At the end of last year I moved over the mountain to Caerphilly and I’ve been feeling a little torn about what to do with my blog since then. After leaving Cyclopaedia at the start of 2017, I went back into education to pursue my dream of becoming a Dietitian. This meant that I have had to rely on a vehicle a lot more, and as a result, my cycling habits have changed pretty dramatically. I’m unashamed to say that since living so close to the amazing natural trails in Caerphilly with a mountain biker, I’ve totally become one, knee pads and all. In blasting about in my van with muddy bikes in tow, I felt a little like I had betrayed the ethos of Cardiff Cyclist…
So, I’m writing today because I have recently been offered one of 30 places on the Dietetics degree at Cardiff Met (woo!) and I’ll be returning to Cyclopaedia for the summer before uni starts. My van currently costs me about £200 per month to run (mostly in insurance), it does nothing for my health and it’s bad for the environment – so I think I have decided to go car-free again. I’m going to sell my van and ride my bike everywhere. 16 miles every day for uni, 10 miles per day for work at the bike shop and I’d like to maintain 3-4 mountain bike rides per week too… oh.. and cyclocross! I’d like to manage to get out of the Novice Women category and race cyclocross.
(Racing novice women last year in Pembrey)
I feel really good about my decision because I finally have a reason to come back to blogging (which I love), but I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous of taking the plunge. I’d be really grateful for any tips/advice about commuting between Caerphilly and Cardiff, or for just being car-free in general. What are the best lights? Best waterproofs?
Naturally, the focus of my blog is going to change. I used to write about the accessibility of cycling in Cardiff and I’d try to stay on top of all the cycle stuff going on in the area. I think Cardiff Cycle City and Cardiff by Bike have that covered so brilliantly already that I’m going to write a little more about a car-free lifestyle, I’m going to talk about dietetics, nutrition and health and probably a bit about mountain biking, cyclocross and how I train. 🙂 Maybe I’ll become The Cycling Dietitian (if I pass my exams…)
I hope you can still enjoy Cardiff Cyclist.. I’m really happy to be back.
Have I ever been so excited to hear a parcel land by the back door, expertly thrown into the garden by our postman? No Sir I have not, and I’ll tell you for why. I have been wild camping for a while now using a Coleman Hoolie tent, and whilst it is a fantastic two-man, (or rather; one man, one woman and a springer spaniel), by in large, tents are relatively heavy, take a while to put up and use up vastly more space in a rucksack/pannier bag than a more minimalist camping setup for adventuring.
The ALPKIT Hunka is my first foray in to this world of badass minimalist camping and I am SO stoked to try it out this weekend on our backpacking trip in the Black Mountains.
(don’t mind my axe, will be writing about that soon…)
I was undecided between the Hunka and larger XL model. I’m 5ft 5in tall and not that wide, but I do want to take my North Ridge Alpine Lite insulating mat inside with me.
I had a little bedroom floor shakedown of my sleeping kit this afternoon, and it all fit rather nicely in the regular size Hunka despite the fact that most people told me to get the bigger one, I am really glad I didn’t.
Granted, I am currently using a one-season Berghaus sleeping bag, but it doesn’t feel so cramped for me that I couldn’t fit my winter bag too.
I’ll follow this post up with a review of the actual bivvy experience after this weekend.
I’m pretty excited about this because I am the queen of cramming junk food into my beak post-ride, and if the packet of hobnobs is open – I WILL eat them all.
So here’s my Nutri Bullet recipe for chocolate recovery ‘ice-cream’
I use cold-pressed raw hemp protein so this recipe is vegan, vegetarian & gluten free. Your own protein choice might differ.
2 Frozen Bananas
1tbsp Cocoa (no added sugar or sweeteners)
Raw Cold Pressed Hemp Protein Powder 1 x 30g Scoop
Chop your bananas into chunks, microwaving for a few seconds can soften them enough to get a knife through.
Pop them in the nutri bullet cup with your protein & cocoa, add the liquid, place the cap on and give it a really good shake.
*it is best to start with less almond milk and add as much as you like for consistency.
Blend/Pulse until no banana lumps are left.
