Fat Lad At The Back

  • Pants on or Pants off?

    We still hear that some of you out there are wearing pants under your padded cycling shorts! Whilst it might seem bold, the pads in your shorts are specially designed to be worn next to your skin.

    Wearing something underneath the pads can mean more sweat collecting, can stop the technical fabrics working, can ruin your pants and can cause chaffing and a whole lotta pain!

    Pads in cycling shorts used to be made from chamois leather back in the day before the high tech fabrics we now know. Yes, the stuff you use to clean your car with! Well it’s little wonder that ‘CHAMOIS’ cream was introduced to help keep the pad supple and help prevent chaffing. Thankfully we now have high density technical foam pads to keep us comfy but they are often still referred to as chamois.

    For many, chamois cream is an essential prevention of soreness during the hotter weather, when (without going into too much detail), it can get especially warm and sweaty in the undercarriage area. Modern chamois creams are formulated to help reduce friction, chaffing, skin irritation and some have anti-bacterial properties. Cream can be applied on to the skin and /or pad before a ride but avoid intimate areas or riding a bike will be the last thing on your mind!

    These creams won’t help with aches and pains in your sit bones from your saddle but a good fitting pair of quality padded shorts, chamois cream and absolutely NO pants will certainly help to keep your nether regions feeling peachy.
    Pants on? Pants off?

    There are many brands of chamois cream on the market and which one you get depends on which one suits you best. If you have very sensitive skin, we can recommend Assos which is formulated to have a cooling effect and also provides a lovely pre-ride tingle! Some creams have been formulated specifically for women, such as Hoo Ha Ride Glide which has a slightly thinner formulation.

  • Rafe's Cycling Terminology

    It can be hard to find motivation and even harder to get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves further, so here are some top tips on achieving both.

    Firstly I need you to think about where you are on your own cycling journey - don't compare yourself to others, but think about your own health, fitness, experience etc. With that in mind, what is your "comfortable distance" (CD) and "slightly scary distance" (SSD)? With regards to your SSD, this might be a distance you've already done, or a distance you'd like to achieve, but it's important that it's your personal goal.

    Sometimes just getting out on the bike is hard even if it's well within our CD range. The faff of getting changed, getting the bike out the shed, thinking of somewhere to go. Much easier to not bother.

    I find the best way round that is to commit to something "comfortable" in the very near future - whether that's agreeing to meet a friend, signing up to one of our social rides, a ride with a local club or something from www.letsride.co.uk Finding the motivation to make that commitment is really quite easy when you're sitting on the sofa in the cozy warm.  Finding the motivation to go out on your own when you're all tucked up in bed on a weekend morning isn't, especially at this time of year. Arguably no-one will care if you actually turn up or not (well, maybe your friend will if you chose that option!) but I find that if I've said I'm doing a ride, then I will and I'm sure you will too.

    So that's your CD rides taken care of... but what about your SSD ride? For that we should take advantage of a human trait known as "construal level theory".

    Put simply, CLT says the further away something is, the less we are able to think about it - we're unable to focus on the details.  For us as cyclists that means we're always going to more optimistic about events that are a good while away. For example, if I asked you to cycle your SSD instead of your CD this weekend, you'll come up with reasons why you cant (if you don't then replace your CD with your SSD and come up with a proper SSD!) - it's too cold, you're not fit enough, you're not sure. However, if I asked you to do it at the end of the summer, you're likely to agree - you've loads of time to get fit, the weather will be better, you'll have done training etc.

    So go and find that SSD event in the summer (preferably The Big Fat Bike Ride 2019!) and sign up for it. Now.

  • Rafe's FLAB Challenge

    Back by popular demand, it's Rafe's FLAB challenge!

    The challenge is simple, but is a great way of taking you out of your comfort zone and boosting your confidence! Follow Rafe's instructions below:

    "I first did this as a very inexperienced cyclist. My wife and I were going to a wedding that was around my max-cycling-distance from home (as the crow flies) and staying the night. I put my bike in the car and drove us there. The next morning my wife drove the car back whilst I cycled. We met half-way for lunch at a pretty little town – my wife had obviously got there before me but not by far and had a nice mooch round whilst I was pedalling. After lunch, I got back on the bike and she got back in the car."


