Birthday Cycling Inspiration: Billie Fleming

Billie Fleming

Today is my 32nd birthday and I’m celebrating by with one of my favourite activities- heading out for a long bike ride. I recently discovered that I actually share my birthday with one of my biggest inspirations in women’s cycling. The legend that is Billie Fleming would have been 102 today.

Back in 1938 aged 24, Billie rode 29,603.7 miles around the UK, setting a world record for the most miles cycled in one year by a woman. She rode every single day of the year in all weathers averaging around 81 miles each day, although it could be up to 196 miles on summer days.

Billie left her job as a senior typist to promote the health benefits of cycling, after being inspired by the principles of the ‘Women’s League of Health and Beauty’. She set off on her epic ride with the aim of getting women cycling and gained a lot of publicity and attention as her tour progressed. 

Cycle manufacturers Rudge-Whitworth sponsored Billie’s tour by providing her with a bike, in return for her promoting their brand. Her ride was completely self-supported- she carried some clothing and tools on her tour but very little else. Incredibly she only had one puncture in the entire year! After her day’s mileage, Billie would deliver a talk on the benefits of cycling at village halls along the route. 

Of course, cycling was a very different sport 78 years ago. Billie had no padded Lycra, no Garmin, no helmet and her bike only had three gears!  She had her ‘checking cards’ signed by witnesses and posted regularly to the editor of Cycling Magazine (now Cycling Weekly) for verification. How things have changed- now we rely on Strava!

Billie’s record still stands, although a Swedish-born cyclist Kajsa Tylen is currently attempting to break the record, with today as her 104th day in the saddle. 

Billie passed away in 2014, shortly after celebrating her 100th birthday. Her long life really is a testament to the health benefits of cycling! Remembered as a pioneer of women’s cycling, her legacy still lives on with over 400 female riders retracing her route in 2015 on a hugely successful tribute ride

On my birthday ride today, I’ll visit some of the villages which she passed through in 1938. As I ride, I’ll channel my inner Billie remembering the mental strength, fitness and passion for cycling which she displayed 78 years ago. Happy Birthday Billie!

Who is your sporting inspiration? Do you share your birthday with anyone inspirational?

Thanks to Tribute to Billie for use of the image.

6 UK Cycling Routes to Try this Easter

UK Cycling Routes

It can be tempting to lounge around and over-indulge in the Easter holidays but this can leave us feeling more tired and uninspired than ever. Recharge your lust for life with these six stunning cycle routes that have the Formby Cycles seal of approval.

1. Bealach na Ba, Applecross, Scotland 
Challenge yourself on this exhilarating Highland route through the rugged mountain pass of Scotland’s Applecross peninsula. With steep inclines, tight bends, and several competitive cycle events a year, this wind-whipped adventure may not be for the faint-hearted but is definitely for those who want a bank holiday to remember. 



2. Bath Two Tunnels circuit, Somerset
This breath-taking circular route of thirteen miles allows you to take in the historic sights of Bath and its most iconic tunnels: the Devonshire Tunnel at Bloomfield and the Combe Down Tunnel at Combe Down. A spectacular riverside cycle track that also takes you past the popular Wheelwrights Arms in Monkton Combe, so don’t forget to refuel with a hearty pub lunch. 

Bath Two Tunnels circuit, Somerset



3. Marine Drive (Great Orme), Llandudno, Wales

Take in a healthy lungful of bracing sea air on the four mile trip around the headland of the impressive Great Orme. The route boasts spectacular views in every direction and in every season, from the rocky ledges and tumbling waves to the sprawling fields and ancient Saint Tudno church, built in the 6th century on the way to Great Orme’s summit. The Rest and Be Thankful Cafe half way along your route offers welcome refreshment, whether warming your hands around a mug of tea or cooling off with an ice cream. 

Marine Drive (Great Orme), Llandudno, Wales


4. Central Pennines, Yorkshire, Northern England

What better way to spend a bank holiday than by ascending the ‘backbone of England’? Stretching from the Peak District in Derbyshire to the Cheviot Hills on the Anglo-Scottish border, this varied and expansive area has been the inspiration of writers, poets, (and cyclists!) alike. With careful planning according to the wind and weather, the Pennines offer a truly unforgettable journey across stunning terrain. Pause by a stream for a home-made picnic or race along the rocky ledges. Take in the Pennines at your own pace and make memories that will last a lifetime. 

