We recently caught up with a friendly face from the London cycling scene, Jess Morgan, who is a great advocate for women’s racing and regularly competes at Red Hook Crit with her team North London ThunderCats. Jess was testing our new Engine11 Vortex and we took the opportunity to speak to her about the London cycling scene.
Palu: How long have you been cycling and what got you into it?
Jess: I started cycling in around 2008 because I was a broke student in London who needed a cheaper way to get around than public transport. After my ugly second hand mountain bike got stolen, my boyfriend at the time built me a super cute single speed. It amazed me how fast I could go, and I became obsessed with commuter racing. Then I got a Garmin and Strava and that was it, I was hooked.
Palu: What’s your earliest cycling memory?
Jess: I was born in London, so my first memory of riding a bike was in Primrose Hill in North London, slowly pottering along one of the footpaths. Despite having stabilisers, I still managed to ride off the edge of the path, crashed, and bawled my eyes out.
Palu: How long have you worked in the cycling industry?
Jess: I’ve worked in cycling since 2012, when I worked at Rapha part-time when I was still studying at uni and ended up back there full-time after I graduated. I’ve never looked back!
Palu: When did you start racing? What’s your most memorable race?
Jess: I started racing in 2013 at Herne Hill Velodrome, the women’s sessions there were so key in giving me the confidence to race. Although I loved the competitive element of Strava, before going to the track the thought of ever being one of those intimidating ‘racers’ hadn’t occurred to me. They were real cyclists and I wasn’t. My most memorable race was the first Minet Crit in London, where I got a podium for the very first time. I lost the sprint for 2nd by a tyre’s width which is when I learned the importance of the ‘bike throw’, but was still very happy with third place.
Palu: How has women’s racing changed over the last few years?
Jess: It’s been amazing to see a lot of new faces coming into racing from a variety of backgrounds – road cycling, track cycling or fixed gear. The scene has grown but there’s still work to do to ensure decent sized fields and equal prizes. I’d especially love to see more women racing fixed crits. The men’s races are always sold out and it would be great to see similar participation in the women’s side.
Palu: Which races are you targeting in 2019?
Jess: I’m living in hope that the Red Hook Crit will have a full series next year so ideally I’ll kick off with Red Hook Crit Brooklyn in April, but the Rad Race Fixed 42 is also a real favourite of mine as there aren’t any other point to point fixed gear races in the calendar. And obviously ThunderCrit, my team’s fixed crit!
Palu: What’s your proudest moment on the bike?
Jess: It has to be Red Hook Crit Barcelona 2016, where for the first time ever I stayed with the front group for the whole race. The pace was relentless – my heart rate hit over 200bpm for the first time ever and my legs felt like they were melting – but I didn’t give up. Then, on the penultimate lap a girl in front of me slid out on the hairpin and I rode over her and came off. We both got back on though and I still managed to bag 20th.
Palu: What do you do to relax when you off the bike?
Jess: Mostly sleeping and eating. My happy place is strolling to a local cafe to indulge in an epic brunch and Instagramming the crap out of it.
Palu: Where is your dream place to cycle?
Jess: I’ve never ridden outside the UK except for crits so I’d love to visit one of those iconic cycling spots like Mallorca or Gran Canaria to see what real climbs are like and soak up some sun. We’re so starved of Vitamin D in the UK that I’d really like to go somewhere hot and come back with dazzling tanlines to make everyone else jealous.
Palu: What advice to you have for young riders looking to start racing?
Jess: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – if you’re trying to win straight away then you’ll only get frustrated. Racing is a long learning curve and there are so many aspects to it beyond results; it’s about having fun, learning from every experience and making new friends. If you enjoy it and are consistent in your training then the results will come naturally.
Palu: What's your favourite thing about the London cycling scene?
Jess: The community is rock solid in London, there’s so much love and support across all the disciplines. Even the racing scene is really friendly, so if you’re thinking about racing but are scared about turning up to your first race alone don’t worry – all you need to do is introduce yourself and I guarantee you’ll make a friend and future racing buddy.