What Can You Get With £100 At Ikea?

The first step on my Live Lagom journey was an in-store induction where I met Outi and Vale who lead the program in the Southampton branch.

The purpose was to introduce the Lagom concept and set our intentions for the year.

The 2019 cohort was joined by some of the previous participants who shared inspiring stories of the changes they had made and how they were reaping the rewards.

Lagom isn’t just about the changes you make for one year that the Live Lagom ambassador scheme runs for. Lagom is for life and the class of 2018 were proof of this.

Lagomers old and new can also be found on the Live Lagom Facebook group which is always buzzing with conversation and advice.

At the induction, we were invited to talk about our lifestyles and our homes. Everybody already seemed to be doing a great job in their efforts to live more sustainably. However, each one of us could very quickly identify areas in our lives where we could be doing even better.

A quiz revealed that many of us, including myself, could be making savings or reducing waste in ways we hadn’t even considered. One of the biggest surprises for me was how much money we throw away on energy due to inefficient lighting or insufficient insulation.

I had so many ideas for ways to Live Lagom but I needed to focus on one area. Being a keen home-cook, I decided to make the kitchen my target.

I make most of my food from scratch and I love to experiment with dishes from all over the world. This means lots of ingredients. How could I be more organised and minimise waste?

In particular, I have always been frustrated about buying salad leaves and fresh herbs. They always come in non-recyclable bags and I often end up discarding leftovers because there’s only two of us in my household.

I’ve attempted to grow my own but it’s always ended in failure. Could the supposedly ‘fool-proof’ hydroponic kit be the answer?

With my goal in mind, I arranged to meet Outi in-store to spend my £100 Lagom allowance. Here’s what I managed to pick up:

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KRYDDA/VÄXER Grow kit w 8 pots, 1 tier

This contains:

  • An LED cultivation light
  • A Krydda cultivation unit
  • An insert for the cultivation unit
  • A nursery box with lid
  • Growing media plugs to start seedlings
  • Growing media for planting the seedlings as they grow
  • Fertiliser

Everything I need to get started with my farming-in-miniature! The LED light has a special colour spectrum to mimic sunlight – necessary in a country like the UK.

VÄXER Seeds

These are only £1.50 for three packs and you get so many! There are a few options to choose from so I picked one of each. I’m confident they’ll last quite a while – according to the instructions on the packet you only need to plant between one and three each time but you seem to get loads!

KORKEN Jar with lid

I got a few of these to store herbs and spices which I buy in bulk. They have airtight lids so they’re also great for storing home-made sauces and pickles or small quantities of leftovers.

IKEA 365+ Dry food jar with lid

I always have a supply of rice and porridge oats. Like a lot of dry foods, I buy in bulk to save money and waste. Keeping them in clear containers will help me to keep track of how much I have left.

EFTERFRÅGAD Food vacuum flask

I am a big fan of home-cooked packed lunches (I can’t remember when I last bought lunch at work). You know exactly what you’re eating and it costs a lot less. I’ve always had plastic containers which eventually break or hold onto strong colours and flavours. I have two of these on rotation now and I love that they’re totally leak-proof and the metal is easy to get really clean between uses.

IKEA 365+ Food containers with IKEA 365+ Lids

As well as rice and oats, you’ll always find flour and pasta in my kitchen and these larger tubs are perfect for keeping moisture and bugs out. I tend to have several varieties of flour so once the bags are open I stack them all up in one container.

As you can see, £100 was plenty to get started on my Lagom journey. I actually needed a bit of help from Outi to spend it all! I’m confident that my final purchases will help me to meet my sustainability goals in the kitchen.

 

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Living the Lagom life

Lagom (pronounced [²lɑːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”. The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Wikipedea

Lagom is a lovely word. It even feels nice to say, like lagoon. Peaceful. Simple.

Lagom is not a word to describe my lifestyle.