Central Pennines, Yorkshire, Northern England


5. B3387, Dartmoor (to Haytor), England

Well known to cyclists as a prestigious feature of the Tour of Britain, this exceptionally challenging route has breath-taking backdrops to recommend it and an ascent that is a staggering six kilometres in length. Haytor may be one of the most famous ascents but Dartmoor has a lot to offer cyclists of every age and ability. Experience the atmosphere of a race or simply cycle along tracks that take in the beauty of the rolling hillsides. 

B3387, Dartmoor (to Haytor), England

Image: Shutterstock

6. Hardknott Pass, Cumbria, England

Even in the midst of some serious competition for the title, Cumbria’s Hardknott Pass stands out as one of the most famous and iconic routes in the Lake District. Feel that satisfying burn in the legs as you ascend at a gradient of almost 33% against the backdrop of some of the most unspoilt scenery that England has to offer. Exceptionally steep and winding but glorious for the feeling of accomplishment afterwards, the Hardknott Pass moves between Eskdale and the Duddon Valley before Wynrose Pass continues to Langdale Valley and on to Ambleside. This route attracts visitors from all over the nation and beyond. 

Hardknott Pass, Cumbria, England


Find your nearest cycling route to hit this Easter. Happy cycling!

Post written in collaboration with Formby Cycles.

Where are you cycling this Easter? What is your favourite route?

Training with BKOOL


Riding a turbo trainer can be notoriously tedious. Staring a a blank wall while pedaling away for hours didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided to stick with my classes at Cycle Rhythm as indoor training. That was until I started using a BKOOL at a local bike shop and it completely changed my opinion on turbo trainers. 

A turbo trainer is a device for allowing you to ride your bike indoors, particularly useful during the winter months. The rear wheel of the bike is clamped into a unit which provides resistance, usually magnetic, fluid or air. 

The BKOOL is a high-end magnetic smart trainer which connects to a software platform via ANT+ wireless technology. The software provides an interactive virtual cycling experience which simulates an outdoor ride on a road environment. The resistance on the wheel is controlled by the software and matches the course of the profile you are following. With over 500,000 different routes available, there is plenty of choice and inspiration to keep indoor training interesting.  

The hardware includes the smart trainer, power adapter, USB ANT+, quick release skewer, and front wheel support. Even as quite a technophone, I found the trainer and simulator quick and simple to set-up. The unit itself is robust, compact and secure- the legs extend out to give more stability, so it doesn’t feel as though you will topple over when riding. 


One of the concerns I had about the BKOOL was the level of noise. The trainer itself doesn’t create a great deal of noise, but it does vibrate similar to a washing machine on spin cycle. I’ve laid down some rubber matting to reduce this and hopefully not upset our neighbours! 

The routes are graded according to difficulty and distance. You are able to race against virtual opponents and even draft off of other riders, as you would on the open roads. The software has an element of social media whereby you can add friends, comment on their workouts and even challenge them to a ride. You can also talk to other riders via the computers microphone. BKOOL also syncs with Strava, so you can earn those QOMS/KOMS on foreign roads! 

During the workout, the screen displays cadence, power, speed, calories, slope gradient and heart rate (if wearing a heart rate strap). The elapsed and remaining time is also shown throughout the session. After the workout is saved, you are able to analyse the data in quite some detail- it’s perfect for stats geeks!

There are all the epic climbs and iconic routes available to ride in the comfort of your own home. It’s pretty amazing to be cycling along a Spanish road, without ever leaving home! 


One of the most useful features of the BKOOL, is the ability to upload a GPX file and ride the route. I’ve been able to upload the file for the Cotswold 113 middle-distance triathlon and ‘pre-ride’ the course I’ll be taking in June. I’ve found this a really useful way to prepare for the race as I’ll be familiar with the terrain ahead of the day, which is pleasingly very flat.

The system will also create visuals, even simulating the weather on the route! However this takes some time, as users uploads routes every day, so as yet my Cotswolds course hasn’t been converted into 3D. 


It is also possible to manually create personalised workouts based on time, distance and gradient. When my coach sends across my weekly schedule, I’m able to set-up the bike workout in the BKOOL then simply start the ride and feedback my results to him. I can then check my progress by competing against my last effort.

The software is also compatible with our Keiser M3i bikes at Cycle Rhythm using an iPad or Android tablet, so I’ve also been able to record my output during our classes. I simply log in to my account, create a flat 45 minute course, select the bike I’m riding and start the session. It does rely on a wifi connection, so unfortunately the app cut out during my most recent class. 


