On Sunday, I went out on the bike for a 15 mile ride as part of my training for Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride.
I’ve written before about my fear of riding a bike, and it’s only because of Cycletta, and my 35:35 Challenge, that I find myself riding at all. Since a childhood accident, I’ve spent such a long time thinking that I couldn’t do it, that cycling was just something that wasn’t for me, and yet year after year, I’ve sat glued to the TV for three weeks watching Le Tour De France knowing it was one of the greatest sporting events of the world.
We set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and thanks to my lovely husband, who has long been a keen cyclist and a Rights of Way officer, did a beautiful route, mostly off road along bridle-paths, parts of the Trans-Pennine Trail, and following the Aire and Calder Navigation. Although he is obviously much faster than I am, I was happy to ride along behind him, negotiating all the A-frames, as well as avoiding all the wayward Labradors and small children that such a sunny afternoon had produced. I even managed to go at a decent pace downhill, having finally realised that if I go at a snail’s pace with the brakes on, I am actually more likely to fall off.
Cycling, unlike running, doesn’t seem to leave me in such a pink and breathless state, as in between the hills and the difficult parts, come other bits where you can coast along to catch your breath if you need to, so at the end of the 15 miles I didn’t feel as though I wanted to keel over. Along the way I’d realised a few things. Firstly, that I am not actually as scared of riding in traffic as I’d thought. Having adopted the attitude of being brave, bold but mannerly, and assuming that if I am these things, and ride according to the rules of the road, that drivers will do the same, I am finding it a lot less worrying than I’d envisaged. Of course, I know that there are going to be drivers that don’t see me, don’t care or are just not very good, but by keeping myself as aware as I can of my surroundings and of upcoming traffic, I can do my best to account for such drivers.
The other thing that I realised, is that I am already becoming a better cyclist than I am a runner. I started running after the birth of my daughter. As I posted before, she had to be delivered very early because of my pre-eclampsia. I’m doing the Yokrshire 3 Peaks for Bliss, the premature baby charity, this weekend. When she was two, we decided that we would love a sibling for her, and I went to see a consultant about my chances of suffering with the condition again (which they said was one in ten) and what I could do to reduce that. I was told to to get fit. Running helped me to do that quickly, cheaply and outside. Cycling is helping me to do the same, but without the horrible pressure on my joints and feet. It suits my body better.
Plus, I’m having so much fun. It feels intrepid, especially cycling off-road or downhill. The things you get to see when out on a bike are lovely – I’d never seen parts of the route we rode on, and it’s such a pretty area, and so close to home. The main danger is that I get so carried away looking at my surroundings, I forget to look where I’m actually going. Horses, gardens, old Land Rovers, sheep, allotments – these are the things I look at. Nosiness and envy are rather a dangerous combination when you’re on a bike, and I often find myself riding in one direction, whilst peering desperately in the other. I suffer from severe allotment-envy, despite having one of my own that’s had a decent summer. My newly re-energised passion for horses also had me looking in every field and stable yard we passed. Plus, if anyone can dream up a new career that justifies me having an ancient, held-together-by-baler-twine Land Rover, do let me know, because I’m desperate for one!
When I think of the years I’ve wasted being too scared to ride a bike, it makes me sad. Cycletta has given me a chance and an opportunity, not just for one 40k ride in October but for the rest of my life, and I am very grateful. Plus, just think of the fashion opportunities. Liberty prints, Superga pumps and a Pashley Princess. Or perhaps Alexander Wang, a courier-style bag and an urban hybrid. Not to mention the new Henry Holland bike jacket for Skyride!