My lifestyle, outside of the 9 to 5, revolves around food, drink and cycling. This involves a lot of stuff. ‘Just the right amount’ is a concept that rarely enters my head as I spot another ‘essential’ bike jersey or add another ‘must-have’ ingredient to my precariously stacked spice shelves.

So, in September last year when I received an email from IKEA inviting applications to join their Lagom community, I was intrigued. Could they help me to clean up my act?

Saving more, wasting less and living healthily can be easy and affordable. And that’s what our Live LAGOM community is all about. Lagom Community invitation

Well, since the program kicked off in November I haven’t managed to kick the cycling kit addiction or streamline my shelves in the kitchen. However, I’m already making changes to bring Lagom into my life in ways that I hadn’t expected.

This year, follow me on my Lagom journey. I’ll be sharing some of the changes I’ve made and hopefully inspiring some of you to bring a little Lagom into your life.

Join the Live Lagom Facebook group for friendly chat and advice

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise.

Kitting up for an adventure

A few months ago I entered a competition on Facebook with Specialized, one of the world’s biggest bike brands, to win a space on their women only Get Out of Town weekend. Specialized have always been a really female-friendly brand in an often male-dominated industry and seem to be doing lots to encourage women to ride in the communities where they have stores. I was thrilled to be randomly selected as one of the winners because it meant that I would be heading out to Somerset to stay with them for a weekend of gravel riding on their new adventure bike, the Specialized Diverge.

Being a bit of a kit obsessive and also scarily organised for a change, I wanted to share with you what I’ll be taking away. There’s going to be two days of riding so it’s also a really good opportunity to test out my new Kitbrix bag which has been sitting in my front room waiting for its first mission.

So, what to take for two days of September weather? I picked out two of my favourite kits in a sensible weight for the cooler temperatures – not super-summer-light and not super-heavy. Morvelo (left) is one of my all-time favourite brands. There’s a reason I own about six pairs of their bibs – they’ve got a pad that’s every bit as comfortable as the Rapha ones, they come in awesome prints and they have the most sensible strap design. Instead of the traditional ‘braces’ a stretchy strap goes up the middle which you can pretty much forget about. Another reason I love Morvelo is that they often make base layers to match their outfits. What they don’t make to match their outfits often enough is socks so dhb steps in and fills the void with a toasty Thermolite pair.

The Rapha outfit (right) is a bit more mis-matched and I debated with myself over whether I want to bring my Brevet jersey out. Now that I’ve decided it’s Brevet weather it’s probably getting worn to death and I’ll end up getting sick of the sight of it again but that’s a mark of just how good it is. With a zippy pocket large enough for a gilet as well as the standard three rear pockets and a front pocket for a brevet card it’s just perfect for those changeable days when you end up carrying all your various layers. I teamed it up with the matching socks and non-matching but ever-so-comfy souplesse bibs (I guess they match the souplesse base-layer at least).

You might notice that I do love a good base layer and there’s two reasons. The first is that they just make your outfit that bit more comfortable in any conditions. A good base layer is soft against your skin and wicks sweat so it keeps you dry and warm. The second reason is that I can unzip my jersey with absolutely zero self-consciousness. Any woman who rides in conventional bib shorts will know that the only (well, if you’re not a pro) way to go to the loo is to take your jersey off. Not being a fan of putting clothing on the floor of public facilities I often remove mine outside and the base-layer lets me retain some dignity. Likewise if I’m riding on a hot day and need to unzip. Base layers just make sense.

You’ll also see that each outfit has a cycling cap and regular Instagram followers might have picked up on a slight obsession. Caps are the best bit of kit ever. They can keep the sun out of your eyes, keep your head warm, keep bugs out of your hair but, most importantly, they’re just cool. You will never have too many caps. There’s simply too many amazing designs just waiting to be discovered.

