When we started looking for Anna’s Legs Ambassadors we knew it was a blank canvas, I (Anna) know that I share similar values for both business and women’s cycling as VeloVixen. We decided to see what came in, make a shortlist and then discuss on merit who we felt would represent our brands, with shared values…
Joanna Shimwell’s application stood out in the first instance for her considerable following on Instagram, despite being an unknown name in either racing or the bike industry, so we snooped around a little more. But it was not just a numbers game we were playing, as businesses, we know a thing or two about social media and can sniff through a #LikeForLike or “Buy followers here” account in an instant, what we were looking for was authenticity. Occasionally, in the internet sphere that is clamouring for attention in every byte, a gem will shine through with absolute clarity and compelling tranquility. Cue @JoannaShimwell, a beautiful gallery of perfect moments, attainable dreams and the freedom of Mountain Biking as told through the simplicity of a phone camera in the Peak District.
By looking at her gallery, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this brightly smiling woman, with an air of English Rose about her, was likely to be grace and light personified, however when we spoke to her we found out that behind the imagery of calm was a highly-ambitious, elbows-deep grafter seeking her own moment's peace. Living on a farm and working as a fitness instructor she says...
I get up around half 5 every day of the week, and I pretty much work 7-days a week too. 3 mornings a week I go to my job at the gym early, and the rest of the time I'm out maintaining and checking the campsite facilities here and the farm shop or helping on the farm."
This leaves little time for Mountain Biking but as someone who likes “to achieve things and keep busy” proclaiming “I don’t often stay still or sit down”, she manages to get out on a long ride at least once a month.
It is this story of hard-work, a hectic schedule and a hankering for the outdoors that I think many women into cycling in this modern world can relate to. Whether it's farm life, the city hussle, or raising a family, many women crave more time to simply be, to enjoy the small moments, to use their body in sport and to breathe in their surroundings. Perhaps this is what has made Joanna’s account so successful - she has captured those moments we all dream about when we're rushed off our feet. It is evident that Joanna has always been “an outdoors girl” whether it is popping out to enjoy a local walk, or travelling to far flung places, but obviously, we were interested in her cycling.
I've been mountain biking for around 3 years. I got into it after a relationship ended and I wasn't in a good place. My friends kindly lent me a bike and some kit and I took it from there! I instantly loved the freedom and the challenge, and got out in all weather as much as I could. I joined a group and went out with them at weekends and improved greatly from doing that.”
Don’t we all just need friends like that? I have long held the belief that a bike could solve many of the world’s problems. Hard times, lonely times, stressful times and dark times can often be navigated with one pedal stroke after another, so it's no surprise that since taking up mountain biking during difficult circumstances, Joanna describes it as “an escape”.
This is clearly a hugely positive thing in her life, used to find equilibrium, as she juggles through the daily chores that need to be done. Mountain biking gives her some “me time" that reminds her of who she is. However, it sounds to me like, in some way, it seems to mirror who she is and how she lives. I wonder if mountain biking is the natural choice for an on-the-go girl, who always loves getting stuck in with open eyes to everything going on around her, the big and the small? The way she describes how riding makes her feel makes me think that mountain biking came into her life to complement it and it suits everything about her...
I ride to feel freedom and to explore to places. I ride for the challenge. I ride for the buzz of it and the sense of achievement. I ride to see new beautiful views, to experience new things, and to have an adventure.”
Whilst many of us can relate to these feelings, not so many of us are as successful in expressing those in a way that inspires others. And this is what we fell in love with about Joanna’s Instagram account, she snaps what we all already know, she offers those visual reminders of moments we may not have shared in person, but we have shared as mountain bikers.
I like to share what makes me happy, what I enjoy and what I’m passionate about. I think my instagram page is like some odd kind of visual diary i guess. It’s actually really important to me."
I love this outlook! A diary can be whatever you want it to be and Joanna has chosen to make hers about reminding her of, and sharing with others, the best moments life throws at her. She has chosen to focus on the positive and remember the happiness in simplicity and outdoors that can otherwise be so easily forgotten from one moment to the next. She told me:
I went riding in the Yorkshire Dales with my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago and it was a perfect day, the sun was shining and we had done some seriously long climbs, fun descents and sweated like crazy. About 5 or 6 miles from the end we were up on the moors, it felt like we were in the middle of no-where. It was totally peaceful, just the sound of the birds and the sheep grazing and insects buzzing around. We got to what seemed like the top of this really really long climb and just laid down in the grass and took time out to absorb the surroundings. I was like 'I need to remember this moment because it feels amazing!' so I took some photos and then savoured the moment, and in times of stress since then I’ve visualised that scene and tried to capture that moment in my head in order to stay calm and think of more good times like that ahead."
Whenever she goes riding, she has a phone with her to capture these moments, through her eyes, how she sees things. And somehow, she seems to see things as well all do when we open our eyes on a ride, and this, I believe, is why so many other people have fallen in love with her account.
With no plans to stop the adventures or the snapping anytime soon, I am confident that Joanna’s attitude and bike riding will continue to keep her “sane, increase my independence and have a nice life.” Which is characteristically simple and ambitious at the same time.
Anna's Legs - Joanna's Verdict
What were your first impressions of your Anna's Legs leggings?
When i first saw them online i just thought they look great in terms of visual appeal. great colours and designs/prints and as i'm quite style focused it appeals to me to look good.
I chose the star print as I thought they are jazzy and go with everything. On receiving them... loved the box and packaging! The leggings are really stretchy and snug so they fit brilliantly. They don't feel as though they would fall down or move around once they are on. You just feel really secure in them.
What riding have you done in them so far, and how were they?
I've done some short rides and a mega long day ride. I was so impressed with them on the day ride I was in the saddle for 7 hours and it was a really hot day. I kept cool as the fabric felt breathable and I was much more comfy than when wearing mountain bike baggy shorts. The leggings stayed put and didn't budge at all, even though I was yanking my knee pads on and off for descents. I wasn't saddle sore either. I took Anna's advice and didn't wear any knickers and it definitely helped as there was no discomfort or anything which totally surprised me as I have been really in agony during and after a ride in the past!