Cycletta: A chat with Victoria Pendleton

As mentioned in the last post I'll be taking part in the Cycletta North cycling event in October. Woohoo!

I was offered a "media place" on the ride and I'm usually funny about accepting free things (remember I fartarsed around with those Zumba DVDs last year?). I feel uncomfortable blogging about something for any reason other than "this thought popped into my head today". So why yes to Cycletta?

  • It's a cool idea to encourage women to try cycling
  • It's in a part of England I've never visited before – good excuse to explore!
  • It's on closed roads with "gently undulating hills"… perfect for a fraidy cat!
  • It's been bugging the hell out of me that after five years of ownership my bike has actual cobwebs on it.
  • Gareth is a mad keen cyclist, as are many of our good mates. Last weekend they all pedalled from Edinburgh to St Andrews and back together. I don't aspire to that level of prowess, but it would nice to:
    • know what the hell when they're on about when they talk about various bike parts
    • perhaps go for a casual pootle around the countryside with them one day
    • instead of wanting to spew at the very idea.

So the plan is to give cycling a proper bash, and if I absolutely hate it after training for and taking part in Cycletta, then I will put the bike on Freecycle (near mint condition!).

. . .

I recently took part in a bloggers' conference call with World & Olympic Cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, who is the Cycletta ambassador. It was very cool to be able to pick the brains of a proper champion cyclist!

She was quizzed on everything from cycling tips to cycling fashion so once it was my turn all the good questions had been covered. I present you with my pair of "Move Over Jeremy Paxman" enquiries:

Do you have any advice for anyone who
a) can barely ride up hills, and
b) is shitscared of coming back down them?

Here is the sage advice of World and Olympic champ Victoria Pendleton:

Going up…

  • Make use of your whole gear range. "Lots of people stick to the same couple of gears – you need to be using all of them and know how they feel and when to engage them. Earlier rather than later is best!"
  • Alternate sitting and getting out of the saddle to give different muscles in your legs a rest
  • Go at your own pace – if you're tempted to go faster than you're capable of or try to keep up with faster rides you'll conk out. She said, "I do suffer from a bit of that riding with the boys sometimes – I have tendency to try and keep up with them then I die a horrible death before I get to the top!"
  • Going slower than you're capable of "will make you suffer too", so stick to your natural pace.

Coming down…

  • Scan the road ahead of you – "look out for obstacles, potholes and potential hazards"
  • Keep your head up – "it's very tempting to just look down when you're descending but it can make you more nervous"
  • Using too much brakes can, "make it worse and more dangerous so you have to be able to relax and let the brakes go a little bit"
  • If it's very steep it's really helpful to put your weight back over the back of the saddle… so get out of the saddle and move your weight backwards towards the the back of the seat – "distributing your weight that way might make you feel more control on your descent".

I wish I could say I'm looking forward to putting Victoria's advice to the test πŸ˜‰

Now here's the second question, which was contributed by Dr G:

What's the top speed you've ever reached on the track?

Her fastest ever speed at the velodrome is 78km per hour (48.5 miles per hour): "Riding behind the motorbike on the track gives you a slipstream and you get the chance to go faster than you could on your own. You can't really see much at that speed but it's really good!"


There are two Cycletta events scheduled for 2011:

Cycletta South: Whipsnade Park on Sunday 11th September

Cycletta North: Tatton Park on Sunday 2nd October

Entry price is Β£45 per event and the deadline for entry is 31 July 2011. For registration and full event information, visit 

Image from Cycletta.

20 thoughts on “Cycletta: A chat with Victoria Pendleton

  1. That all sounds like really good advice!
    I wonder if some practice in steering-by-leaning would do you good (if you lean right, the bike goes to the right, etc) If you can get comfortably sort of swooshing round obstacles and bends rather than worrying about ‘steering’ round them then I think descending will be less stressful.
    This is all based on never having seen you ride, of course!

  2. I wish I could do this event with you! I bought a bike this year and I could not believe how awkward I I was and how scared I was of falling. My riding skills of childhood certainly did not come back to me at all. It will take some determination on my part to get on it and ride until I feel comfortable. Thank you for sharing Victoria’s advice – very helpful.
    Good luck! You will rock the Cycletta North πŸ™‚

  3. Ooooh! I’m very excited about this! I love my wee road bike, but am very scared of cars/hills/other cyclists. This could be a brilliant introduction to “proper” cycling.