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How to accessorise? Well, on both days I’ll be wearing my new favourite sports bra from Odlo which is one of those stretchy pull-over ones which I thought would only be good for yoga but which I seem to be wearing for everything. Maybe not great for larger busts but suits me fine! Then, super-important, Grip Grab AquaRepel arm and leg warmers. At this time of year when mornings and evenings are cool but daytime can still be super-warm, don’t decide between shorts and longs. Just wear sleeves and legwarmers you can take off and stash in a pocket as the day heats up. These have the added advantage of being water resistant. I’m also playing safe with mitts and gloves – the Hurricane gloves will keep my hands from seizing up if it’s cold but light enough that I can stash them if I want to switch to the mitts.

The Kitbrix

So all this kit, plus helmet and shoes….will it all fit in the little Kitbrix? I wasn’t convinced, but I’m happy to report that it did with room to spare! The robust little waterproof bag quite happily zips up and I can even get a couple of t-shirts, snacks, pants and socks, small toiletries and PJs in there (I’ll wear the same jeans over the weekend)! The interior zippy compartments mean I don’t need extra bags to organise my stuff and the outside stretchy pockets will take my train tickets, purse and even my lightweight waterproof. Since I’ll be looked after by Specialized, I won’t have the usual tools and spares I would normally take for a cycling adventure but I reckon I could squeeze some in if I wanted to so I’m pretty impressed!

So I’m all set to Get Out of Town on Friday! I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Beavertown Extravaganza

London Printworks. Once Western Europe’s largest print facility which supplied Londoners with the Evening Standard and the Metro. Now a vast events space with six rooms arranged over split levels, the original machinery left in situ. What better place for Beavertown Brewery to host the inaugural Beavertown Extravaganza.  Well, where else in London can you fit over 60 of the world’s greatest brewers, thousands of thirsty beer geeks and a double-decker bus?

For veterans of the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen, the format is familiar; there’s an entry fee of £55 for the session but this covers all your beer, access to all talks and seminars and the souvenir 100ml tasting glass is yours to keep.

As festival venues go, the Printworks rivals the Victoria Baths in Manchester; the original industrial features made it a memorable space and there was even a gallery where visitors could chill out and appreciate a collection of beer art. There was plenty of room to catch some fresh air and a who’s who of London’s finest street-food meant there was no chance of going hungry.

Unlike other festivals which sell tickets for half-day sessions, the Extravagnza was a whole day event which seemed to have the effect of creating a more chilled out atmosphere. Gates opened at 11 on the Saturday and the beautiful weather meant the outdoor food-court was a sociable place to wait for the main festival to open at 1. No beer available but the delicious Pressure Drop Cardamom Orange Porter ice cream from Blu Top was a pretty appropriate pre-beer treat.

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Each brewery had listed between two and eight beers for the seven-hour session and being a bit of a nerd, I’d prioritised and highlighted my favourites the night before but this organisation went out the window when I realised only two would be available at any one time. There was the usual stampede at the start with beer geeks making a bee-line for current favourites; I joined the queue for Omnipollo, always a crowd-pleaser with their soft-serve machine and masters of all manner of pudding-inspired beers. As expected, the hot tip was Trillium who had a queue stretching the entire length of the largest hall and predictably Three Floyds also drew a crowd. However, possibly because it was hard to tell what was going to be on at any time and maybe because the session was so long, the silliness died down as the afternoon went on and there was barely any queue at Trillium when I visited for the immensely flavour-packed Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale.

With so many high ABV, super-rare beers on offer, there was a surprisingly low level of drunken unpleasantness. The seven hour session seemed the perfect length to try as many beers as I wanted at a sociable pace and have time to enjoy a proper lunch of a Louisiana Crawfish roll and Halloumi Fries. Chatting to beery friends from Instagram with an empty glass in hand, I wasn’t in a hurry to dash to the next bar – I think other festivals could learn from this. And the beer itself? A perfect selection across all the styles – I can’t say there was a bad one. Well, apart from the Brewdog Paradox Absinthe Barrel Aged edition but that may also have something to do with memories of too much cheap absinthe in my student years.

