Ready Set Go
Polaroid series: Cyclist and podcast host Jools Walker talks us through her sport essentials and the stories they hold
By Jools Walker
Since getting back on the saddle for the first time since childhood 11 years ago, cycling has completely changed my life for the better. I’ve been sharing this amazing journey online for that entire time as LadyVelo. One of my favourite ways is through photo sharing apps. It’s great to capture those moments in an instant with just a tap of a button and a quick caption underneath. But there is something magical about doing this with a Polaroid; the wonder of seeing your pictures developing in your hands. Not quite knowing how the image is going to turn out and playing with the layout to get unexpected results. There is such a raw beauty to it.
I grew up around hundreds of Polaroid photos. My mum was obsessed with capturing family moments on those square films and writing descriptions directly onto them. Now I can completely understand why she did this and how it fed into my love of photography and cycling. So, here is an insight into my simple, unadulterated joy of being on a bike with some charming, authentic Polaroid snaps.
It’s taken an age to find a skincare routine that works for me, especially with the toll cycling can take on your skin. Your face is exposed to elements like sun, pollution, windburn, UVB rays and other irritants, so it’s essential to protect it. This 5-step combination is my daily saviour!
Cleanse: Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash (I love the Broad Leaf Kelp Extract in it, which cleanses and purifies all skin types)
Tone: Aesop’s Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner (Can you sense a green theme here?)
Bonus hydration: Skin Treats Hyaluronic Acid Serum. This helps retain water to keep your skin well lubricated and moist.
Moisturise: A Perfect World SPF 40 Age-Defence Moisturiser with White Tea by Origins. As I happily head towards my forties, I’ve found it really helps to use a potent moisturiser that protects my skin.
Don’t forget your lips! It’s gotta be Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream Skin Protectant! I’ve sworn by this stuff since I discovered it when I was 18, and it’s always in my handbag or saddlebag.
2019 was a year of cycling milestones for me. After the joy of my first book about ‘bike life’ published that spring, I wanted to do something extraordinary to celebrate it. So a big ride – one outside of my comfort zone – would be the perfect way to mark the occasion, so I signed up for the Rapha Women’s 100! The challenge was to ride 100km in a day. I’d never done a distance like that in one go on my road bike before. Self-doubt (and doubts cast over me by others) often leaves me questioning my ability and sense of ‘belonging’ in that sphere of cycling. But I found strength I didn’t realise I had in me and completed my first metric century. These are the Rapha W100 100 bibs I wore. I also modelled this kit on their website!
I love loud clothing and it shows in every aspect of my wardrobe. I get so much joy from wearing bright colours and being on bikes, and my favourite way to combine the two is with vivid cycling caps! Every cap in my collection (this isn’t all of them) has a happy story attached to it. Colours can be a celebration that brings communities together – like the cycling communities I’m part of and mean so much to me. For instance, my LGBTQ+ rainbow cap (which says ‘Keep Pedalling’ on the peak) and the 2020 Women’s 100 cap I wore when I did the ride again last year with women around the globe! It might sound far-fetched to some, but it feels like I get therapy from being in loud colours when I ride – and I love it.
A big fear of mine is having one of my bikes stolen. I’m very precious about my babies, so keeping them secure is vital. I always use a decent D-lock and a cable for that extra layer of security. The Kryptonite Evolution Mini Lock + double loop Flex Cable is my go-to system. Although it’s a strong lock, it’s pretty lightweight, so carrying it around while I ride isn’t too hefty. These locks also come with ‘Sold Secure’ certification.
They’re tested by Sold Secure (a non-profit organisation based in the UK) who certify locks to make it easier to compare the security levels between different brands. Kryptonite locks always come out on top in these tests, so I’ve stuck with them over the years!
