In conversation with Carla Francome

25th October 2023

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 341: In conversation with Carla Francome

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Carla Francome

TOPICS: The joy of cycling with commuter-to-club-cyclist Carla Francome


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 341 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Wednesday 25th of October 2023.

David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
Hi there. I’m Carlton Reid. And first off an apology. A number of listeners told me of download problems with episode 340 with theRide with GPS co founder Zack Ham, those problems have been fixed. Thanks for pointing that out. Now, today’s show is a joyful chat with Carla Francombe. We also touch on the downsides of social media. And then segue into Carla’s journey in cycling from just commuting through to becoming a club cyclist and taking part in an uphill and mountain based charity event. So Carla, it is absolutely brilliant to actually physically talk to you. I feel as though I know you.

And I’m sure that the feeling is kind of mutual in that we’ve followed each other on Twitter stroke, X, whatever, Elon Musk is going to call it next week. Yeah. So that’s how I came upon you is via social media. So it’s now good to actually talk to you. And I’ve got to say to you that the reason I wanted to talk to you and want to talk to you for a long time is because you bring a lot of joy Oh, into the world of social because social media can be an incredibly, incredibly depressing place. But here you are. You’re you’re making faces, you’re making your fun of yourself. You’re making fun of others quite legitimately. And you’re it seems to me, I don’t know, this, maybe you’re just putting on a front? I don’t know. But it seems to me you’re having a ball. And and you’re also you’ve been on a journey. Yeah. So that’s what I’d like to talk about today is about the joy that you bring to my social media feed when your tweets come up, and you’re pulling faces. I love all that stuff. But also how you’ve been on quite a journey. Yeah. In in the world of cycling. Yes. So let’s, let’s, let’s talk about that. But first of all, let’s, let’s find out about you. So so you don’t have to give me your exact address or anything, but it’s roughly where are you? And what do you do for a living?

Carla Francome 3:07
Hey, well, thank you for having me on the show, Carlton. It’s lovely to talk to you. So I live I’m a woman in her 40s, mid 40s. I live in North London in an area called bounds green. I’m a live TV producer by trade. So I make TV programmes, everything from come down with me to Current Affairs and things like that. And in my spare time, I do a lot of cycling and talk about it a lot on social media. And I do love it, I do find it such fun. And I didn’t cycle for probably about 10 years because I had kids and they were very small and they’re always in push chairs and we’re in a flat and there wasn’t room for a bike. And then I got back on it again a few years ago and I just loved it and what was amazing for me as well as

you know, being a little kid so you know, love so much, but they need you so much was just to be able to get off on the bike and feel free of everything within a minute or two and just to be able to go on an adventure and it always feels like an adventure whether you know and often it’s just a commute and it’s often the same commute. But always meet someone different or you know you see someone and they’ve got a great handbag or you know something or basically something always happens I don’t think there’s ever been a bike ride when nothing has happened. Something always happens. So always feels like an exciting adventure and I do love it.

Carlton Reid 4:18
That is cute because you are clearly very very observational. You’re very good at spotting things that maybe other people aren’t spotting and then remarking upon it and then then you take your it’ll take a photo of a hug or something. Yeah, or somebody Yes, with a nice bike and then you’ll just photograph and then you’ll kind of go you’re just kind of like a spin off on that which is really really, really cute. Now but you do let’s let’s let’s let’s be frank here. Both you and me. We also get quite a bit abuse. Yes, unfortunately. From from from whom who gives you abuse and why why would they attack Carla? Who is bringing joy to the world? Why? Why attack you Carla?

Carla Francome 4:59
controversial things, some of the things that I say and that you say. I mean, you know, sometimes people get annoyed because you’re just, you know, cycling around.

I did just exist existing. And they think the funny thing is they always this is brilliant. And I love this, that when you’re cycling, they think that you’ve slowed them down. And he always catch up with them, you always catch up with them, you always do. And I always give them a little wink at the traffic lights. And I’m like, Yeah, wasn’t that slow was i and then there’s always a moment. And actually, you can have a bit of a laugh about it, because I’m not you really didn’t need to overtake me there.

So there is that in real life, people drivers often think that you’re slowing them down, and they just have this desperate need to get past you even if you’re going to catch up with them. But, but on social media, as well. And I think people just want to the things we talk about are often controversial, low traffic neighbourhoods are controversial. And, you know, these aren’t easy things, you know, low traffic, neighbourhoods have a lot of benefits. But I think it’s fair to say that they for some people have disadvantages. And that’s just part of how it works. Now, that isn’t right. These aren’t perfect, but they’re a starting point, I think. And so I think that there can be real frustration there. And I think it’s just really important for me on a serious note to actually listen to how other people feel. And some people might have more traffic on their roads, or it might be really frustrating for them for various reasons. And I just think that’s really important to say, Okay, this isn’t perfect. How can we work with this as a starting point? So yes, sorry, that was a bit of a serious answer, wasn’t it that?

Carlton Reid 6:28
Well, I’m going to keep on the serious theme in that. How do you how do you obviously physically cope, but as long as mentally How do you mentally cope with the abuse? Because you are a lightning rod? I mean, I sometimes, you know, follow, go down the rabbit hole, have a look at, you know, who’s interacting with you. And it’s awful abuse. And it’s it can be quite personal. Yeah, time these these aren’t just in abstract terms people are throwing at you. They’re being very, very personally horrible. So how do you personally cope with that? And almost, why are you hanging around on social media? Because you’re getting this stuff? So yes, you’re bringing joy, and that’s wonderful. But how are you coping mentally with the abuse you get?

