Juliet Elliott: Why I Ride…
Rider and writer Juliet Elliott talks about Kim Kardashian, coming back from injury and why it’s all about extremes…
Juliet Elliott has a crazy CV that includes modelling for Vogue, playing guitar in a metal band, competing as a pro snowboarder and working as a bike messenger.
These days her life is slightly more sedate, with her focus on road, track and mountain bike races.
And her four cats.
When we catch up with her over a flat white (or two), she’s in London to support the opening of ASSOS’s new flagship London store on Regent’s Street (a 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired boutique) and squeezing in a bit of retail therapy (she currently lives in Devon)…
You first got into cycling through commuting. Do you see it as a gateway drug?
Definitely. With other sports you have to suddenly decide that you want to take it up. With tennis, say, you have to buy all the kit, then see how it all works. But with commuting, you don’t have to feel like you’re taking up a sport – it’s just riding a bike.
When I first started riding, I didn’t think of it as a sport at all, but then you start riding longer and further, you get a nicer bike and the sporty side of it develops.
I heard that you pushed yourself so hard when cycling in Gran Canaria that you got sunstroke. Do you think it’s in your DNA to push yourself hard… and sometimes too hard?
I think I’m quite extreme. To be honest, I’m a really lazy-active person. I’m either going absolutely berserk and training as hard as I can or I’m literally doing nothing at all.
I’ve noticed that I’ve turned into one of those people who doesn’t ride their bike to the shop but does go out on a four-hour training ride.
When I lived in London, obviously you cycle everywhere, but now I live in the country I’ve fallen into that trap. I’m either doing a high threshold, high-intensity interval session on my turbo trainer or I’m doing a really long endurance ride, then I’ll get in my car to go to the shop.
Are you the same with alcohol?
I’ve definitely changed in that respect. I’m much more moderate, and mainly because of cycling. Before I started cycling seriously I was a pretty big drinker (as was my husband) and we used to party hard. Then we got into cycling and I realised that if we got hammered on a Friday night, it meant we couldn’t go for a ride on Saturday.
I’d be back at work on Monday and feel really annoyed that I’d missed the opportunity to ride my bike or BMX, so I just changed to not really drinking much at all.
What’s the situation with all these injuries?
Four years ago I did something pretty bad to my back. I think it’s probably down to years of snowboarding and hammering myself with 20 metre jumps for years and years. I couldn’t cycle for about a year and it was painful just walking.
I now swim for fitness as well as cycling and it seems to really work for me. My lung capacity has definitely expanded and, despite having a lot of time off from cycling this year, I still did alright in the few events I did enter. I think it helps to maintain my fitness without too much impact.
What are your goals for 2017?
I’ve just come back from an injury and I’m feeling good at the moment, so my plan is world domination. I’m training as hard as I can and I want to be faster, fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been before. That’s my plan and now that I’ve said it out loud, I’m going to have to stick to it.
Are there any particular races you are looking forward to / gearing up for?
Yes, I really want to race all the Red Hook Crit series and as many other fixed crits as I can. I’m also really looking forward the Rad Race Tour de Friends in September.
Your first cycling memory?
When my dad took me round the cul-de-sac from our house, took my stabilisers off and let go for first time.
Fair weather or every weather?
That’s a hard one. It depends what I’m doing. If I need to do an endurance ride, I’ll just go and do it and don’t care about the weather. But if I’ve got to do threshold training, I’ll just get on the turbo trainer.
It’s less to do with the weather and more to do with efficiency. I can get on my turbo, do everything I need to do quickly, get in the shower and be done.
What turbo trainer do you have?
I’ve got a CycleOps Powersync and I’ve been trying it out with Zwift. There’s this one route I’ve been doing that goes up Box Hill, which is pretty funny. As it’s all connected, the resistance changes on the turbo and you can have a race with other people on Zwift up Box Hill!
When were you happiest on a bike?
Probably cycling around Japan with my husband on our honeymoon. We went cycle touring and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. We were camping for most of it, but every few days we’d get a really nice hotel.
What is your bucket list bike ride?
In 2017 I want to get the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao and do this really nice ride that I saw in a book called Epic Bike Rides Of The World. You do a loop through the mountains from outside Bilbao and then you get the ferry home.
What is your most treasured possession?
It would have to be my cats. They’re not possessions, but they’re my most treasured things in life – apart from my husband (Dave Noakes), of course.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
Obviously my husband. He’s crazy about cycling as well.
I think that’s really important. I don’t understand how anyone can have a relationship with someone who doesn’t cycle - you’d never see them.
It’s great because we’re both similarly knackered in the evenings after all our training, so we’re both equally happy to just veg out, eat and not really go out.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Charlie Brooker, Dara O’briain and Amy Schumer. It would be the funniest dinner party ever.
What keeps you awake at night?
What doesn’t? I worry about absolutely everything (and my husband snores). I sometimes think it would be nice to be quite stupid and not really think about stuff all the time.
It’s your last day on earth. Where do you ride and who with?
I’d ride with my husband. I’d probably go to an amazing bike park like Whistler.
In 5 years you’ll be able to say…?
That I’m really glad I bought that motocross bike.
Obviously I love the clothes, but the most important thing for me is that they really wanted to move forward with their women’s marketing. That was something we spoke about at the very first meeting. They were keen for me to get on board behind the scenes, rather than just be a face of the brand, so that was the appeal.
What do you think needs to happen to get more women cycling?
Many things. But to start, we should better celebrate our sporting heroines so that images of ‘celebs’ like Kim Kardashian aren’t the only thing that girls see when they grow up.