It must be pretty obvious by the name of this column (Girls, girls, girls!) and the fact that I run a women's magazine focusing on action sports amongst other things, that I get pretty hyped on seeing women going for it. But sometimes I meet women who are so threatened by other ladies getting somewhere that they act super frostily, doing all they can to be unhelpful. I really can't stand that attitude, there is room in this world for more than one woman with a clothing brand, a magazine, a sponsor or an ambition. I strongly feel that we should all do what we can to promote women in sports, not hinder our gender's progress when we still have so far to go in terms of equality. So let's celebrate the women who are making waves and getting somewhere.
I admire and respect Anna Glowinski as a rider and an entrepreneur, and as Anna shares my philosophy I got in touch for a chat.
What is it that's so appealing to you about cycling?
Cycling takes me on adventures. It’s a tool to get me out of the house and meeting new people and seeing new places. I mean, what do people do when they go to new places if they don’t do a sport?! Just look at things or something? How do they meet people? What do they talk about?! I dunno, I just can’t imagine life without my bike, it makes up my work life, my social life, keeps me skinny, introduces me to hot guys and cool girls, it’s the core at the centre of my whole life I guess. That’s pretty sad, haha!
I know you've been riding since you were very young. How old were you when you got into bikes the first time round?
I was riding at 4 and racing cyclo-cross at 5. My dad was into bikes and my mum was pretty sporty generally. There was no pressure, it was just something we did as a family at weekends.
What was it like racing as a kid?
It was just fun! I got muddy, I had a wonky helmet, I made friends with older and younger kids and I had something to talk about with my family that we all had in common. It was cool.
When did you fall out of love with it?
It was weak, but when I was about 14 and at an all-girls school where no-one else cycled it was obvious that it wasn’t cool. I got pretty self-conscious about it, I never told my first boyfriend that I was away racing at weekends as I was so embarrassed about it. In the end I cycled less and partied with my friends more until I guess I just wasn’t cycling at all.
How did you end up back on a bike again, and did anything change for you?
I had just started commuting to uni in London back on my bike a bit again, and my mum got badly hit by a car whilst cycling. I felt really worried about her and it just made me more aware of the dangers of cycling on the road. Through work one summer I ended up on a cycle training course and it really made me reassess how I was cycling on the roads myself and now I don’t really think about it being dangerous anymore.
How long was her rehabilitation and does she cycle now?
My mum is a machine! Her leg was shattered and she needed a metal support in her shin, but thankfully she can’t remember the accident (in which she was thrown 15ft in the air) so she rejoined her cycling groups and now does 90 mile rides twice a week and races track. She’s the most bike-keen in the family now!
So how did you end up becoming as hooked as you are now?
I fell back into cycling the same way I fell out of it. My boyfriend was doing some cyclo-cross in the Winter so I joined him in a couple, in the summer I did a couple of track races, totally unfit and rubbish, but started making friends there. I just found it ebbing back into my life, people invited me to things, I said yes, picked up some bikes and before I knew it I’m here with 8 bikes or so riding all the time!
What is your favourite kind of riding? You seem a pretty well rounded rider.
I’m definitely most into the more “extreme” (cringe, I don’t know what other word to use!) side of things. I’ve raced a few downhill mountain bike races, hit the skate park on my BMX occasionally and spend a lot of time doing big gap jumps and stuff on my full suss XC bike. The tricks and jumps and gnarly stuff is the most new to me, it’s not what I did as a kid, so although I’m confident handling a bike it’s really cool having a lot to learn. Having a steep learning curve and being a beginner at something makes every ride satisfying that I’ve improved at something.
Do you compete at all these days?
Yeah, I race a little bit of track locally at a low level and do some downhill racing. Just did my first Gravity Enduro and am hooked, I plan on touring the country and doing as many as I can now, I’d like to do pretty well in them and see some podiums. I also want to give 4 cross a go.
I know you ride for Team MuleBar. Can you tell me a little more about that?
The MuleBar Girls team is a new concept and a bit of fun. We’re essentially a multi-discipline race team made up of a bunch of friends. We love riding and racing bikes, we’re committed to giving back to women’s cycling by creating and volunteering at various female-only bike groups. We try and motivate each other to race well, understanding the goals and needs of each individual and supporting them as a team to achieve. We put in huge efforts to promote our lovely sponsors, who are generally brands that want to be associated with people having fun cycling, nothing too serious. We’re also a big bunch of piss-heads, finishing off most rides and races with getting totally hammered. We try not to start races like that too often though. We also have the hottest race kit in the world!
