a few words with author, hannah reynolds

hannah reynolds

hopefully you will have read yesterday's review of hannah reyonolds' 1001 cycling tips, and quite possibly opted to purchase a copy, either for yourself or for the cyclist(s) in your life as a highly appropriate christmas present. i can appreciate the temerity with which hannah is likely to approach the reading of any early reviews, because i'm sure it took a confdent level of chutzpah to reckon that she had the appropriate level of cycling nous to write such a book in the first place. a bit like a certain strain of bike shop staff as mentioned in the book, there's always someone willing to denigrate attempts to educate or assist those ostensibly bereft of certain nuggets of knowledge.

it was just such a sense of reticence, allied to a complete lack of confidence that put paid to the possibility of a washingmachinepost beginner's guide to cycling, first mooted over ten years ago. i figured that many of the world's foremost blogs, magazines and online media outlets, presupposed a certain, unspecified level of velocipedinal knowledge, a perceived gap with which i thought i might be suitably equipped to deal. but where to start? and what if the naysayers started poking holes in my attested wisdom? in truth, i'd be far less backward in coming forward nowadays, but in the intervening period, the gap has been plugged by better known authors and illustrators, so perhaps it's better that i left well alone.

but, in order to be in any sort of position to potentially educate the great unwashed, requires an obsession or serious interest in the subject matter that would bring you to offer what knowledge you believe might be worth passing on. since we're obviously talking about cycling at present, when did hannah reynolds' fascination with bicycles begin?

"I was a late starter with cycling. My mother had a cousin who was killed in a cycling accident, so I didn't even ride a bike until I was 14. I used a bike for transport and would knock around the forest where I grew up, but 'proper' cycling and serious fascination started at university. I did a Sports Science degree, despite no real interest in 'sport'.
"There were a lot of team sports players, but the cyclists I met were more fun and a touch more maverick. They were also exceptional and experienced athletes, some of whom had represented GB and others who went on to do so."

when still at school and being introduced to the thought of a post school career, one of my teachers encouraged me to choose something at which i showed promise to adopt as a potential livelihood. since i was reputedly good at art, i enquired of my father as to what might fit that category. given that my father had spent the majority of his own career in the construction industry, he suggested becoming an architect. it was only many years later, when attending an art college adjacent to a school of architecture, did i discover that most architects couldn't draw curtains, let alone anything tangible.

given that hannah had found herself attracted to the cycling milieu, was her subsequent involvement with bicycles the career she'd envisioned for herself, or was there an altogether different plan?

"Ha, no, not at all. I worked in cycling while at uni, in bike shops and even for British Cycling briefly, but I didn't ever really plan it as a career. A friend got me some basic secretarial work at 'Cycling Weekly' and to quote the editor at the time, I just kept turning up until they gave me a job. It always felt more like fun than work and my family thought it was a hobby job until I decided on what I really wanted to do.
"I feel lucky that I have worked in cycling in a period that has spanned British Cycling's success at the London Olympics, the sportive boom and not just one but three British Tour de France winners. Every aspect of women's cycling has developed in that time too; there are more women cycling at all levels, more women working in the cycling industry and the beginnings of a real sea-change in women's pro-racing. There is still a long way to go, but it feels like it is beginning to head in the right direction."

we are, nowadays, rather blighted by the extensive reach of cycling's tendrils, encompassing as it does, road cycling, road racing, mountain biking, leisure cycling, commuting, touring and the two new kids on the block: gravel and bikepacking. in much the same way that scientists generally specialise in one particular area, because it would simply be too difficult to equally comprehend all of them. though i'm hardly comparing cycling with string theory or dark matter, in my experience, cyclists tend to have their own fields of interest. for instance, out of the velo club sunday peloton, only one has shown any interest in mountain biking, for example, and none of us are about to head off on a round-the-world tour.

hannah, on the other hand, seems rather well-versed in the majority of cycling's variations. but did she have to expand her horizons to write the book, or is her impressive knowledge of cycling representative of her regular mindset?

