Thursday, 17 August 2017

Cyclists - To shave or not to shave?...I’m not talking legs

Earlier in the year I sent out an anonymous questionnaire on social media to address the issue of pubic hair removal. I was amazed to get so many responses, reaching over 300 people of all genders and ages from 16 – 80 years old. The majority being 18 – 26 years old. So I felt it only fair to share some of my findings, at the risk of a little embarrassment to myself. I wanted to confront the 'hairless ideal' that has become the norm for women within our Western culture.

Often women shave to appear sexy and to please their partner. It has become a taboo subject and commonplace behaviour that is trivial and unimportant. However, in my research I found that not enough people actually understand the risks associated with pubic shaving, especially for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts.

The shift towards less hair has become a central role in the construction of sexual identity. However, previous studies prove depilation of female pubic hair can cause bacterial infections, inflammation of the valva, viral infections, in-growing hairs, hair follicle infections, damage to the epidermis and more. Similar problems can be caused to men. Pubic hair helps to evaporate sweat away from skin and provides a layer of protection that is needed for good hygiene when doing regular activities such as: cycling, fell running, hill walking, camping and more.

Even British Cycling’s physiotherapist, Phil Burt told the media:

“We had to try and persuade the girls to stop shaving and waxing if we were going to sort out the saddle pain we knew all of them were suffering with” and told the Olympic athletes “they need to stop getting bikini waxes if they want to win.”

Despite this, I was shocked to still find in my research that 35% of the men and 20% of the women think women should shave fully. However, my hope was slightly restored by the fact that a higher percentage are content with a “tidy and clean” down below, mostly focused on “neat aesthetics” rather than a “baby’s bottom” look. My findings showed 60% of women and 50% of men believe women should shave their pubic hair just "a little".

Therefore, the best solution for health and aesthetic pleasure, seems to be that women should trim hair using a bikini trimmer and not shave fully. As the results prove that this would be accepted within society as shaving “a little”, and having a “neat and tidy” look. It would also be better for hygiene than shaving completely - still keeping a layer of protection.

I found a great one in Boots for £10.99, “Wilkinson Sword Quattro For Women Bikini Razor”, as it’s a women’s trimmer and razor in one. I personally found an instant difference in comfort when riding my bike from trimming only, and have come across a lot less problems since doing so.

Please don't be enslaved by the beauty standards of the 21st century. We are governed by social influences that prescribe what is normal to do...but not necessarily the best thing to do.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Scott Demo Day

Earlier in the month I joined the Scott crew to trial their new MTB creations. I have a deep love for my own Specialized Stumpjumper Evo and Hardtail Yeti Arc C, so often I'm reluctant to try anything new.

However, without sacrificing my love for them, I have found that love comes in many forms. You are allowed to love more than one bike…shock horror…it is not cheating! First to trial was the Genius 710 Plus Carbon. This remains to be my favourite Scott bike and my most likely buy for the rocky Lake District terrain.

I looked at the Plus sized tyres and thought… ‘Oh no, it will be big and clumpy, with little control’. Others may have similar prejudiced opinions. But you should never judge a bike by its colour. Just like the Orange bikes that may appear bulky, but ride like there is nothing to them. The plus tyres were in fact amazing, with 27.5 inch wheels, but feeling like a 29er with the extra tyre width. I liked this as I'm used to riding a 29er and they felt comfortable. Every time I thought I was going to slip they would find traction where a slimmer tyre would not. The bike inspired confidence, as it rolled effortlessly through all the terrain that Whinlatter could throw at it. The Genius 710 Plus had the perfect ‘trail’ feel to it, with 140mm front travel and 130mm rear. The forks lock out well, making climbing much more efficient. It's not an XC race bike, but it was light at 13.20kg - making quick work of the climbs. If you want an even lighter version, go for a Genius 700 Tuned Plus, with its lighter build kit it weighs in at 12.30kg. Either bike would be the perfect trail companion. The 740mm T shape flat handlebars let me sit comfortably within the bike, not feeling pushed over the front. I am 5’11 and rode a size medium that was a good fit.

The second bike I rode was more of a Cross Country bike. The hardtail alloy Scale 710 Plus, with 120mm Fox forks. This bike felt lighter; which is funny because it is! It only weighs approx. 11.80kg, despite the alloy frame. Again, the plus tyres made riding more relaxing, rolling obstacles, but still feeling responsive. Initially I had a medium and it was too small at 5’11, the large was a better fit and I felt more in control. Emphasising the fact that the right bike size and fit makes a massive difference. I kept getting confused between the gear shifter and the mandatory new bike bell, but it did make people move out my way! You can get the complete bike (including the excellent bell) for just under £2,000, making it perfect for training or intermediate racing.

