2015 was the year our blog came of age. We now get so many regular visitors that we've had to increase what our site can handle more than once this year!

And with good reason - with big name regular guest bloggers like Adele Mitchell, Juliet Elliott, Lara Dunn and Cathy Bussey, plus VeloVixen's unique insight into women's cycling, it's a recipe for a great read. Here are the blogs and topics that have created the most stir in 2015...

 

1. The Women's Cycling World

One of the biggest developments in women's cycling of 2015 was Strongher - a visionary way of connecting female cyclists, created by the biggest names in cycling. Founder Juliet Elliott wrote an exclusive blog about Strongher for us:

Certainly the idea is not just to post pretty pictures you can admire on your computer screen. Strongher is about more than just a website. What we really want to do is to make things happen in the real world.

Talking of strong women, it was the centenary of the birth of Billie Fleming. Who? Only the woman who's cycled furthest in one year. And it was 1938. She rode nearly 30,000 miles. Find out more about how she's been celebrated in our blog about Billie Fleming:

One morning, in York, she decided on a whim to cycle the 186 miles back home to Mill Hill. Billie's record year is thought to have remained unbroken to this day.

It wasn't all good news - Adele Mitchell wrote a brilliantly reasoned rant about the controversial Sockgate that exploded at the Las Vegas Interbike show, entitled Sockgate, Sexism & Women's Cycling:

Ultimately Sockgate is a wake up call to an industry that, for its own sake, needs to stop failing women and start respecting our role in its future.

 

2. Going Against the Grain

At VeloVixen, we love to rebel against accepted wisdom! In that vein, former Women's Cycling Editor Lara did us proud by (re)creating the Velominati 'Rules' with her uniquely reprobate take: Velominotsomuch. Her Suggestion #5 says it all:

Suggestion #5 - Toughen Up: Or don’t. And have a cup of tea. And some cake.

Lara was equally open-minded when it comes to that sense of obligation to sign up to cycling events. In Back to Basics - 5 Alternatives to Organised Cycling Events, she resisted those sign-up emails to focus on riding for fun:

There are times this year where perhaps I’ve ridden less than last year. But the key fact is, I’ve smiled more.

In case you weren't getting out on your bike enough, Juliet gave us 11 Ways You Know You've Not Been Cycling Enough - we related especially to tell tale sign number 4:

Clean nails. The minute my hands stop being a manicurist’s worst nightmare, I know it’s time to get back on two wheels.

 

3. Reflection

So much of women's cycling is about constant development and growth. But there's no harm in reflecting back on cycling past. A real highlight was our My Defining Moment in Cycling competition. The runners up all made great reads, but the clear winner was Michelle McKinney's paean to cycling through the tough times:

The wind bites my ears, the rain sluices down my back and the mud stains my shins. This is the tithe I pay for the evening spins in unspoilt sun, the views uncropped by a car dashboard, the tailwinds that carry me home.

Juliet looked back on 2015 with 14 poignant, funny and true little gems - 14 Lessons Learnt in 2015:

Try turning left rather than right - sometimes it pays to switch things up and look at life differently. Don’t get stuck in your ways -  there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored.

Looking further back, we celebrated International Women's Day by harking back to a hilarious list of Don't for Women Riders dating from 1895. Have times changed? What do you reckon...?

Don't go without a needle, thread and thimble... Don't wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing... Don't race. Leave that to the scorchers.

More self-indulgently, 2015 also marked five years since we left on a jetplane to start a year long ride that would lead to our getting married, having Zoe and Emma... oh, and launching VeloVixen. We called it Terminal Velocity, in honour of our annual Heathrow dinner date:

Last night at Terminal 5, instead of two touring bikes we were joined by Emma (6 weeks), having left Zoe staring out of the window waiting for The Snowman she'd built to come to life. Things have moved on a bit.

 

4. The Weather

 

It's been a funny old year for the weather, hasn't it? And that didn't escape the notice of our bloggers... Our catalogue cover girl, Nassrin Chamanian, is also a blogger par excellence and experienced cyclist. And she's hard as nails, a true all weather cyclist who made us think in her blog Rule #9 that maybe bad weather ain't that bad: 

They say winter miles make summer smiles but there’s a unique sense of satisfaction that comes from conquering the elements.