It sounds like you don't take it too seriously. I know that having fun is your priority but how important is fitness and nutrition to you? Do you consider yourself an athlete? Do you workout?
NO!!! I don’t worry about being fit. I like to eat my five-a-day but never manage to, I refuse to go to the gym. I don’t want to get fat right, but so long as I’m always saying “yes” to going out on my bike, I don’t think I need to worry too much!
My philosophy is that bike riding is my hobby, I do it to have fun. In a weird way, I get cross with myself if I do training. Most people I know feel pretty pleased if they’ve done a hard workout, they hated every minute of it but feel better for it after. I get angry for allowing my bike to become a chore. If anyone ever sees me on a bike they can 100% know that I’m well happy at that moment.
Recently you've been touring with a 'stunt team'. Can you tell me more about that?
The Clan has been one of the most incredible, fun and challenging experiences of my life. They are a Scottish based stunt team and each year they advertise for a girl to join them to do a tour of primary schools, to inspire wee girls and show them that riding isn’t just for boys. Even though I’m not the best rider I was really luckily picked thanks to all the promotional things I’ve done for women’s cycling. The jump box used in the shows is really hard and I’ve had some big tumbles, putting the fear into me. But after a fortnight I finally started getting the hang of it and throwing some one-handers, I also get on the microphone and get the boys to do really dangerous stuff, so it’s a pretty cool role. The adventure has taken me into all sorts of places and has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone in terms of riding, living and asserting confidence, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve even cried a couple of times feeling out of my depth. But I wouldn’t swap one second of it, I’ve had such a laugh, I’m coming back a better rider and a stronger person, and, dare I say it, I reckon there will be a few more 10 year old girls riding to school and maybe even hitting the skate park now.
What other women's events and initiative are you involved in?
Ahhh, loads! My clothing brand AnaNichoola is about so much more than just providing clothing. I want it to be a platform for women’s cycling to become more accessible and fun. AnaNichoola, along with my lovely team, the MuleBar Girls run weekly road rides in London, weekly track coaching and training sessions, we’re putting on VeloJam a women’s only track race. We campaign for equality in women’s cycling, such as for getting a women’s race at the Smithfield Nocturne reinstated and pushing Levi's to have a women’s prize for their commuter range cycling sprint competitions. AnaNichoola give prizes to any women’s only event we hear about and sponsor cool girls allowing them to realise their potential in comfortable clothing.
When and how did you launch the brand?
There was no “launch” as such, I was just hand making bits and pieces and it evolved into printed t-shirts and then, a year and a half ago, into a first production run of really considered fingerless gloves. They sold well enough and got into a few independent stores, so I was able to use the money to make a 5-piece winter range this season a 9-piece Spring/Summer range.
What's the name all about?
The name is just a fancy take on my own name, which is appropriate as the brand really comes from my heart. It’s a cliché thing to say, but I was sick of the lack of cool cycle clothing that didn’t fit properly and was thoughtlessly designed. Surfers have nice clothes, snow boarders look ace in branded jackets and pants, why do cyclists, which is such an accessible sport, often look so old fashioned? It’s an exciting time for women’s cycling, and I want design to be an integral part of its growth. Women who ride need clothes that fit and perform, and AnaNichoola also offers an identity for females who are proud to present themselves as cyclists.
How have things progressed since you started?
A few weeks ago I got some investment for AnaNichoola, which means we will now have a proper marketing budget to spread the word. I will also have a new office space and some mentors to bounce ideas off and to help guide me in the right direction. It’s so, so exciting and it feels like THIS, right now, is the beginning. I’m 26 and it has taken me a fair while to feel like I now finally have a bit of stability, a proper job and clear directions. That might sound boring, but I have never felt so excited for the future whilst equally enjoying the moment.
It sounds like you have a hell of a lot going on. Do you have any other goals or aims for this year?
Riding wise I want to do well at the megavalanche, land a back flip on a dirt jump and learn to be able to use a skatepark quite well. Work wise I want to pick up a couple of international distribution deals to see AnaNichoola in countries like the US and Japan, plus Europe and a growth in the UK. I’d like to create an AnaNichoola race team too, that’d be awesome. Haha, I want, I want I want…..