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A big hello to our Ninja Tortoise!

Jeni Sanderson 29.01.21

Meet our Ninja Tortoise

At VeloVixen, we're so proud of our community and have begun to welcome a few of our members into our inner network as our ambassadors. Whilst we already have Harri, Ruth and Cara doing amazing things as part of our Facebook Group; we're now welcoming the lovely Emma as our new 'Ambassador of Stories'. 

As cyclists, we're all on a journey - whether it be for mental health, to explore or just to spin our legs; but Emma loves to share her adventures with us and her little stories have become really popular over the past couple of months. Now, here's where you think she must be travelling the world, or surviving on the wild side - but no! These are everyday rides and she finds adventure in each of them and we love them!

So Emma will be writing for our blog regularly on her everyday adventures and sharing her experiences as the self named 'Ninja Tortoise'. Here's more about her:

Welcome to Emma Gladwin AKA Ninja Tortoise

"I’m Emma, Em, Ninj, Ninja Tortoise (a nickname from my university days) and I love all things bikes and cycling. Well mostly - I don’t enjoy a turbo all that much! [EDIT from ADMIN - Ninj has now discovered Zwift and will be writing about this soon!]

My cycling journey really started as a child, on a three-wheeler but whatever my big sister did, I wanted to do. Seeing her without stabilisers and whizzing along confidently meant I demanded mine came off and I still remember that first ride – totally in control of the bike. I fell in love.

Ninj as a kiddie

Fast forward a fair number of years later and various pressures and stresses related to studying at university alongside a toxic relationship shunted my mental health in all directions but anything that made sense.

Through the slow progression of straightening it out I made a friend who herself was starting to take cycling ‘seriously’ and I undertook a 16 mile ride (my longest ever at the time) on a 1970s three speed blue machine of joy, alongside her on a super flashy Giant hybrid. I fell in love, again.

I bought a battered and beaten old Giant hybrid with absolutely no suspension and poured money into it for all the TLC it desperately needed. This was ‘Hermione’ and she was my aide into entering the world of mountain biking.

I hit roots, bombholes, sweepy singletrack and sloppy climbs on her whilst my uni riding buddies had proper hardtails and full sussers. I never knew any better until I went on a uni MTBing trip to Dalby Forest.

Then came along ‘Harry’. The bike who brought me all the happiness I didn’t know I was missing and the freedom to just ride, enjoy and have smiles for miles properly. He was an old Specialized Hardrock but I changed everything except the frame, seatpost and saddle. He was an absolute dream. Even when 26” wheels became naff, he was still my beloved Harry. Until he was stolen and my world literally felt like it had been ripped apart…


Before that dreadful day I also came to dabble in road riding. I had actually always ‘intended’ on being a roadie, but Dalby Forest had covered me in mud in such a way I’d never be free from the wonderful world of off-road cycling.

Part of my dabbling (I say dabbling, I was fairly serious about it all), saw me get picked to ride for Team Skoda in the inaugural RideLondon100 event.

I trained hardish – I remember more cake and coffee than miles with my training buddy – including an eye-opening training ride with a pro-amateur team. They beat me up the steep climbs but the MTBer in me shot down those tarmacked descents far faster than they did. I completed the RideLondon100, giving my mechanic hand to all those who needed it, caring little that my ride time was longer as a result.

The roadie in me continued to live side by side with the MTBer for a number of years, and owning a Pinarello road bike was the highlight of my roadie days. My Italian Stallion was a pure beaut of a bike and pushed me to put the pedal down and try to be a speed demon. I went through two more road bikes after selling him (he was just too big) but once he left, so did my love for road riding.


I eventually got over the loss of Harry MK1 (it took a lot of time) by not taking to the 29er hardtail I had and hunting out the exact same old Hardrock frame on eBay and completely rebuilding Harry MKII. He still sits in my garage today, with MKI’s seatpost and saddle.

I came to consider what a full suspension mountain bike might be like and as soon as I did, I never looked back! I’m now on my third and I cannot put into the words the absolute freedom you get from bouncing around on something with suspension front and rear, and monster-like tyres that just take on everything you throw at them.

I adore mountain biking. I love being outside and properly within nature away from traffic and the noises of towns and cities.

Fast-forward to the oddest year I can remember, 2020, and I finally sold my last road bike and funded a gravel bike. Hey, a road bike that I can take off road? Sounds like the right ticket for me.

Oh how right that choice was! If you’ve followed any of my posts on the VV FB chat group you will have seen the sheer number of photos I take of my Trek Checkpoint. I’m completely in love (again!) with cycling, still mostly off-road but I’m trying to work on that.

The gravel bike has done everything I’ve asked of it and more. I can’t get enough of it and I’m so thankful for being able to get the bike and enjoy it through the second half of 2020 – even during the bitter winter!

Moving forwards I want to push myself to stop driving to a location first and ride from home with the gravel bike. Not only it is better for the environment, it should mean increasing my distance on rides which I also want to achieve.

I’d like to eventually complete the Downs Link in West Sussex, and then ride it back home in one hit. It’s around 80ish miles there and back and consists of a gravelly disused railway line. Restrictions pending, I want to explore more of the New Forest with the gravel bike on the back of my first trip there during last September.

My full-susser beckons me to ride more and I’d like to revisit Swinley, as well as try out Bedgebury and QECP when I’m allowed. I need to ride more of the South Downs Way considering its just a few miles north of home!

I’d love to take both bikes even further afield, the Lakes, the Peaks, Wales, and my dearly loved and favourite country, Scotland.

Enjoying the full-susser

I love to share my experiences of my rides, but I warn you, once I start talking bikes it’s hard to get me to stop! I was a trained bike mechanic so my technical knowledge is always there to help if I can and I’m a fond believer in explaining things in as simple and understandable way as possible. I’ve really taken to taking photos of my bikes and adventures and I hope this continues through 2021 and beyond.

As part of team VeloVixen I hope to bring all of the above to the table – my past experiences, my dreams and aims, my knowledge alongside my own questions. I always carry a small journal with me on rides to make notes about what worked and what didn’t, and the highlights (or lowlights) so I can learn for next time and I will be sharing these with you.

You can expect a lot more rambling, a hell of a lot more photos and a willingness to help you as best I possibly can, in whatever way that needs to look.

If you hadn’t guessed from the name, Ninja Tortoise, I prefer a relaxed, social, take-in-your-surroundings pace, so don’t worry about me at the back of the pack. I’m smiling back there, probably chatting (or singing) to my bike about how much I love it.


Come and join our amazing Facebook Community as we near 10,000 members to see Emma's adventures and meet other Vixens! 


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