In the sport of women’s cyclocross, one name was guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of competitors both here in the UK and abroad. The greatest UK cross rider of her generation, Helen Wyman amassed no less than 10 x National and 2 x European titles between 2006 and 2015. Today, Helen is a Coach, Mentor, Advocate, and Cycling Mum. Oh and a Ribble ambassador for the CGR AL e all-road e-bike. An electric bike, we hear you gasp? We’ll let Helen fill you in.
I’ve honestly never had a bike as versatile as my CGR AL e. Now hold that thought and let me explain why!
As a professional cyclist for 15 years, it’s safe to say that e-bikes never even crossed my mind. I was at the top of my sport. A 10-time national champion, 2-time European champion and worlds medalist. I trained hard, raced hard and was very fit, so why would I even think about such a thing?
Life after racing
Life, however, moves on and once retired I found myself working with the professional cyclocross team that I ended my career riding for. Part of my duties included riding alongside the riders during training camps so that I could keep track of their progress. I could ensure that they were doing the efforts exactly how they had been set out and just generally be able to make sure they were okay
It was imperative that they were not getting overtired, not working too hard in certain areas of training or just not getting the right feeling in others. As a racer, it is knowing that you have the session in your head that gives you complete confidence. To know that, when you are training alone, you are not just following a power meter but are also understanding how it feels too. This is especially true when it comes to racing cross where there are so many different variables. You simply cannot rely on following a set power or heart rate as you can in time trialling or even some track races.
Everything changed when I became pregnant in July of 2019. At first, I was still able to do the training with the riders, albeit with a little more of a watching brief, rather than taking part. But it soon became clear to me that I needed a little assistance. This is when I got my Ribble CGR AL e electric bike. During the December training camp, I still rode with the team and the bike enabled me to do that, even on the endurance rides. The most amazing thing that I discovered, however, was that without even thinking about it, I could use it to motor pace the girls on hill efforts.
As I still had to ride the hills, I felt that when the gradient changed, I not only naturally slowed to keep pace with them but I was able to push harder on the faster bits too. When you are motor pacing behind a moped the bike doesn’t feel those things. As a coach, this bike is amazing to be able to actually see the riders work. To feel what they feel, yet still have the ability to ride with them and push them when needed. Something that you would never be able to do unless you were an elite athlete too.
Pregnancy was no barrier to riding my e-bike
During my pregnancy, I rode over 4500km on my bike and as I got bigger and more pregnant it definitely became much harder. I considered myself lucky that I never experienced any issues with my balance and was able to steal my husband’s lycra. But throughout it all, I still managed to go for rides because of my e-bike. When I was into the last 2 months of the pregnancy I really loved riding as it was the only form of exercise that still felt quite normal, despite the huge belly.
I do know that if it hadn’t been for my CGR AL e I wouldn’t have been able to ride for as long as I did. Towards the end, when it felt tough, I didn’t have to slow down. I simply cranked it up to maximum assist and let the bike make my ride more enjoyable still. To the extent that I did a stunning hour and a half gravel ride the day before I went into labour! If it wasn’t for this bike helping me carry on riding throughout the entire pregnancy I wouldn’t have had the same endurance that I needed to get through childbirth.
Cycle racer to cycle mum
Since the birth of Sascha (my son), the CGR has taken on another role. It became my mode of transportation. Living in Munich, Germany is absolutely amazing for bike commuting. The entire city and outskirts are set up for outdoor life and you don’t go a day without seeing a kids trailer or a cargo bike buzzing around the city. As I don’t want to give up my love of cycling I also have a kids trailer and have been using it for over a year and a half now.
The CGR AL e makes this a joy. We ride everywhere – from shopping at the local supermarket to 50-mile round trips for playdates at the lake. Without this bike, it wouldn’t be possible. The way that it brings you up to speed is the best thing about the trailer commutes. You can still get an amazing workout, once you are over the 26kph limit it’s all you. But you aren’t dragging the bike to get there.
E-lectrifying off-road adventures
This winter I have discovered how amazing it is for countless hours of gravel riding. Munich may be incredibly bike-friendly but it also experiences snow and cold weather. The e-bike is simply awesome for just going on a winter’s off-road adventure You can accelerate out of trouble in the snow and when the gravel becomes like quicksand as the snow melts, the bike just gives you those extra watts that turn a slog into enjoyable riding again.
I’ve also learned that it allows me to pedal closer to the corners than I ever did when I raced. It’s given me this idea that it could make an amazing training tool for off-road training too. However, I haven’t had the chance to put that to the test quite yet.
Finally, I have found another exciting prospect for the GCR AL e’s use. This spring we are planning our first adventure touring ride as a family with Sascha in the trailer. While out riding on the gravel one day I spotted signs with an Italian name. So I went home and googled them. It turns out that there’s a fully signposted Munich to Venice bike route. Just 560km long, crossing the Bavarian Alps and the foothills of The Dolomites on its way to the beautiful Italian coast. I absolutely cannot wait and I’m fairly sure that even with the extra assistance I will deserve the reward of that amazing food once I get there!!
To view the CGR AL e that Helen rides click here.
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