I realise I’m a bit late to this party, seeing as the magazine launched in Autumn last year, but I was only alerted to its existence recently when Lucy Greaves recommended it to me. I was excited by the prospect of a new magazine targeted specifically at women cyclists, because I’d recently tried to find some good reading material and was disheartened by the male dominion which lies everywhere you look.
I immediately went online to order a copy, and was first struck with a torturous decision: which cover to go for? Emily Chappell or Nicole Cooke?
I’m going to confess that I based my choice purely on aesthetics. I just think the Emily Chappell cover looks better. So I ordered it. The magazine was actually free, I just had to pay £1.50 postage. WIN.
Luckily for me, it appeared through my letterbox while I was off sick from work and feeling sorry for myself; the perfect time to completely devour it in one afternoon, which is exactly what I did. Overall I’m happy that I ordered it, and I’ll definitely be reading the next issue when it’s ready. In the meantime I thought I’d share my thoughts on the launch issue, to give an idea of what to expect if you’re planning to order a copy.
First things first
It looks good. It’s a good looking magazine with elegant typeface, bold and bright colours, beautiful photography and really smart design. I’d have no problem sticking some of the photos on my wall if I were still a teenager and/or wasn’t sharing my bedroom with someone else.
Structure and theme
So the magazine is broken down into the following sections:
- Sprint – a ‘rapid round-up’ of cycle inspiration
- Style – fashion and beauty tips to stay stylish while riding
- Regulars – ‘Lust List’* and a final thought to take with you
- Know-how – tips on nutrition and training, bike reviews and technology developments
- Features – the main events (in this issue: Emily Chappell, Nicole Cooke and the Drops Cycling Team)
*Side note: I also do ‘lust lists’ and feel the need to state that I started doing so before I knew this magazine existed – pure coincidence, and clearly great minds think alike.
The theme for this issue is #JFDI or, Just Fucking Do It (never actually spelled out, so I saved you the trouble). I love this theme. It’s all about getting on your bike and making things happen – setting goals and damn well achieving them. To quote the editor-in-chief, Danielle Welton:
“#JDFI isn’t just the domain of Olympians and endurance athletes. There’s a bit of it in all of us who get on our bikes when it’s peeing it down or wake up insanely early at the weekends for the love of cycling.”
As I said earlier, what excites me about this is having a magazine targeted specifically at women cyclists, and I wasn’t disappointed to open it up and see an array of gorgeous photos where women are ACTUALLY RIDING THEIR BIKES. Let’s face it, we’ve all flicked through issues of mainstream cycling magazines and noted that a) only about 5% of depicted riders are women, and b) most, if not all, of those women are standing next to, or sitting stationary on their bikes. It actually does my head in how male dominated the majority of cycling publications are, and how differently men and women are depicted. Men ride, women look pretty next to their high-end road bikes.
So yes, seeing page after page of women riding bikes made me happy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all on their bikes, and there are plenty of pretty women standing next to bikes as well, but I’ll address that later. It’s a start.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about all the features because you should go ahead and read them, but these are the features that really got me excited, and why:
Emily Chappell – I found this interview really inspiring. In line with the theme of #JFDI, Chappell focuses on how she faced her fears and revisited the transcontinental race which she’d previously failed to finish – and won. If that’s not enough, it also includes a round-up of other historical women who Just Fucking Did It: Beryl Burton, Marie Marvingt and Annie Kopchovsky. Really inspiring stuff.
Nicole Cooke – Again, really inspiring and empowering. I’m not a racer, but I loved reading about how Cooke has challenged the sexism and doping hypocrisy surrounding the UCI. Plus the final line is just perfect:
“Have a dream, never give up, stand up for what you believe in and never stop riding.”
Why I Ride – This quick fire interview appears early on in the issue and doesn’t stay with you for long, but there were a couple of things that resonated with me on a personal level and motivated me to #JFDI. Jools Walker mentions cycling around Berlin and visiting all the museums in Mitte – something I’m also dying to do. She also dreams of cycling around the island of Trinidad due to her heritage – something we have in common.
Mission Kimpossible – This feature explores the development of Rwanda’s first women’s cycling team, and the stigma and barriers Rwandan women face when it comes to riding. It’s an inspiring story of working to achieve equality through the sport, and highlights that while gender equality in cycling is a long way off for many of us, these women have a huge journey ahead of them.
The Art of the Quick Pee – A short article that’s unafraid of talking about a less ‘lady-like’ subject, and contains the only acknowledgement of potential male readers.
Know-How – I loved this whole section. From the recipes included (all of which happen to be vegan), to the training tips which are really helpful, and the ‘Batmobile’ of bikes. It was really interesting to read about technological advances in the cycling world.
Absolute favourite though: Passport to Ride which details the gorgeous Colle della Lombarda, along the French and Italian border. OMG. Please make this a regular feature and show me all the amazing spots to ride across the globe. #JFDI.
I hate to say it but the magazine isn’t 100% perfect and there are lots of areas where it could improve. This isn’t about bitching, but hopefully making some useful suggestions which may or may not make it into the right hands.
Style – this section in general really disappointed me. On the surface it’s beautiful – the photographs are gorgeous, as are the models and the cycling kit they’re wearing. But it would be nice to see more diverse body types being represented. We’re not all athletes. Fat women commute. Fat Lass at the Back have some awesome attire, and the market is there. What’s more, all this cycle-chic is nice to look at, but it’s very superficial in my opinion. Basketed town bikes, flowy skirts and denim jackets just don’t speak to me, I want trendy takes on practical kit. Finally, this is where women aren’t riding their bikes in the photos. It gives in to that mundane aesthetic that plagues the pages of almost every other cycling publication.
Dream Team – I wanted to like this feature. Technically it’s about a women’s cycling team from Milton Keynes who were formed from a Wallpaper company and have been working their way up the amateur league. Why didn’t I like it? Because the women aren’t actually talked about. The interviewee is Bob Varney, the Team Director. He talks about his vision and the kit they wear (which was designed by his son), but where are the personalities of the women he’s talking about? We get their names and faces, but I would have liked to hear about them. The struggles and challenges they’ve faced, their triumphs, their dreams, their motivation. Bob speaks on behalf of them while his son dresses them… what we’re presented with are a team of women constructed by two men. And that’s it.
Two more things I was disappointed in: the magazine is produced in London and therefore focuses on London. I get that, but I hope it branches out. Maybe each feature can focus on a different UK city (and maybe venture abroad), or at least include a mixture. I don’t want to read about someone’s favourite coffee spots in London each issue because it’s not relevant to me.
Last but not least, where’s the DIY? There is nothing in this feature that empowers women to learn to fix their own bikes. There’s one recommendation of a London bike shop to go to for fixes, but that’s it. In the spirit of #JFDI – why not empower flowy-skirted basket-laden women to be self-sufficient, and learn how to fix a puncture? It was just a glaring omission and a missed opportunity. I hope they do something about this for next time – you can’t ride a bike that doesn’t work, and if you’re going to be the badass they’re encouraging you to be, you need to get your hands dirty.
Have you read this issue? I would love to know what you thought, and if you disagree with any of my comments.
To get your copy of the launch issue of Casquette, click here.