Carla Francome 7:11
Well, I would say that I think most of the comments are really nice. And I think so I kind of pay more attention to that and most people are really positive and supportive. So and I’m a bit of an attention seeker Carlton. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, and I do love the positive attention. My dad’s a clown. My mum was a clown. I used to clown shows with my with my with my mum.

Carlton Reid 7:29
I mean, do you mean literally literally clown. Just he makes you laugh?

Carla Francome 7:33
Yeah. Okay. Okay, so my dad. I mean, maybe we’ll talk more about him but he was very big figure really, he he used to call me stop actually, this quite used to juggle the London Marathon Colton used to juggle marathons with clubs. He was actually the first person we think to juggle a marathon. He did Moscow. He did Swindon. He was you know, he’s in a Mazar but he’s a big character. And

so he’s an extrovert he was brought Butlins redcoat. So as my mum, and I’ve always thought that if you get to Butlins Red Coats, they should not be allowed to breed because they’re basically massive extroverts. And both of my parents do, you know, folk singers, entertainers. So they then produce me and of course, I’m going to become this loud, you know, extrovert person who basically just never shuts up. So yeah, I’ve got the genes of both of them, and it just they just shouldn’t have been allowed to breed.

Carlton Reid 8:25
This explains. So this explains everything.

Carla Francome 8:30
Okay, so yes, so yeah, they’re both clowns. Yeah, just be characters. So I think I just, you know, love attention. And I find everything funny, mainly. But yeah, the appears to be splits in different bits. I mean, there’s a lot about my weight. I’m not thin. I’m a size, I mean, UK size 16, which is average. But when you cycle people seem to think that you’re somehow going to become this whip it, but it doesn’t actually always work like that. And I’m very fit and pure fit and healthy. But I’m not thin. And apparently that was surprising to some people. And sometimes the comments are horrible. I was out the other morning at 7am. And I was going on a long bike ride. And and I posted something and somebody said you are too obese to cycle. And someone else called me lazy. And that actually really annoyed me. I was just like, Screw you, mister. You know, and so I get a lot of comments about my Wait, wait, I’ve been called an ogre.

And yeah, just a lot. But somebody Yeah, all that sort of stuff. So that does annoy me sometimes. But I try and talk about it. And one person wrote to me once actually, and they said, look, the way you deal with this is actually impacting other people. They said, I know someone who’s reading this and it’s making them feel they can cope with it. And I thought that’s really good actually. Because if other people are getting abused like this anywhere in their life, or that ever been told that they’re a bit fat or a bit this if they can see me talk about it, laugh it off, and you know, then then they might feel better about it. So that’s why I do it really.

Because there’s clearly a whole tonne of misogyny going on here because, yeah, I get abuse. I tend I’ve got very little physical abuse. So the odd one, maybe one

Carlton Reid 10:00
Somebody six months might comment upon the lack of hair on my head. But generally the abuse I get is is intellectual abuse. So it’ll be my ideas people are not they’re not attacking me for what I look like, mainly because I’m a I’m an adult. I’m very upset that I haven’t been, you know, one of callers. However, you can do that at the end of the show, you know, you can say, Oh, by the way, exactly. Thank you. saucepot. I want to be I want to call it Sourcepoint. Exactly. But that’s mainly because we haven’t met Oh.

Yeah, exactly. So we’ve got that got that settled, we know that. But people generally are not, you know, abusing me physically. So the misogyny is clearly there. They’re attacking you. You’re using physical attributes, which is that basically being

Carla Francome 10:52
British. That’s it, that’s really interesting. I’ve not thought of that. So you don’t get the physical abuse. Whereas I guess then as a woman, you’re expected to look a certain way and look a certain way to impress men if you’re heterosexual, you know, so you’re supposed to be thin, and you’re supposed to be extremely pretty. And you’re supposed to be like this. And that, well, I’m not always like that. And normal, a lot of other people and that should be fine. So yeah, that’s really interesting. Actually, the the amount, and it was often men, some lot of men are totally, and it is not about my weight. And I think it’s because it’s something easy that they that people can see, I guess is that I’m not skinny. The funny thing was, I didn’t ever really think I was that big. And people talk people started going on about it a lot on Twitter, and I was like, Really, but um, but I really try and turn it around a bit. So recently, there was a there was a day of protests, organised by initially by some amazing people in Birmingham safe streets now, they called it and I thought, You know what, and I was doing a cycle ride. In the afternoon, I was cycling up swains lane. It was a bike ride,

Carla Francome 11:52
the urban hill climb, and I thought I really wanted to have a poster or something that said safe streets now. But I couldn’t carry anything on my bike, really. And then I thought, I know I’m right on my stomach, because everyone’s always going on about my stomach. So it could be a useful billboard, have never got it out before. I mean, listen, listen, this is not a midwife that you would want to display. So I wrote. So my daughter wrote safestreets Now in black mark on my stomach, and actually, it felt quite profound because she, you know, she was born in my stomach, you know, when she came out there. And so I wrote safestreets Now, and oh, my God, I mean, really, I put it up there. And the comment, somebody said, you should not be allowed to cycle up the hill when you’re that pregnant. That’s what actually someone said, as if I was like, seven months pregnant. I was like, Look, I’m at the family most three months pregnant looking. I’m not eight months pregnant looking people. And then other people, someone called me an ogre. They all said, but you know what, it got loads of people talking about safe streets now. So I was like, well, there you go. It’s worked. You all you fools are fooled into a trap. So So you know, I just think you’ve got to kind of try and turn it to your to make a joke out of it or something. But But obviously, there is something there of it does seem to be of men thinking that you have to look as a woman a certain way. And that needs to change because that’s not fair. We don’t all look like we’re trying to hurt colour.

