1 January 2015

VCG in 2014 - A year in review...

Well, it was an interesting one to say the least! A real mix of not so great stuff (#houseflood) to some rather ace stuff on two wheels went down in 2014. I didn't get to blog as much I wanted to, but I certainly didn't forget how to ride a bike in those 12 months... here's a quick look back at some VCG highlights...

TV and bikes played a big role this year - I was back with ITV for The Cycle Show, reporting on Eroica Britannia and chatting the very lovely Matt Barbet on the sofa. It was great to be back working with the team, and I look forward to a return in 2015. Flipping over to the BBC, I found myself recording live on Newsnight! I was invited on to discuss cycling culture in Britain and the various perceptions of cyclists across the country. Although I've been on Newsnight before, this was a very different experience doing it live... and truth be told, I almost said "no". I'm pleased that I did as I wanted to get a positive message across about cycling in Britain...

I got to play out properly on my Road Bike! My beloved Aprire (which I've had for a year now... omg) was screaming at me for a real ride. I finally got to down tools for a week, and took her with me to Portsmouth for planned rides with The Boy and our friend Jordan. Best ride on it that week was a round trip from Southsea to Bognor Regis. The weather was perfect, and at last it felt like I was getting to grips with road biking. I still have plenty to learn, but it was great to get out there.

Big bike rides featured heavily this year with the London Tweed Run and riding Eroica Britannia in Derbyshire... two very different styles of cycling indeed! As always, it was a blast being back on the Tweed Run, taking in the gorgeous sights of my city, seeing old and making new friends and of course drooling over all the bikes and outfits! Eroica saw me borrowing a vintage Italian road bike, and riding for 30 miles on terrain that was not my usual cycling route... and it was amazing! Thanks to Lush Cosmetics, I attended the inaugural British leg of the iconic event, which was transported from the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful Peak District. I honestly can not wait for it to return next year and hope to be part of it again.

Photoshoots and magazines popped up in 2014: I was back in front of the lens of my dear friend Horst Friedrichs for a couple of photo shoots around East London. We got together for a feature in Stern Magazine which was a lot of fun to do, especially as one of the shoots became a Saturday Cycle through London... via some food stops. VCG also managed to pop-up in Momentum Magazine in Canada and America, Time Out talking about 'Secret London' , and Bicycle Navi magazine in Japan... Now I need to work on getting over to those places...

I hooked up with some great designers for rides and reviews this year. Friend of VCG and bloody cool bloke Mark Meadows loaned me his gorgeous Series One Milk Bike which I had the pleasure of riding for a few weeks... and then there was the recent Slowroll across London with Jason Hall and Shinola, on their Ladies Bixby Bike.

Work life was also rather busy while being lots of fun too... a trip to Malaga for a photoshoot saw me riding around and down (no climbs on a singlespeed) mountains on my Colourbolt. It was wonderful to visit Spain for the first time and to ride with colleagues/friends for almost a week. Oh, and then there was a rather special trip we took up to Manchester to ride with Sir Chris Hoy for a day... as you do!

Well, there you have it! It's been a mixed year, but it's not going out on a down note - it's been great to be back on the saddle again and pedalling life back into VCG. Here's to a cycling filled 2015 for everyone... Happy New Year and happy riding!

29 December 2014

Post Christmas Cycle...

We actually did it... me and The Boy broke our Christmas circle (basically staying indoors relaxing/eating/sleeping ad infinitum) and went out for a ride on Sunday. Although we left the house on Saturday for a very well planned visit to the sales, we didn't ride to the West End (it was a bit too mad for that) and we were itching for a chilled post Christmas day cycle. 

Somewhat inspired by the spirit of festive colours, my cyclestyle for the day featured an Ivy wreath, incredibly red tights Santa would have been proud of and very metallic shoes...
Jacket: Barbour
Ear Muffs: UGG
Scarf: Chloé
Jumper: COS
Necklace: Tatty Devine
Tights: M&S
Shoes: Dr Martens

Old Spitalfields was our destination - it'd been waaaay too long since we'd done one of our early Sunday rides, and the romance of a London market at Christmas time was calling me. Even though it was absolutely freezing, the market was in full festive swing with plenty of stalls to visit. 
The magpie in me was drawn to the shiny and sparkly items including some gorgeous statement rings and a sequintastic 80's cardigan which I now wish I'd cycled away with.