    1. Think of the maximum distance you feel comfortable cycling unsupported. It doesn’t matter if this is 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 miles/km.
    2. Go to this https://www.doogal.co.uk/Circles.php
    3. Enter your home postcode in the “Find a place” box and hit “Find”
    4. Enter the number from step 1 into the “Distance from centre” box and hit “Show circle/s”.
    5. Be amazed at how far that covers.
    6. Move/zoom the map around to find a place near the edge of the circle that resonates with you. Could be because the train goes there, you’ve a friend there, it’s a nice place, whatever.
    7. Get to the place in step 6 via train or a lift.
    8. Cycle home unsupported.
    9. Realise a) you’ve probably just cycled 25% further than what you identified in step 1 (because roads don’t go in straight lines), b) you’ve got home under your own steam, c) you’re awesome and can do anything you set your mind to.
    10. Be proud.


    So many good reasons for doing this challenge:

    1.  Home is a nice destination and you’ll be motivated to get there.
    2.  You have to do the distance as you’re already on the shortest route home.
    3.  At least half of your ride will be in a place you don’t normally ride in (assuming you normally start/end at home).
    4.  People will be shocked/impressed when you tell them you cycled from x back home.
    5.  It’ll open up your eyes to a whole different side to cycling and your abilities.
    6.  Because the distance chosen was the maximum you’re comfortable with, the challenge is as difficult for you as it is anyone else – we’re all equal!

    The Rules:

    There aren’t really any rules, but just to be clear:

    1.  You’re allowed to pre-plan your route/stops (in fact I’d encourage it, getting lost & adding unnecessary miles/hills is no fun).
    2.  You can do it solo or as part of a group.
    3.  In endurance cycling, unsupported means no backup/support car following you or meeting you at pre-arranged places, you must carry everything with you or purchase it on route from shops/cafes that are available to everyone. However, if it means you do it rather than not do it, then feel free to break this rule! NB: Yes I realise the above anecdote seems to contravene this rule, but I took nothing from the car/wife.
  • A day at the Derby Velodrome

    Fancy riding your bike on a nice easy to follow route? No rain, no mud, no puddles? No cars to avoid? No dodgy right turns at junctions? No junctions at all in fact! Just one slight problem.....the corners are on a 42 degree slope. You read that right - 42 degrees! Oh yes, and you won't be on your own bike, you’ll have to borrow one - one with drop bars, one gear, no brakes, no freewheel.


    Yes - it was Fat Lad (and Lasses) at the Track. After 9 months of trying to get a slot - it is REALLY popular and busy - I managed to get a one hour intro session for my FLAB group at the velodrome at Derby Arena. And from the speed the other 15 places got snapped up, it was obviously something other people were keen to try as well!

    OK, I'll admit that I've done a few of these intro sessions since the track was opened, but I'd not been for the best part of a year. So as we gathered in reception, I recognised that some of the forced smiles and too loud laughter among the group was hiding a slightly hollow feeling of butterflies under the (mostly) on message array of FLAB jerseys we were modelling. Quite big butterflies to be honest.

    It doesn't get any better as you walk out into the arena. Even with the infield being taken over for this year’s Derby pantomime, it's quite an awe inspiring sight as you walk out under the track and take the steps up to the "D" where you meet your coach, your bike, and your destiny. The D is inside the bend of the track. As you sit there in the pre-ride briefing, you only have to look over your shoulder for that 42 degree banking to loom high above you like a wall of Siberian pine. Imagine, if you will, a very open plan sauna. I was certainly beginning to sweat.

    Our coach, Simon, talked everyone through the basics of a track bike - yes, it really doesn't have any brakes, it really does only have one gear and because it's a fixed wheel you really can't stop pedalling. You should always ride on the drops of the handlebars. Oh, and if you don’t go round the banking at 15mph then gravity will have its wicked way with you, so pedal hard in the bends. We took our borrowed bikes and clipped and clopped our way up the ramp in what to many of us were unfamiliar road cleats and onto the flat safety zone that runs round the inside of the track. Coach Simon had recognised me from my previous visits. "You've been before, you know what you're doing," he declared to me and another of the group who is a regular there and fully accredited track rider. "Off you go while I talk to the rest". I really wasn't feeling quite as confident in my abilities, but begging seemed rather undignified in front of the group.