Saving the most entertaining bike for last, the E-Genius 710 Plus. After several laps of the trails on other bikes, I was worn out. I didn’t want to miss out on the last ride with the fast Scott guys. So I chose an electric bike to help me around. I was laughing most of the way saying “whoopee” whilst they were having to concentrate on breathing. The best thing was being able to choose when I wanted to work. Having five power settings, from ‘Off’ being no assistance to ‘Turbo’ being very powerful. They’ve even got walking covered with a 'Walking Assist' button for those hard pushes up hill.  It felt similar to the Genius bike downhill with 140mm front travel and 130mm rear, although it's much heavier (21.80kg). This is no problem because of the help you receive from the electric power. Downhill the extra weight helped me to carry my speed.

Although it felt cheeky, it meant I could do another lap and enjoy the descents again. I would recommend these bikes for people that are fed up of being at the back, or recovering from injury. It just gives an extra hand meaning you can enjoy the ride, rather than worrying about keeping up with everyone else. You can have a good workout depending on what setting is used, so you can still improve your fitness and abilities at your own pace. I love that these bikes make the sport more accessible to a wider range of people.

Recently I spotted a similar bike, the E-Contessa Genius 720 Plus in a beautiful purple and blue, for any ladies out there that have the same favourite colours as me. But remember don’t judge a bike by its colour…although it is really really pretty and I want one.

Thank you to the Scott Crew for an excellent demo day and setting us up on some sweet bikes.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Moving to the Lake District

I have just moved to University at Ambleside, in the Lake District. Six hours drive away from my home in Plymouth, Devon. This is a massive adjustment for me, being my first time living away from home.
Training has been tough because of this, but all changes take time and adjustment. I have been entering some Northern Cyclocross races and am looking forward to the 2016 XC season with optimism.
I am very lucky to have a fun group of University riders (University of Cumbria Mountain Bike Society) to go on adventures with.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

UCI 2015 World Cup - Val Di Sole (U23 Women)

I found myself entering the 2015 UCI World Cup in Val Di Sole, Italy, when some Elite women from the UK were looking for people to go with. Jumping at this opportunity I entered straight away, having gathered enough points through my National racing. I was joining Bethany Crumpton, Anna Cipullo, Verity Appleyard and Rhys Mainwaring, our mechanic.

I've never been given flowers for my number board and they just about survived the muddy race. It was a whole new experience of racing. I was pleased not to come completely last though. I started number 41 and finished 32nd, so improved on my gridding. Unfortunately I was 30 seconds too slow and got pulled out with 2 laps to go. But with that said, I had done a good 3 and a half laps, which I found plenty. It is really amazing to see what the top level of riding is like and just makes me more determined to improve and get better as they are just on another level. It was the best racing experience of my life, with some amazing people - I hope it won't be the last!



Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Pumping up the pressure

After puncturing (twice!!) at the Glasgow Nationals, I was determined to move on and put that behind me. There has been so much going on recently for Team MazingTree and the pressure has been rising. 

Starting with the South west circuit championships. For some reason I decided to do this as my second ever road race...although luckily I didn't have to do it on my old cross bike this time. All thanks to Certini who leant me a Specialised Tarmac Carbon! It was the perfect fit for me and felt so smooth to race on. I managed to stick with the main pack and had a massive sprint finish for 7th place (to be confirmed). It was an awesome race, although it did leave me feeling slightly dizzy from going in one direction and confused about where the roots and jumps were.

Next on the agenda was the National XC Championships at Hadleigh Farm Park, the Olympic mountain bike course.

Me and mum both packed our body armour for this course after several team members were injured two tears ago. Luckily, the course has improvements that make it slightly safer, although just as technical. The few modifications that were made meant there were far less injuries which can only be a good thing. After a morning of yoga and lying in the shade, it was time for our race. With my mechanic and pit crew slightly out of action with a broken scapula and clavicle, I was determined not to puncture and make it safely round.

Penny Allan in action

My main competitor for third place, Rebecca Preece, unfortunately crashed out at the start which was a shame as we would have had a good battle. Bethany Crumpton and Lucy Grant got a good lead and I managed to stay in third, and was pleased to get a bronze medal in my first Elite U23 National Championships.

U23 National Championships podium 2015

My mum had a very exciting race with Elizabeth Clayton, finishing one second apart in a sprint finish! This put her in fifth place against some very tough competition.

There was no stopping after that though... the weekend after was the Bontrager 24/12, a huge mountain bike event at Newnham Park. People travel all over the country to go to it, but for me and many others it was right on our doorstep. You can enter various different events, choosing to take part in the 12 hour race or the killer 24 hour race, as a team or even solo!

MazingTree race team joined with other teams to get involved.  My mum joined Sam Clifford, riding for Rockin’ Bikes. They did really well competing in 12 hour pairs from midday on Saturday through to midnight, coming second place.

