Alicia Bamford tells us how two-wheel fever strengthened her thighs, opened her mind and changed her life.
Climbing the mountain pass Col de la Bonette on my trusty hybrid bike (‘The Tank’), I knew I had found my passion. I realised what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to direct my efforts. It was a lightbulb moment for me that still gives me tingles when I write and talk about it now.
I first jumped back on the pedals about eight years ago when I moved to the UK from Melbourne. I bought The Tank and headed out to battle the London traffic to see if I could survive. Tank vs. London: 1:0. I survived, just.
That first ride home from the bike shop in Holborn during rush hour was exhilarating and nail-biting at the same time. I managed to negotiate weaving through London buses, taxis, other mad cyclists and drivers all the way back to Chiswick, in one piece. But it wasn’t until I started cycling out of the city with a group of likeminded individuals that the cycling bug and the chase for freedom on two wheels really bit me.
In 2010 I met a group called the Fireflies, riding laps around Richmond Park. I approached them to see if I could cling on and suck their wheels for a few laps. On that ride, I learned that this group rode more than 1000kms each year from Geneva to Cannes up and over the French Alps to raise awareness for leukaemia and blood cancer.
“On the penultimate day, climbing Col de la Bonette on The Tank, that light bulb flashed above my head. In that moment I knew I wanted to inspire and help women to get back in the saddle.”
They were a band of brothers and sisters from the film and advertising world in London. I was totally awestruck by the talk of cycling up and over the mountains, of pedalling above the tree line, above the lifts, of conquering two or three Cols a day, Tour de France style, of pushing my body to the limit and challenging myself in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. I put my name down.
Six months of dedicated training and a road bike later, I was in Geneva, unpacking my bike with butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t believe I was there, about to embark on the journey of my life over the mountains using the power of my thighs! I wasn’t sure I was even going to make it – but I had to give it a go.
That first day in the saddle was epic – and also incredibly hard. It was more than 30 degrees Celsius and the heat was bouncing back off the black asphalt. The route took us up and over three mountain summits and we climbed more than 4,000 vertical metres in 110kms on that first day.
I shed a tear (OK, let’s be honest, I was blubbing) when I reached the top of the first mountain. But a little dread did fill me as I knew I had another two mountains to ascend that day.
And then, on the penultimate day, climbing Col de la Bonette on The Tank, that light bulb flashed above my head. In that moment I knew I wanted to inspire and help women to get back in the saddle, to feel confident and to challenge themselves, to do things and to try things that they might never have thought possible.
That journey I had been on, from the moment of committing to the ride, all the training, to doing the ride itself and everything in between, was so life-changing and life-affirming, that I wanted more women to be able to experience that.
And so Queen of the Mountains, a new women’s performance cycling brand, was born. We launched a fortnight ago – it has been two years in the making and a complete labour of love.
We’ve launched via Kickstarter with a small spring/summer capsule of high-quality cycling apparel, designed in London and made in Italy. Each collection is inspired by a mountain range connected to cycling, the first being Mont Ventoux, one of the most notorious and challenging mountains to ascend by bike.
True to the purpose of why I started the brand, we are building a community and running weekly training rides and monthly Sunday ‘Bike and Brunch’ rides (in and around London, which will expand as we grow). Come ride with us!
Details of rides and community events can be found at www.queenofthemountains.co.uk5030 Views
Alicia is a cyclist, triathlete, entrepreneur and founder of Queen of the Mountains.