    You don’t even start off like you do on a normal bike. You hold on to the railing with your left hand while you clip in with both feet. Then you realise that the pedals are all at the wrong position and try and back pedal to correct them – except it’s a fixed wheel bike and you can’t just spin the pedals. Unclip both feet, hop off the saddle, lift the rear wheel, rotate the pedals to where you want them, hop back up on to the saddle, clip back in, right hand on the top of the handlebars, reach along the rail with your left hand, grip it tight, look back over your right shoulder to make sure no one is coming up behind you, then in one smooth motion you pull on the rail with your left hand while you push hard on the pedals and you wobble off along the safety zone praying you have enough speed to stay upright.

    That fixed gear seems like hard work until you get up to speed and then suddenly you are moving more steadily. As I come round to complete my first lap on the safety zone I can see the rest of my group wobbling away from the rail one by one, like little ducklings taking to the water for the first time. Which forces me to commit to the first, flat wooden section of track, the light blue “cote d’azur” – get me, with all the fancy terms! – to give us all room. “More speed” Simon instructs me and points to the brown wooden track itself. The one with the big steep bend in it!

    On the back straight I build up my speed and pull on to the track properly, following the black line just up from the safety and security of the flat cote d’azur. I can see the bend approaching, it seems ridiculously steep but at least I’m only a foot or so higher than normal if I come off now! Am I doing 15mph? I’ve no way of telling, so I push harder on the pedals and the bike and I tilt into the bend and due to forces of physics my long forgotten “O” level never really explained to me I have survived and got round the first bend and just as the elation is about to kick in I realise that the next bend is right there in front of me.  On a 250m oval track, the bends come at you thick and fast, so I keep pedalling hard as I bring the bike up to the next, red line, a bit higher up the track and hold it there, feeling more confident each lap as the warm dry air begins to dry my throat at a surprising rate and my legs begin to complain at the fact that they absolutely have to keep pedalling as I simply cannot relax and freewheel.

    The group have had a couple of goes at starting and stopping so Coach Simon signals for me to come in and stop. Stopping is pretty much a reverse of starting – come down the track to the cote d’azur, relax your legs to pedal more slowly and lose speed over 1 or 2 laps until you ease gently up to the railing and reach out to grab the rail with your left hand just as your legs stop turning and the bike stops. Except that I’m still going a bit too fast, overshoot the rail and have to pedal round again for a second, more successful attempt.

    The group are chatting and smiling to each other – they’ve all successfully started and stopped one of these wonderfully weird bikes without mishap. And it wasn’t as bad as they feared. On the flat. And this is where Simon’s excellent coaching skills come in to their own – as he drops some flat cones along the track in the start/finish straight, he explains that we are going to set off again, three bike lengths apart, building up our speed on the cote d’azur, and then when we come into that straight we have to go up the track around the cones and then drop back down. And we do – round on the light blue bit, up on to the wooden track above the cones then drop back down to the light blue for the bend. Easy. Confidence on the bike improves each lap, the speed eases upwards in response, and the cones move further up the straight section of track with each lap until we are riding up towards the outside of the track and dropping back down further towards the start of the bend. Starting to ride the banking without even realising it.

    After another all too brief rest, the cones are removed and we are off around the track in a long line while we build up speed to that magic 15mph – relatively easy with no wind, no traffic, no potholes – and Simon points us out to the black line to follow it around all the way round the track. Round the 42 degree banking. And we do it! You can feel the satisfaction, amazement, delight as we all realise we are really riding the track at a velodrome. Simon guides us further up the track in stages, red line in the straights, down to the black in the bends, blue on the straights, red on the bends. He drums into us the vital skill of checking over your shoulders before you move up and down the track, to call out “Stay!” as you are about to overtake someone so they don’t pull out in front of you, and then he lets us loose, giving us the chance to see what we can do on the track, to discover how much speed you can pick up as you come down off the banking into the straights, how much easier it is to hold the line in the bends the faster you go.

