The Brenin jacket

  • Posted by alex
  • 6 March 2012


For the past few months we've been putting a prototype of a new howies jacket through it's paces.

The Brenin is our new lightweight biking jacket for Spring. Actually, it does a whole lot more than that. We've designed it to be windproof, breathable and packable. We've also added in stretch panels on the arms and torso – making it a perfect-fitting outer shell for either bike or run.

The tailored body panels are designed to stop wind and chill from getting in, while the stretch sections let body heat out and give you greater freedom of movement. The jacket's cuffs and drop-tail have subtle reflective detailing too, making you visible to motorists at night. And these flashes are located so they won't be covered up if you're wearing a backpack. It's even got a hydrophobic coating on the body, to help splashes roll off.

Not bad for a jacket weighing-in at only 200grams (that's about the same weight as a banana). In fact, it's so lightweight; you forget you're wearing it.

Beyond the bike, we've also taken this jacket over the hills on foot. We've run it over a hundred miles of trail, slogged out a few ultra-marathons, not to mention plenty of lunchbreaks. And it did the job every time... right to the finish.

Teamed up with one of our long-sleeved Merino base layers, the Brenin jacket has already become a howies staple for those staff members lucky enough to have snapped up one of the samples. For the rest of us, we'll just have to wait 'til we launch the finished product in March.

But don't just take our word for it:
"The new howies Brenin is a fantastically well designed lightweight jacket that packs as much style as it does performance out on the trails in the British weather." – BikeMagic

"It’s the first time we can really say… one style fits all! Star Buy - 96%" – CyclingShorts

The Brenin jacket is available to buy here

The Bet

  • Posted by pete
  • 22 February 2012

Last week, my workmates bet me (an unfit chump) the princely sum of £500 that I couldn't run a 10 kilometre race in under 70 minutes.

£500 I thought... "That's a lot of money, think of all the fags and booze you can buy with that".

Of course I naively said yes and took the bet, without really considering what I was letting myself in for. It wasn't until my first training run the other night that I realised exactly how pitifully out of shape I am. Or indeed exactly how far 10 kilometres is. And that I should probably start saving the £500 I'm going to have to cough up, when I fail.

The basis for my self-doubt is the fact that I've been a smoker for nearly half of my life. I'm also partial to a bit of beige food and I enjoy a drink. A lifestyle, I think you'll agree, not really conducive with a the sport of running.

Sure, I can skateboard for hours on end and I can do 20 miles on my bike without too much trouble, so I am active and I'm not overweight or anything. But I haven't run any kind of distance for a long time. Not since being made to do the dreaded cross-country in school. I hated it and I hated being forced into doing it. And that instilled a fear in me – a fear of running and a fear of failing at running, which lives with me to this day. So I never ran again.

But £500 is a good motivator. It's just the kick up the backside I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. To quit smoking, eat healthier, to forget all the negative crap and just run.

So if you seen a thin, wheezy man trudging around the streets of West Wales, in what look like shoes of lead, don't be alarmed, It's just me... training for my 10K.

I'll be uploading my progress over the next few months, with stories, photos, disappointing stats and maybe a video or two. I welcome your comments, tips and mickey-taking. So please feel free to chip in. Thanks.

Riding in circles

  • Posted by alex
  • 21 February 2012

Over the winter we've watched record-breaking heros racing at the Manchester Velodrome in the Revolution track series.

And since my first visit to watch an event, a certain excitement surrounding track cycling has made me keen to give it a go.

The track at Newport is much the same as the one in Manchester, albeit crowd-less and silent when we turned up for our session yesterday. The silence drew my attention to the steep banks at either end of the track (45° banks, to be precise), which have been the only real niggle in my mind since first realising how steep they are. I have been reassured that if you can ride fast enough to get round on the lines, you're going quick enough to make it round at the boards.

Winding up the fixed gear approaching the first bend, I started to wonder; will my tyres grip at this (low) speed? Will I make it round? Or will I slide down it on my face?

But as the pace picked up all I could concentrate on was keeping on the back wheel of the bike in front, lap after lap, trying to pull into his slipstream and keep a good pace.

Before I knew it, I was flying. The rushing air lapping at my ears while shooting up the bank towards the advertising banners, then timing a descent to glide tidily to the back of the pack for a rest.

When your head is down and your speed is up, you don't worry about being clipped in, or remember you're on a fixed gear bike with no brakes and no freewheel. Fear vanishes and soon all that matters is going faster, catching the bike in front and absorbing every minute, while ignoring burning legs and lungs or anything else telling you to slow down.

