Women on Bikes Series: Jessica Strange

My name is Jessica Strange, I'm an avid multi-discipline cyclist living in South Wales with my amazing fur baby (cat), Gomez Thunderpaws and I'm the deputy editor of Total Women's Cycling.

What types of cycling do you enjoy and why?

While I enjoy riding all disciplines of cycling, mountain biking is where my heart is.

I love all venturing out on mountain adventures with its stunning landscapes, quietness and tranquillity.

For me, mountain biking is the ultimate combination of adrenaline and meditation.

Tell us what helped you find a sense of belonging with your fellow cyclists-

Being a female mountain biker automatically invites you to be a part of a wonderful minority group of riders. It feels more like a family really with a sense of comradery which I've never experienced before.

It's an awesome feeling to ride with people who share the same passion for cycling. Regardless of age or skill, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, share experiences and make friends.

Have you participated in a cycling event? If so, what did you enjoy most about your experience?
I've entered races and sportives over the past couple of years which have been physically tough and mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding at the same time. I absolutely love the atmosphere at cycling events, whether I'm racing or just cheering on the other riders.

If you have participated in an event do you have any tips/suggestions for those who have not participated in events?
The best advice to those thinking of entering an event is simply to give it a go.

Whether you win, lose, or come dead middle - it's really about taking part, getting stuck in and seeing how you really perform under race conditions. I find I definitely push myself harder at an event, and I'm not even very competitive!

Clips or flats- what do you enjoy and why?
Clips on my road and cross bike.

Bit of both on my mountain bike. It all depends on what trails I'm planning to ride. Clipping in is great for long days on the trails, where there's likely to be a lot of pedally sections and climbs. However, I still rock the flats if I fancy a quick blast around the trails or if I'm trying to refine some techniques in the skills park
Tell us about some of your favourite cycling-related products and why do you love them?
It's so hard to say! Aside from the bike itself, I find it the utmost importance to have a good padded short and saddle combo. I'm currently riding in Madison Flux shorts with ASSOS women's chamois cream, on a comfortable Pro women's saddle.

For apparel, I've always been a big fan of Giro. Both their MTB and road products are some of my favourites for not only being stylish but designed with some innovative and performance driven technologies.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Rock gardens were my nemeses for a while. I would tense up, grip hard and end up getting bucked around, quite often resulting in failure.

One of the best things to help me overcome these obstacles was breathing and relaxing my body. Putting faith in my bike and myself has been the most important thing I've learnt.

What do you love about riding your bike?

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Genesis Vapour cross bike which is awesome for some rough road riding and cyclocross racing.

For my mountain adventures, I have a Canyon Spectral which can take on anything I throw at it. It's comfortable, fast and fun it's given me heaps of incredible riding memories.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with Total Women's Cycling?

The women's cycling scene is growing at a rapid rate and it's an incredibly exciting time to be a part of such a strong movement of inspiring women. It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of this and helping in any way I can to nurture this growing movement.

Total Women's Cycling is a fantastic title to write for, one that works hard to promote and encourage women's cycling which is a cause I feel very strongly for.

What would you like folks to know about TWC and what you do?
The TWC staff work hard to cover all disciplines of cycling, and we focus on areas of health, nutrition and lifestyle to be as well-rounded as possible. We want to promote cycling to women and help to inspire future generations of female cycling champions.

We care a lot about what our readers think, and what they want to hear. We encourage discussions and feedback so we can deliver relevant, honest and entertaining pieces for our audience.

What has been the most rewarding experience for you since being involved with TWC?
By far the best feeling is having someone tell you that your work helped them, inspired them, or meant something to them in any way. It only takes one person to make you feel like all the long hours and hard work is all worth it in the end.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?

There are indeed barriers to women's cycling but many of these are mental barriers like confidence. We've heard from readers that they have been intimidated by other riders, the costs associated with cycling and even their personal safety whilst out riding.

However, there are many brilliant cycles schemes, like British Cycling, who work hard to help break down these barriers and encourage women in a supportive and enjoyable environment.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

There are some fantastic organisations and women's specific events popping up all the time which encourage women to ride with like-minded people. In the UK we have the Breeze Network which hosts many women's only rides, and plenty of bike parks and trail centres hold women's only days/rides and even maintenance classes.

Overall, I think participation would be greater achieved through local councils improving cycling networks, lanes and signposted routes. A greater understanding of the highway code wouldn't go amiss either! At the top-end of riding, improved media coverage of women's racing would greatly inspire more people to get involved with cycling - I know it inspires me!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I often think about how cycling has totally changed my life for the better, and I want to share that with the world in hopes there are other women out there who may benefit from this fantastic sport and community.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm definitely turning into a crazy cat lady.