    Then it’s over – our hour is up. We are all pumped with adrenaline, laughing, caught up in that heady feeling of success that in the space of an hour we had gone from – most of us – total novices, track virgins, to riding laps on the banking. And enjoyed it. For all of us, it was a bucket list ticked off – ridden at the velodrome. No one said they hadn’t enjoyed it, a few were happy to leave it as a one off experience, far more were keen to come back and try it again. It is “just riding a bike” but it’s unlike any kind of bike riding I’ve done before – nervy, anxious, exciting, exhilarating all at once.

    A couple of week later I got the chance to go again on a novice session with my local cycle club – same nervous newbies, same routines with the same coach, same delighted reactions at the end. The next time I ride a bike I’m commuting into work – my old familiar bike, brakes, gears, rucksack, traffic. But it feels slightly different somehow. I feel more balanced, more connected with the bike. I pedal faster to speed up rather than changing up and mashing a bigger gear. My pedalling seems smoother, I’m aware of my feet turning circles, pushed by my thighs. It’s the feeling I had on the velodrome.

    Tempted to try the track? Then do it – there are 5 indoor velodromes in the UK (Derby, Manchester, London, Newport and Glasgow) – all offering introductory sessions with great coaches for people just like you, people who ride bikes for the fun of it and want to try something different. But be warned - it gets addictive. In another couple of weeks I’m going back again with the club to do my Level 2 accreditation. And there’s a speculative eBay search for “track bikes” on my account. It’s a slippery slope.

    And it’s 42 degrees.

    Steve Wadey

  • A Guide to Winter Bike Lights

    With such an expansive range of lights available to cyclists, we can confidently ride all year round through the darkest nights and gloomiest mornings. To keep riding throughout the winter it’s important to have the right lights for the right occasion. Bike lights can generally be broken down into three categories; commuting, road riding and mountain biking, with some inevitable crossover and multi-purpose lights.

    Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 16/01/2016 - Cycling - Fat Lad at the Back.

    See or Be Seen

    The first thing to consider when buying bike lights is to establish whether you need the light ‘to see’ with or ‘to be seen’. A light used to see with will generally have a bigger brightness output
    (measured in lumens) and more focused beam trajectory to light the way ahead. A light used to be seen will come with a wider beam to be seen from more angles as well as a variety of modes and brightness settings. If you’re commuting in a well-lit urban area your focus should be on buying lights that are going to help you ‘be seen’. If you’re riding off-road trails at night you’re going to need a powerful light with a focused beam to see what’s ahead.

    What to look for 

    The majority of bike lights will have a lumen value on them, this refers to the maximum total amount of light emitted. The higher the lumen value, the more light given out. Typically a light used specifically for commuting in a well-lit area should be around 200 lumens, for road riding at night you will need at least 500 lumens if riding on unlit country roads and for mountain biking in the dark we’d recommend something with 800 lumens upwards. Battery life and charging options should also be considered when looking at light options. The majority of bike lights now feature built-in rechargeable batteries which can be charged via USB, although some lights may still run on disposable batteries such as AA’s. Rechargeable lights mostly use Lithium-ion batteries which are generally lighter and more powerful than disposables, and will have some sort of indicator to show how much battery life remains. Run time or burn time will state how long a light will last from fully charged to flat on each of the specified settings or modes. This is important and will dictate how long and far you’re able to ride for.

    Which light is for me?
    This all depends on where, when and for how long you’re riding. As mentioned earlier this can fall into one of three categories; commuting, road riding or mountain biking. Lights for commuting must prioritise rider safety above all else, as riding to and from work generally
    takes place in a street-lit urban environment. For commuting we would recommend a rear light with somewhere between 50 and 100 lumens when riding in the dark and a front light with 200 to 400 lumens. This category of light will come with a variety of running modes, including at least one constant mode plus numerous flashing modes with high levels of side visibility prioritised. The Knog PWR Commuter Light is one of the best front lights for commuting with a maximum output of 450 lumens that will run at a constant 200 lumens for 2 hours, which will cover most daily commutes. While the Fabric USB is a great rear light option that features 180° visibility and is rechargeable via USB so can be charged between the morning and evening commute.

