For the love of vélo.

I love cycling. Ever since Claud first entered my life, I’ve been besotted by all things bike.

I will have owned Claud for a year next month. Before that, I’d never cycled more than about 10 miles, and only ever ridden the sort of bike that you put a basket on the front of. So phobic was I of anything ‘sport’ related that I wouldn’t even join in a game of rounders at a family BBQ. I don’t think I even owned a pair of trainers, let alone any cycling shoes.

I can vividly remember my first ‘proper’ bike ride, in preparation for the London to Brighton. I cycled from Brighton to Uckfield with friends, had coffee and cake, and then rode back again. That’s almost 40 miles, which isn’t to be sniffed at, but it left me aching for a week – and I pushed up at least three of the hills. That journey felt like seriously hard work and I was, quite rightly, proud to have done it.

A few months later I rode the London to Brighton Night Ride. It took me AGES, and I pushed up lots of the hills including the whole of Devil’s Dyke. Despite all that, I was really happy to have completed it – because I’d never done anything like it before.  For me, it was a massive achievement. I was wearing some specially-purchased trainers, my gym kit, and the helmet I’d had since I was 14.

Celebrating completing the London to Brighton Night Ride – 27th May 2012

Claud has changed shape a lot since then: he has more gears,  posher brakes and tyres that don’t puncture every twenty miles. I’ve also changed shape: I have noticed the appearance of these amazing things in my legs called ‘muscles’ which I wasn’t aware existed.  No more gym kit or trainers either: I have a drawer full of lovely cycling kit and some fancy shoes that clip into Claud’s pedals.

It’s been less than a year since I made that first bike ride from Brighton to Uckfield and back. I make that same journey by bike regularly now – to pop in on my parents. It’s a nice gentle ride, and I wouldn’t even think of pushing up the hills. It was about nine months ago that I very slowly made my way from London to Brighton in my dodgy outfit, on a bike which I didn’t know how to change gear on (that’s a story for another day). I’ve cycled bigger distances since, and ridden up Devil’s Dyke plenty of times now: something which I watched other people do during the London to Brighton with amazement and jealousy. Recently I’ve had to remind myself that I should feel proud of those things, just like I felt proud of my first cycling achievements. This Greg LeMond quote is overused, but it’s overused for a reason: “It Doesn’t Get Any Easier, You Just Get Faster”. It’s true: it doesn’t get any easier, but that shouldn’t be confused for not making progress.

Now here I am, excited and slightly terrified, counting down the days to my first race for a local team. Stood next to my team mates, in my matching kit, it’s easy to forget just how little experience I have compared to all of them. So if you catch me beating myself up about being slow, please show me that photo from the not-so-long-ago London to Brighton, and remind me how much I’ve learnt in the months since then.

I won’t forget why I fell in love with cycling, and I won’t forget how far I’ve come.