A massive thanks to the organisers and especially the volunteers who ran a super-slick operation and stayed smiling throughout. See you next year!

The beers I tried (as I remember…)

Stockholm Brewing Co – Fläder Saison

Lervig – Hazy Days DDH IPA

Wild Beer Co + Side Project Indigo (Rainbow Project Colab)

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego – Karaoke Knight Bourbon BA Trippel

 Buxton x Omnipollo – Blueberry Slab Cake Ice Cream

Basqueland – Imparable Pomelo w/grapefruit

Brekeriet – Purple Rain

Omnipollo x Buxton – Yellow Belly Sundae Bourbon Barrel Aged

Trillium – Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale

Partizan + New Belgium – West Fork Saison with spruce tips and experimental hop 522 (Rainbow Project Colab)

 Burning Sky + Three Floyds Burial Vault (Rainbow Project Colab)

Green Cheek Beer Co – Attack with Love Hazy IPA

Gueuzerie Tilquin – Experimental Fruit Series #1 Cassis Tilquin

Põhjala – Pime öö Islay BA Imperial Stout

Garage Project – Rebel Counry Jameson BA Strong Ale

Cellarmaker – Manhattan Barrel Vastness of Space Cocktail Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Heretic – Peach Tartuffe Berliner Weisse

Heretic – Evil Cousin Double IPA

Alesong – Guava Berlinner Weisse

Brewdog – Single Barrel #1770 Paradox Absinthe

J Wakefield – Boutit Boutit Imperial Stout

The Lost Abbey – Cuvee de Tomme Blended Dark Strong Ale with Sour Cherries

Crooked Stave – Petit Sour Peach

Pizza Port – Party Pat Barrel Aged

 

 

#festive500 2016

I’ve always been a fan of Strava‘s virtual cycling challenges. It’s not just the woven ‘swimming badge’ they sometimes offer as a reward or the kudos from fellow Strava-ists. It’s the sense of being a part of something global and accepting the challenge to ride that bit further or higher or commit to riding on an arbitrary day not knowing what the weather will be or how you’ll be feeling. I’ve taken crazy detours to and from work to top up my distance for the Spring Classics badge and taken the train to London to meet with complete strangers (now friends) to ride the Women’s 100 in the pouring rain on treacherous pothole-ridden roads. Even on the challenges I’ve taken alone, I’ve never been truly alone. One of the beautiful things about this time we live in means we can browse social media using hashtags and connect with fellow cyclists around the world. OK the wind on that #braverthantheelements was truly heartbreaking but damn! Those ladies in Canada on skinny tires in the driving snow! Chapeau!

Ready to go

The Rapha Festive 500 has been on my to-do list for a while but in the nine years since I moved to Southampton, I spent the first eight Christmasses on planes, trains and busses, dashing around family and friends dispersed across York, Newcastle and Glasgow, with my little troupe of bicycles taking a well-earned rest back home. This year however, was a bit different. My partner and I ended up stuck in Southampton over the festive period but we decided to turn a bad situation into a golden opportunity and made the commitment to ride the Festive 500.

The Festive 500 is an annual event taking place over the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. There’s no rules, no organised mass-participation course – all you need to do is get on your bike and ride 500km (just over 310 miles) during that period. Not a big ask in terms of distance but this is the time of year when everyone’s at their busiest and there’s the added risk of storms, floods and ice to contend with for those super-tough cyclists in countries where it’s actually winter. Lucky for us, since we would be visiting family in the New Year instead of over

All smiles on an exceptionally warm Christmas Day!

Christmas, we had little in the way of commitments. Out of the eight days, I would only be working two and although Storm Barbara threatened to blow our chances away it amounted to little more than a bit of wind on the first day.