    For serious road riding on unlit roads a powerful front light is a must. A focused beam with at least 500 lumens is needed to light the road ahead and pick out potholes, drains and any other road furniture you’re likely to encounter. The Cateye Volt 800 is a superb front light that strikes a balance between functionality and compactness, with multiple mounting options and a low battery indicator. The Lezyne Strip Drive Pro 300 is an extremely powerful LED rear light and is waterproof, which is especially useful in British winter. With nine different modes and up to 300 lumen output it’s the perfect option for road riding at night. The demands of mountain biking at night call for a seriously bright front light, with no artificial light around and trees and rocks lurking around every turn. The thrill of trail riding at night is like none other and we’d recommend giving it a go. You’ll need at least 1000 lumens of output up front to light the way ahead and many riders will often use a helmet mounted light in addition to one mounted on the bars. The Exposure Race MK13 is one of the best front lights around with a maximum output of 1900 lumens and a new fast charging system to reduce charge time by 35%. The
    Exposure TraceR is a super compact rear light with 3 brightness levels and a fuel gauge displaying the remaining battery life using a traffic light system and is rechargeable via USB.

    In summary
    If you’re going to ride through the winter in the UK you’re probably going to be riding in the dark at some point and it’s a legal requirement to ride with a white front and red rear light when riding at night on a public road. Bike lights are an essential piece of kit and should be a considered and informed purchase. The most important points to think about are your budget, whether you need ‘to see’ or ‘be seen’, charging and mounting options and running time. Once you have determined all of this you’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect bike lights for your riding. Then you’re all set to go out and enjoy being on your bike, which is what we all love to do.


    Thanks to Wheelbase UK for writing this exclusively for Fat Lad At The Back.

  • BLUE Monday the most depressing day of the year?

    Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January (typically the third Monday of the month) claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.


    NO, it’s not just you!

    If the first few weeks of January has left you feeling a bit blue and you can’t put your finger on why you’re not alone, here are the top 8 reasons why it’s not just you that felt down in the mouth and some positives to help you shake off the January blues and look forward to stepping into February feeling flabulous!

    Reasons to be miserable:

    1. The Christmas Comedown

    After December’s month long exercise in sedentary binge eating and excessive booze consumption, comes January’s self-sacrifice and austerity which can be a bit of a shock to the system after weeks of over indulgence.

    1. Sober

    Whether you  did Dry January or just cut back it can be soul destroying not to have a glass of vino or a pint to look forward to after a long day at work.

    1. Skint

    We’re all skint after Christmas and January can feel like one long Simply Red song (money’s too tight to mention) especially when the credit card bill arrives!

    1. Hungry

    Everyone and their dog was on a diet in January (you can’t use that old shrunken jeans chestnut forever) and there is nothing like depriving yourself of carbs to leave you feeling a bit dejected.

    1. No Bank Holiday in sight

    After two weeks of doing naff all over the festive break the reality check of the daily grind can overwhelm us a little and leave us feeling more than a bit fed up.  There isn’t even a bank holiday to look forward to until Easter.

    1. Cold

    It's dark, it’s damp and its bloody freezing – the lack of sunlight and plummeting temperatures are enough to make anyone feel disheartened.

    1. The kids were doing your head in

    If there’s one thing Christmas is good for its blackmailing your children “if you don’t behave, Santa won’t bring you any presents” - that carrot and stick is redundant for at least another ten months so it’s back to actually having to parent our kids (sigh!).

    1. Feeling like a Failure

    All that ‘go hard or go home’ motivation can get a bit much when your social media timelines are full of other people’s good intentions, gym selfies and meal pics.  If the detox, diet or Olympian exercise regime didn’t go quite to plan it can leave us feeling a bit like a failure.