  4. Be careful with your hoo-ha. Those bike seats can be rough (literally). When I was training for my triathlons, oh baby, I was limping in the beginning. I’ve been told we have to build calluses in the nether regions. For goodness sakes, some places deserve to stay smooth.

  5. I love how you make the whole press and marketing thing really transparent – you didn’t pretend to have had an exclusive one to one interview and you didn’t pretend to have just thought “why not give cycling a try today?”. More power to your honest pen! And enjoy the ride it sounds like a great event. I recommend something called a sofa saddle, its massive springy and filled with gel – I wouldn’t leave home without it!

  6. I so wish I could do this one!!! I love cycling (well, I loved my RPM classes and used to like riding to school back in the Flintstones era), but I am also scared of riding on the road for any great length and going down hills is terrifying. If they had something like this in Melbourne, I’d totally be onto it!

    That said, I highly doubt your bike will be up on Freecycle any time soon, Shauna, GO YOU!

    (Just get padded shorts if you don’t have them already – they helped me loads in RPM class.)

  7. Good luck with the training and the event! I agree with Laurie about hoo-ha care πŸ˜‰ Definitely invest in some padded cycle shorts, even if you wear them under something else like baggy shorts. Also find someone to help you get your bike set up properly for you, whether it’s Dr G or someone else. Making sure your seat and handlebars are adjusted properly can make such a difference, e.g. being able to extend your leg when you pedal stops your quads aching so much. And if it’s been inactive for so long it will need a once over and a grease.

    If you can find somewhere local offering basic training for adults, go for it. It makes such a difference just feeling more comfortable stopping, starting, steering, signalling and looking around you. And with fellow novices the cameraderie is good/you feel less of a numpty.

    I love cycling, both for exercise and for getting around, and I will always offer to buddy up anyone I know who’s thinking about it but nervous/unsure. I’m a bit far from you though πŸ™‚ Have fun!

  8. When I said “if it’s been inactive for a few months” I meant your bike, and not your leg (which is how it reads) – d’oh πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Shauna. Hey – I met VP when I did that TV show thingy and she did a 1000m sprint for us at the finale on the track. She was amazing…so fast and so dedicated. And pretty glamourous too. She has been working with Steve Peters the psychiatrist blokey for ages and swears by his chimp theory so maybe there is something in it!!

    My bike is cobweb-y and has a flat tyre too. I need to get it going again as I’m not even efficient enough for Freecycle! But I think I need a course on bike maintenance first as things like flat tyres, cleaning, greasing chains etc scare the pants off me and I don’t have a handy keen cyclist bloke around to nag into doing it for me!!

    Good luck chuck!

    Lesley xx

  10. PS. I echo the coment above. When we started on the velodrome we were warned in all seriousness about wearing proper padded knickers/shorts as it can be very rough on the old thre’penny bit.

  11. This is very exciting! I know you will have a fantastic adventure. I mean, an “amazing” adventure πŸ™‚

    Also I love the link about Paxman, whom I’ve never heard of, because I also learned that Enigma was stolen from Bletchly Park, which I hadn’t heard either! I need to listen to the news more often.

  12. Thanks for the comments folks! Need to get on to the padded shorts, my old pair are too snug at the moment!

    @Lesley – I read that she’d worked with Steve Peters and thought of you! How cool that you met her πŸ™‚

    @Katy – thanks for the fab advice. My whole body needs a once-over so your comment actually read perfect to me, hehe!

    @Gingersnapper – glad to have helped in a small way to make you even more smart πŸ™‚

  13. Shauna… thank you for posting this! (and for your support of my ride!). You posed the perfect questions. I leave tomorrow for my 150 mile ride (75 saturday, 75 sunday…weather and body permitting). I finally after a couple of years of riding have started changing gears. It really does work. who knew?!? they aren’t just for show (or to taunt me). I ride my breaks WAY too much going downhill. Will try to lighten up on that. Though I will miss the smoke trail. And, just because it may help… I still have 100 pounds to lose. But, yet, I have been able to ride 180 miles in the past week. I’m working towards 450 miles in one week at the end of July, by the way. It may feel like it takes forever to get riding…but it really just requires that you just “get in the saddle”. It is timeconsuming, though. Which is kind of a drag. But, when I can jump off my bike and say “finished 50 miles” and then carry on with my day.. so worth those 4.5 hours. Enjoy. And, I ride to support MS Research. I rode with one of my teammates the other day. Five years ago she couldn’t use her legs and still walks with a limp. But, she can get on her bike and ride 50 miles with me. That is what keeps me on the bike at 280 pounds. (and why I got on it at 320). Thanks again. Sarah J

