Heels on Wheels – meeting ladies who ride FAST in the French Alps

I first got a road bike from my parents when I was 17 and rode to raise money for The British Heart foundation from London to Paris. After that my bike collected a bit of dust before becoming a cheaper, faster alternative to public transport in London.

I was introduced to the mountains at a young age, my Mum did a season when she was younger and is a great skier so I have plenty of memories of building snowmen & attempted igloos when I was small.

peakSunrise in the Alps

Living & working in London was amazing, so much fun. Brilliant friends and working as a personal trainer there are so many opportunities. Although the lifestyle is full on, I fancied trying something different and headed to the Alps for what was supposed to be a single winter season.

5 years later i’m still here. I came out for the snowboarding but the longer I have been here the more I have discovered, I now own a lot of kit and have met so many inspiring people. 2 years ago I brought my road bike over for the summer as I was leading cycling trips for ladies round Lake Annecy. A whole new style of cycling opened up to me, I was used to razzing round London dodging buses, waiting at traffic lights and weaving through pedestrians. But out in the Alps you can head up into the mountains, hardly see any cars, get away from the ski resorts into little villages, conquering big climbs then flying down fast weaving descents.

anacyCycling in Annecy (Alpine Fit Club)

Its a steep learning curve though – climbing is challenging. I spent my first summer road biking pedaling up hill as far as possible then when my legs stopped working descending back to the front door. Near the end of the summer I drove to Alp D’Huez and decided it was time to try a ‘proper’ climb. It was hard 21 bends over 12km but I did it – got to the top celebrated with a beer and decided then that I wanted to get better and better and not have to relive the initial struggle to gain enough strength and fitness. From that moment on I’ve been addicted….

bridgeEmily, Colin and me. 2 of my good friends who introduced me to Alpine Cycling

Since then I have been out on my bike year round sun, rain and snow! Last summer I took on my first multi day challenge riding from Bourg to the Beach, over Europe’s highest Cols and Passes. This summer I decided I wanted to step up my riding and start entering events. I didn’t know what to expect as a girl riding mixed events. I’ve also mainly cycled with groups of men so wasn’t sure how i would shape up in comparison to other women.

road ridingWinter training in the snow

I’ve now completed my first event of the summer in Imola, Italy, entering both the 15km Time Trial and Gran Fondo. All my trainig seems to be paying off I can 3rd in the Time Trial and completed the 160km Gran Fondo in 6H15 (quicker than I was aiming for).

podiumThird place at the Imola Time Trial

I really enjoyed riding with ladies, you feel as though you are on a level playing field and are in a position to be competitive. Since being back in Bourg this summer I have joined a group called ‘ Birds on Bikes’ it really motivating to know that there are lots of other women in the Valley riding bikes, training hard and exploring the mountains. There moto is ‘ Girls in the Tarentaise valley who like to meet up for road bike rides. Boys/hubbies are allowed to join the rides provided they ride WITH us and pay for the coffees!!!!!’.

One of the ‘Birds’ and I went on a 100km ride this week and it was awesome time flew, chatting the whole way, stopping for coffees and lunch but keeping a good pace. Its reassuring to ride with someone your level and chat about bikes, events and cycling from a female prospective. There is a women’s event being held in Vercours on the 24th May which I have entered, I’m super excited to be part of a women’s only race and even more now that I know there will be some familiar faces en route 🙂

climbing

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New Versatile Adventure Racing Kit

We were lucky enough to be invited down last week to sunny Somerset to meet up with the guys at Charge Bikes. They have been kind enough to supply us with our long distance bikes we will be using for the Transcontinental Race.

The bikes they had lined up for us were the fantastic Plug 5 that are their top of the pile ‘on road adventure’ bike. Lightweight but strong steel frames, compact gearing, super strong wheels and very importantly disc brakes!

We thought that these would be important due to the extra carrying weight of our kit and the issues that can arise with the rims wearing down and failing and also their performance gains in the wet.

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The only additions that we made, were to switch the stock sram hydro brakes with some cable ones as if there were issues we could easily fix them ourselves, whereas those that use hydraulic brakes know, problems can seldom be ‘bodged’ at the side of the road or trail and require specialist kit that we simply won’t be carrying. The only other alteration that will be made, will be to put a 30t or 32t rear cassette on instead of the stock 28t. Dragging our sorry bodies up the stelvio pass to check point 2 will be hard enough on its own, without a weeks solid riding under our belts and touring kit. Every little helps to keep the cadence and speed up!

We were also offered a selection of their brand new line of saddles. Three in the range, all with a polycarbonate base offering support yet a small amount of flex and different fits to suit different shapes and riding styles. The hardest choice was which colour?

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We can’t wait to get riding some big days on them and will keep updated with a 100km and 1000km review as soon as they’re done!

As well as Charge helping out enormously with the bikes, Oakley and Giro have supplied all our cycling kit. We couldn’t be happier working with these brands.

The Giro shoes and clothing that arrived for us looked fantastic. They have really stepped up recently and made some fantastic garments. We received a massive mix of items from undershirts to shorts and jerseys.

Gaby’s favorite item so far is her Primaloft Gilet. Super light weight, it packs up to be the size of an apple (great for stowing in a back pocket) and is warm abs windprood. She’s barely taken it off.

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The long sleeved windproof hoody has also been a favorite, providing warmth whilst pedaling but still looking great when off it.

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I’ve been using oakleys to ride with all my life so being supplied with all our eye wear from them was a dream. The colour orange has popped up a fair bit so we thought it might be an appropriate theme for some of our clothing since the bikes are totally stealth, a little tangerine burst might look great, as well as adding a safety aspect for riding at dawn and dusk.

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Without doubt my two favorite items. Giro Empire lace up shoes with Oakley Radar Locks with Polarized Fire Iridium Lens. I never used to be too fused about colour…all that has changed. The photos do not do justice to these two! The orange is a mix between fluro and the sun. Intense.

The shoes are simply stunning, incredibly light and with the lace ups (a feature very rarely seen on road shoes, let alone performance ones) means that they fit like a glove. The sole also offers a massive amount of support as it’s made from Easton’s EC90 carbon, their top stuff.

Plenty more photos and write ups of the kit will be coming up, but for now keep up to date with our adventures, photos and locations via

Twitter: @benalpinetweet
Instagram: @mansell85

These will both be updated as regularly as possible.

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