    Let's Look Forward To Febuary

    group 4

    If you've spent most of January feeling Blue, you’ll be glad to see the back of the month and look forward to February; it’s starting to get lighter, you’ve been paid, Dry January is over and pancake day is just around the corner.

    January can make you feel like you need to change your whole life, quit smoking, cut down on drinking, go on a diet and launch a tech start up to make your millions.  Really?

    If your New Year’s resolutions haven’t gone to plan, you still haven’t lost *that* 10lbs or put those shelves up, life is too short.  Now that January is nearly finished we have the whole of 2019 to look forward to, dates to put in the diary, cycle rides to plan and beer to drink.

    There is one sure fire way to put a smile on your face and a glow in your cheeks……….dust off the cleats, get the bike out of the shed and get back in the saddle.  Let the gym bunnies fight over the treadmill in the gym and enjoy the open road.

    You don’t have to try become Bradley Wiggins overnight, give yourself a break and set yourself some realistic and achievable goals to work towards.  Why not sign up to our FLAB Big Fat bike ride 2019 on 11th May. If you're looking for some riding buddies why not join one of our FLAB social rides our in your area  FLAB social ride locations or if there's not one in your area why not apply to become part of our FLampion team Become a FLAmpion

  • THE BIG FAT BIKE RIDE 2019 - What's your excuse for not signing up?

    It’s 2019 and that can mean only one thing: The Big Fat Bike Ride is looming!

    It’s our 4th Up North Sportive, which means we’ve got pretty good at recognising when people are making excuses for not signing up. While some people’s reasons are legitimate (fine, we’ll let you off if you live in Australia...), others have expressed the same worries we hear every year about fitness, confidence, hills and other things that in our opinion, you shouldn’t let stop you!

    And we get it - the Sportive can seem like a daunting event for newcomers. But like joining a new gym class or getting out on your bike for the first time in a while, it’s never as bad as you imagine and you never regret doing it! 

    Here are some of the most common worries riders have surrounding the sportive - and our advice on how to overcome them:


    1) “I haven’t booked the time off yet” or “I don’t know which mileage to do!”

    Just commit! January can be a pretty bleak time and it’ll make you feel great to get a date in the diary and have something to look forward to. Booking the time off might also give you some extra motivation to train if you’re feeling the post-Christmas slump.

    Unsure which ride to sign up for? Our rule of thumb is that if you can comfortably ride 80% of the distance you’ve signed up for at 10mph, you’ll complete the Sportive no problem! Set yourself a realistic target and consider signing up with a group of similarly-able friends for an added boost of confidence on the day.

    Our Fat Lad team are also here to advise you. Email fatlads@fatladattheback.com with any questions - no matter how silly!

    2)  “I won’t get up the hills!”

    This is perhaps the most common excuse we hear. The main thing to remember about hills is that the worst possible thing that can happen is you have to get off and push. Is that really a problem? Of course not! No matter how slow you go or what place you finish, you’re still lapping everyone on the sofa who didn’t sign up!

    Every year, riders walk up the hills and our Ride Marshals are always there to make sure no-one gets left behind! If you want to volunteer to be a Ride Marshal, email us for more info.

    3) “Something might go wrong with my bike and I won’t know what to do!”

    With 1000 riders taking part, it is inevitable that some will get a puncture - but this isn’t the end of the world! If you don’t know how to fix a puncture, it is worth learning beforehand. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to master after a few practices! There are loads of basic YouTube tutorials with step by step guides on how to change an inner tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwwfV99VV8I

    We do recommend that you carry a puncture repair kit with you just in case. But most importantly, don’t panic! There will always be people willing to stop and help you if it’s not something you can fix yourself.

    4) “I’m not fit/confident enough!”

    If you’re worried about your fitness level, signing up to the Sportive can be a really great way of motivating yourself to get fitter! It’s still 3 months away, so you have plenty of time. Our 25 miler is a great ride for beginners, although don’t expect it to be totally flat - this is Yorkshire after all!

