One of my favourite summer activities is cycling with friends – especially through the New Forest! So, when I saw that there was a local Sky Ride organised for last Sunday, I jumped on the chance to sign up immediately! Sky Rides are an amazing initiative from Sky and British Cycling – local tours supported by ride leaders who lead the group on organised routes through gorgeous cycle paths and roads. Check out the site here.
Another weekend, and another great Sky Ride Local! This time we cycled a sort of familiar route, although we started in a new place for me – still within cycling distance though (although we took the car as we had no idea where we were going!). This time the ride took us through Victoria Country Park and up to Hamble – we did a similar thing on our led ride from Weston Shore during the Big Bike Celebration in June.
It chucked it down for our trip to Itchen Valley Country Park, but the weather was glorious at the weekend – and even though I slathered myself in lotion, I still caught the sun a little bit. I decided to wear my ASOS cycling shorts with a skirt over the top – I love wearing skirts, but I always feel self-conscious about them being short, so whenever I cycle I get to wear cycling shorts underneath! This actually means I’m getting to wear my skirts way more than I did before, which is great news for me – shallow, I know! I also refound one of my favourite T-shirts that I bought from GAP years ago – it’s so thin and comfy, great for cycling in the sun.
I also discovered Heidi plaits are great for cycling (thanks, Minx Girl!) as they keep the hair off the back of your neck in a sweaty clump – they also look good with a helmet too.
Wearing my lovely Sawako Furuno helmet again – I wondered if the smaller ventilation holes would give me a hot head, but I’m pleased to report even in the sunshine I was fine! It’s definitely not as cool as a normal aerodynamic helmet, but it doesn’t bother me at all.
Unlike the previous two times I’ve been to a Sky Ride, I actually arrived early this time, and so I was able to laze about and watch everyone else hurriedly pull their bikes off their racks for a change!
The ride was a good mix of trails and roads – I’m still completely terrified of getting a puncture on gravel, but once I actually get one I think I’ll be fine. I really want to be able to take some kind of course in bike maintenance, but I can’t find anything nearby, which is pretty frustrating…
Anyway, I like having a mix of track and road, and the Allant manages to handle both decently. I think my favourite part is cycling down a long residential road, though, with everyone else stretched out in front. Somehow, as we all serenely glide along, it reminds me of clouds, just peacefully moving through the air.
Something about it just feels so effortless and peaceful. Until, of course, you get Omar, flipping me the bird over his shoulder.
He thought taking photos as I was cycling was hilarious. I have to admit, it’s not the safest thing you can do on a bicycle, but I wouldn’t dream of doing it if it was actually dangerous (or there was traffic on the road!). I’d love to get a camera mount for my handlebars, but I think that a set of lights is more pressing than that!
Here’s Rachel and Omar at Victoria Country Park – we stopped to watch a yacht race, but we were more interested in discussing their recent holiday to Cornwall. They got to go to the Eden Project, and a cycle ride that ended with Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop, so I’m insanely jealous!
The brief stop was great, though, and it wasn’t long before we were back on our bikes to head to the final point, which was Hamble.
There was a big group, and the leaders did a great job keeping everyone happy. Once we got to Hamble, we headed back again – it was about 75 mins of cycling all together, with about 30 mins of breaks added in.
We’ll definitely be trying out some of these routes ourselves when the Sky Rides end in August!
You might remember me mentioning before that I was interested in looking for alternative cycling helmets. I have an aerodynamic helmet from a cycling shop at the moment in a light electric blue – and it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but there are plenty of really cool helmets out there that I’d much prefer to wear.
After discussing the Ribcap, I thought I’d do a bit of investigation and actually purchase one. They’re quite difficult to find in the UK, as although they’re a European company, their official UK site seems to be a reseller rather than the company itself.
Given the rather limited range, I went with a Marley beanie, because red is sorta my thing at the moment:
The original RRP of this hat was £60 ($95), but this was on sale for the more reasonable sum of £27.95 ($44.59). I think I would have been incredibly disappointed if I’d paid full price for this.
So, first of all, the safety claims. Ribcaps have a material sewn into them in rib shapes which is slightly soft under normal contact, but which hardens when knocked. So, it’s malleable to mould to the shape of your head when wearing, but in theory, if you knock your head against something, the material will harden to protect you. Because there are gaps due to the way the material is sewn in, the Ribcap can’t protect you from a pointed surface, as there’s a possibility the impact could fall between these ribs and into the fabric. However, on a smooth surface, the ribs will absorb some of the impact. The greatest protection Ribcap claims to offer is against ‘mild concussion’.
The reactions of my friends to this have been mildly negative. All of them wear helmets and I don’t think any of them would consider wearing this instead of a helmet. My husband certainly wasn’t keen on it being used as safety equipment, and another friend was quite incredulous at the idea of me wearing it cycling.
I have to say, I don’t usually wear beanies, and I think they look sorta dorky on me, but I’ll make an exception to avoid ‘mild concussion’.