The first ride filled us with confidence; although the wind was high enough to make some descents feel like an uphill struggle, it was relatively warm for December and we managed to get 129km in the bag straight away. By the end of day four, we had 411km under our belts and we were pretty confident. I had to go to work for two days but we still had December 30th and 31st to get those last 89km. That Festive 500 badge was pretty much a dead cert. Then winter arrived.

Is there anyone there?

Below-freezing temperatures overnight before our penultimate day had left a blanket of fog so thick visibility was limited to a matter of metres. No worries – the weather forecast predicted it would be gone by midday so we waited. And waited. And checked the forecast again. The forecast had changed – the fog wouldn’t actually lift until 16:00! In that case, we were left with one option. We had already agreed that riding the winding roads of the New Forest would be an accident waiting to happen so begrudgingly we made our way to the local park, riding laps and desperately trying to avoid the dogs and children weaving across the paths on their shiney Christmas bikes until the fog miraculously began to lift. Our confidence grew and we were losing patience with the busy park so we finally decided that we were ready to risk getting out on some real roads. However, the temperature was dropping again and as we rode out from the city centre I began to develop a thin layer of frost and started to lose sensation in my hands until I could no longer operate the gears or brakes. Defeated, we had to call it a day and arrived back home with only 62km to go and one day to do it. Having initially thought 500km  over an unusually warm Christmas period would be easy, I was reminded what a fickle beast the British weather can be and how seasons can change overnight and knock all your plans sideways in one swipe.

Wrapped in a duvet, only just able to grip my latte. Uh-oh.

New Years Eve had come around all too quickly and whilst things had gone so well in the first half that I had visions of triumphantly finishing on 600km+, things were suddenly starting to look uncertain. With another severe weather warning for fog in effect until at least 10am, we kept ourselves busy at the supermarket before embarking on the last leg. Things were looking good – visibility was already improving by 09:30. Hurrying home to get changed, we were feeling pretty confident. Until the fog started to roll in again. So close to our goal, there was no question that we would bail now so armed with our best lights we set out for our last ride of the Festive 500. We thought our worst fears had come true as we rode further and further out of town and the fog once more enveloped everything around us, leaving us with only 10 meters of good visibility ahead. Mentally calculating loops in the more sheltered suburbs of Southampton as a last resort, we rode on in the murk but once we reached the shelter of the New Forest, the fog began to clear and suddenly the forest was beautiful. The battleship grey of the sky with rays of light desperately punching through, skeletal trees in silhouette, verdant fields contrasted with the gold of the last fallen leaves of autumn. This is why we ride in winter and in those final kms the sun bathed everything in a golden light and reminded me what I love about this time of year.

MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!
MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!

I started the Festive 500 feeling cocky. With an unseasonably temperate short-term forecast and six days ahead of me to ride 500km, I wondered if it would even feel like much of a challenge. When the weather changed after my two days back in the office, I suddenly realised that it wasn’t a dead cert at all. 500km in six days isn’t a challenge for me but getting through the changing British weather unscathed and riding even when I would normally think I’d rather not – that’s the challenge. Although it will probably be business as usual next Christmas and my bikes will be enjoying a break, I’m proud of my achievement this year and would gladly do it all again.

 

Chasing the sun

It’s 03:15 on a Monday morning, the rain beats at the window of my seaside Travelodge room. The room fills with an unfamiliar electronic melody. It’s not a dream – that’s my mobile phone alarm and there’s no denying it no matter how far under the covers I try to hide. I look at my trusty Lexi, my ever-faithful and long-suffering road-bike, sparkling clean with her new cassette, chain and tires, saddle-bag and pump attached, ready to go. On any other day I might tell her we’ll hang on till it brightens up but not today. Today we have a mission. Today we will chase the sun.

Back in January, it seemed like such a great idea. Watch the sun rise over the sea in Poole then ride over to Cornwall and watch it set over Widemouth Bay. Timing our ride around the summer solstice would guarantee maximum daylight and there would be a good chance of decent weather, right? Well, unfortunately here in this green and pleasant land of ours anything can and will happen, even in June. But we’re made of strong stuff here and I was glad to see all 17 of my fellow riders from Ordnance Survey kitted up and ready to go at the start, smiling, happy, even excited. We gathered on the beach for a ‘sunrise’ photograph, joking about the absence of any sun, determined that we would find it by the end of the day.Through the rain, into the head-wind, we started to head West.

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Raring to go

We spent the first segment pedalling through rain-slicked suburban streets, over countless roundabouts past still-sleeping households. The roads were blissfully quiet and thankfully relatively flat, allowing our half-asleep legs to gently wake up for the distance ahead. It wasn’t long before we arrived at our first pit-stop, a Waitrose in the slightly surreal experimental town of Poundbury. However, by that point we were thoroughly soaked, dishevelled, and ready for a nice cup of tea and then maybe back to bed. Feeling slightly apprehensive about inflicting our water-logged, mud-splashed selves on the pristine little supermarket, we were instantly put at ease and made welcome and even offered two-for-ones on hot drinks. Warmed and fortified with baked goods and coffee, we set back out with a renewed energy, ready to tackle the busy A-roads of the next stretch. We attacked the cat 4 Mutton Street climb with the incentive of the next pit-stop at the top. Or was it? Well…not quite… Post-ride Strava analysis revealed we had just stopped short of the end of the segment meaning that my time of 34 minutes and 17 seconds was never going to worry the reigning QOM at just over 7 minutes.

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Enjoying the beautiful summer’s day

Onwards West, 53 miles done, 87 to go, now we were getting to the fun bit. Hills, hills, hills, if we weren’t climbing, we were descending narrow country roads, brakes squealing round blind corners, cautious of the slippery wet gravel and inexplicable number of vehicles on this rainy Monday. We were stronger than the wind and the rain though. The miles melted away as we rode on side by side, chatting and smiling and laughing under dark grey skies, and maybe that cheer was wearing down that elusive sunshine. As the morning became afternoon, we started to notice the stubborn clouds began to part. At first just a snippet of blue, then a glimpse of sunlight. The rain had a few goes but simply couldn’t summon the energy to hang around. By the time we reached the third stop at the Crossways Tavern in Hele, we were sailing along dry roads. Although the pub itself was sadly closed, all we needed was water, bananas and a little something sweet to get us through the penultimate stage.

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On to Bude!

With 83 miles in the bag and only 57 to go, we were getting into the real hilly country. The flashes of sunshine interspersed with bouts of rain made the rolling patchwork fields glow all shades of green. As we finally passed the sign marking the edge of Cornwall, cheers rang through the peleton and we pushed on with renewed energy. It wasn’t long before we started to see our final destination of Bude appeared on the road signs. With over 100 miles in our legs, it became a case of simply getting to the next sign. Climbing and descending, climbing and descending, double-figures became single figures and suddenly we found ourselves looking at the most beautiful view of the day. At just the right moment, the summit of yet another climb, the clouds parted to illuminate a vast and glistening sea. More cheers. We were almost there, with less than ten miles to go. We were so near yet the more we pedalled on, the further it seemed; around every corner, yet another climb, short and sharp. Another climb, but as the sky cleared for the last time that day, I realised I could smell the sea and I knew that this was going to be my last climb. We had made it. Swooping majestically down a long descent alongside a jewelled sea, bedraggled and slightly dazed, we had arrived at Widemouth Bay. Settling down with well-deserved beers, we watched the waves and waited for the sun to set.

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Blue skies and beer

After months of planning, this was a ride I will never forget. I consider myself privileged to have shared the experience with such an incredible and determined group; some had never cycled even 100 km in one go until a few months ago. By the end of that day we had all completed 140 miles in adverse weather that would make most people stay at home. There’s no way we could have done it without our four amazing volunteers who gave their time to drive around after us and make sure we were safe and well looked after. So now the only question is, what’s the next challenge?

Members of the Ordnance Survey Cycling Club organised this ride as a personal challenge and as an opportunity to raise funds to support the excellent work of Solent Mind, a local charity working with people experiencing mental difficulties. It’s not too late to sponsor us through our Just Giving page. Thank you.

All photos by Alan Rolfe. See more of his work at alanrolfe.com .

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The sunset we rode 140 miles to see

Sheroes on wheels

This year’s International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, was themed around gender parity which no doubt resonates with women from all walks of life.

As a woman who cycles and a huge fan of both men and women’s professional racing, I’d love to say that my favorite sport is a utopia of equality and parity isn’t an issue. Sadly, the truth is quite the opposite. In professional cycling, the pay-gap is more like a gaping chasm. For example, at last year’s World Championships team time trial in Ponferrada, Spain, the winning men earned £26,500 whilst the women’s prize fund was only £8,500.

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At Velothon Wales 2015 – how many women can you count?

The world of non-professional cyclists also seems to be a bit of a sausage-fest. It’s always pretty disheartening to take a look at the start-list for a sportive and discover that only 5-10% of participants are female. For women who want to get serious about cycling, options to buy decent clothes and bikes have been pretty limited until recently. Even in the larger branches of the major high-street bike shops you’re lucky to find more than a handful of women’s bikes and the models stocked are normally at the lower-end. Clothes are limited to a small selection of baggy commuter hi-vis jackets and poorly-fitting jerseys.

However, the times are finally changing. Progress might feel slow but there’s a shift towards a more gender-balanced future for cycling. For professional cycling, the Women’s Tour is leading the way in TV coverage and by making the prize money equal to that of the men’s Tour of Britain. Some of the biggest brands are starting to look seriously at their women’s design. Liv and Cervelo are now working closely with their professional teams on innovative female-specific design which should encourage the rest of the industry to follow. Giant‘s stores are a shining example with Liv taking up roughly half of the floor-space. Even if your local bike shop is stuck in the dark ages there’s an ever-expanding choice online. If you don’t believe me just take a look at the incredible selection of brands available through the award-winning women-specific retailer VeloVixen.

Yes this is an exciting time to be a female cyclist, made all the more exciting by the inspiring women driving change forward. There’s too many amazing ladies out there (just look at the list of Strongher ambassadors) but in a belated Women’s Day celebration I’d like to introduce you to some of my Sheroes who constantly inspire me to kit up, kick ass and ride awesome.

Lizzie Armitstead

http---coresites-cdn.factorymedia.com-rcuk-wp-content-uploads-2016-03-Lizzie-Armitstead-world-champion-Boels-Dolmans-Troffeo-Alfredo-Binda-Cittiglio-pic-Boels-Dolmans-1020x716Before I saw Lizzie battle Marianne Vos at the London 2012 Olympics (a battle which saw Lizzie take the silver and the first of many GB medals that year), I had absolutely no idea just how exciting women’s road cycling could be. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’d even seen any women’s racing. On that rainy day, Olympic gold came down to an exhilarating sprint which had the whole country on the edge of their seats. I’ve been hooked ever since. This formidable woman from Yorkshire recently became only the fourth British woman in history to win the World Champion stripes on the road and since then has been almost unbeatable, taking the win in three out of her first four races of the season. Luck has nothing to do with it. Preparation, tactics, hard work, nerves of steel. This is what makes Lizzie a world champion. I’ll never forget the time I saw her being interviewed at an event not long after she earned her stripes. Summarizing Lizzie’s ride, the interviewer described how it looked like was putting herself in danger by letting the breakaways go and asked how it felt to feel like she was loosing. At this point I’ve never seen somebody look so deadly serious when she replied with a simple ‘I was always in control.’