    All participants also have the option of riding in a group supported by one of our FLABulous Ride Marshals. These friendly groups are full of like-minded people all encouraging one another to do their best! If you’d rather ride on your own, each route is fully signposted and can be downloaded before the event. We also make sure to set the longer distance riders off first so you won’t have many people overtaking you!

    Our Sportive is well known for being the most inclusive, friendly event in the cycling calendar. Don’t believe us? Check out our Sportive page to read last year’s reviews: https://fatladattheback.com/sportive/flab-sportive

    Tempted to sign up yet? We hope so. One lad once forgot his shoes and still managed to take part, so you've really got no excuse! We can’t wait to see you all there for the biggest, fattest Sportive yet!


  • Meet Doris my inner Chimp

    Meet Doris, my doubting inner voice who likes to sabotage a lot of my cycle rides, sometimes before I've even left the house...

    Doris spends a lot of time with me and to be honest she can be a Bitch!

    Doris sits on my shoulder and whispers “you can’t do it, you’re just not good enough…”

    I’ve learned to put Doris in a little box to keep her quiet but when I’m having a bad day she pops out and starts whispering again…

    I’ve learned to acknowledge Doris, sometimes when I’m going up a hill thighs burning, lungs bursting, she’ll put in an unwanted appearance, screaming at me to stop, yelling that there’s no way I can do it!

    I say “shut the $@&% up Doris and tell her that I know it hurts but the pain is temporary, we can make it a bit further just to the next tree or lamppost…”, keeping Doris in her box can be so distracting that before I know it we’re at the top of the hill.

    Now all my cycling buddies have named their doubting inner voices, and if someone tells us Daphne has joined us for the ride or that Deirdre popped out on the last hill, it’s our way of saying we’re struggling a little bit and then we all have a laugh about giving Daphne, Deirdre or Doris a rollicking and carry on. It has a powerful effect and just talking about it instantly puts all our fears at bay.

    I have days where Doris is so powerful, I just don’t have the energy to shut her up, and that’s ok as it’s just part of what makes me human after all.

    But accepting Doris, naming her and talking about her has had a huge effect on my mental strength and without doing so I wouldn’t have been able to cycle the length of France or climb Mont Ventoux or cycle LE JOG. Doris is ever present whether she’s inside or outside of the box and acknowledging her as being part of me has taught me a great life lesson that my most powerful muscle is my mind and where the mind goes the body follows.


    SW1_7011Doris,Deirdre and Daphne successfully kept in their boxes and another sportive completed.

  • 2018 – My first year as a FLampion-Neil Warwick

    2018 – My first year as a FLampion.

    The two most common questions I get asked as a FLampion are – what is a FLampion, and how did you get in to doing the role?

    The first I can only take an educated guess at, but I assume it’s a concatenation of the acronym FLAB and the word ‘Champion’ so a FLAB Champion. Our role is to help to promote cycling in our local area by arranging social rides for all comers under the FLAB banner.

    The second question is easier to answer - Having been a FLAB customer for a few months I visited their stand at the NEC Cycle Show in September 2017 to get some more kit and got in to a conversation with a couple of people on the stand who I later learned were the Founder Richard Bye, and the Community Project Manager, Adrienne Horne, where the subject of the FLampion role was mentioned. This piqued my interest, and after a little thought I decided to throw my hat in to the ring for one of the roles. Fast forward to January 2018 and I was both excited and nervous to receive an email from FLAB HQ congratulating me on my appointment as the FLampion for Berkshire for 2018.

    I ran my first ride in early February and following advice from more seasoned FLampions picked a route I was very familiar with and apprehensively waited to see if anyone actually turned up – I needn’t have worried though as there were twelve of us on that first ride many of which have become regular riders throughout the year.NW Very First FLAB Berkshire Ride

    With Berkshire being a relatively small county it’s been easy to move the start point around a bit to give people the chance of having a ride near to their home, and also provides different roads and scenery for people to ride on – we used five different starting point on the rides throughout the year and more than fifteen different routes on the twenty eight rides we organised. More start points and different routes are currently being researched for 2019.

