Jools Walker took up cycling again as an adult, and hasn't looked back since. Her immensely popular blog, Vélo-City-Girl, shares her experiences of life and style on two wheels. It's safe to say that cycling changed her life, and opened up a lot of opportunities - not least the chance to have her dream job!
My very first memory of cycling is an early one… it would be me tearing around the house on my tricycle when I was about 3! I absolutely loved that thing, although I'm not sure my parents really appreciated me riding around like a lunatic on it. My first "proper" bike was a red & yellow Raleigh Burner BMX, which used to belong to my big sister. Our brother restored it for me to have as my own & taught me how to ride on it. I actually wish I still had it for sentimental value!
I took up cycling again as an adult. I'd missed the freedom and enjoyment of riding a bike, and was desperate to get back on the saddle again. That and the fact I really wanted a Pashley Princess (it has been my dream bike for years). By the time I hit 18, I'd completely stopped cycling, through a combination of not feeling that confident on the roads, and relying more and more on public transport to get around. Eventually I just fell out of the habit which was pretty sad.
Getting back into cycling at 28 was an eye opener… it had been that long since I'd cycled, my balance was so wobbly riding the Pashley home from the shop I genuinely thought I'd forgotten how to ride a bike! A tiny part of me thought I'd made a mistake getting back on a bike…but I'm very glad I didn't listen to that doubt as cycling means so much to me. The whole experience has turned out to be one of the the best things I've ever done.
At the moment I own three bikes: a Pashley Princess Classic (for very leisurely riding around town), a 1970's Raleigh Twenty Shopper, and a Colourbolt Ratty Black single speed ladies bike (an absolute blast to ride!). A new addition is on the horizon, which is going to be VERY different for me… #newbieroadie
I started Velo-City-Girl (VCG) the weekend I picked up my Pashley Princess. It was a mixture of the excitement of being back on a bike, talking about mixing cycling with fashion & the diary writer in me wanting to keep a journal of life on two wheels. Taking up cycling again really was a new chapter, and I thought VCG would be a nice way to share it & connect with other cyclists out there… and show it's never too late to get back on the saddle.
In three words, I would describe my cycling style as leisurely, stylish and fun
I had no idea that VCG would take off the way it has. I started the blog from my genuine love and excitement about riding, something which will never fade. Even if one person reads and comments on a blog post, I'm touched as it's lovely to know that someone out there is enjoying it - especially if it encourages them to get on a bike.
The opportunities that have come from VCG have been incredible: from watching the first episode of The Cycle Show and being thrilled to see a weekly TV show dedicated to cycling, to then go on to presenting on it was pretty amazing. Then came working for Vulpine. I never thought I'd one day be able to say I have my dream job combining cycling and fashion. I met Nick via VCG and twitter over a shared love of bikes and fashion. I had a very good feeling about Vulpine when I modelled on their first shoot (loved the clothing & the passion Nick had for it all)… and now I'm working with him and the brilliant team he's building up. It's been quite a journey.
A practical and stylish cycling outfit is always a winner for me. For example, a typical outfit you'll find me in at the moment is:
Indigo Vulpine Original Rain Jacket (looks gorgeous and perfect for this weather), cable knit jumper from Cos (with a Vulpine Merino long sleeve t-shirt underneath for extra warmth), straight leg jeans, and a pair of Converse Chucks!
To me, for what feels like too long, cycling has been viewed as a sport / leisure activity geared more towards men. Even with national drives and initiatives to get more women on bikes (I attended the recent one by British Cycling in March this year) which are filled with good intentions, there needs to be a shift within the industry as a whole to really embrace women. Clothing for example - the "shrink it and pink it" method to clothing is tired & doesn't really cater to the needs of a woman in regards to shape / fit / sizing as it would for a man. There are cycle clothing companies who are world away from that approach (and I'm proud to be working for one of them) & more need to realise & open their minds to this.
My advice to women who are thinking about taking up cycling is to go for it! It's never too take to take up cycling! Always a good idea to do some research into getting a bicycle suited to your needs / the kind of cycling you want to do. Check for local projects in your area that might be able to help (for example cycle training courses, and group rides like those done by the Breeze network)… and go at your own pace that is comfortable for you. Be safe & happy & enjoy the feeling of freedom a bike will give to you!
What's the best thing about cycling? Naming just one thing is too hard! Some of the best things (IMO) include experiencing your environment from a completely different perspective (I've lived in London all my life, and I'm starting to discover new bits of it thanks to riding), getting and feeling fitter and healthier, meeting amazing people, stress-busting on a long ride… and feeling happy.
I still have my moments of nerves when on my bike, especially when cycling in traffic heavy / congested parts of the city, and on certain Cycle SuperHighways too. I'll be honest and say those moments of nerves will never go away, even though I'm aware and conscious of traffic and take care when I ride. There is a lot of room for improvement for cycling in London… I'm not going to write-off riding in London as a complete nightmare as I love being on my bike in London, but it's far from perfect & those with the power to implement the reviews / changes so desperately needed to our cycling infrastructure need to step-up.
My happiest memory on a bike is from my holiday in Berlin with my Partner Ian. We rented a couple of bikes to get around Mitte, with nothing but a paper map with all the routes plotted out and a list of all the places we wanted to find and visit. Berlin by bike was amazing & sharing the journey with him was pretty special.
If I were Boris, the Mayor of London, for a day, I'd:
- Spend the day really cycling around London, including riding the Cycle Super Highway Routes.
- Keep the promise "I" had made to look at schemes abroad which have banned HGV's from roads at peak times.
- In light of recent and tragic events, get moving on an independent review of the Cycle Super Highways.