  14. OK, must say that I’ve just been properly shamed (and stripped of my excuses for not riding) by Sarah J and her mate with MS – good luck with your ride this weekend, Sarah!!!

    Second, is it odd that I momentarily thought that the picture in your post was you on your bike and couldn’t think why you’d dyed your hair? (I probably need sleep. And new glasses.)

    Finally, I can’t believe Gareth just went for a short bike to St. Andrews…I was tired when Mum and I DROVE there from Edinborough. Gah!

  15. Can I just remind you of your comment last weekend, just in case you’re giving yourself a hard time… πŸ˜‰
    When Gareth and his mates did their crazy bike ride:
    “I was the only one not cycling!” Said as if you ‘should’ be doing the same as them.
    Now, if I said “I was the only one not doing it” while watching people run a marathon I have a fair idea of what you would say…
    You are doing just fabulously for where you are right now. So there. πŸ˜‰

  16. β€’If it’s very steep it’s really helpful to put your weight back over the back of the saddle… so get out of the saddle and move your weight backwards towards the the back of the seat – “distributing your weight that way might make you feel more control on your descent”.

    This is very good advice – learning to do this helped my confidence on downhills immensely.

  17. Miss you, Shaundogg!
    I will be in Europe a bit longer than I hoped, so catch up, perhaps somewhere nice, ‘eh?

  18. Just wanted to let everyone know I survived. I might even say … thrived! While I didn’t hit my goal of 150, I didn’t for a good reason. I got my personal best on Day 1… 75 miles (actually 77.4). And, did 50 on Day 2, but could have done 75. That was a cool feeling. I stopped because my teammate, who lives with MS, was not feeling well in the heat and couldn’t carry on. But, she got 50 in! Which is 50 more than I think I might do in her situation. it was an inspiring day. And, I took the braking to heart, as well as keeping my head up. Changed gears too. Though not as widely as I probably should have. It was a great day. Thanks for all you do to inspire us, Shauna. Next up… 450 miles across Iowa at the end of July. A 25 year long dream of mine. ( in case you’re curious). I’ve been told “just think of it as 4 15 mile bike rides a day with fresh pie in between”. ha!

  19. It just struck me that you wrote this at around the same time that I bought my first bicycle in nearly 20 years! I was quite worried I’d no longer know how to ride one. I still hate the traffic – cars or other bycicles, as both go way too fast for my liking – and I’m still slow, but I’m happy I finally have a more practical way to both get around and get some exercise than just walk.

    What I’d like to contribute to the conversation is this: if you think you don’t like cycling, or don’t like bicycles, try different models. In my youth bikes were mostly the ‘sports’ kind, with a high frame/saddle and low front post. While they may be practical for _serious_ cycling, I hated them, and still do. If you want a bike just to get around and to add some exercise to your everyday existence, find the model that suits you best.

    I would say, if reaching the ground with your toes makes you more confident, try a low model. (If you nevertheless want the larger wheels, try a Cruiser or ‘vintage’ model with a low frame.) If a low front set hurts your back or shoulders, rise it as high as you need to. The distance between saddle and front set may also need checking – a longer distance forces you to lean forward which I, personally, find terribly uncomfortable. I used to be mocked for my ‘upright’ position on the bycicle, but I’m happy to see it’s become more common in the recent years.

    So now I’m the proud owner of a ‘vintage’ model from Raleigh with low frame and 28″ wheels. It’s heavy and not always the most practical kind, and I know I keep the saddle way too low -> my knees sometimes get tired (maybe I’ll rise it just a little once I’ve grown more confident), but hey, if the other option is not riding a bicycle at all, for fear of falling, then I think this is what works best for me at the moment. I am happy to see that bicycles these days come in all shapes and sizes, including vintage and retro models. The one that Victoria has in the photo is beautiful, by the way!

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