TA-DA! Really, that’s it. It takes about 5 mins and keeps me feeling full after my ride.
I bought my 2017 Giant Anthem 1 from Cyclopaedia in Cardiff and have gone from nervous newbie to can’t-get-enough mountain biker in only a few months.
Giant / Liv have taken a massive leap forward with women’s cycling over the last few years and the 2017 range saw an even more refined collection of women specific bikes. Interestingly the women’s MTB range was far more comprehensive than anything I’d seen from the other major players.
After much deliberation I decided to go with the Men’s/Unisex Anthem. I wanted an XT spec on an aluminium frame and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it in the showroom.
The Bike Fitting I can’t emphasise how important a bike fitting session is when buying a new bike. I’m smallish at 5ft 5″ and find that I can’t just hop on any bike and ride comfortably. If it isn’t set up professionally, its awful.
I booked in with Ian at Cyclopaedia to find out what would work best for me. He had fit me to my road/cyclocross bike last year and completely transformed my riding and comfort.
The Anthem looked great, I’d go for a small and swap the mens saddle out for a Women’s Fizik Vesta. We’d shorten the stem, go for some narrower bars and do a full cleat setup. The Geometry
Strictly speaking, the anthem is more towards the cross country race end of the full-sus MTB spectrum, but I haven’t got it set up to be racy.
I wanted a bike that would encourage skills development, but that would compensate for my lack of experience and give me some margin for error. This was the main deciding factor in going full-sus over hardtail. The anthem was slightly slacker in the head angle than its Liv counterpart which has helped me tremendously in my struggle to keep weight back over jumps and pumping dips. It’s slightly longer but my riser bar makes the difference pretty neutral. Geometry wise, I think I’d be just as happy riding the Liv.
Slick shifting, plush suspension, dropper post and the 46t sprocket!
The Deore XT 1×11 drivetrain is truly delicious. The chain-line is remarkable, braking is on point (and slightly sharper than I’m used to), and the shift is slick. Considering the last mountain bike I rode was a top spec XTR equipped carbon hardtail, I was afraid anything else would feel sluggish.. I was wrong.
The 46t sprocket has been a godsend. I usually ride with ‘the boys’ who are all much fitter and faster than me. The 46T allows me to keep spinning and eventually catch up, even when I’m at my absolute limit. I also like to click into the 46t for a little rest and recovery before a big climb without having to stop for a breather. As my fitness has improved over the last few months I spend more and more time in the 37t which is a great confidence booster.
The carbon wheels take a huge chunk off the overall weight. The fork and hub spacing are BOOST which means stiffer and stronger wheels. ( I was a little concerned that I would be limited for future upgrades with Boost, but the industry is moving forward with it and there’s loads available so fear not. )
The dropper, or “uppy-downy seatpost” as many call it, is Giant’s own. Whilst it isn’t the best on the market, it is definitely good enough for me.
The Ride I am by no means an expert in ride analysis. I still spend a lot of my time hanging on for dear life.
Compared to other bikes I have ridden, when I’m riding something sketchy, the Anthem 1 seems to know what it is doing. It is super stable, nippy and responsive on the descents and the maestro suspension brings a lot to the party when tackling long, arduous climbs.
(carbon rocker / trunnion mount Shock)
Honestly, for the first few weeks I struggled with the whole mountain bike thing. I’d never really got to know one properly. I’ve had a few silly crashes and realised that a lot of this MTB stuff isn’t the bike, its me. The chaps at Cyclopaedia recommended laying off the brakes, looking for my exit when cornering, lowering the heels to keep weight back and dropping the outside foot to dig into corners. The best thing about my local bike shop is that they really care about this stuff. I’ve had a comprehensive bike fit, a fantastic bike and some incredibly beneficial advice and you’ll never get quality of service online.
The first event I took my Giant Anthem to ride was CX/MTB; a mountain bike marathon event organised fantastically by ACycling. A 24/52km off-road event with great feed stations and lots of nice people. It was photographed by Anthony Pease, a kickass adventure/sports/cycling photographer. Follow his blog HERE , it’s totally inspiring! / Find him on Twitter HERE
I’ve found the GMBN videos on Youtube really helpful for quick riding tips. Finding likeminded MTB rides through the MTB Divas Facebook group added a whole new element of fun to my riding.