Obviously, one of my favourite things about cycling is bikes! I’m lucky to have a brood of them at home. And yes, they all have names. You’re not supposed to have a favourite child, but Paisley is the apple of my eye. My boyfriend, Ian (who is also into cycling and owns a Brompton), surprised me with one on Christmas Day 2018. He took a huge risk doing that. In the lead up to the festive season, I declared, “The last thing I want to be given this Christmas is anything related to cycling!” I was at a point in my life where my depression was at rock-bottom, and not much cycling was happening. But it was one of the best things Ian could have done for me. I fell in love with this bike! It reconnected me to the love of cycling I thought I’d lost. Side note: purple is my favourite colour, and I adore Prince, so that’s why she’s called Paisley.
Due to my ongoing Scoliosis (curvature of the spine), my posture goes through many changes. My body shape has changed a lot since I took up cycling, so I need to have a decent sports bra to give me support and be comfy while I’m doing longer bike rides. I don’t like doing long-distance cycling with the hardware of an underwired bra digging into me. Still, I need that full cup support and a bit of compression to stop my 32E’s from bouncing around!
I’ve had a few sports bras in my time, but my go-to these days is the Outdoor Voices x Rapha support bra. It’s high coverage and has an excellent cross-back design for extra support. It’s also made out of wicking fabric, which draws sweat away from your body while you’re riding – perfection!
Another wardrobe love of mine is footwear – especially trainers. Some people might call me a bit of a sneaker freak, as you’re more likely to find me in a pair of Adidas Originals over Aquazzura heels. I love cycling in trainers and my Adidas Continental 80s became my ultimate commuter footwear a few years ago. Even though I’ve had this pair for three years and I’ve cycled pretty far in them (including my book tour on wheels in 2019!), they are still going strong. They’ve got a really secure fit while still being comfortable enough to flex my feet in. I love that they have EVA midsoles, usually found in running shoes. They have great shock-absorbing qualities, which is brilliant while on my bike. The sole is also really grippy on the pedals and durable. To this day, they haven’t worn down.
You know I mentioned liking loud clothing in my cycling wardrobe? Well, behold the loudest cycling jacket I own! The Women’s Commuter Jacket by Rapha is another favourite for me. I cycle hot (I warm up quickly when on the move) but this is so lightweight and cut loose, which means I can stay relatively cool in it. It’s also packable. I can roll it up and pop it in the ‘stuff sack’ (which is actually part of the jacket) and stow it away in my bag, how neat is that?
I also admit to being a bit of a fairweather rider. I really don’t like cycling in the rain, and this jacket is excellent for keeping me stylishly dry if I’m caught short in a mini downpour. The storm hood will keep my head dry and it fits nicely under my helmet too.
I adore all things vintage when it comes to cycling, such as the Eroica sportive events. The ‘old skool’ romance of it all is wonderful! Its history has always appealed to the cyclist and cycle-style geek in me, so it’s always a joy to see subtle nostalgic nods to this in modern day bike riding. My friend, Tom Cartmale, felt the same way. In 2013 he took on a project to bring back Coloral cycling bottles. They were made in Birmingham in the 1940s and discontinued by the mid-50s due to the rise in popularity of plastic bottles. Tom showed me one of the original bottles, and it was love at first sight. In 2018, his Kickstarter to bring them back was successful. He remembered by love (and support) for his passion project and gifted me a brand new stainless steel version of the bottle. I’ll always cherish this.
If I’m not cycling with a pannier attached to my bike, I’ll usually have a backpack on. It’s gotta be comfortable, practical and stylish, of course! I know that I can rely on Ally Capellino bags to tick these boxes.
In 2016, Ally Capellino teamed up with one of my favourite cycling brands, tokyobike, and created an updated version of the already iconic Frances backpack. With cycling-friendly features (including a reflective strip, a proofed nylon exterior to keep it dry and a loop for a cycle light), I had to have it! I’m a freelancer who gets around town by bike, so my “office” travels with me. It’s ace that my laptop or tablet (or both!) can fit securely in the inner padded sleeve, along with my other bits and pieces, including my water bottle and bike lock. This bag was made for city cycling, and I can always rely on it.