We certainly weren't breaking any records, but track cycling is even more exciting to me, now that I've had a go.

Thank you Welsh Cycling - I'm sure we'll be heading back for another fix soon.

Ultra One

  • Posted by ruben
  • 25 January 2012

I ran my first ever ultra on Saturday - 34.3 miles of coastal trail around Anglesea, featuring several gruelling ascents of Holyhead mountain.

I finished almost last, but that's not the point. I finished an ultra. It was something I'd wanted to do since I first started running seriously a couple of years ago.

Back then, after a few 10k runs on local trails, I began to wonder what it would take to run a marathon. I thought I could do it, so with no training I set off to try. After 22 miles and 3 big hills, I collapsed completely, but the distance bug had taken a firm hold.

I went back to the drawing board, running shorter races and keeping the miles up between events. Less than a year after the first attempt, I ran my first marathon. Then another. I thought I was ready for longer distances, so I entered the Endurancelife CTS Anglesea ultra.

 

Work on the new howies website made training tough until the middle of November, but I managed to keep the miles up and by the time Christmas and New Year came round, I was feeling great. I thought I was in the best shape of my life.

Then, exactly a week before the run, I fell off my bike and landed heavily on my leg. A previous injury in my knee was reawakened and as the days passed with me limping around I began to worry. I thought about dropping out, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

On the trip up to the race with Chris (also running the ultra) and Alex (running his first trail half) I was subdued, and at dinner the night before I found myself massaging the damaged knee and mulling over what was to come. I knew this was bad, and that the doubts were probably more dangerous than the injury itself so I tried to put it all to the back of my mind.

 

 

Arriving at the start before daybreak we found the car park was a 10 minute walk from the event HQ at the Breakwater country park. And again, the pain from my knee started nagging at me. The howling wind and lashing rain didn't help, although thankfully both began to subside as the sun came up and we began to run.

The course started off with a short flat run to the foot of Holyhead mountain, before the first long climb began taking us around to the South Stack lighthouse. I was more than happy to walk the steep rock stairs, near vertical in some places. I knew we were coming back here later.

For the first few miles I was running with Chris, who had kept me company during my first trail marathon a couple of months before. I don't think I was great company this time as I was still struggling to control my negativity and I was actually quite relieved to see Chris head off up the road, running his own race. I was now alone, and I knew that was how it had to be.

 

I was soon beginning to feel much better and was enjoying the scenery as we passed Trearddur Bay. My thoughts were a lot more positive, although my knee was still giving me trouble. Shortly after the half way turn around on Rhoscolyn beach, it flared up and my leg cramped causing me to fall against a low wall. To my relief I was able to recover quickly and get back on my feet, although cramp (and the fear of cramp) plagued the rest of my run. Especially over the numerous stiles, which I now negotiated ver gingerly for fear of triggering another leg failure.

Heading back toward the finish line, I saw Holyhead mountain again in the distance. Knowing I would be having to climb the rock stairs around the mountain again before the finish and already approaching the furthest I had ever run I wasn't in a hurry to get there. I ran a steady pace, but making sure I could make the cut off point in time to be allowed back onto the mountain.

 

As we joined the half marathon course, I was quite glad to have the company of other runners again, as I had be plugging out the miles alone, save for odd fragments of conversation as I traded places with a couple of the other ultra runners. By chance I met up with Alex, who seemed to be having a great run in his half. He left me with one of his spare gels and carried on.

The miles all began to blur together and my mind wandered until I reached the foot of the mountain and the sharp ascent brought things back into focus. The sun was out, the views were amazing, and passing half marathon runners with their fresh legs on the climb gave me a massive boost. I passed nearly everyone I saw on the first climb, although my legs screamed at me to stop. Eventually I reached the summit and took a moment to enjoy the view before turning back down the mountain toward the marathon finish line.

 

I made the cut off more than 20 minutes before it closed. I knew this wasn't fast, but it meant I would now get to finish the ultra. I set off toward the mountain again, looking over my shoulder to check I wasn't last. Ray who runs the whole food shop in Cardigan and his friend were the next through the gate, about 500 yards behind me.

Seeing someone I knew behind me gave me another boost and I was determined to keep up a good pace as the climb began again. I was impressed that my legs seemed to have recovered from their earlier cramps and I was able to power my way back to the South Stack lighthouse checkpoint without stopping.