Here I am enjoying my 2017 Giant Anthem 1 in-between the Wenallt and Rhiwbina Hill in Cardiff.
Wheel Women are a local cycling community in Cardiff. Headed up by the very inspiring Lusi Lawler (@LusiLooo), The Wheel Women are not only the go-to for entirely inclusive, supportive and friendly, women’s only rides in Cardiff, but the long awaited answer to something so greatly needed in the area.
A part of the British Cycling Breeze Network , the Wheel Women rides are free and available to book online via the Breeze website where you can ask questions, message the ride leaders and see who else you’ll be riding with.
I had the pleasure of joining a Wheel Women ride on Sunday morning.
We met at The Bike Shed (@BikeShedTon) in Tongwynlais and headed out towards Pontypridd on the Taff Trail.
From the off, there was a really lovely atmosphere, chatter and lots of smiley faces. We rode at a nice steady pace and the group stayed together throughout the ride. Nobody gets left behind or forgotten about.
Each ride is categorised based on difficulty which encompasses route, terrain, elevation and speed. This Sunday was an easygoing 16 mile ride and was mostly flat, completely off-road on a cycle path, and averaged about 11 or 12 kilometres per hour (7.5mph).
The rides usually include a stop around half-way, but this one concluded with a cuppa and cake at Plan 2 Ride cycle cafe in Tongwynlais which is a great chance to catch up with friends and make plans in-between the organised ones.
I suppose that is what is so great about this cycling community; the opportunity to connect with other women of similar ability, looking to get out and enjoy the outdoors on two wheels.
Cwmcarn Forest is about forty minutes drive from Cardiff. There’s something for all the family whether you prefer your outdoor experiences on two wheels, on legs, under canvas, or in a chic log hut (read more about that HERE). It’s no surprise however, that with far more experienced MTB boyfriend in tow, we went for the trails.
The trail centre car park is clearly marked from the road and just around the corner from the visitor centre. It’ll cost £3 to park for the day.
You’ll find two red graded trails. Cafall and (the apparently legendary) Twrch. We headed for Cafall, located at the top of the car park and clearly marked.
Cafall heads immediately uphill out of the car park, so if you need a warm up, do that first.
The Cafall climb starts fairly gradually but it’s a fair ascent to the top with some steep little bits.
I’m still pretty new to mountain biking and the trails at Cwmcarn are technical in places. Definitely not for absolute beginners but doable with some bike handling skills and supervision. I still managed to fall off a few times, even got one on the GoPro.
Don’t let that put you off though. The trail is quick on the descents, snappy and fun. Single track, switchbacks, berms and some rocky, rooty drops. If you’re not prepared to fall off, you can’t be having enough fun!
If you’re going for the KOM then you’re probably a lot fitter than me and don’t really need to read this post.
If you’re looking for a fun and fresh air and you’re already decent on a bike, then sit back and relax on the climbs, let go and enjoy the descents and don’t forget to look around at the view.
(Dan on the pump track – Cwmcarn | Wales, UK)
My Bike: 2017 Giant Anthem 1 (Full Suspension) with Fox 34 / 120 front, 110 rear.
Helmet: IXS Trail FS
Shorts: Chapeau Pave / Madison Flo softshell.
Jen reviews the ladies Pave bibs shorts by Chapeau. Tried and tested on the road, for cyclocross, mountain and commute.
It’s no surprise that I love all things gourmet, design-led, quality and functional, even if I do wear the occasional pair of crocs..
For me, Chapeau encompasses all the good stuff not only in their women’s range; but right across the brand. I’ve being dying to take some shorts for a spin.
After a ropey start having to chase the postman down the road for the parcel, I was stoked to recieve a pair of ladies Pave bibs from the lovely people at Chapeau, and I got right on to testing them out.
If there is a kit investment to make, let it be the shorts!
