Today we launched the TWC20 – a catalogue of the 20 brands that the TWC team rate the most, with insight into what makes them so special.

Each brand has got their own dedicated page, filled with stories of what they do and pictures of the TWC team and some special helpers prancing around in the gear to show off just how great it is.

We’ve been working behind the scenes to gather all the information for some time – but all the photographs were taken over one week. One very long, intense week. It rained. It snowed. Sometimes it was sunny.

Here, TWC contributor and guest model Lauren Jenkins tells us what it was like. Lauren was recruited mainly to feature in the MTB shots with MTB writer Jess Strange, but due to unforeseen circumstances, had to step in and be a roadie a few times too... and she did very well indeed!

Words: Lauren Jenkins

Primal  TWC20 2016
Pearl Izumi  TWC20 2016
Rapha TWC20 2016

Stood in the rain in summer cycling kit at an ungodly hour on a cold March morning I started to wonder what I’d got myself into when I joined the Total Women’s Cycling team for the TWC20 photoshoot. During a week of early starts, new experiences and typical British weather, I realised I’m probably not cut out to be a model, but the making of the TWC20 isn’t something I’ll forget in a hurry.

Total Women’s writer, Jess had asked if I wanted to join her to check out and model kit and bikes so I jumped at the chance. Again, I’m no model, admittedly I sort of dabbled in what I called posing a few years ago but this hardly makes me qualified. I’m also a mountain biker, completely new to road, so the idea of road kit, clips and road bikes was totally new to me, though my misconceptions were reversed by the end of the week. Thankfully, uber roadie Cat Gaskell was able to take my place later in the week whilst Jess and I stuck to our MTB routes, but I'm sort of glad I got to test out skinny wheels for the first day.

Driving from South Wales on Sunday we set off early knowing we had a 5am start Monday morning. I wasn’t fully aware of what I’d be doing during the week but I didn’t particularly mind, it was a welcome break from working at home. We arrived at our home for the week (Caterham Travelodge) later that evening and got settled for an early night.

Rudely awakened at 5am by two alarms we were oddly excited about the day ahead. Following a much-needed cup of tea we met TWC editor, Michelle, Patrick our assistant for the week and Balint Hamvas the photographer in the hotel lobby. The team discussed kit and locations before heading to the cars and the first location of the week. Michelle and Jess modelled first, each time we stopped they grabbed their jackets to try and keep warm in the icy breeze. Having Patrick on hand was great, he often spotted things we missed – like wonky helmets and dirty socks.

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Next it was my turn, I was really apprehensive as I’ve only ever sat on a road bike for two minutes (it was far too big and a rather wobbly experience) and I’ve never tried any road kit. As I tried to get my head around bib shorts and road shoes I was genuinely shocked at how nice it was. I’d always thought road kit looked tight and a little revealing but it actually made me feel quite slim, the fit was so different to the baggy mountain bike kit I’m used to. Once I’d started to get comfortable on the bike I began to relax, even allowing myself to clip in one foot at a time to get accustomed to the feeling of being attached to the pedal, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and considering this was my first time on a road bike and clips I was quite pleased with myself.

That afternoon Balint asked us if we’d head down the hill and ride back towards him. Michelle and I set off and she disappeared, descending on a road bike was another new experience for me, I was really nervous so I decided to stop until I could see Michelle again and tucked myself near the side of the steep country road [editor’s note: I got to the bottom, waited a minute, then became petrified Lauren had crashed and smashed it back up until I arrived with Balint looking like I was about to pass out! Amazingly well done though, White Hill Lane tops out at over 20 per cent, quite a feat for a new roadie!]. I got ready once Michelle approached but as I went to pedal I panicked and toppled sideways into a hedge. As Michelle whizzed past me I laughed and shouted at her to carry on whilst attempting to get myself untangled. Once I’d finally reached the top I was pretty knackered, climbing on a road bike is evidently not my forte. I was definitely happy to hear we were moving to the next location and some wider, flatter roads.

That evening Jess and I got back to the hotel room to thaw out and ordered a takeaway, exhausted we wondered how we were going to get through the week. We got so much done on the first day, got chilled to the bone, chased Balint as he sat in Michelle’s boot getting shots as Patrick drove, tried on several different kits and travelled from one end of Surrey to Kent and back again. With the weather looking, we had no idea how the rest of the shoot would go, but we couldn’t wait to go to sleep.

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The rest of the week followed suit, we got wet, cold and muddy – there was a short bout of snow on one day, with Michelle taking the brunt of it in Vulpine summer kit and riding a Canyon. Thankfully, we enjoyed the odd bit of sun and the occasional tea and cake in between shooting different products. Some of the highlights include Patrick on standby with a wet wipe ready to remove rouge mud from our kit, Balint and his yellow, waterproof fishing trousers, Michelle getting really excited about her extending ladder (maybe you had to be there) getting takeaway delivered to our hotel, confusing the hotel cleaners by leaving our milk in the sink full of cold water, getting changed in vans and cars, and visiting Michelle’s favourite haunt, Maison Du Velo bike shop in Reigate to shoot some casual products when it was really too wet to do anything else.

The few days I spent with the team were certainly an eye opener, for one it made me realise just how much women’s cycling is growing. It was amazing to be involved in something that will hopefully mean the industry will continue to invest and in turn mean more women will be introduced to the wonderful world of two wheels. I could definitely go on about the week, there were so many crazy moments and plenty of ups and downs but I hope you enjoy the TWC20, we certainly had fun making it!

See the Champions