It's always a joy to discover new UK designers for items to add to my cyclestyle wardrobe, and Old Spitalfields gave me absolute gold with two stallholders I met on the day: one who makes these stunning mini leather Saddle Bags, and another who presented me with the tweed coat of my dreams...
I think I need this coat in my life. A return trip to the Market to see the amazing woman who makes these Harris Tweed coats is on the cards for 2015!

There will certainly be more visits to London Markets by bike - there were not enough of these this year, and finding beautiful handmade items like these reminds me of the fantastic talent we have in London and the rest of the UK. Hmmmm... perhaps cycles beyond the city to more markets is in order - if you have any suggestions of places I should be checking out, let me know!

Happy cycling x

14 December 2014

VCG's Christmas Cyclestyle Guide...

No shame in saying this: I get very excited about Christmas every year. I'm like a big kid when it comes to the festivities and try to be as well prepared as possible... yet there are times when in all the fuss, I get a bit last minute with present shopping. So, if you're a bit stumped on what to get for the cyclist in your life (or just for yourself - and why not?!) here's the VCG quick guide to some cycling related gifts...

Women's Button Down Oxford Shirt - £95 by Vulpine: Perhaps I'm a little biased, but this is my favourite garment from Vulpine's A/W range. With a classic cut, the Oxford features neatly hidden cycling features along with beautiful detailing. Designed for cycling and everyday wear, it's suitable for city life and riding all year round... most certainly a wardrobe staple piece. 

Bradley Pannier Bag - £190 by Hill and Ellis: If like me you've gotta have a pop of colour in your wardrobe, this bright yellow pannier can bring it to your bicycle too. This modern cycling twist on the satchel is a stunner. Crafted in leather, the Bradley features reflective details for night riding, a central locking system to secure it to your bike and universal pannier clips. With a shoulder strap too, it's great for popping off your steed to use as an everyday bag too.

Smart Umbrella - approx £36.99 by Senz: We've entered that cold & rainy season so brollies will be out in abundance... but now there is one you can actually cycle with! Senz have created these rather smart looking umbrellas which can be attached to your bicycle... something which may please fair-weather cyclists like myself. They range from this budget friendly 'Smart' model to the slightly more expensive XXL design. Also for use off the bike and compact enough to fit into you bag - nice.

Rainbowz Necklace - £60 by Katies Bike: Cycling related jewellery with a difference - it's actually upcycled from old bikes. Katie Wallace has been hand making and selling her couture jewellery since 2013. This statement necklace has electric bright tones of the acrylic paint on chain links, on a 16" gold plated chain. A celebration of cycling from the beginning to the end of a bike's life, these are gorgeous pieces with a green conscience.

Crochet and Leather Cycling Gloves - £14.99  from CycleChic: Looking for a retro style cycling glove, but don't want a full hand affair? Head over to Caz Nicklin's treasure trove of cycling joy on Cycle Chic where you'll find these beauties. Made from soft tan leather with crochet detail, these padded gloves (which come in sizes small to large) are both stylish and comfortable on your handlebars.

Gold Leather and Reflective Handlebar Tape - £50 by Michaux: A firm favourite brand of VCG, Michaux are bringing some bling to your bike with this tape. Liven up those grey winter rides with the glisten of gold, and safety conscious reflective details on the front of your machine. With sticky backing for easy application and a free set of cork plugs included, these are a sure-fire way to pimp your ride.

Perhaps this has given you a little inspiration of what to pop under the tree for the cyclist in your life... be that a loved one or yourself. Happy cycle shopping! 

10 December 2014

From Detroit to Shoreditch - Shinola and #SlowRoll Spin Into Town...

Mixing cycling with my favourite time of the year is guaranteed gold, so my Christmas radar was cranked up to 11 last weekend when Spin London rolled back into town for its second SpinXmas edition... something which I wasn't going to miss.

This year, the celebration of London’s urban cycling culture invited some like minded neighbours from across the Atlantic to join in the festivities. Detroit based Shinola and their bike designer Sky Yaeger, exhibited their city bikes and accessories at Spin for the first time, alongside Jason Hall, co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit. The two Motor City residents joined forces to host the very first #SlowRoll across London, with the route planned out by fellow cyclist and very good friend of VCG Jon Woodruff.