I ran into the checkpoint and headed straight back out again, not wanting to loose any more places before the finish. The course now took me back inland and I knew that another trip to the summit was coming. My legs were beginning to feel hollow and my mind was wandering. I was interested by the sensation, but refused to slow down.

Reaching the summit for the second time, I almost cried. I knew that gravity would do the rest. All I had to do was point my weary body int he right direction and not fall over. I plodded out the descent, drinking whatever was left in my bag and eating a bar. I realised I had too much food left, and should have been eating more. I was already planning my next ultra by the time I finished.

 

Chris and Alex were waiting for me at the finish line. I had to wait a few minutes to get my time. They'd turned the power off and had to restart the computer. As I waited, Ray and his friend came running home. I would later find out they were the only finishers behind me, although 9 runners dropped out.

I followed the others back to the car and was more than happy to let Chris drive home. I was done. I had run my first ultra.

 

We stopped at a little climbing cafe called Pete's Eats that Chris knew on the way back to Cardigan. The good coffee and baked potatoes seemed to serve as a fitting full stop to the run, and the reality of the achievement began to sink in.

There's such a difference between believing you can do something and knowing you can.

Categories:

My legs are still killing me today but I guess that’s what happens when you enter an Enduro somewhere as hilly as mid Wales. It’s self-inflicted pain and i shouldn’t really be moaning or making those achy leg noises every time I get up from my desk but I do, and will continue too for the rest of the day.

On Sunday, myself and two friends Josh and Rune turned up at the brilliant trail center Brechfa at 7:45 am with bleary eyes and a feeling of excitement that the day ahead would be filled with riding our bikes, and generally having a good time.

This year’s enduro had a slightly different format because it would be the three timed stages that counted towards the final positioning, rather than trying to get round the whole course as quick as poss. I really like this, as it meant you could take it easier on the in-between bits and then give it the beans on each stage.

With a staggered start it meant less congestion at the beginning, and gave people time to get sorted. Us three being keen as custard got going straight away and set out to conquer the 30 km course with big smiles on our faces!

The first timed section was the 3 minute downhill which was super fast and flowing with some tight corners that made you squeal. I love riding downhill quick so I gave it some welly and managed to get down to the bottom in one piece with only a couple of near misses. Our smiles were even bigger now!

The second time section was the undulating stage, this consisted of a horrible switch back climb that makes your legs and arms burn, followed by a swooping downhill that required concentration and momentum. For me this was the hardest part because after the  climb, my body felt like jelly but my bike was accelerating downwards at a rate of knots, so I just hung on and flowed through all the twists and turns!

Three quarters of the way round was a feed station with banana’s galore. We loaded up on these and stood around speculating about where the final stage could be. The general vibe was great too and everyone looked like they were having fun. Fueled up, we continued onwards to the final leg.

Who ever planned the course must have been having a chuckle to them self because the last part just seemed to go up hill. I can only imagine the amount of colorful words being spoken from tired mountain bikers! The final timed checkpoint was an 8 minute climb!

I maintained a comfortable pace and reached the top with a time that I was pleased with. That’s the hard part done, now just got to reach the finish…

The final section back to the finish was a fire road decent, which if you let off the brakes you could really cut loose. I followed a guy called Paul who drives trains; he was a great person to be behind because he just had no fear! Ace fun indeed!

Through the finish line I got off my bike and stood there with the same smile that I started with. I’ve been riding mountains bikes for 16 years and it just doesn’t get boring, I still get that great feeling!! Buzzing.

And to top off an already top day, I managed to take the overall win in the women’s category. It was Tracey Mosley who presented the prizes which was amazing! She’s awesome, definitely a rider I look up to!

I’ve rattled on for long enough now sorry, but what can I say MTB’s are just rad!!

Thank you to Bike Brechfa and Brechfa bike club for putting on such an ace event. To Josh and Rune for being top riding companions, and to all the marshal who stood out in the freezing conditions.  Roll on next year!!

Hazel
howies Clothing Designer & Technician

Team howies: Jon Mould

  • Posted by alex
  • 5 January 2012

Jon's role in Team howies seems to be being stoked on riding as we haven't seen him on the bike without a smile.

Paired with Leif Lampeter, he won the 1km Madison TT at Revolution round 1, and along with Andy Fenn, Jon led Mark Cavendish to victory in the 15km Scratch at the last meet.

Originally from Wales, Jon has been in the team from the start (aided obviously by a strong list of accomplishments & a great riding attitude). He spends the winter focused on the track and concentrates on a Road race programme through the summer, taking part in events all around Europe.