archieKatie Archibald

As an accident-prone cyclist with color-changing hair myself, I have a lot of love for this multi-talented young lady. Not only is she Scotland’s first female track cycling world champion and a triple-gold medalist at last year’s European Track Championships, she’s also a fashion maverick who can convincingly wear two different-colored pairs of tights at once (see her frankly brilliant Instagram feed) and a refreshingly entertaining columnist for the Herald Scotland. Her latest column features the only response for prying parents wondering when you’ll settle down: ‘I’ve been with the same gal for years now and my mum won’t like it: she’s 6.9kg, carbon fibre and totally incapable of supplying a grandchild.’ I love cycling as a sport but it’s far more engaging to watch people who actually have personalities and lives of their own.Keep up with her adventures on Twitter and watch out for her at Rio 2016!

Sarah Connolly

As I type this blog post, the third race of the inaugural UCI Women’s World Tour, the  Trofeo sconnollyAlfredo Binda, is playing out in the background. Unfortunately, there’s no coverage in English language so I have a rather confusing Italian stream on my television. Confusing because a) my grasp of Italian extends to ordering a beer and b)
the only live images are broadcast from the finish line of the short course in Cittiglio which the riders cross four times and c) the broadcast keeps cutting to images from earlier parts of the race. As always, I have Sarah Connolly to thank for helping me to understand what the hell is going on. Being a fan of women’s cycling (even men’s cycling at times) can often be hard work but Sarah’s blog Pro Women’s Cycling makes it that much easier. Embracing all forms of social media to share her passion for the sport, from live commentary on Mixlr to insightful and entertaining Twittering, her encyclopedic knowledge of womens’ cycling hasn’t gone unnoticed. She’ll be bringing her indomitable wisdom to the TV coverage of the Aviva Women’s Tour later this year.

Alicia Bamford

QoM9156564_copy_reduced_height_75.originalLast year I was lucky enough to get a ballot place on the Ride London 100 sportive. Lacking enough knowledge of the area to confidently train alone, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a women-only training ride organised by a cycling shop in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Sadly, where I live in Southampton, I’m pretty short on female cycling buddies so off I went on the train by myself, anxious about being Nora-no-friends. What if they all knew each other? Londoners all have fancy bikes right? I bet they’re faster than me. Thankfully, my fears were entirely unfounded and as soon as I arrived at the meeting place I was chatting away like I was among old friends. This is when I met Alicia who initially stood out not only by being an Aussie but also by her ridiculously huge passion for cycling and infectious positivity. She convinced me that I was fast enough to ride in the front group and being able to keep up was a real confidence boost for the main event in August. It’s this encouraging, inclusive personality that she’s channeled into her Queen of the Mountains brand that will 100% make it a brand to watch. As well as creating a beautiful, well-thought range of coordinating pieces in stunning colors, Alicia has been nurturing a growing community of female cyclists in the London and Surrey area, facilitating rides for all abilities. Check out her website for details and maybe I’ll see you there sometime!

The Breeze Network

London to Brighton bikes 18.JPG.galleryBritish Cycling have pledged to change the culture of cycling and get one million more women on bikes by 2020. This isn’t something they can control centrally from within their organisation. They rely on hundreds of ordinary women from all backgrounds and cultures to share their own passion for cycling with other women. The Breeze network is facilitated by British Cycling who provide ride-leader training, kit and an online booking facility but it’s the hundreds of volunteers who run the show, organizing rides every day for all abilities. For women who are interested in cycling but nervous about where to ride, don’t have anyone to ride with, want some like-minded-buddies to share cycling wisdom, Breeze has been a triumph. Their volunteers have helped thousands of women to build their cycling confidence, with many participants going on to take the Ride Leader course themselves and spread the wheel love even further. The launch of the Breeze Challenge sportive series in 2015 has even given women who want to take their cycling up a level the opportunity in a friendly environment. Who knows, I might even see a few more ladies lining up with me at the start-line of the next sportive…