The pairing of the two was inspired: Shinola is reviving manufacturing in Detroit and aims to reinvigorate its history as an unshakable industrial leader. Their bicycle frames and flagship models the “Bixby” & “Runwell” are made in the US, and are all hand built and assembled in the city by local employees, giving back to both the people and Detroit itself. With rigorous attention to detail and using only the highest quality American components available, they are living up to their tag line “Where America is Made". 

The ethos of Slow Roll Detroit is in a similar vein: Jason Hall started the cycling movement to show Detroit in a positive light, and help repopulate the city. What started off as a small weekly bike ride in 2010, has now mushroomed into one of the worlds largest regular organised rides, averaging almost 2000 people last summer. Slow Roll is reconnecting residents of Detroit with one another. The rides allow residents and visitors to explore art projects both established and emerging,  take in the architecture of the city and its historic locations. The slow pace allows everyone to ride together safely, keeping the community spirit alive. Slow Roll’s showcasing of Detroit by bike + Shinola’s Detroit roots & bicycles = a perfect cycling union.

We were kindly loaned two Bixby bicycles by Shinola for the ride... I gravitated to the cream and pink women's model (I'd somehow managed to co-ordinate my outfit for the day with the rose gold accents and chrome mudguards without even knowing it) and The Boy was set to roll on the retro green and cream cruiser style model. In typical British fashion, the weather on Sunday unexpectedly started off as wet and soggy... but as soon as the rain finally sloped off, we were on our bikes and cycling out of Shoreditch!

London has plenty to offer for sightseeing and the #SlowRoll route certainly didn't disappoint. Taking us past well known landmarks and some a little off the beaten track (like the Cross Bones Graveyard in Southwark), it was a great ride. I never tire of seeing my city by bike, and the chance to take it slowly especially through car-free zones like The Mall on a Sunday is always something to relish!

Our leisurely paced ride from east to west came to an end at the Shinola store in Soho. Although a fun ride, it had gotten pretty cold in London so being greeted by the Shinola team with music, refreshments and hot food was perfect! It was great to have look around the store, chat with the team and check out the other goods they make and produce back in Detroit alongside their bicycles... including their stunning handmade watches which caught my eye!

My first impressions of the Bixby was other than it looking very stylish, it was a smooth and comfortable ride. I'm primarily a sit-up and beg kinda woman on a bike, and the positioning of this felt good. I'll be keeping an eye on Shinola and their bicycles and perhaps at some point ride one again soon. As for the #SlowRoll, it was fantastic to meet Jason - what he and his fellow founders are doing back in Detroit and the bike culture there has me wanting to go visit and ride with them one day!

(above image courtesy of Shinola)

VCG thanks...

  • Shinola, Slow Roll Detroit and Jon Woodruff for organising the day and hosting us
  • Ian James (a.k.a 'The Boy') for his photography for this post. 
Further instagram shots of the day can be viewed on my IG stream.

17 July 2014

Velo Vintage Girl: VCG does L'Eroica Britannia 2014...

A few weeks ago I was blasting around Derbyshire on a vintage Italian road bike climbing and descending for 30 miles… certainly not your average weekend ride for me, as I took part in L’Eroica Britannia! Courtesy of Lush Handmade Cosmetics, VCG attended the inaugural British leg of the iconic event, which was transported from the rolling hills of Tuscany to the beautiful Peak District.

Founded in 1997 with just 92 riders, L’Eroica (which literally translates as ‘The Heroic’) is a vintage themed sportive, born from the love of cycling, history and literature of Italy. Its original intention was to raise awareness of the traditional ’strade bianchi’ (white gravel roads) of Tuscany and & safeguard its heritage... fast forward to 2014, it now sees 5000 cyclists subscribing to take part in what’s known as “the most handsome bike race in the world”. L’Eroica Britannia recreated the event on British soil in Bakewell with a weekend long family friendly festival, dedicated to all things vintage, lifestyle and of course cycling, culminating one of the most intense bike rides I’ve ever been on…

I headed up to Derbyshire on the Friday for the start of my "Great British Adventure" - filled with excitement for L'Eroica Britannia, I was also pondering how completely different the actual bike ride would be for me. There is no denying it - cycling 30 miles over terrain I'd never experienced before on a bike that wasn't mine had my brain ticking over like mad. I knew this wasn't going to be a gentle Sunday morning jaunt, but even through some nerves I was still eager to get on the trails and do it!