When Jon isn't racing for howies, he's based up in Manchester together with fellow British Academy riders. These guys all live and train together with a love of biking and a sole purpose to race bikes.

1. How did you get started in cycling?
I started when I was 14 at the Newport Velodrome, my Mum and Dad took me down one day for taster session and just progressed from there.

2. Where do you ride when you just want to ride for fun?
I think I'd ride a mountain bike up at Cwmcarn Trail with my brother, I don't do it much, but it's always good when I get the chance to.

3. If you could ride in any event in the world, what would it be?
I'd want to finish the Tour de France, it's the most famous race there is. Ask anyone and the first race that comes to their mind is the Tour.

4. What do you do to relax before a race?
I just listen to music, but it's not always 'relaxing' music I'd listen to. But before any road race I always try and find a cafe and get a quick coffee, especially in Italy.

5. What do you like to do off the bike?
I'm a big Ice Hockey fan so whenever I'm home I always try and watch the Cardiff Devils. And I'm into my dance music so I like to think I'm a DJ not a very good one but spend a lot of time 'trying' to mix songs.

It's Round 3 of Revolution this weekend with highlights on ITV4 on Monday. You can follow the action on our twitter. Let us know you're support using the hashtag #goteamhowies.

2011 - A year in pictures

  • Posted by alex
  • 20 December 2011

2011;
A year of lunchbreakouts.
A year of first Marathons.
A year of races.
A year of Microadventure.
And the year a World Champion raced for howies.

 

Chris Ultra

2012;
A year for riding harder.
A year for first Ultra's.
A year for (more) racing.
A year for adventure.
Then again, why wait until January...

Team howies: Andy Fenn

  • Posted by alex
  • 19 December 2011

Andy-Fenn

Another 1 to 5 from the howies pit at Revolution. Team rider Andy Fenn gives us a quick insight into riding.

Andy was an obvious choice for the team with his winning record across track and road disciplines, the most impressive we think is his U23 UCI World Championships Bronze medal win.

Riding in the elite category for Round 2, Andy teamed up with Cav for the Madison TT and joined Jon Mould to help bring howies the Rainbow victory in the 15km scratch last month.

Andy's skipped the winter weather on a training camp in Spain and left us a few words before he disappears off Down Under next month on tour...

1. How did you get started in cycling?
I started mountain biking first, my dad got me into that, but there isnt cycling in the family. When I moved to Welwyn I joined the Welwyn Wheelers, and slowly took it more seriously from there, progressing through the British Cycling Programs.

2. Where do you ride when you just want to ride for fun?
I dont really have a favorite route, as you can get bored of the same thing, but its always more fun when you go out with a good group of people you know to a nice cafe on a easy day.

3. If you could ride in any event in the world, what would it be?
Paris-Roubaix.

4. What do you do to relax before a race?
I just try to keep my mind off the race until its time to get ready. When we were in the camper van you can always have a laugh with the other guys so that helps.

5. What do you like to do off the bike?
Meeting up with friends, going out to eat, and just relaxing. Normal things.

If you've got any other questions for our team, just leave a comment below.

Team howies: Leif Lampeter Q&A

  • Posted by alex
  • 14 November 2011

Leif Lampeter rides for team howies

Following our success in the Madison TT at Revolution Round 1, we thought you might enjoy a quick 1 to 5 with Team howies' Leif Lampater.

Why the lairy shorts? Well, normally German Six-day man Leif is found training in his hometown of Rosenheim and rides for RSV Irschenberg.

Putting our first track team together meant picking from a list of riders. Leif was an obvious choice and stood out when you look at his many successes in German and European championships. The guy lives to race track and was more than happy to fly to Manchester and pull on the howies jersey to lend his experience to our track team.

Despite all the wins he is very grounded and easy-going.
You might find you have a few things in common...

1. How did you get started in cycling?
I started cycling as I was absolutely unable to do any kind of ball sports properly!

2. Where do you ride when you just want to ride for fun?
I just take my about 20year old steel race bike to ride into the city.

3. If you could ride in any event in the world, what would it be?
I'd like to take part in any races happening in all areas of the world - I don't know yet.

4. What do you do to relax before a race?
I just like lying in bed.

5. What do you like to do off the bike?
Trying to get all my computer stuff sorted and working.

Image ©British Cycling

If you've got any other questions for our team, just leave a comment below.

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