The unfortunate thing about this cap is its tendency to make you look a little bit like a pixie… Because of the stiff ribs, the top doesn’t really mould itself to your head, so you end up with a bit of a peak at the top. Also, there’s a large gap of protection at the top where the ribs don’t meet, which is a bit worrying. But I suppose if you’re going to be landing upside down on your head, a Ribcap isn’t going to help you…
In summary: the Ribcap is an excellent idea and I can definitely see it would be useful in sports or activities where it’s not traditional to wear headgear, but where head protection might be a good idea (ice skating, even walking on icy pavements). However, the claims floating around about the kind of protection it offers are not backed up by the company itself, and I think that third-party claims about the protection it does offer has been somewhat over exaggerated. It will only protect you from bumps and bruises and maybe offer some mild protection if you knock your head, but it’s certainly not going to offer you the same protection as a helmet. If you have a choice between this and a helmet, the best advice would be to wear the helmet every time. But if your choice is more likely to be between this or nothing, this is obviously the better choice than a naked head… And, it’s warm too!
It seems as though when you start a new hobby, it’s easy to stumble upon never before realised controversies that were lurking all along, under the surface of everyday life, completely unobserved by everyone else. For fans of foreign TV programmes or movies, there’s the dub versus sub debate. For bento box lunch enthusiasts, there’s some snideyness amongst people who only use ‘proper’ Japanese boxes, versus those who use western lunchware like Tupperware or Laptop Lunches. With vintage dressing, I know there’s some debate about repro clothing versus authentic, really from the era vintage clothing. To be honest, a lot of these are more to do with perceived elitism and snobbery than anything else, which I guess you get in the cycling world too. I was expecting a similar debate around lycra/safety clothing versus streetwear to crop up quite early on in my enthusiastic web surfing, but I must be dodging those sites completely. The one thing that keeps jumping out is helmets versus no helmets, and I’ll explain why that’s a bit of a shock for me.
As a child, the school laid on cycling proficiency lessons for us, which mostly seemed to involve dodging between traffic cones and being able to hold your hand out to signal right and left. The one thing that was totally gospel was helmet-wearing, and I guess, due to a lack of real cycling between then and now, as an adult, the idea that helmets were an essential part of cycling has always stayed with me. I see a lot of cyclists on the roads now, especially as I’m looking out for them, and I rarely see anyone without a helmet. Those that do are generally quite obviously making smaller, neighbourhood journeys. In order to get to the next shopping area from me, you have to travel down and up a rather large hill, and all the cyclists I’ve seen tackling this are wearing helmets.
For me, personally, as a new cyclist, I feel compelled to buy and wear a helmet. I don’t feel confident enough in my ability to cycle, in the roads, or in the traffic flow, to go without one. That could change,but in the meantime, I’ve been researching the most stylish options available for cyclists, and I’ve found some pretty neat ones!
Perhaps the most traditional looking helmet on my lust-list is the Nutcase, a cool-looking solid type of helmet from the US which resembles a BMX biker or skateboarders helmet.
Love the cool Union Jack design – and although it doesn’t have as much ventilation as the average aerodynamic helmet does, it still has some airholes there to keep your head cool. Priced around £45.
I also really like Sawako Furuno helmets, which you can buy at cyclechic.co.uk.
They’re quite pricey (from £60 up to £73) and I haven’t seen one that I’ve fallen in love with – yet. The colours are very pastel, so if that’s your style, you’ll love these! They’re very subtle and girly.
My favourite find so far has to be the cool Yakkay helmets, which come with interchangeable soft covers!
I’ve heard they can make your head sweaty, but it seems like a small price to pay for such stylish and protective headwear!
They come in three different sizes, so I’d have to purchase them in person to be sure I was getting the right size for me. They’re a bit pricey to buy sight-unseen, and I’m sure they’re not really waterproof either. But, they look great! They range from about £30 for a cover to £104 for a cover and helmet, depending on the style.
By far the most intriguing of my finds is the Ribcap.
Made from an amazing material which hardens when struck with a hefty force, the Ribcap looks like a soft beanie type wooly hat, but the manufacturers claim prevents head trauma. Sounds good to me! They look a little hefty for the summer, but I can imagine them being really good for the winter.
The Jackson may not look much on the mannequin, but it looks great on the model!
Again, they’re quite pricey (£50-60), but they do look good, and seem like a less restrictive choice if you don’t like the feeling of a traditional helmet. If you’d like to see the Ribcap being put through its paces, and want to find out more about what it’s made of, check out the Youtube video below of the Gadget Show.
If you’d like to see some more amazing helmets, I found this excellent site which has some really cool examples: Helmets Rock Hard.
- Ribcap folding bike ‘helmet’ – review | Helen Pidd (guardian.co.uk)
- Misleading perceptions (42bikes.warnock.me.uk)
- Fittingly Mad: Cyclists Not Wearing Helmets! (fitsugar.com)
If you know me – which, I’ll forgive you if you don’t, as we’ve only just met – you’ll know that I consider accessories to be the most exciting part of any venture. Buying a new games console? Better make sure you have those extra controllers and some blimming good games to play on it! Planning a party? Theme your decorations and tableware! Packing a lunch? Bento it up!
So, when it comes to bikes, I am seriously excited about this new opportunity to accessorise. And how! From baskets to panniers, gloves to helmets, there’s a whole world of stuff with which to pimp your ride, and I’m going to be covering some of the cutest things I can find, as well as documenting my search for the perfect accessories for me.