When you’re new to cycling, your bum is going to hurt. Full stop. Try not to judge shorts too harshly in the first few weeks of riding. Once you’re over that initial bit of bruising a good pair of shorts will have you riding much more comfortably for longer. I go for a quality insert, supportive cut and snug fit. I always check that the lycra does not go see-through when stretched and look for cool, breathable and antibacterial fabrics. Leg cuffs should be grippy but not restrict movement.
Now, I’m really keen on real reviews and I can assure you that I’ve been pretty cruel to my Pave bibs. I’ve worn them on the commute, for cyclocross, road and cross country. I have put them through the wash countless times, and had some decent off road crashes and falls.
The pad is pretty much at the centre of a decent pair of shorts and the Pave Bibs have not disappointed. They have enough exactly where its needed but remain slim and trim elsewhere. This adds yet more quality to an already sleek silhouette and completely avoids that low-quality over padded feeling. (Y’know, feels like wearing fifteen pairs of knickers?)
Chapeau entrusted Elastic Interface with the job and the result is a super comfortable and uber-tech insert unlike anything I’ve ridden before. Essentially, small channels of ultra high density foam protect the sit bones and I find this has really helped me on quite lumpy and bumpy, longer cyclocross rides. The pad sits really close so there’s no uncomfortable rubbing.
The cut of the Pave bibs really is spot-on. The fit is true to size and multi panel design guides and supports throughout the pedal stroke. They’re cool and soft next to the skin and no sign of the dreaded lumpy leg look.
The shoulder straps have no itchy, rough or scratchy bits, they sit nice and flat, there’s no boob-squish and again, up there with some of the best I have ridden. Even after a lot of wear and washing, the fabric has not become see-through or faded. (Me in my Pave bibs atop the Garth Mountain Trig Point: nr Pentyrch, South Wales.)
On the whole I’m pleasantly surprised and very impressed. These shorts are still full of life after a relatively traumatic time in my care. I think they may have even taken the number one spot on my all-time favourite kit list, and that isn’t easy! If you’re spending around the £100 point on shorts head here for a set of Pave bibs.
All too often women’s cycling shorts can feel like a bit of an afterthought but I can genuinely vouch that Chapeau are really doing it for the girls. Keep up the good work!
Who’s who in Cardiff Cycling? We’ve put this very quick guide together to give you the heads up on who to follow on twitter, the best bike shops and businesses that support local cycling. * If you want to be in this guide e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why *
Chatting to Gwenda Owen is inspiring to say the least. If there’s one thing we love, it’s community and Gwenda is really hands-on in the Cardiff cycling scene. Follow her twitter feed for fantastic cycling vibes, active travel inspo and a shining example of women getting stuff done!
Great cyclist, fantastic blogger and all-round nice guy Simon Nurse is a great source of inspiration for all cyclists. Whether you’re an active commuter , cyclocross shredder or family cyclist, the CycleStuff blog and twitter feed will keep you up to date and enthused about riding in Cardiff and the surrounding areas. Keep up the good work Simon.
All things local cycling with a delightfully welsh undertone. Beicwrtaf really keeps the cycling twitter community moving with lots of RT’s, comments and tweets. If you love cycling and love Cardiff then this is one to follow.
I could (and sometimes do) go on about this place a bit too much. It is an absolute melting pot of good stuff. They’re bike friendly, cyclist owned and have plenty of events to keep your creative side quenched. The menu is simple and absolutely fantastic. Think local, DIY and uber friendly. Read our full review HERE.
We love coffee. Brewing it, roasting it, pouring it and well.. drinking it. Now, around Cardiff you’ve got a few options for delicious elixirs and we’ll share them with you here…
The Little Man Coffee Co. is everything we love and so much more. Fantastic welsh coffees brewed extremely well, lots of nice people and plenty to get involved with. (They also do a fantastic job of hosting our cycling themed events.) The railings outside the door are a perfect lock-up spot and you’ll probably find yourself another cyclist to chat to in there.
‘What Goes Around‘ was published earlier this year and came through Cardiff Cyclist HQ late last week. Emily is currently touring around the UK to promote and talk about ‘What Goes Around’ as well as making a number of media appearances:
Come along to the Little Man Coffee Co on Friday 29th January @ 7.30pm to pick up your copy of ‘What Goes Around’.