We're not all made of such stern stuff. Adele brilliantly described how vital cycling partners in crime can be when the sky's not looking bright, in her blog Strength in Numbers:

My finger hovers over the phone, ready to suggest staying home, but - before I can type a word - another message arrives, this time from Chrissy: 'Forget about Life!!!! It’s a beautiful morning for a pre-ride cuppa at mine and then some fun in the mud!!!'

We spent months cycling into headwinds before setting up VeloVixen. Patagonia was a particular challenge! In Confessions of a Headwind Hater they gave some gruesome details and tips on how to get through the wind:

We were wind obsessives. We would pore over weather forecasts, do anti-wind dances and plead with the wind gods Eurus and Zephyrus. We laughed, yelled, screamed and cried at the wind. We dreamed of climbing the windless Andes again rather than more of this torment...

Of course there's no shame in not going out at all. Which is where spinning can come into its own. In Indoor Cycling: get on board, Adele gave us an array of good reasons why we should all enjoy static bikes to keep those legs turning, whatever the weather:

No matter how glum or lazy you’re feeling at the start, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll leave in a state of pure unadulterated fabulousness. A Stairway to Heaven indeed.

 

5. Advice for the Uninitiated

Cycling can sometimes feel like quite a swirling mass of events, styles, kit, techniques and opinions. So it helps to get some solid advice on it. Juliet came up with a practical and pithy list of 13 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Newbie. It was our most read blog of 2015:

Riding in the gutter: don’t hug the curb to ‘stay out of the way’ of other road users. Where possible, ride at least a foot and a half away from the curb and with ride with confidence.

Our blog about Night Riding helped to make sure you're not restricted to daylight hours:

Channel your inner Girl Guide and make sure you're prepared for every eventuality. Unless you're planning to cycle through the heart of a city, shops and other amenities are usually closed, so make sure you've packed appropriately...

Mountain biking can seem to the outsider like a bit of a law unto itself. Not if you've got Adele riding with you, as she described in Tips for the Mountain Biking Newbie:

‘What do I do when I come to a rock?’ I asked on my first ride, ahead of an extremely stony track. ‘Depends upon the rock’ called the ride leader, before bouncing off into the distance like Tigger on a push bike.

 

6. Getting Better 

Most of us want to improve at things we love. But sometimes with cycling it's hard to know how to get more out of it. Juliet had some brilliant advice on how to get into a cycling club without getting intimidated, in So you Dig Cycling?:

Suffice to say that contrary to what you might think, cycling clubs are usually very welcoming and you needn’t feel awkward or shy. Their whole reason for existing is for people like you and me - people who love cycling.

Further up the pecking order, Rose Osborne was finding her way through a first full season in the pro-ranks - whilst working with VeloVixen when she found the time! In A Rookie's View from the Women's Peloton, we took a few minutes out to quiz her about what it's really like in that peloton:

I've learnt how many times you can nearly crash without crashing! That's partly luck and partly the good bike handling throughout the peloton, but there's no question you need to be brave out there.

 

7. Picking the Right Kit

We all know how your gear can make or break a ride. It's not always easy to find solid advice on what works best, but we like to think we have a certain amount of knowledge about all this stuff! For example, would you have been able to name 9 Reasons to Wear a Cycling Cap? - some more scientific than others, admittedly...

Cycling caps make you look hot - carefully controlled scientific tests carried out in Lucerne have concluded that cyclists who wear caps look 27.6% hotter than those who don't.

Not everyone's convinced about the benefits of cycling-specific kit. Cathy Bussey wasn't. Until she was. As she explained (through gritted teeth!) in How I Learnt to Love Lycra:

Regardless of whether my fellow female riders are packing serious junk, or lean and fit, they look great. Even in Lycra. They look strong and powerful, they look happy and confident.

If you're already rocking the lycra look, there are some secrets that can help you avoid some of the pitfalls. Before she left us on maternity leave, former Total Women's Cycling Editor Kirsty explained in Make Sausage Leg a Thing of the Past:

Rather than selfishly pedal off quietly into the sunset, smug in my sausage-free thigh cycling haze, I thought I'd share with you what to look out for so you too can banish that dreaded sausage-leg effect!

And then, of course, there's the small matter of colour coordination - never to be underestimated. Lara Dunn brought all her experience as Editor of Women's Cycling magazine to bear in A Cyclist's Guide to Colour Coordination:

Irrespective of all the (very true) stuff about the ride being what’s important and the rest is just trimming, there’s no way I’m leaving the house looking like an explosion in a Skittles factory.

