Victoria Pendleton and I have something in common. Or rather, our mums do: they’re both a bit nervous about cycling with their daughters.
Let’s be honest, when it comes to former Olympic team sprint and keirin champion Pendleton I can kind of understand her mum’s concern. However, the track sprinter turned jockey has found a solution she’s keen to share with me: an electric bike.
Excited by her discovery, the 36-year-old tells me: “At first I was a bit sceptical, like “no, it’s not really my thing, it feels a bit like you’re cheating”… to be honest. But then I was in the States with my uncle, in California. You can hire them everywhere so I had a go. I gave it a little boost on the hills, and it was brilliant – I had so much fun whizzing along.”
So Pendleton worked with Halfords to develop the first Pendleton Somerby E-Bike, testing it herself before letting her mum loose: “I got my mum on the electric bike, she was worried it would whizz away… I had to explain that when you stop pedalling, it will stop. She’s going to get one now, and feels it will give her that extra boost so she doesn’t need to worry about running out of gas – and that’ll allow her to get back into it a bit more.”
“I had to explain that when you stop pedalling, it will stop. She’s going to get one now, and feels it will give her that extra boost.”
She adds: “It also means different abilities can ride together. So I can ride along with it on ‘1’ and my mum can ride alongside me with it on ‘3’. And as you get fitter you can use less power – it’s good training all the same. You’re still turning the pedals and you don’t get the power without applying force.”
The Pendleton Somerby E-Bike will be available come November –and it’s going to be under the magic £1,000 cycle-to-work voucher threshold. And yes, I’m going to suggest putting one on my mum’s Santa list, too.
Pendleton’s range of bikes consists of several children’s bikes, the Initial road bike and the Somerby – a Dutch style sit up and beg. In the past, the retired sprinter has told us the cruiser is her favourite – and I’m keen to find out if that’s still the case. She tells me: “It is still my favourite in the range. I think because it’s so far away from my work on the bike. When I’m on a bike like that, I don’t race. I do sometimes get a bit low behind the basket… bending my elbows… [she mimics getting aero on a Dutch bike – to much hilarity]. My husband says ‘you don’t have to ride it like that’ – and I realise I don’t. It’s a different pace, and a different approach.”
It must feel strange to get back on a bike and just amble at an easy pace, after forging a career out of riding full-gas over loops of the velodrome. Pentleton tells me: “When I got back on a bike not long after retiring I just found it really frustrating. I had to take the speedo off, I was like ‘I don’t want to see that’. It took me about 18 months to feel like getting on my bike again because I wanted to. Now I try not to engage with the numbers or data too much – and I think more about the effort than the numbers. Otherwise it would drive me to distraction. It was a change in perspective and it took time to adapt.”
“After retiring… It took me about 18 months to feel like getting on my bike again because I wanted to.”