Sat 11 May 2019 13.00 BST
Dump the Lycra and competitive attitude. Cycling is open to all. Activist Jools Walker reveals why life is better by bike – and why she’s fighting to make it more socially inclusive
I’m sitting in the dark eating biscuits with Jools Walker while she tells me about elitism in cycling. It’s not quite what I was expecting from an interview with an icon in the cycling community, but the rain has forced us inside. Five minutes ago Walker was gliding through the park on her Pashley Princess against a curtain of falling blossom. Now the rain is lashing the windows as we sit on her sofa, with the rain-spotted bicycle propped against an armchair, looking slightly resentful.
“The way cycling is portrayed sometimes…” Walker tells me, reaching for another biscuit from the super-sized tin her mother has supplied. “It can feel like you have to have the latest gear or the latest bike, or whatever, to take part. The other day I heard someone refer to it as ‘the new golf’. No offence to any golfers, of course,” she adds. “But cycling doesn’t have to be this hyped, expensive, middle-class, aspirational thing. There’s the Lycra that you’re supposed to squeeze yourself into, the diet regimes to make you the fittest and the best, and get thighs the size of a lamb. It’s just like… No! That isn’t it. It’s part of the narrative, but it’s not the whole story.”
Walker, it should be noted, does not have thighs the size of a lamb. Sure, she cuts a glamorous figure in her paper-bag trousers and statement necklace – and her blog, VéloCityGirl, was originally devoted to cycling and fashion. However, it’s her candid, humorous takes on mental health, the female cycling experience and the industry challenges for women of colour that have made her such a prominent presence.