And finally, the bike itself. How many do you need? Of course, it's 'n + 1', where n = the number you currently own. But it's not quite as simple as that, says Cathy Bussey:

Or maybe, if you’re me circa 2008, you fall for a beautiful blush-pink Pashley parked temptingly in the window of your local bike shop, in a shade I can only describe as flamboyant, for ‘special occasions’.

 

8. Pure Cycling

Is there anything better than simply pedalling away those troubles, just you and the wide open road (or track) with the wind in your hair and fresh air in your lungs? Cycling for the simple joy of cycling has been a big theme for us this year.

Do we even need to call ourselves 'Cyclists'? Cathy loved the feeling of being part of the cycling family (most of the time) in The Two Sides of Being a Cyclist:

It really feels like part of being a family sometimes, a really awesome family that doesn’t show pictures of you naked as a two-year-old in a paddling pool to all potential suitors.

Lara wasn't so sure about labels. In Have YOU got what it takes to be an "athlete", she looked into how even moderately active men will often describe themselves as Athletes, whereas:

I have met lots of amazing women, who have conquered truly incredible challenges, with feats of astounding fitness, yet I’m not sure I can remember a single one of them ever labeling herself as an athlete.

As a big proponent of simply getting out there, Lara also took a Nordic tack in Just Ride - in which she questioned why in the UK we don't just hop on our bikes more of the time:

If we weren’t so obsessed with seeing cycling in terms of medals, titles and a lycra uniform, perhaps more of us would ride bikes, and be healthier and happier just like our European counterparts.

VeloVixen's Phil also celebrated the simple joys of getting out with no real aim, route or schedule in How One Ride is All It Takes - written after a particularly delicious late summer ride:

The moment I headed out onto the lane, those rural smells enveloped me. You know the ones - cool evening freshness blended with sweet hay bales, cut grass and that indefinable tangy quality of fresh air.

A real highlight was a particularly beautiful and topical debut contribution about cycling and mindfulness from Emma Cooke in Cycling & Mindfulness - Natural Bedfellows:

By getting out on the bike and really living in the moment, by focusing on the here and the now, I'm not only building my physical strength and improving my physical fitness. I'm doing the same for my mental strength and my mental fitness too.

And then there was Adele's beautifully empowering message to ignore vanity and preconceptions and just love riding your bike - Why the Ideal Body for Cycling is the One You Already Have:

One of the reasons I love riding so much is because of how it makes me feel (strong, powerful, happy) as opposed to how it makes me look. I don’t ride to look hot – I ride to feel fabulous. It seems I’m not alone.

 

9. When it All Goes Wrong

We all get injured from time to time, whether it's glamorously on an Alpine descent or - like most of us - twisting an ankle hopping off the bus. Both Adele and Lara had sorry 'off games' chapters this year. Adele explored the stages of recovery in Sick Note, and it wasn't easy:

I’d often greet passing mountain bikers - as I would have done if I were riding - but instead of being a fellow rider, I was now just a woman in an anorak. They pretty much ignored me: that was a low point.

Lara took a somewhat less analytical approach to her broken ankle in When a Broken Ankle Costs you a Holiday:

A solution to my cabin fever and impotence? Go shopping of course! This is where the world of internet shopping becomes simultaneously both best friend and worst enemy.

 

10. Plans for 2016

Finally, if you're planning your cycling event schedule for 2016, we've had some great contributions to inspire and instruct. Danielle Sellwood is undertaking her first half-Ironman event in the summer, and we're serialising her impressive monthly training blog Half an Iron Woman:

My first foray into multi-sport events was donkey’s years ago. As I set off on the run the leader was on his way back, powering to victory in nothing but a pair of tiny trunks with his number inked on his arm – I nearly shouted, “Oy muppet - you do know we’re not in Hawaii don’t you?”

And if you're not quite at half-Ironman level yet, our blog I've entered a first cycling event - what do I wear? might prove handy:

Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolution to get fit? Maybe an office challenge? A drunken bet? A twinge of charity conscience? Or just the good old fashioned spirit of adventure. You’ve signed up to lose your cycling event virginity this summer.

 

Here's hoping you've found plenty of interesting, amusing reading during 2015 - we're intending to keep producing ever increasing quality reading material in 2016, so stick close! x