Tag Archives: london to brighton

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.

1 day to go!

30 Days of Biking begins tomorrow, so I thought I’d share a little bit more with you about myself, and my bike.

I wanted to start this blog for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one was to prove that you don’t have to be super-fit, experienced or the owner of an expensive bike to enjoy cycling and see its benefits.

I’ve had a couple of bicycles over the years. My last bike that I have any memory of was a hand-me-down from my mum: it was 20 years old when I inherited it, but a nice old bike nonetheless. It had a basket on the front and I used it for my weekly shop. Shortly after moving to a new flat in Brighton, some nasty bugger stole that bike from the railings it was chained to (lesson learnt: keep your bike inside if you live in the city).

A family friend gave me an (old, rusty) bike to replace the stolen one, which I was very thankful for, but did not enjoy riding. After a few months of riding the rust-bucket, the gears had given up. The final nail in the coffin was when my boyfriend at the time rode it through a muddy field and got the chain stuck…permanently. Once again, I was left bikeless! So, naturally, in this time of need I turned to Twitter…

After my friend Mark (_BLIXA_) retweeted me, the wonderful Kim Piper replied to say that she had a Claud Butler road bike sitting in her shed, which she would happily give to a loving home free of charge. Claud (as he will now be known) had been Kim’s first road bike, and she’d cycled London to Paris on him. I drove to Kim’s work place, and took Claud home in the back of my car. The next day I took him to be serviced by the lads at Future Cycles in Lewes, and rode him proudly home! The rest, as they say, is history.

So now you know a little about Claud, allow me to tell you just a bit about myself.

Before March of this year, when I started some training for the London to Brighton night ride, I had never cycled more than 10 miles. Ask any of my friends about my ‘hobbies’ and I can absolutely guarantee that anything sport, exercise or fitness related will not feature. Up until fairly recently I didn’t even own a pair of trainers, let alone any lycra!

That should have you convinced that I am neither experienced nor particularly fit. I still regularly feel like I might die when ascending a steep hill. All that said, it gets a bit easier every time I ride, and you learn to love the hills (no, really, you do.)

Words can’t quite portray the feeling of riding a bike. All your senses are heightened, and you notice things that you would whizz past without a second thought in a car. You can stop, just to take it all in, still sat on your top tube. And the satisfaction of covering distance on two wheels is infinitely more than on four.

I think I have fallen in love with cycling. If I still feel that way after the next 30 days, then it must be true love. Watch this space!