Cycling Plus's Staff Writer Kate Hodgins headed over to London last week for the launch of the new range of women's bikes from Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton. Here she brings us the full lowdown.
It was clear by the smile on her face that Victoria Pendleton is very excited about her involvement with the new range. "I hope you like them, especially the colours - I chose them myself!" she excitedly told us. With this, she shows that her passion for cycling extends far beyond her impressive career on the track.
But how on earth does she have the time to fit in bike design around training for the competition of her life this summer? "I train six days a week so I have one day off, although I do usually go for a ride on that day. And I've just completed three weeks of solid training, so right now I couldn't physically get on a bike. I need some time off!"
Personally I wouldn't say that promoting the launch of her new bike range counts as "time off", but it's clear to see that Pendleton has a higher than average work ethic. And her involvement with the new bike range hasn't just started with the promotion, having had input from the word go.
"Obviously with Victoria’s schedule we had a small window of opportunity as far as her help went," says Halfords bike designer and brand manager Justin Stevenson. "We usually take a year and a half to design and launch bikes like this, but we’ve moved more quickly with the Pendleton range and managed to get it done in a year. I'd go up to Manchester to speak to Victoria and discuss ideas with her but her time is going to get increasingly limited as London 2012 approaches."
Pendleton openly admits that she isn't as involved with the technical side of bike design ("I've always had people to worry about that side of things for me!") but as a female who is very passionate about cycling and about getting more women on bikes, she is in a perfect position to share her knowledge with Justin to create the perfect bikes for girls. "We've found that women don't want to be teched out." she says. " As long as a bike looks good and works well, they are happy."
Of course this isn't true for all women, before the Lycra clad female roadies get up in arms. These bikes though are primarily aimed at women who haven't been on a bike in years or who are just starting to consider longer rides. The price range from £299.99 to £349.99 is fairly modest, as is the spec, with the absence of features deemed unnecessary at entry level, such as disc brakes or too many gears that will most likely remain unused and rusting.
"Extra components were ditched as they aren't what starter riders are after. And it helps to keep the weight down as there is nothing worse than trying to get a heavy uncomfortable bike up a hill," said Stevenson.
The extensive research that Halfords has carried out regarding women and cycling shows the vast differences in the way that men and women approach bikes. "What women look for is almost completely opposite to men, so that is what was most important to us when we were designing these bikes,” he added. “As the market is overwhelmingly male, bike ranges tend to include women's bikes as an add on. This range is only for women, with their needs in mind."
There are currently three bikes in he range, the Somerby, the Brooke and the Dalby. "I'm most excited about riding the Somerby, which is a shopper," she said. "Not everyone wants to be head to toe in Lycra as I have to be for my job. With the step through frame on this one, women can wear a dress to ride if they want to."
Asked why she chose to get involved, she added: "I almost never get the chance to be creative, I'm always being told what to do, so being involved with this is great. Also because I love cycling and it will always be a part of my life even after my elite career comes to an end."
So will London 2012 be her last hurrah? "Realistically it probably is. But I wouldn't say it is the end forever and ever amen. I might return in a different capacity in a few years time. But for now I'd like to take a year off and do some work experience to find out what else I'd like to do. Hopefully something without the same stress levels as this job has!"
Is she scared? "Terrified! Excited! This is all I've ever done! And I’m happy to say I’ve done pretty well at it. Better than id ever imagined. But if I was to carry on doing this, I'd just be doing more of the same, being good at the same thing and I'd like to be good at something else too. I'd also love to do some sports that I'm not allowed to do right now. Skiing for example, and it might sound dorky but I used to enjoy orienteering so I'd like to get back into that."
And in terms of the Olympics this year, she is ready and raring to go. "Despite some back trouble last year which is apparently down to my age now that I'm 31 (Pendleton rolls her eyes and makes a W for 'whatever' with her fingers), I would say that I am currently the strongest I've ever been and I've been getting personal bests in training." And with three golds in her sight, is there one in particular that she would really love to get?
"At the moment I would say it's the team sprint. Jess [Varnish] is doing incredibly well, and there is something nice about riding with someone else. If you fail you are letting someone else down too so I think you push yourself even harder!"
The full Pendleton range
Somerby (£299.99): The distinct blue and cream traditional ‘step through’ frame is perfect for shopping trips. You can complete the look with a wicker basket.
Brooke (£299.99): Pendleton's favourite colour plum red features on the frame of this hybrid bike.
Dalby (£349.99): The sophisticated white hybrid bike features great gearing and mud guards.
The new range of bikes designed by Victoria Pendleton will be available from www.halfords.com from 22 March and in selected superstores nationwide from 29 March.