Carlton Reid
They’re all they are trying to hurt you. And there’s they’re assuming I am assuming what they’re assuming I am assuming that they are assuming that a physical Bob will hurt you more than any other insult and that’s that’s they’re trying to niggle you they’re trying to get it right. And they’re doing that by using physical.

Carlton Reid 13:35
Being awful about you. Yes, you know, so I’m assuming that’s what that they’re trying to do. And that’s why I don’t get those attacks, because they must assume that well, a man will not be bothered. If we quote you know, these bold

many men. Do you think that’s what it is that men think women care more about what people think about them? Yes. And they’re trying that they’re having right, what’s the I don’t like Carla? I don’t like the fact that she likes bikes. I don’t like the fact she’s trying to get cars off the street. I am going to attack her what she looks like, because that’s what I think will hurt her.

Carla Francome
That’s interesting. I’ve not thought of that. So that and then they they hope that I’m going to pipe down and as a result, which is extremely unlikely. Unfortunately for them, the chances that I’m going to pipe down

Carlton Reid
Yeah, Far be it for me to to a point on this because I’m not a woman. But when you look at you know the people who the women on social media who do get attacked a lot. I think that is what they’re trying but the misogynist are trying to achieve, get women to shut up. You should not be talking in the public space, the public space, it’s for men. It’s an unbelievable 1950s mentality these people have got and they are trying to silence who they believe should not be talking in public. It’s clearly you know, from the past this is not something you know, a modern person should really be attacking you shouldn’t be using this plague.
add stuff to use, you know, physical attributes, it’s just you almost think, well, if they’re going on that they really haven’t got any intellectual yes, they’re just purely going straight into this.

Carla Francome 15:13
I’m going to do that. And you know, and it sticks and stones can see, that’s interesting cuz it makes me think maybe I’m not actually that fat,

Carlton Reid
then they’re just looking for something or they go for a physical thing. Because they think that as a woman, that’s what bothers you. And so they’re going to try and hit you where it hurts, right? Whereas it’d be your hair, it would be, you know, lack of makeup or too much, it’d be something else. If it wasn’t that, yes, it would be something else to niggle you. That’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to upset. Yeah, they’re trying to Yeah. And they think, and that’s, you know, that they’re trying to stop you talking, they’re trying to stop this public discourse from people they do not believe should be in the public realm. It

Carla Francome
Well, that’s really interesting. And also, I think it’s interesting, because maybe it’s not as important to women, what they look like, as what these people think I’m not so bothered, like, you know, I’m in my 30s. Now, this is, you know, this is who I am. And also, I was never like the prettiest girl of my friends in school. You know, like, I had absolutely stunning friends. But I was the funny one. And I made people laugh. So that was always what I, you know, liked about myself. So I’ve never been like this kind of beautiful thing. So if somebody says something about my appearance, I don’t really care. So I think, you know, a lot of women don’t really might not really care, their value is not what they look like, you know, it’s great. If you look great. And it’s nice to try and look great. But it’s not exactly as if that’s all women are. And maybe that’s what annoys them, actually, is that actually there’s a lot of women talking, it’s saying their opinion, no, they hate your opinion, as well. But they’re not. They’re not, they’re not attacking you really on your opinions. They attack me on my opinions, or my ideology, if they believe one, but they attack you on physical trait that is so very telling very interesting, and there was a great one. And I must just tell you quickly, which was a guy over took me very quickly in his car, and it was scary. And I pulled up to him. And I said what you did there was actually it scared me, I felt frightened. And he said, I don’t care. You shouldn’t be on the road. And I said, Look, people have died on their bikes, you know, this is a big thing. And he said, again, I don’t care. And we started having this argument. And that’s when he looked at me and when you chunky bitch, and I was just like, Oh, wow. And also, of course, he was sitting in his car covered in crumbs and wasn’t thin. So it was like, hang on a minute, you know. So I cycled off, but then I came back and and I didn’t know that we had another altercation. But But yeah, so it happens in the street as well. The very funny thing about that one was though, is I went and talked to all these people at a bus stop, I was a bit shocked. And I said, This man has just called me a chunky bitch. And I kind of went off on one. And they all looked really engaged. And they’re all staring at me. And I thought these people really cared. But it just turned out that I was actually holding up the bus that was behind. And they just looked at me when the bus is behind you. And they didn’t care at all. I just didn’t keep it. But that’s very interesting. So women get a lot more on their appearance then so women must be Yeah, that’s very interesting.

