal being spoiled then it isn’t going to work.
  • I want my children to eat a balanced diet. I also want them to to develop a healthy attitude to food.
  • It really winds me up when I spend time cooking meals which nobody then wants to eat.
  • I love to bake, and love to eat what I bake.

There are also the individual requirements of the various members of my family:


Likes: Most things, fish, chilli, anything in pastry, Christmas cake, chocolate

Dislikes: lamb, raw tomatoes

Special requirements: wants to lose some weight, doesn’t like to eat too much meat


Likes: stir fry, chilli sauce, curries, chicken, Nandos, biscuits

Dislikes: fish,

Special requirements: meals which can be reheated without spoiling when he gets in from work.

4 Year Old

Likes: a remarkable range of foods for his age

Dislikes: ‘crunchy bits’ (real or imaginary)

Special requirements: No different foods to be mixed together (pasta, broccoli and chicken = good; broccoli and chicken pasta bake = bad) or touching on the plate.

2 Year Old

Likes: milk, pasta, milk, boiled eggs (all traces of yolk removed), milk, cheese on toast, milk, pizza, milk, sausages, milk, ketchup (ideally with nothing else on the plate), milk, milk, milk

Dislikes: everything else. Absolutely everything else

Special requirements: vary from day to day.

Suffice to say that much of my waking time revolves around food. Thinking about food, planning food, shopping for food, making food, sweeping up food.

However, this is a challenge I am determined to rise to. Not least because husband and I are channeling our competitive selves in the hope of losing weight. We have a chart on the wall and weekly weigh-ins planned. And neither of us likes to lose.


Weighty problems

New Year seems like an appropriate time to talk about weight loss.

Weight can be a touchy subject so I had maybe better add a disclaimer. I am writing about my personal experiences with weight gain and loss. I am writing about it because I think about it. I include numbers because I think about the numbers. I think people should decide their own healthy and happy weight.

Disclaimer over.

I’ve never been small. I’ve been a size 14 most of my adult life and I’ve always been fairly content with my size. I’ve always been pretty heavy for my 5ft 5 too, around 11st 7lb. I’ve often thought I could do with losing a few pounds, but I’ve never really dieted as such.

Then I had children.

My first pregnancy I regarded as a license to drink chocolate milk. It was brilliant. Whatever I fancied I could label a craving. Everybody knows pregnancy cravings must be respected. If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever really craved anything when I was pregnant. I just allowed myself to be greedy.

Unsurprisingly, post pregnancy, I found myself shopping for size 16 clothes and weighing in at 14st.

I was no longer content with my size.

The trouble was that there was no way to lose the weight just by exercise. I had a new baby and was trying to breast feed. I couldn’t find the time to exercise.

So exercise took on a new meaning. I walked. I walked and I walked. I walked in the sunshine, I walked in the rain and I walked in the snow. The great thing about small babies is that they love to sleep and they love to look at stuff. Baby Danny loved his buggy.

I did a bit of running too and started going to the gym a couple of times a week.

I also discovered the My Fitness Pal app. I counted calories and I tracked steps and gradually I lost weight. Danny turned one and I was down two stone.

Hurrah for me.

Then came pregnancy number two. I lost the baby very early and to be honest, my weight was the least of my concerns.

Pregnancy number three had the very happy outcome of baby Ellen. This time I was more careful. I did not drink my own weight in chocolate milk. I accepted that I would gain weight, but I wouldn’t go wild this time.

Ellen was born and I was 14st 8lb.

I felt like I had been cheated out of 9 months of chocolate milk.

Back to my fitness pal. Back to the pedometer.

It was harder to walk everywhere this time as I had a 2 year old as well as a newborn. 2 year olds don’t like to walk for miles, or to sit in buggies for any length of time.

I got into running, I entered a marathon. I did too much too soon and never got to the start line of the marathon.

Ellen turned one and I was still 13 stone.

When I got the cargo bike and started using it five days a week getting Danny to nursery, I finally started to lose the weight. Six months of using the bike for transport and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Hurrah for me.

But here’s the thing. My weight no longer just hovers around 11st 7lb. Instead, it likes to creep its way up to 12 stone. Maybe this is due to having children. Maybe it’s due to reaching my 40s. Maybe it doesn’t matter why.

I don’t want to be skinny but there are some weight related things I do want:

  • I want to go back to being content with my body.
  • I want to set an example to my children of healthy eating and healthy weight.
  • I want to race time trials this year and be as fast as I was before I had children.
  • I want to cook one evening meal which everyone eats.
  • I want to be able to drink wine and eat cake occasionally.

So my challenge for the start of 2017 is to find a way to balance all these wants.

Right now, I’m going to give this some serious thought. While enjoying a slice of Christmas cake.