Sam Clifford and Penny Allan - Photo by Harry Hunter

I joined up with the Yeti XC Racing guys (lucky me) and we took first place in the mixed team 12 hour event. For me, being in a team made it a very tough interval session, as I was on and off the bike lots throughout the rotation. Overall it was about 4 hours each of very high intensity riding! It was really exciting when it came to the darker hours as the atmosphere out in the woods was very eerie, but when you came through the arena you would get so much support. Although our team finished at 12am, many other teams carried on throughout the early hours of the morning into the next day. We stayed cheering them on until about 5am, as the atmosphere was great - before leaving them to carry on in the rain.

The Yeti XC racing team

1st Place on the podium


The Pilgrim Flyers a local youth riding club, also had a team entered. They were against many adults and not only completed the 12 hours, but got a great result too, finishing in 5th place. Their coaches, Maddie and Jay Horton rode 24 hours as a pair and won. The mad pair rode all through the night with no sleep to attain their victory.

It was a really sociable event with many local club riders and racers attending to support. There were a lot of our Yogi MTB club members entered. I think they enjoyed the BBQ and banter, as much as the riding.

Now that's done, all the fun and races have ceased for a couple of weeks, so I am making the most of a lazy Saturday.
It won't be long though until my season finale. The last round of the World Cup series in Italy, Val Di Sole. I'm so excited to experience riding amongst the worlds best and looking forward to sharing it with Bethany Crumpton, Anna Cipollo and Verity Appleyard.

Thanks to my coach Roy Wyle Smith of EliteVelo cycle coaching for all the support I have been given over this season. Also to the Pilgrim Flyers and Yogi Club for the fun times we have shared training together.

It has been one heck of a year!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Giving up is always a choice, but never an option

When I first started racing I used to cycle around the course thinking of different ways I could "accidentally" puncture my tyre, to relieve myself of the hard work. I had many different ideas - like picking up a thorn and stabbing my tyre! Luckily, I never actually carried this out, as I did actually enjoy the achievement of finishing.

As time has moved on, the last thing I would ever come to want in a race is to have a mechanical. Especially when you have travelled miles (the South west to Glasgow) to compete. It is inevitable that at some stage in a season something like this will happen and it is the harsh reality of racing.

I started off the race in Glasgow last weekend in 6th position. Feeling quite confident that I was settling into it and could keep pushing at that pace, which would have led to my best National result. My heart sank when I felt the tyre go down and I did everything in my will to stay calm and pump it back up. Unfortunately it was a slit too big for any sealant to recover and so my running to the pits began.

I got to the pits and had my excellent mechanic (A.K.A dad) was wondering what had happened to me and hoping I wasn't injured. He and friendly pit crews helped to put a tube in - so I thought my bad luck was out the way and I could continue to race.

Again, it was not to be, as my tube went down slowly, so I stopped at the returning pits to pump it up...then shot off for it only for it to go down AGAIN...resulting in more running to the pits for a whole new tyre to be put on.

By this time I new my race was definitely over. I had been lapped by the leaders and was far behind the rest of the pack. I put in another hard lap to finish, even though I was exhausted from waddling/running around by then and a little less motivated. I did not want to travel all that way to stop riding until I was told to stop.

I finished pretty much last and slightly heart broken, but I gave my dad a massive hug for getting me around the course and was so pleased to have still kept going. I have never given up and stopped in a race and don't plan on ruining that streak anytime soon.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Travelling North

As a mountain bike racer you get used to travelling around all over the country. I have never been to Scotland and will be venturing there for one of the Nationals in the summer all the way from Plymouth. You get to see a lot of new places through racing that one might not have otherwise visited. Last week I went further north than I have ever been. All the way up to the Lake District and got to race one of the Midlands races on our way home.

My family/team MazingTree IT went on holiday in the Lake District for a week. I'm moving to University in Ambleside next year and wanted to have a good look around. We were given a whole week of beautiful sunshine, which might have given me false hope that it won't rain when I live there.

Anyway, if you haven't been there...well you need to go. The week included a massive variety of riding terrain. One day we were riding over a nice fell and moorland, then the next we were hiking our bikes up a mountain or at a flowing trail centre. There was so much choice. My favourite was Whinlatter trail centre, the red trails are so much fun and had exciting technical sections. It gets all the uphill done in one go and then you have a long descent that just keeps going.

After riding for a week in the Lakes, we made our journey back via Cannock Chase for the Midlands XC. It was quite unusual for us to go to a regional race and not know many people, as I have only really competed in our South West rounds. It was quite exciting though as I knew I had some good competition with two elite Torq women entered in my category.

We had a mad race, with places switching each lap as we all crashed, went the wrong way and had so many people around us with such a large population of racers. I was really pleased to take the win in the elite category, although I'm not sure how much was luck that I managed to stay on my bike for most of the race and how much was actually fitness, as my legs were dead!

This first round of the Midlands XC Series was impressively organised, with food stands and a great podium at the end. For any level of rider I would definitely say it was worth some extra travelling to enter.

Now it's time for round two of the British Cycling Nationals at Newnham Park, Plymouth. I am really excited as this is local to me, so it will be nice to have more familiar faces supporting or joining in.