Last year, my friend Lawrence was the only cyclist I knew and (in my opinion) knew an intimidating amount about bikes. Bikes and cycling were a very foreign concept to me back then. I didn’t immediately see the appeal of cycling all day, through traffic and towns but I needed to start as I wanted to become a “tryathlete” (noun – a person who thinks they can attempt to complete a triathlon or two). I’ve yet to complete a triathlon, but 2017 will see that challenge crossed off!
With Lawrence’s help and after an evening of trawling the internet to compile a list of potential bikes to try, my head was swimming with bike specifications and reeling a little at the potential cost! There were so many different types of bikes (another new concept for me to get my head around) but after just a couple of weeks, I parted with my hard earned savings and was the proud owner of my very first road bike – a Specialized Allez, now known as Patsy. I had no idea of the spec (I still don’t), I didn’t know how much kit I’d need to get out and ride and little did I know of the journey this little machine was going to take me on.
My first ride consisted of initially cycling up and down some quiet and secluded pavement, pretending trees and lampposts were traffic lights so that I could practice clipping and un-clipping from my cleats (a nerve wrecking experience any new cyclist can vouch for) before heading out into Saturday lunch-time traffic towards Regent’s Park. I then shakily completed a couple of laps before heading back to East London.
Lawrence helped me on this ride (and in nearly all my training since!) and can vouch for how shaky I started – within the first mile, I’d failed to unclip and fell on to the bonnet of a car waiting at the traffic lights. On the laps I was hopeless with my gear changes and travelled at around 10mph average pace. Traffic was terrifying, my feet clipped to the pedals felt alien and after just 26 miles I was exhausted.
That was in July 2015, by September, I bravely decided to venture out on my first group ride. It’s safe to say, this ride was not an improvement on my first. An infamous tumble over the handlebars shattered any confidence I’d managed to build up on the bike.
The infamous injuries at the start of a 35 mile ride
My cycling life didn’t improve much from there, I didn’t quit on my training but I also wasn’t loving it. I questioned if I’d made a mistake spending my savings on this failing hobby. The night before a ride I used to toss and turn and wake up feeling so nervous and sick at the thought of going out on my bike.
Fast forward to February 2016 and I’d signed up for my very first sportive. It was further than anything I’d done before, and was probably foolish of me to attempt so early in my training but my stubborn nature won and I did it! This was the turning point – I’d ridden the vast majority of it on my own, but I loved it. The sense of achievement at the end and the amazement that my aching legs continued to spin me through 85 miles had me grinning from ear to ear.
Turning point in cycling on my first sportive
From then on I started to call myself a “cyclist”. I started to want to get out on the bike every minute I could.I loved being apart of this new world of cycling! From the friendly nods and hello’s from fellow cyclists (no matter how slowly you’re travelling), to the support I’ve had from the new friends I’ve made since buying the bike. The offers of help when you’re stopped at the side of the road are all genuine, and the advice when an experienced cyclist spots a newbie are because the people that call themselves “cyclists” genuinely love their sport and want to see others loving it too.
My training had it’s ups and downs and I had moments where I burnt out and didn’t want to look at the bike, but after some 4,600 miles of cycling since purchasing Patsy, I can honestly say that buying the bike has been one of the best decisions of my life – I’ve gained so much from cycling, from friends to strength, to confidence and memories that will last a lifetime.