    One target I set myself (and failed to reach) was to ride with ten different FLAB groups throughout the year but I over-estimated how many local groups there would be to me with there not being any in many of the neighbouring counties, but I did manage to ride with the Wiltshire group, and the Cheshire group once each but the Hampshire group have been like a second group for me. With their FLampion being only about twelve miles from me just across the border I have ridden with them a number of times, and there are many riders who are members of both groups and will often attend one ride with a group on Saturday and the other group on a Sunday.

    nw Berks_Meets_Hampshire

    We have also had a couple of ‘special occasion’ rides – the first was a Berkshire meets Hampshire ride where both groups did their own rides out to a café stop on the county border where we met for the three C’s (Coffee, Cake, & Chat). And the second was our Christmas Fancy dress ride where we were joined by Hampshire FLampion James Morrison in his best Santa outfit to complement my Rudolph antlers!

    Looking back at the start of 2018 when I began my journey as a FLampion I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how many people I would get on my rides, what routes people would want and how fast they would want to ride, but overall all of those concerns disappeared very quickly and we managed to build our small group from a handful of members to a Facebook group of over eighty, and I have had to make the tough decision to limit the number of riders to twelve people for everyones enjoyment and safety and many rides are full up.

    FLAB prides itself in being an ‘all-inclusive’ cycling brand and this has been reflected in the diversity of our riders with the youngest being only thirteen up to a lady in her seventies and we even have what we believe to be the FLAB communities first ‘hand cyclist’ in Nerys who uses a custom built recumbent tricycle to cycle using her arms, and, as we found out on our first ride together is surprisingly fast!

    NW FLAB_Berks_Xmas

    I started this post with a question and will end with the third question I’m frequently asked about being a FLampion– Why do I do it? This can best be summed up in an example of how the group have evolved in to a community. When FLAB had an end of season sale in the Autumn of 2018, one of the group members co-ordinated orders for a few people so that they could all share the postage costs and then organised the distribution of each persons order between them. It’s this sense of community that drives my desire to be a FLampion and give something back to a sport / pastime that’s given me so much over the almost forty years I’ve been riding.

    2018 was brilliant, let’s hope 2019 can be even better!

    If you’re in the Berkshire area, (or just visiting from other parts of the country) check out our Facebook page at www.bit.ly/flab_berkshirewhere you can get the latest information on rides and routes etc.



  • Prevent Breast Cancer - Inspiring Stories

    Lindsay OcclestonGenesis Breast Cancer with Robert's Bakery, Business Networking Morning at Cafelito, Stockport

    When Lindsay Occleston received a diagnosis of breast cancer, she was determined to give herself every chance of beating the disease and remaining cancer-free.

    After several torturous months of breast cancer treatment, Lindsay was keen to make alterations to her lifestyle. Unsure how to proceed, Lindsay was introduced to Prevent Breast Cancer, who helped her learn more about breast cancer awareness, her own diet and the lifestyle changes she could make to improve her chances of a full recovery.

    “When I heard about their unique vision – I felt this immediately resonated with me, as I felt so strongly about helping prevent the disease in the first place to protect my daughter and all other children in the future.”

    Lindsay has since made some fundamental changes to the way she lives, including exercising regularly and adopting the 5:2 diet, developed by Dr Michelle Harvie from Prevent Breast Cancer.

    “When I was introduced to the 5:2 diet… I knew it was the perfect diet for me. I would advise anyone who is in a similar position to me, i.e. that it is impossible to follow a controlled diet every day of the week – that with fasting 2 days a week, you really can have your cake and eat it!”

    She has also become an ambassador for Prevent Breast Cancer. Lindsay notes that these changes have led to a significant and sustainable level of weight loss, a better sense of wellbeing and an overall happier state of mind. Lindsay now urges anyone suffering with cancer to consider the same lifestyle and diet alterations:

    “I would advise anyone looking to improve their wellbeing to avoid setting too high a goal, as it’s important to take little steps and they really can make a significant difference. Regular, moderate exercise can boost energy levels, as much as doing something really challenging.”

    Since working with Prevent Breast Cancer, Lindsay has cycled the 320 miles from London to Paris in aid of the charity and deems it “one of the best things I have ever done!”

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