Carlton Reid 18:07
So a few seconds ago, no minutes, probably actually. You mentioned that hillclimb. Yeah, but you did. So let’s talk about the journey because you came into this as a commuter cyclist, and now you’re doing events, you’re going on long distance tours, you know, I’m expecting, you know, the Carla Francombe. Going round the world.

cycling around the world kind of plans bubbling up here. You’ve been on quite a trajectory talk, talk me through that trajectory.

Carla Francome
And I’m very slow. I’m not like your son, I think is a very fast cyclist is me or Josh. He’s done very well.

Carla Francome 18:42
So the weeds Yeah, so I’m just a commuter cyclist. The reason this came up is I’ve got a dear friend called Manny, who had breast cancer over 10 years ago. We’re in our early 30s. And it was a huge, huge shock. And she was treated very well at the Royal Marsden. And she saw this particular professor and got this particular combination of drugs that potentially saved her life. And she set up a ride to charity as a result with some friends called look your difference. And it’s a brilliant thing that happens every year. And they’ve raised over two point, I think it’s I think they’ve now raised 2.5 million pounds. So they raise money for research for fellowships at the World milestone, and this is what this money goes towards. So So my friend Manny was involved with setting this up. And she asked me this year in April, she said, Do you want to do the Cure de France this year as a 10 year anniversary? And she’d mentioned it a few times, and I’ve never been too busy, but that was like gone, then why not manage? She was like, what do you really do it? And I was like, Yeah, brilliant, and it’s brilliant. You’ve done this, and you’ve already so much money and it’s so amazing. But the funny thing was, is that I was so naive, I didn’t even realise what it was I was planning to do. I was like, Oh, how how could it be cycling through the mountains? I was kind of imagining it would be a little bit like the sound of music.

Carla Francome 19:56
So I started training but the funny thing was, the more I train

Carla Francome 20:00
The more I realised how hard this was going to be. So at the beginning, I was kind of like really naive, late, naively ignorant thinking, oh, sorry, I should tell you a bit more about this, this ride. So it’s a four day ride in the Alps. In August, that happens every year. And it’s based on previous bits of the Tour de France. So roots of the Tour de France, and about 60 people do it every year. And it is hard. So every day is about 100 kilometres and about 2000 metres of climbing, which is to Snowdens. So it’s quite a so it’s basically cycling. And you basically just cycle around each mountain going up gradually or sneaking up beside. So it’s not always very steep, but it’s just a long is long, it’s you could be climbing. So you could be cycling uphill for three or four hours, basically at a time. And that’s cycling up all the time. So I didn’t quite realise what was involved when I signed up for it. But I did do a lot of training.

Carla Francome 20:57
So I signed up to a cycling club, and just cycled up as many hills as I could find. So I signed up in about May, and it happened in August.

Carla Francome 21:06

Carla Francome 21:08
so yeah. And, and so yeah, I mean, I did as much cycling as I could, I didn’t have the best bike, I kind of ran out of money, I should have had a light road bike, and I should have had cleats. But I did do a lot of training. I cycled up with Islington cycle club. So I went out with them a lot. And yeah, it was amazing. It was hard. It was basically four days of yeah, just going out and just cycling up, just cycling up and up and up. And you just couldn’t. And also what was so funny about it, sometimes it didn’t even look that steep. And you were like, Why is it so hard? But it was because it was just a bit of a climb, but for hours. But the people were amazing. And the scenery was beautiful. I’ve never been to the Alps before. And it was just stunning. I don’t know if you’ve been Carleton, have you been?

Carla Francome 21:56
It’s amazing, right? So it was just so stunning. So the first day it was it was just so crazy hot, though. So it was it ended up being up to 4547 degrees. And that we did this main mountain called a call and I was just finding it so hard. I couldn’t even tell you why it was hard. It turned out it was just roasting hot, and we had to be taken up in the van. And I was really gutted. I was like, oh my god, maybe I’m just gonna have to go up in a van up all these mountains. But the next day we set off really early, we set off at like seven or 8am. And the first mountain was kind of a three and a half hour climb. I think it was 20 kilometres. And it was around a maybe 1300 metres and I rode with this lovely guy called James. And he stayed with me the whole way. And we just went up and up and up and we got to the top and it was an amazing feeling to just get to the top of the mountain, especially given the day before you know being taken up in the in the van. So got the tarp made it up. And that felt so happy. But then it was another one it was two in a day. So we went down, down, down and then we went up another one. And there was a point when I started to feel really bad. So this was the second day probably about four or five, it was hot again, it was really hot. And oh, everything hurt. I had pain. I had fabric pains in my nether regions and I just thought can I do this and my heart rate kept kind of going up. And I just thought I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it. And what was funny was we had this, these lovely folks in the in kind of a van like, and and they were saying she wanted to she wanted to kip in the fan. Come on, you know, you’ve done enough for today. And I was like, No, don’t ask me again. and lovely. James stayed with me. And there was a good hour where in my head. I’ve never had this before. But my head was kind of like playing this same loop of thoughts of like, Can I do this? I don’t know if I can do this. Am I gonna get to the top? I honestly felt like I was going mad. It hurts. Everything hurts. Can I do that? Like so. But basically, we got past that. And there was just a moment where it got cooler. And there was some shade. And the last kind of half hour was was okay. And we’ve got to the top and and funnily enough, someone had just passed me earlier. And I said I think I’m at the back and they said to me, don’t worry, Carla, there’ll be a bigger welcoming party for you at the top. And, and I kind of didn’t think anyone would even be at the top. I thought they’d have all gone off but they’d all waited and we got to the top and they all cheered. And me and this lovely James guy moved. We just kind of put our arms in the air and they all cheered. And it felt so amazing. And I’ve not had that before of feeling where I’ve kind of achieved something physically like that. And then I looked at my Strava on my watch and it had been over I think it was over 2200 metres. And someone said to me, you’ve climbed to stoke Snowdonia, today, and I was like, wow. And I was so the reaction from people like this guy called Graham. He came he just gave me this big bear hug and he was crying. And my other friend Tony, who set up the Cure de France with Manny and amazing guy, he was like, hugging me and crying as well and he was like it’s the spirit of the Cure do France.

Carla Francome 25:00
And it was just such an amazing feeling. And I guess what’s so nice for me is I’m not an athlete, I’m not thin, I’m not fast. But actually, for me, I’d achieved something that I didn’t think I could do. And, and it made me think all of us, it doesn’t matter if you’re not an a, you know, an Olympian, it’s about kind of like exceeding your own expectations of what you can do for all of us. And it’s an amazing feeling.

Carla Francome 25:24
So that was the second day and then overall, like so over the four days.

Carla Francome 25:29
Other people differ than me, but I cycled three quarters of the height of Everest. So three quarters of an Everest man, I can’t remember how many. I think it was. Yeah, I think I cycled as high as Kilimanjaro over four days.

Carla Francome 25:43
So it was like over 4000 metres. So it was just amazing. Coming back and thinking, wow, I never thought I’d achieve that. And it made me think for all of us, it’s not about what you can do compared to others. It’s about what you can do for yourself and pushing yourself. I’m glad you had that experience. Because as you saying before, it’s it was just up and

Carlton Reid 26:03
up. And that’s that is tough. And especially in that kind of weather. I mean, the last summer was was roasting hot, you know, you can do those kind of climbs, anybody would suffer in the heat on those kinds of climbs. It’s incredibly tough. So kudos for you for doing I remember, you know, reading some of the social media from back in time as well. Very inspiring stuff. Thanks. You know, if people want to do this, and they should do it, they shouldn’t be put.

Carla Francome 26:35
I know it’d be support definitely, always be support that you’re not true. And you know what, when I said I was doing this, and obviously at that point, not quite realistic. What I’d signed up for people were so nice that loads of people wrote to me and said, Look, I can give you some coaching, training and lovely Kate who’s a bike fitter, she she who lives in Hackney, she said she would do it with me. So she’s, she’s become a friend. But I didn’t know her before this. So she was a bike lady who fits people to their bikes and gets, you know, the measurements, right. And she did it and and just so many people helped along the way. And it really made me realise that if you do something that is a bit out of your comfort zone, people do come forward and offer to help. And that was an amazing thing. And people rode with me, even though I was much slower. And so that was really inspiring as well. And I just thought afterwards, I got by with a little help from my friends. And I did, there’s no way I could have done it without all the support I had. And so that was really special as well.

Carlton Reid
So we started by talking about the downsides of social media. But you’ve very much you know, mentioned there basically some of the upsides because the people who came to I do want to carry on talking with you, Carla, and I will come back to you. And we can talk about you at that cycling club and and how you found that experience because that can be quite trying at times. But first of all, let’s go across to my colleague David who will take us into a short ad break.

David Bernstein 27:57
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern understand that while a large cargo bike can carry oodles of stuff, many of us prefer something a little more manageable. That’s why they’ve come up with the HSD e-cargobike for folks with big aspirations to go car free, delivered in a compact size, with its rear shock, 280 kilos, and a combined hauling capacity of 180 kilos. The robust new HSD is stable and easy to manoeuvre, even when under load. And with its Bosch eBIKE SYSTEM tested and certified to meet the highest UL standards for electric and fire safety you’ll be able to share many worryfree adventures with a loved one whether it’s your kiddo or Nan. Visit www.ternbicycles. That’s te r n turn to learn more.

Carlton Reid 28:57
Thanks, David and we are with Carla Carla Francome have bad I don’t know where. But it’s both London. Not and apparently so I’ll have to look that up on the map and find out exactly where that is and how far you from Swain was at swains.

Lane. Change lane. So how far you have now 25 minutes cycle ride so that’s a very steep hill, huh? Yes. Yeah, that’s where they have all the hills. Remember how steep it is? Maybe it’s 14% is actually not very long. But though there is a bit of it where sometimes the front tire can jump up a little bit. So it’s a bit steep. So yeah, that’s high right now. And right now is Hill Climb season. So we’re coming into that season again, where were the hill climbs certainly in the Northeast.

Start now and they are up and up and up and they hurt. They’re short, but they they definitely yeah hurt. Now you were talking before about joining the Islington cycling club. Now I’m not familiar with that club, but I am familiar

With, with cycling clubs which can sometimes upset because some clubs are not very welcoming of newcomers, others are incredibly welcoming. You know, there’s some sometimes it’s the ethos of the club, you know, we’ll either sink or swim because some clubs, you know, they’ll go out with people and they will drop you. And you know, you’re in the middle of God know, for your from your point of view where you would get to a club, right? But say in where my neck of the woods, then you go out of the club, and you’ll find you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve been dropped and you think, Well, hang on, I came out with this club, and they’ve dropped the ball left me. So that’s the ethos, it comes down to the ride captains and the ride leaders about how they cope with it. How have you found your experience with cycling clubs? And what ethos does does the Islington cycle?

Carla Francome
Yeah, these are all really good points. And I think clubs can be intimidating. And I guess it’s finding one that is right for you and having a chat to them first. So I’d actually seen Islington in Regent’s Park, whizzing around, doing laps and seeing their lovely shirts. I mean, to be honest, they also have a nice shirt with a nice green screen stripe, which I thought would look good with a red lipstick. So that’s obviously mainly up to them. I thought I quite liked the look of that jersey, quite fancy that. So so I’d heard a bit about them. And I just knew they had a lot of women. And I’d met them in swains lane, I don’t know go to swains lane on a Wednesday morning, kind of at 630 till 730 and try and do six hills. And they were there then. And they were all really friendly. And they looked lovely. So I kind of had a really good vibe from them. And it turned out that they do no job brides. So they’ll basically particularly on hills, they’ll go up the hill, but then they wait for everyone at the top. So I really liked that love the number of women, one in four of the club writers of women, Islington, and have a lot of riders. So I went along to kind of you have to go along to kind of a trial ride when they give you a chat first and explain how it all works. And a friend Rachel actually who lives nearby is an amazing rider for them. And I knew her and she was doing the intro. So that felt good. So I think I mean, I think funnily enough, I turned up a bit full of myself because I’ve done quite a bit of training lately, I was thinking I’m in great shape, I’m gonna just fly off. So I actually had a bit of a baptism of fire, because I was actually not very fast compared to these other riders. And, and I think probably on our intro ride, we should have split into groups a bit more, but no one really knew you know how fast we were compared to everyone else. And I was in a group with these two, they were 20 Something triathlete women. They were Whippet thin, they had these light bikes and a heist, I had quite a heavy bike and a pannier on it with a with a D lock on just in case.

Carla Francome 32:45
basically shut off. And there were six men, these two women in me and they were just faster than me and I just got a big shock because I was like, Okay, wow, I quite slow compared to these great riders. But they were very sweet because they kind of felt a bit sorry for me, for some of us surely give me sweets. And my watch was beeping and they were like your heart rate, okay. And afterwards, we went to the pub and everyone took the mickey out of me because I had they called me Mary Poppins because I had this pannier and I was pulling all this stuff up by Bernie and I had like a notebook in there. And I had a wallet with loads of receipts and coins. They were like Bochy, doing so. So it was a bit of a shock. But also, it was really amazing to ride with other people and have the routes planned. So it’s very easy, I think, to after an experience like that, where you feel a bit embarrassed, because there were points when they were waiting for me. And I thought, Oh, God, I’m slowing them all down. But you know, I did do it, oh, it’s just a bit slower. And they waited for me at various points. And it would be really easy then to go. Do you know what I’m embarrassed, I’m not going to do that again. But I also thought, well, you know, this, keep going and see how it feels in a month. And people were really nice to me actually on social media. And they said, look, it’s always hard when you join a club, but it’s the best way to improve. So I started going out with a green route group on Sunday mornings. And I did see that we it was amazing. I did a 90 kilometre ride in it, and it was really hard. And two weeks later, I did the same ride. And I felt like a different person. And in fact, it was 110 kilometres. And in two weeks it suddenly I could just do it. And so it was amazing. Because now I can go out on a Sunday morning, and it’s a lovely group and you always chat to all different people. And you’ll go somewhere never go like never think of cycling to say, you know, I don’t know Cambridge or something. But because there’s someone lovely who’s planned the trip for you, you can just go and so it’s a brilliant way to just really improve your fitness and I think it’s tricky at first. But also I thought well by the time I’m up to the green group level, which is the sorry, the slowest group. Now on there and now I’m only going to get faster and get better. So I do really say to people, I do really think it’s worth giving it a go. Even if you feel a bit intimidated at first because you’re only going to get faster and you will find your people.

Carla Francome 35:00
you know, so so it’s been brilliant really.

Carlton Reid 35:04
And he’s still riding with a pannier and lock?

Carla Francome 35:08
I did ditch all that and and I do need to get a lighter bike and I’ve got some cash

Carlton Reid 35:14
so what what what bike Have you got then what bike you riding all these.

Carla Francome
It’s a hybrid, it’s quite heavy, but it’s my mum’s but it’s just really comfortable and I’ve got a bad back at times. And it’s really comfy and it’s got loads of gears, and it means I can go uphill basically at the speed that people walk. So it’s got loads gears, and it’s just a hybrid track.

Carla Francome 35:36
But I do need to get a light bike and cleats. That’s the next thing.

Carlton Reid 35:42
So you’re you’re basically doing road bike events. On in effect a modified a svelte mountain bike, you’ve got flat bars, yes, flat bars, you haven’t got bars. Yeah, and other people who you’re riding with are getting into a tuck position. You know, they’re getting out of the wind, you’re getting out of the wind, you’re suffering at a real disadvantage. I mean, yes, it’s probably okay for girls, but on the flat, you’re suffering a real disadvantage there. If you can’t get down into the tuck. Are you? Are you looking to thinking about getting to a road bike? Or is this something that you’re going to stick to hybrid type bikes and and what’s your thing? Do you want to get a road bike for lightness?

Carla Francome
But I might need the flat handlebars? Just because my back’s not great. I don’t think I can get down to a drop on my chair. I might be able to if it’s quite short, you know, bike.

Carlton Reid 36:29
But you have you said you that woman was giving you a bike fit? Is that a bike fit for a hybrid or bike fit for you potentially?

Carla Francome
It was it’s kind of experimental. So yeah, I could get a road bike. I just have to get the right measurements. Basically, it was just that I ran out of money to be honest. Like it cost me quite a lot the cure to it. I’m definitely looking to get a road bike, a light, but basically its lightness. That’s the most important thing. I think for me. If I can get down to the handlebars, great, but it’s mainly a weight thing. Like I weigh 85 kilogrammes. My bike was like 14 kilogramme. So that’s 100 kilogrammes, I’m hearing appeals and I said to my stepdad I was like my bikes a bit heavy and he looked at me when no offence or anything but most of that weight that you’re getting up in the mountains is you and he’s right you know and and so

Carla Francome 37:15
in a lovely way so what I want to do this year is lose some weight actually not and this is funny because I’m kind of with the chills having a go at my way I almost don’t want to lose weight because I’m like Screw you guys you know, but actually, I want to lose weight so I could get up hills quicker and then I want to get a light bike to get really fit this year and hopefully tackle a cure again next year.

Carla Francome 37:38
Where hopefully it’ll just be a bit easier to keep up with people that’s why one now then let me ask you did you get a jersey that looks good with your red lip? I did I finally got my Easington jersey and this is a fun story actually, I’ve got time I have a lot of time for a funny story because you’ve got as much time as my essence in Jersey right and the funny thing was is it took three months for the isn’t and cycle club journey to live and it was funny because by then I actually felt like I deserved it. So I quite liked that it took a while and I put it on and it was my first day going out on a ride and and I had the red lipstick on and it’s a good one at Carlton it stays on it is even there the next day the lippy I will recommend it to you, and maybe you might not need it. So anyway, I went out and we got 60 kilometres away in about by about 11am. And we were in the countryside and I felt so excited, felt so proud of myself and I just jotted into this cafe with my new jersey on and there were these two chaps there. And I said, Can you believe it? We’ve cycled all the way from London. And he looked at me one of the guys and he went Islington. They’re all in a bubble, aren’t they? The extinction bubble? He just got me dead. And I was like, Well, I deserved it. To be honest. I was so cocky that day. I didn’t need to be taken down. So I think that’s the problem. It turns out there are a lot of people who come down from London and a very annoying to other people. So I’ve learned to kind of rein that in a bit. So isn’t in cycling club. It’s a nice jersey. Is it a women’s jersey? Is it just as a unisex jersey? What’s Oh, I think it’s just a unisex jersey. Does it fit? Yes, it fits. Well. It fits well. Not like the Rafa one that I want. Can I tell you about the Rapha one?

Carlton Reid 39:13
Exactly. That’s where I was going with that one. Yeah. That was that was that was a funny episode that you had but yeah, but people who didn’t weren’t there at the time and weren’t.

Carla Francome 39:24
So basically I was supposed to be doing this Rapha women’s ride. And in fact, I didn’t I ended up not being able to do it that day as well. But basically, I’ve really wanted a Rapha jersey. And they’re really expensive. So I found on ebay and it looked a bit clowny. I thought that’s not bad. It had some red and strong red and black stripes, maybe in a green stripe, found it on eBay. And I was very excited to win it on an auction. And it turned up and I wore it out and about and I thought this is good. I’d submit the view on myself in a shop window. And it honestly looked it was a men’s jersey and it had these stripes and it honestly looked like I was wearing a cream bandage around my chest area or a cream boob tube

Carla Francome 40:00
And I was like, oh my God and I hadn’t realised. So I was cycling through the heath and I said to this couple Excuse me, would you mind taking a photo of me and I called them this random people to take this photo? And I said to them, Do you think do you think it looks a bit like a wearing cream boob tube? And they will they were really laughing and they’ll go, no, no, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. It did. So anyway, put the photos on social media, and people have been talking about bobb tubes ever since. So you’ve got to be careful. As a woman, it turns out when you’re wearing men’s cycling jerseys, because they obviously haven’t designed them with knockers in mind, to be honest, I don’t know how else to say that.

Carla Francome 40:35
I’ve tried other ones when people started sending ones where think they had like Googly, googly eyes in the wrong place and things. So designers, you know, make unisex jerseys for women too. And I do love I’ve got to just say I wear a lot of jerseys by Fat Lad at the Back, and I love their stuff. It’s really comfy. And, and it’s goes up and down in sizes, it’s got all sizes, and and they know that women have knockers.

Carlton Reid
So which is a great thing for the Americans who are listening to this who don’t know what knockers is my I don’t know, how much of vernacular kind of gets across to, but but knockers are breasts that say Press Yes, yes. No, it’s okay to use not because that’s great.

Carlton Reid 41:18
We have an international audience here, callers so so whenever we have bits that might not translate, it’s to say, to have like an agenda and of whatnot, because I’m sure that in the context, realised whatnot, as well. But anyway, I think that’s probably the first time in the history of this podcast that the word knockers. I’m so pleased. So it, it’s, it’s good to have you on the show.

Great to be here. And for you to expand our, our smutty vocabulary Thank you very much. And so you’ve got to you’ve got a top that fits you It goes well with your your lipstick, we’re all pleased to hear that it sounds as though you’re going to be increasing your cycling, you’ve been using kilometres a lot. So your cycling club range, your cycling mileage, you’re doing that so you’re you’re clearly on a trajectory where you are increasing the amount of cycling you are doing 100 kilometres is no longer phasing you which I’m guessing five years ago, that would have been

almost literally impossible. You might have thought. And now it’s not impossible. So what are your colour? What are your plans? Apart from wanting a road bike and getting it? What do you have anything goals this year of events, mileage? You know, what, what challenges are you going to set?

Carla Francome
Well, what I want to do is ride out with this Islington cycle club every other Sunday. That’s the main plan. And it’s quite tricky. What you know, if you’ve got little kids and you’re working a lot, but I kind of figured I’ll do that as my plan and every other two, so every fortnight do a big ride. And I hopefully have 100 kilometres. There’s a lovely guy, Matthew there who arranges it. So that’s my plan. And to just keep things ticking over, I want to lose some weight. And then I hope to do the Cure again next August. That’s the main thing. I’ve been thinking about doing triathlons, but actually my knees aren’t good for running.

Carlton Reid 43:11
Or so that you’re really,

Carlton Reid 43:15
really going for

Carla Francome
Yeah, so I did some other things. But actually, to be honest, I’ve kind of missed at the moment having that having that goal and what I realised was the cures or that it was actually amazing to have a goal where you’ve been trained for because I was you know, often getting up at five and I would have cycled you know, a lot of hills in the morning or I’d go out in the evening. And I’d for two hours I’d cycle up every hill I could find locally. And I’ve kind of missed having that because it really makes you up Sure. It’s funny when you have the fear of God about something like that you just worked so hard. And so now I feel like oh, I need that again. So the question is what is that going to be and that is I think I’ll just take a while well just cycle with Islington every fortnight but I do feel like I need another challenge actually as well because it does really make you work hard and I lost a stone for me I just felt great you know and I felt I just felt it was just really good to do something like that so do recommend that whatever it is and it might not be you know cycling in the house for someone it might be something quite simple but I do think it’s really good to have a challenge like that to train for.

Carlton Reid
I’m going to close it there because we could obviously talk for hours and hours and hours

Carlton Reid 44:22
but we have got to close it at some point so I it’s been fascinating and and entertaining as kind of I expected I wouldn’t really have expected this to go any other way. Considering from from from monitoring your social media feed. I kind of knew what but tell me tell me what people who don’t follow you who I’m sure will absolutely now follow you. Where can they find you on social media?

Carla Francome
on Twitter now called X and my Twitter handle is just Carlafrancombe

Carla Francome 45:00
I just say formally Carlton, I’d like to say that you are a saucepot.

Carlton Reid 45:06
Thanks to Carla Francome there and thanks to you for listening to episode 341 of the Spokesmen podcast, brought to you in association with Tern Bicycles.

Show notes and more can be found at

The next episode will be a rolling interview with gravel riding author and route developer Markus Stitz, but we’re not in Scotland as you might expect. That show will be out early next month but meanwhile get out there and ride.

Carlton Reid 46:17
I’m recording again, you are welcome to give me a bit of a saucepot story.

Carla Francome
I must tell you one thing, Carlton, which is that I met this lovely chap who was cycling around up up up up hills locally and I said I would do like your socks. And he said thank you. And I said Would you mind if I take some photos? And he had great cycling gear on socks and all sorts stripey socks. So I took some photos of him and asked for his Twitter handle and posted on Twitter and x and said look at this source pot today, guys. And I must just say a call everyone’s saucepots. There’s nothing in it. But anyway, I said, I called this guy saucepots. But anyway, that evening, there’s a local Facebook group of about 100,000 people on it for local families. And this lady posts and she said, please be careful if your husbands are out cycling in the area because it’s possible that Carla Francome might find them and put them on social media and call them a saucepot. And I was like, oh, all the colour just drained from my face. And actually, this woman was very funny about it. I do know her a bit and I wrote her and I was like, oh my god, I’m so sorry. I just like to say I did call your husband saucepots in very much a platonic fashion. And she said it was actually hilarious because her husband had walked through the door that evening. His head was apparently the big the size of a small planet. And he said that he’d been called a saucepot that day. She said that the reason it was actually really annoying was because he spends all his money on cycling gear. And now he felt like he wanted to spend even more money on cycling gear. That was what I thought she was annoyed about. She wasn’t worried that you know, we’re gonna run off into the sunset. She was just annoyed about the money he was spending. So bikes I’m not gonna say more money on a bike. So she said, Oh, God, she said you’ve done no, she said his head was big enough before, so I had to apologise but I’m now a bit more careful. I must say when I call people saucepout on social media. Okay, so annoy the lovely wives.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.