I’ve found the BKOOL sessions a great motivational tool as they keep me engaged for the entire ride. There are so many features and capabilities, I’m still getting to grips with the possibilities of the software, but it has definitely helped me to have a focused workout, rather than just aimless pedaling.

The BKOOL retails at £488 including one year of simulator premium. You can get a free training mat included via this link.

The BKOOL trainer and simulator were provided for review, but all opinions are my own.

Do you use a turbo trainer? Have you ever tried the BKOOL?

10 reasons why I love sportives


I began drafting this post earlier this week after completing the Equalizer ride on Sunday with Glen, Lisa, Helen and Laura. After getting the news that I have secured a place in Ride London through the ballot, it suddenly seemed very appropriate to share my love of sportives! 

What are sportives?
Sportives are organised long distance mass-participation cycling events with marshaled, sign-posted routes. They can be likened to a cycling version of a marathon, as there is an entry fee, food/water stations and sometimes spectators along the route. Sportives can be ridden for charity or for a personal challenge. 

Here’s why I love riding sportives…

1. Explore new areas
Sportives are a great opportunity to ride new roads and explore a different area of the country, without the hassle of planning a route. The course is guided by clear sign-posts with marshals, mechanical and medical support out on the roads. It gets me out of the habit of following the same route every weekend and lets me explore further afield. 

2. Choice of distances
There are typically a variety of distances to chose from at sportive events, ranging from around 30 miles to 100 miles plus. If you are planning to sign up for your first sportive, consider a distance which is challenging but achievable. Generally there is also the option to drop down to the shorter route on the day, if you are not feeling up to the full course. 

3. Different terrain
Sticking to a local route might not offer the chance to train on more challenging hilly terrain. Most events will publish a course profile online so you can check out the elevation. An undulating route is a good opportunity to learn to climb and descend, if you are used to cycling a flatter route.   

4. Timed but not competitive
Sportives are not considered to be a race, but they are usually chip-timed and some will aim to complete the ride within a certain time. Whether you are aiming for a personal best or setting yourself a challenge in terms of distance, sportives can be used as a benchmark for improvements in your riding. This weekend, I completed the 39 mile Equalizer Sportive in 2:52, whereas last February my time was 2:58. It shows some improvement over the year! 

5. Practice group riding
Riding in a group is an important cycling skill- it helps you to save energy and become more efficient by sheltering from the wind. If you usually ride solo then a sportive gives the chance to practice riding with others, just find a group who are travelling at a suitable pace for you to keep up. When riding in a group, it is important to  communicate hazards in the road, busy junctions or traffic approaching from behind. It’s also great fun to ride with a group of friends! 

6. Great photos!
Race photos from running events are notoriously bad, I cringe when I click through to see an unflattering shot of myself staggering across the finish line. However the photography at cycling events seems to capture my best side! I’ve purchased several sportive event photos, as I actually love how they look! Some sportives even provide copies of photos to download free of charge.


7. Overtaking men!
OK, I know I said sportives are not competitive but I do get a kick out of ‘chicking’ men! Cycling events are typically male-dominated, so it is a small victory to leave men in my dust particularly on a steep climb!

8. Medals and goodies
I will admit that the bling is one of my main motivations for taking part in events, whether it’s cycling, swimming or running. It’s a great sense of a achievement to cross the finish line and be presented with a shiny medal as a memento of the day. It’s not as common to receive a medal in cycling events, but there will usually be goodies including gels, water bottles, bars to take home. 


9. Feed stations
Along the route there will be a number of feed stations laden with a huge variety of snacks. I tend to carry my own fuel and rarely stop at a feed station, but it is always an option if I am running low on supplies. Feed stations also offer a chance to get off your bike, stretch your legs, go to the toilet and top up your water bottles.

10. Use as training towards a bigger event
Now that I’ve got my first century (100 mile) ride on the calendar, I’ll be using shorter distance sportives as training towards my goal event. I’m looking at the 68 mile Evans Ride-It sportive in July to increase my mileage in preparation for Ride London.


Photo credits: Sportive Photo

The Lionheart Sportive takes place on 17th April with both 100km and 100 mile routes through Wiltshire and Somerset making it a great season opener for riders of various abilities. Sign up now and save 20% using promo code LUNGES

Have you taken part in a sportive? Were you lucky in the Ride London ballot?