"I actually don't think it is that unusual, certainly not amongst the friends I have in cycling, who are willing to have a crack at everything. The cycling clubs I have belonged to have all had riders who regularly compete on track, time-trial, road, cyclo-cross and mountain bikes. You only have to look at some of the top names like Tom Pidcock or Wout van Aert to see the benefits of transferable cycling skills and fitness. Whatever your level, you can gain something from mixing it up and if you love bikes, you love all bikes.
"One of the things I enjoy most about cycling is there are so many different ways to ride a bike, and at different times in my life some cycling styles have suited me more than others. I used to love racing (not that I was any good at it) and tried everything from road to downhill. Now I go cycle touring, tow a kid's trailer and can see the benefit in e-bikes."

you may notice that, on the navigation bar to your left, is a link taking you to pages about cycling on islay. the original intention had been to have each section hyperlinked to others, enabling the reader to create their own ride around islay in whichever order suited best. and it was to have been fully illustrated. you can see how that worked out. and as an adjunct, i planned on creating it in book form for sale on islay and available as a downloadable pdf. once again, that remains an unrequited endeavour.

but for those who are undoubtedly better organised and more intrepid than yours truly, things actually tend to happen. like hannah's 1001 cycling tips, for instance. did it take long to compile 1001 cycling tips, or, just like the roads around islay, were they always present and it was simply a case of wiritng them down?

"A lot of it was floating around in my head. I probably spout at least 50 a day when I'm guiding a cycling trip! Organising them was the hard part.
"I have been incredibly privileged to work with and ride with some incredibly knowledgeable and talented people, I've learnt something from everyone. In some ways none of these tips are my own, they are more a distillation of things I have picked up along the way."

and having now compiled all 1001 of these tips into book form, well illustrated and creatively organised, who is the book aimed at? is there a particular level of rider that hannah had in mind when creating the book?

"It is slightly beginner orientated, but I hope that even lifelong cyclists will find something that will surprise them or make some aspect of cycling easier, a 'life hack' if you like. I hope there will be tips that will have old club riders sagely nodding in agreement, but I also confidently expect to get loads of messages explaining better ways of doing it or pointing out why I am wrong!"

as with many strains of life, there is the right way to do things and, according to many of the sages, the wrong way of doing things. personally i prefer the terms 'easier' and 'harder', but most of us are willing to accept that there can be definitively wrong ways. for instance, it's reckoned to be 'wrong' to insert a new inner tube under the tyre without first inflating it slightly; however, it's not something i ever do. but it is something i advise others to do. is hannah in the habit of taking her own advice, or is that a lofty standard to which we all aspire, but rarely achieve?

"Absolutely not. I am the worst person for that. I have stress-tested my advice by ignoring it and examining the consequences."

there are experiences and opportunities that occasionally land unexpectedly on our laps, and which we tentatively approach with eager anticipation, sure in our own heads that this is going to be the journey of a lifetime, whether that constitutes an actual journey or simply a metaphorical one into the relatively unknown. was that hannah's experience of writing this book? was it a hard-won labour of love, or a perfectly enjoyable experience?

"Definitely enjoyable. Near deadline I had a quota of tips to produce a day, so to get me to go out for a pint, my cycling mates had to give me a tip each, which produced some interesting (and not all printable) anecdotes. Cyclists absolutely love sharing advice - there is never a shortage of tips to go round."

cycling used to be what i would notionally term a 'legato' experience, to borrow a term from musical interpretation. it was something of a series of rolling episodes, some entangled in each other, while others were distinctly unrelated. rather than a staccato digital approach, cycling was a languid approach to life. technology has done its level best to disrupt that appreciation, whether it be via drag co-efficients, gps units capable of displaying ten windows of digital information that few of us truly need, or an obsession with tyre diameters and widths. in short, we've become conditioned by numerical factors, often extraneous to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. so, if we weren't so conditioned by pre-defined numerical limits, would there have been a cycling tip number 1002?

"I could probably get to 2002! I'd have liked to have done a section on First Aid, as even some basic knowledge can help in the type of situations that you might find on road or trail. E-bikes is a single category but e-mountainbiking, e-bikes for commuting and e-road bikes are all distinct areas that merit more detail. But, I've already selected my 1002 tips - cold peshwari nan from the night before's curry is the best back pocket riding food going.
"Honestly, try it."

thursday 18 november 2021

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................