Women & Cycling pt2
Jane here again with another insight into the world of women and cycling. Much less rambling from me this time and straight into our little interview with our next fabulous NorthRoad rider, Kirstie.
Kirstie is 34 years old, a Deputy Sister in Intensive Care – nurse for 12 years! Her preferred cycling is on the road and she’s currently exploring gravel. I’m sure as you read her answers you will, as I did, feel the passion oozing from her words on the topic of cycling and how it instils joy, makes you want to throw your most appropriate cycling gear on, enjoy the outdoors and just breathe!
Q: How did you get into cycling?
A: Like many adults, I used to cycle as a child. Spent many of my days in the fields where I lived, my
mum never had a clue where I was! I tested the roads, pushing the boundaries of what I knew my
mum would never allow. Up the hills just to feel the buzz of flying back down them.
And then I got older … bike riding became a means to get to places, for the paper round, to get to and from work … never for pleasure.
And then my fiancé came along when I was 27 years old. A brewing cycling enthusiast with a bike far to big for him and lycra shorts with a chamois was a cringe worthy suggestion! Falling head over heels and sparking joyful cycling memories from my childhood years, I bit the bullet and bought myself a basic hybrid bike so I could join him on his adventures. Starting with short little pootles around our local parks, canal paths and reservoirs, it wasn’t long before I’d got the bug too. Remembering the thrill of bombing it down hill and that satisfying ache in the legs. Soon enough we were planning our first trip to the Lake District with our bikes in tow. I completely fell in love with cycling and the great outdoors all over again! A year later I got my first “proper” road bike. Five years after that, my dream machine from you guys at NorthRoad!
Q: Any barriers to biking?
A: What stops me from cycling as much as I’d like to? Work! The pure exhaustion I feel from doing my
job. Being a nurse is mentally and physically demanding. I work 12.5hour shifts, days nights,
weekends …there is no regularity to the shifts. I could finish a weekend of nightshifts Monday
morning, then flip into day shift mode for 12 hours again on Wednesday 7.30am sharp. I physically
ache most days, more than a woman of 35 years should (my mum suffers with fibromyalgia and I
often wonder if I am the same.)
My brain is often unkind to me…I’ve had treatment for PTSD, anxiety and depression over the years.
The mental power it takes to do anything more than function some days is well, hard.
That being said!!! Cycling is my escape. I never regret a bike ride. Those days where I do feel
particularly low, the day after a particularly emotional/traumatic shift at work, to shake off the
nightshift fog…I ride my bike. It makes me feel strong, powerful, like I can take on anything. It
refreshes the feel good hormones. It helps empty my mind, all I have to do is concentrate on turning
the pedals and staying upright. It was a place of solace during the COVID pandemic, which during
that time I came across this quote in a book that just seems to nail it… “…to keep your sanity, you
must have a place in the world where you can loose yourself if necessary. That place, that refuge is a
small annex of the soul, and when the world reverts to its absurd comedy, you can always run there,
lock yourself in and throw away the key” (Carlos Ruiz Zafon). That place for me, is on my bike on a
smooth country lane.
Q: Tell us about your cycling highs, lows and adventures.
A: I always ride with my fiancé. It gives us time to reconnect.
I rarely ride on my own. In fact, only the other day I did a solo spin for the first time in a year! (I used
to solo spin ALOT – one perk of shift work, weekdays off = slightly quieter roads during the day!)
A ridiculous fear has crippled me for the last year. Being on my own if something goes wrong – a
mechanical I can’t fix, a crash, bonk and can’t get home, unknown roads (recent move). A
vulnerability that I am not quite comfortable with.
Cycling with my fiancé is a safe space I suppose. My cycling journey restarted with him, developed
with him and will continue with him.
And I suppose all this is my “adventure” and my highs and lows on my bike. My bike has dragged me
through the happiest times; up the 20% climbs in the Lakes with my man, 100 mile ride (only once
and wont be rushing to do again!) where I raised over 2k for charity. And the difficult times: nursing
in covid, nursing in general, battling mental trauma, grief.
I will never be that person doing the huge audax, climbing a mountain, bike packing, racing. But I will
always ride my bike to find peace, feel that childish joy, explore new places, smash frustration/anger
out on the pedals, quality time with my fiancé, return to the Lakes with him year after year, to feel
proud and content in who I am and what my body can do.
Q: Have you ever experienced any misogyny in relation to being on your bike?
A: We witness it every day don’t we? From the disparities in pro riders pay, the lack of televised
women’s racing, the sexualisation in advertisements, the lack of inclusivity in brands providing kit for
“real women” (finding something that fits my boobs in has always been a challenge!! I spent so much of my childhood bombing it about on my bike for pure joy, maybe if I seen more women cycling as child, what could have that sparked in my fierce little girls mind? We will never know.
I like to think though, when I’m bombing it about as an adult, on my pink bike, in my pink kit, that
the little girls I wave at have a spark ignited in their fierce little minds.
Q: Top tips for on the bike?
A: JUST DO IT! Just get on the bike and do it. You’ll never regret it. I chant that to myself every time I
question a ride. “You wont regret it” “you’ll feel amazing after” – and I always do!
Find a friend to go with you. Start short. Don’t pressure yourself. ALWAYS stop for cake.
It is very easy to get caught up in average speeds, segments, PRs, distance – but always remember
why you started…for the JOY of it.
Q: Comfort and cycling – any advice?
A: Physically – This is something that is always changing with my aches, my body changes, as I get older,
what I’ve worked recently and surprisingly my menstrual cycle! I have had bike fits and have another
coming up this week. They are totally worth the money if you ride your bike a lot. Seek advice – the
cycling community is a wealth of knowledge and experience. Invest in your core strength and flexibility (easier said than done!) Yoga once a week seems to help me.
Mentally – forever a work in progress I’m afraid. Some days I feel invincible and think fuck it. I am kick ass and look cool as fuck. Other days I give myself a good talking to or quite simply, cant be
bothered! And that’s okay too!
Q: Do you have any cycling role models?
A: Lizzie Deignan is a force! A mother, a wife, a cycling machine. I remember seeing videos of her on
social media, 8 months pregnant, spinning up a mountain. Like wow, women are INCREDIBLE.
Orla Chennaoui – I don’t think I need to explain myself here. Forever crushing the barriers to women
in sport and forcing people to re think their views. An advocate for movement (sport) in supporting
Orla Walsh – a cyclist who completely changed her chaotic lifestyle around to become an Irish track
@amy.cycling.adventures (instagram) a local gal who cycles for the pure joy of it. Her happiness is
infectious and reminds me of why I cycle too.
No-one exudes all the positives cycling can bring quite like Kirstie!