Tag Archives: progress

Bestie & The Bike: Things I’ve learnt whilst cycling

This month I thought I would share some of the revelations I have had about myself during my first 6 months of cycling. Some are rather dull, some are kind of gross but all are true.

1) I have a real potty mouth.

As I usually cycle by myself I have been known to have a little chatter to motivate myself up hills. This started out with the standard ‘you can do this’ pleasantries, but I quickly discovered that this form of self-talk does not work well for me. Swearing, however – does. So apologises to anyone who may drive past me with their windows open because on particularly steep climbs I will be dropping F-bombs with aplomb.

2) Sweat is strangely satisfying.

Despite my love of inappropriate footwear I am a little bit of a tom-boy at heart and have never been averse to getting a little dirty. A rather wise man once told me that sweat is a good thing as it means your body is working properly. I have certainly taken this to heart when I get back from a ride, so much so that I forget to take a shower for a bit. I am gross, I did pre-warn you.

3) I am just a big kid at heart.

I have been known to be a touch serious and often get called the mum of our group of friends. I actually pride myself on being the responsible one. Put me on a bike whizzing down a hill however and I seriously regress. Last time I let out a ‘weeeeeeeee’ for a full minute*. I cannot remember the last time I smiled that much.

4) The body is a pretty amazing thing.

I’ve suffered from some health problems the last few years and had resigned myself to there being certain things I can’t do, or didn’t think I could do. The power of the mind to retract as well as expand our horizons is hugely powerful. When I started cycling I believed there was plenty I would never manage and there are some things I still don’t think I can tackle, but I am learning that I am far more capable than I ever previously allowed myself to be. Every week I go just that little bit further, that little bit faster and it continues to shock me that these things are possible. A lot of people may say that the ability was in me all along, and of course this is true. Yet after I am done swearing at the top of a hill I like to thank Lizzie a little, and Lois too, as without them I am sure I would never have got this far.

 

* ED: not an actual wee, she means the noise.

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.