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A chat with Lois May-Miller from Cycling Blog ClaudandI
Something I have a terrible habit of doing is clicking on things too many times (where computers and the internet is concerned) and why should this be any different when I click to upgrade a plugin on the DC site. Unfortunately doing this will mean you break your site as I found out to my horror with Discerning Cyclist now only showing it’s under maintenance. Blind panic then ensues as I can’t get it out of this mode or for the life of me figure out why it’s in it and even more importantly how to get out of it.
If it wasn’t for a shout out on twitter then the help, from a certain hero from Brighton, would never of arrived.
Almost straight after my pleas for help circled the ‘twitterverse’ one Lois May-Miller replied with the suggestion that proved successful and it’s a good job it did too otherwise you may not be able to read this profile on this friendly (and heroic) young woman.
Lois is a designer, an illustrator, a blogger and perhaps most relevant to proceedings here, she’s a cyclist. Lois moved to Brighton about a year ago from a smaller town in Sussex due to a love of the city gained from her art college days.
Upon arrival at her new home she decided no more car and she would cycle instead, using a vintage bike her mum passed onto her. However luck was not with poor Lois and not soon after landing she unfortunately lost her bike in an act of grand theft cycle. Nevertheless Lois needed new wheels and they duly arrived “A family friend gave me an (old, rusty) bike to replace the stolen one, which I was very thankful for, but did not enjoy riding. After a few months of riding the rust-bucket, the gears had given up. The final nail in the coffin was when my boyfriend at the time rode it through a muddy field and got the chain stuck…permanently.” Lois explains “Once again, I was left bikeless! So, naturally, in this time of need I turned to Twitter…”
See how Twitter comes to the rescue again. Lois eventually found herself on the receiving end of another free bike (3 free bikes – that’s incredible) and this time she became the proud owner of a Claud Butler road bike. The rest of this fairytale story can be read here at Lois’s dedicated cycling blog ClaudandI.
When you talk to Lois you get greeted by her real passion for cycling. A passion that’s grown from only fairly recent experiences. “When I first got my bike (Claud!) I had never cycled very far. I didn’t own any ‘cycling clothes’.” Not a problem for casual riding but Lois had something more in-depth in mind as aspirations formed for longer much challenging rides, she continues “The first thing I did was went out and bought some horrible cheap cycling shorts, because I needed something to wear for the London to Brighton ride that my friends had dragged me into doing. My training rides in jeans had resulted in a painful bum, so I bought some padded shorts!!”
Little did her friends know that “dragging” (as Lois puts it) her to the London to Brighton ride would result in the start of a love affair between woman and bike. So much so was the urge to ride more Lois decided to put up or shut up and do the 30 days of biking. 30 days is a community venture to get people on their bikes and telling their tales from the 30 days they record cycling. “I thought that if I started a blog about it, I would *have* to cycle every day, other wise my readers would know! I’m lazy, but too proud to give up publicly…”
Lois continues to catalogue the 30 days on her blog (ClaudandI) and it’s a really great little ride (cycling is too full of puns not to hit one now and again) through her 30 days, and you do get the sense of growing confidence and enjoyment as Lois’s confidence and enjoyment continues. There’s a post about her being hungover and I immediately sympathised and felt a bit lethargic myself but it was great to read her getting on her bike and out she went, albeit to a brewery. Hearing the last story about her going from not really being on a bike from day 1 to doing an 80K course, well if that doesn’t inspire you nothing will. In 30 days! Is that the end has Lois done her biking duties?
In a word, no.
“I’m booked in to a couple of sportives” she explains “Sussex ones – keeping it local! I do have a glimmer in my eye with regards to a bike, but not in the foreseeable future as I don’t have the funds! I’d love a new road bike so that Claud can be my ‘about town’ bike. I have also been toying with the idea of getting a cross bike and giving cyclocross a go next season.”
So what does a new to cycling gal wear whilst she’s pedalling around the mean streets of Brighton? This was something Lois would come to realise needed some attention. “As soon as I started riding my bike every day I realised I needed some nicer clothes to wear on the bike. I needed stuff that was comfy and practical on the bike, but also looked good. I do live in Brighton after all! I work from home, so I don’t ‘commute’ as such, although I do use my bicycle to get to meetings. I also often work from cafe’s in Brighton, and I travel to them by bike too.”
“I tend to just wear my ‘normal’ clothes for short rides, with the addition of these accessories. If I’m going a little further I’ll stick a pair of padded undershorts on under my jeans to protect my bum!”
Lois realised that having the right tools (or in this case smart cycling clothes) for the job made a big difference to her time on the bike. As a designer she wanted something that appealed to her aesthetic nature “My go to brand for ‘proper kit’ is Brighton-based cycling clothing company Morvélo. They make kit that appeals to the designer in me. It’s gorgeous looking, and great quality.“
Finding a style and look that’s suitable for meetings, going the coffee shop and protecting your arse plus looks good is no mean feat. Added to this is the general lacking in the women’s area of urban cycling fashion which presents even more of a challenge “When it comes to cycling clothes for women, there is getting to be more and more choice out there for sure. Lots of women’s specific brands are a bit too girly for me. I like simple and I like the colour black! I often end up buying men’s or unisex items because I prefer the design, but when it comes to most clothing, I want a female-specific cut, of course. I am yet to find someone making really nicely fitting women’s cycling clothing, in a great range, with not a flower or pink star in sight. I might have to design my own.”
Lois has not yet designed her own “May-Miller” cycling range of clothing yet but she has produced a range of fantastic art pieces to promote and celebrate this industry and community that has found such a large home in her heart. She has created a range of posters and stickers celebrating the two wheeled machine we like to refer to as a bicycle “The bike art started when I started the blog. I was sketching my bike one evening, just for the fun of it. I showed the sketch to a friend who said “there are people out there who’d hang that on their walls!”…and it took off from there. When I started a blog to write about my cycling, it seemed like a good time to turn my doodles into prints that people could buy.”
Of course this all stems from her other love, design. Lois is a freelance designer and illustrator and has been designing for the past 5 years going freelance full time just before she moved to Brighton “I went to art college, specialising in graphic design, and after that I had several jobs before going freelance. Throughout all the jobs I was designing in my ‘spare’ time – evenings and weekends and coffee breaks! I started off cutting down my office hours to three days, and working on design projects in the other two. Eventually I took the plunge and went full time freelance in August last year and I have never regretted the decision, despite it being hard work at times.” Lois adds “When cycling crosses over into my design job it makes me very happy indeed.”
Lois’s blog, words and range of art shows not only that she’s a thoughtful, talented artist and designer but also that cycling has really struck a deep cord with her and seeped right down to her bones. It’s exciting and interesting to see where this journey will take her and it’s most enlightening and down right good of her that she’s let us all in to join her with it.
“I think bikes are beautiful: if I could draw them all day I would.” She remarks at the end which kind of sums it all up.
Lois’s style includes