There was word on twitter that fellow cycling friends of mine would be riding Eroica Britannia, so it was brilliant to start bumping into familiar faces on the train before I'd even arrived in Bakewell! Team CTC formed by LDN Bike Kitchen's Caren, Kelly and Jenni were taking part. Of course they were looking suitably vintage and posed for a cyclestle shot before riding off to the campsite...
While they cycled off into the rolling hills, I headed to the hotel which would be my base for the next two nights (I'm not going to deny I stayed in a hotel thanks to Lush and was without bike at this point) and had a relaxing Friday evening, sorting out plans for the bike filled weekend ahead...
bicycles even infiltrate my nightwear...

Getting to know the area and why L'Eroica had chosen it was on my agenda on Saturday, so the Brooks England breakfast hosted by organiser Gian Bohan was a brilliant way to do it. Held at The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, there was a chance to sample some of the local delights that would feature on the route stops, which of course included the famous Bakewell Pudding - and yes, VCG has been fully schooled on the difference between the Pudding and the Tart...
As riders in Italy get to sample food and drink on the mountainous routes featuring local cheese, meats and wines, the hilly Peak District was the perfect location to recreate the ride. With its terrain, and a classic British twist on the food, the area was a perfect match to Tuscany.

Sausage cob and a cuppa downed, I headed off with the Brooks team for a beautiful tour of Derbyshire, and then onto the Bakewell Showground for the festival. It was great to soak in the atmosphere of L'Eroica Britannia... with a chance to catch up with the Lush Ladies, drool over the pre-1987 bicycles on show, visit the stalls and film with The Cycle Show crew... there was A LOT to squeeze in!

Then came the serious business: The ride on Sunday and meeting the bicycle I'd be doing it on. As a first timer, and having never been on a road bike with gear shift levers on the down tube, I opted for the 30 mile short route... I suspected this would be enough of a challenge for me to take on...
My bike for the day was sourced by Lush from an Italian gentleman call Stefano, who gave me a speedy lesson on how to ride it, what not to do to the gears when pedalling... oh, and also pointed out the breaks on the bike were the other way round, and not to forget that. Me and my borrowed vintage steed for the day had just 20 minutes to get acquainted with one another - most certainly the fastest lesson in cycling I've ever had! 

A believer in omens, I took getting 1942 (Poppa Vélo's year of birth) as my rider number a lucky sign. With 'Vaya Con Dios' in my mind and The Loughton Brothers by my side I headed to the start line, hoping to become a Hero on the Peaks...

The short route was 25% off road, with an ascent of 2,825ft along the way... it was hot, hard and most of all fun! The Peak District was absolutely beautiful to take in on the ride  - the railway tunnels of Monsal Trail were a little slice of heaven... providing natural air conditioning on such a hot day. Refreshment and stamp stops were after 14 miles at Tideswell and then 21 miles at Eyam... the local food tasted amazing and were the fuel I needed beyond my water. The hospitality of the locals was warm, welcoming and incredibly friendly, making it apparent they were revelling in L'Eroica Britannia coming to their villages...

I've never done a bike ride like this before, and L'Eroica Britannia ranks not only one of the best cycling experiences I've ever had, but the best festival/event I've ever attended. The organisation was immaculate, and the transition from Tuscany to the Peak District worked perfectly. The ideals and values that are a huge part of L'Eroica flowed seamlessly into Britain, with those taking part holding the same passion for the event as their Italian brothers and sisters. 

I urge you, if you are thinking about doing this next year, YOU MUST! A beautiful celebration of all things vintage and cycling in the surroundings of the Peak District was bliss... I'm already looking at June 2015 in my diary and making sure I'm free should it be in the same month again. Who knows, perhaps I'll get enough training in to bump up to the 100 Mile route...

The L'Eroica Britannia feature with the The Cycle Show is up on their website - you and you can catch it right here, (anywhere in the world too - huzzah!) including footage of the festival and the Go-Pro views from my steed!

Huge thanks must go to: