Q&A with lifelong cyclist Anna Glowinski
13 March 2023 - News
We caught up with Anna Glowinski, a lifelong cyclist and cycling ambassador. Anna was racing from the age of five, but being more creative than competitive she followed a media and design career path in cycling. She launched a women's cycling clothing brand, AnaNichoola in 2009 and also became known as a television presenter, for ITV4’s ‘The Cycle Show,’ where she was sent out to try all sorts of exciting and scary cycling skills. From velodrome to dirt jumps, MTB to road racing, Anna definitely enjoys the adrenaline side of bikes. When we approached Anna for a Q&A session she was very happy to share her journey with us.
How did you begin your cycling journey as a child?
I was introduced to cycling by my parents, mainly my dad when I was very young. I learned to ride at the age of four years old and did my first cyclocross race at the age of five. My dad decided to enter my brother and me in the kids' races while he was competing, so we could all enjoy it together. My mum didn't ride back then, but she eventually learned, at the age of 38, realising that it was the best way for us all to be able to spend time having fun together as a family.
What was your first bike and how did you decide which bike you were interested in?
I don't remember my first bike, but I do remember the first bike I fully invested in. It was an anodised red Alan cross-bike. My parents offered to split the cost of the £150 frame; however, if I was serious, I would need to save money for my half. I was maybe 11 years old or so…
Why is cycling so important to you and how has it contributed towards your positive approach in life?
As a young racer, I got into cycling, but I've never been really competitive by nature. I never felt a strong pull toward training or the desire to win. But I always loved the community and the complex world and all its facets...the adventures, the eccentric people, and the interesting jobs.
Through my teenage years, cycling became less important to me, and I think that's really normal for kids who get into it at a young age. However, as a young adult, I re-discovered it on my own terms. I started downhill mountain biking and enjoyed the adrenaline and challenge. I started teaching children and began working on road safety and perceptions around cycling.
In my early twenties, I created a clothing line that I focused on to support myself for six years. Later obtained positions as a TV presenter, producing programmes and offering commentary on bicycle events. That was my career for the next decade.
Finally, I met my husband-to-be in a skatepark in Malaga, Spain, and moved here to be with him. During lockdown, we built MTB trails together which was exciting.
So as you can see, it's not one thing that I love about cycling or the positive influence it's had in my life, it's the fact that it's so diverse, creative, fun, and healthy. It's been a constant in my life, but all the while has been able to satisfy my need for new things, change, and excitement.
How often do you cycle and what is the best cycling location?
Gosh! I can sometimes ride every day for a week and sometimes I don't ride for a month. I have no routine at the moment, but the truth is, it's ALWAYS on my mind, that desire to get out on my bike.
I love the trails I built, but honestly, I struggle to find really good locations near me in Spain that give me the type of riding I want. I love a good bike park, like Bike Park Wales or Chatel, properly designed and maintained tracks that you can repeat all day, I love that!!
Tell us about the trail you built during the lockdown.
My husband has created a lot of trails, but I've never built one before, so I really relied on his experience. I knew the types of features I wanted but he was the one who was able to visualise how we could cut through a bush, flatten some grass and dig up a trench to make it happen. The lockdown was harsh in Spain, but I can truly say it's a time I'll remember warmly for the rest of my life. We had long grass, flowers, and a patch of land totally isolated. We didn't see anyone else for two months, and then only a small handful of mates could help for the rest of the year. It was magical and we ended up with five trails that included jumps and berms.
I wanted to build features that I personally wanted to practise, but it was always important to me that they were accessible to people learning. I think we've created some awesome little trails that are great for practising and progressing on. I'm super proud of them.
How do you implement cycling with your kiddo and what skills did you teach him?
Kiddo could barely walk when he first arrived with us, his foot would swell up after just five minutes or so because he'd never done exercise before. So although we had grand plans to take him to our trails with us we had to take it slow. We really had to kind of stop doing any of our grown-up sports and help him to build up fitness.
We actually taught him to ride using stabilisers which was against my previous beliefs on how to teach a child. But he was so scared and so weak, the only way to motivate him was by keeping the stabilisers on. He learned extremely quickly though! We didn't push him, but we did take him out regularly. We take him to events with us too, for example, Juan went to watch a BMX competition and took Kiddo along and I hosted a women's MTB weekend and the whole family spent it with me.
We've tried plenty of things with him and just see which sticks. He didn't get on well at the local kids club, but he loves being at the skatepark where he has made some buddies. He doesn't enjoy riding up hills, and can get scared on downhills, but if we find an MTB loop that's within his comfort zone he just goes around and around forever! He also simply likes rides along the beachfront, especially if we stop for ice cream!
How does kiddo like his Frog bike?
He loves it!!! He called it "perfect" and he's stoked that it has "suspensions". He's aware that it's a pretty special bit of kit and is so proud of it.
What do you think the best features of a Frog bike are?
I've seen too many kids get put off cycling because of the components. It's so easy for an adult to say that a child can just learn on whatever because they're not competing or anything, so they don't need the best equipment just to ride around and have fun. But it's NOT fun when your fingers are too small to pull the brakes, or you can't change gears because it's so physically hard to twist a grip shifter! When bikes are so heavy, it's a pain for younger kids to put their bike down when they want to stop and play and then pick it back up again. It's like, these smaller weaker people usually get given the heavier harder bikes!! No wonder so many don't realise how freeing it can be, it must feel like a chore for them.
So that whole package of lightweight bikes and easy-to-use components is what makes Frog bikes stand out from the crowd and in the end, makes cycling more accessible to children.
What key tips would you suggest for parents out there and the benefits of cycling?
Some people may think that I had pushy parents because I was competing so young, but that couldn't be further from the truth!! I'm eternally grateful for my parents' approach to cycling with me, the fact that we all enjoyed it together and I was supported and taken to events and races but never pushed!! They never cared about my results and I think that's what allowed me to come back to the sport as an adult in my own way, without burnout or bad memories.
I can clearly remember the parents of some other kids I used to race against, and their parents were screaming and shouting at them to go faster or try harder. It was awful!!! I feel extremely strongly against pushing kids too hard in sports.
So if you want to share cycling with your kids, please make it fun and pressure-free! Cycling should be able to be their escape from all the other pressures of life and growing up. Surely it's better to have a happy child than a fast child?
Tell us something about you that no one would be able to guess.
I’M TERRIFIED OF FLYING!! In life, I love to take risks and on my bike, I love to get air but put me on a plane and I’m a totally different person! On my last flight, given that I was so uncomfortable with my sweaty palms and tiny whimpers, the man seated next to me immediately got up and left as soon as the seatbelt indicator went off. It's pretty embarrassing, to be honest, and totally outside of my control!