How to get (back) into Cycling
By Lorraine Smith, posted 4 January 2018
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Wondering how to get into, or back into, cycling? Sometimes all it takes is biting the bullet and entering an event involving that bike to give you the kick you need. it worked for Lorraine…
“Darling, I’ve entered a duathlon,” I announced to my husband in September. “Running and cycling. I know I haven’t been cycling since about 2009, but it’s OK, it’s safe, no cars – it says it’s ‘off-road’…” And so it began. The journey which started with the realisation that ‘off-road’ did not mean paths and pavements, but rather trails, tracks and tree stumps – and getting a new bike! The humble hybrid that had gotten me from Earlsfield to Holborn back in the age BC (before children) was not going to hack it on the tricky terrain that surrounds us here in the Cotswolds. Nor get me around the duathlon course at Cirencester Park…
Leaving London behind
My only experience of cycling, as mentioned, was the commute to and from the City back in the day. And when I say I cycled, in reality my commute was more of a duathlon itself – cycling in the parks; pushing my bike along the pavements next to the City’s busy roads. Jostling for position at the traffic lights on Trafalgar Square, and taking my place in the peloton around the Houses of Parliament was just not my thing. Forget aggressive tax drivers, I was terrified of the loony lycra-clad riders who thought they were Wiggo in a suit.
So, when we moved out from Earlsfield to Epsom, I packed the bike firmly away as obviously there was not going to be any cycling opportunities in Surrey. Box Hill? Never heard of it. Oh, right…(!) But, still, I was not tempted to join the billions of bikers who seem to be part of a team – ‘Team Sky’ – burning it up, down and around the National Trust AONB of a weekend.
That said, being relatively competitive with an acute case of FOMO, I wondered what the selection process was for this ‘Team Sky’ – calves the size of canteloupes, rock-hard glutes, tight fitting tankinis, weird clippety-clopping shoe things that made grown men walk like awkward teenagers strutting their stuff on a night out… None of those criteria I met. Phew. Even if I had wanted to join, I clearly couldn’t. I ignored the fact that women and children also seemed to be partaking in a bit of pedal pushing around the green and pleasant countryside of the South East. And enjoying it. No – I. Will. Not. Succumb.
And then we moved back West. And still there they were. Taunting me with their two-wheeled obsession. Swarms of cyclists – big, small, old, young, male, female – either embracing the mounds of opportunity which are the Cotswold Hills, racing around on their own Grand Tour of the country roads, or venturing out in the dark evenings, hooning around the local woodland trails sporting head torches. It was all going on.
And so not to be outdone (did I mention I was competitive?), I did succumb. An ‘event’ seemed to be the best place to start – something to train for; to get me out there in the saddle. Cirencester Off-Road Duathlon popped up on a Google search, and that was that. My husband suggested that I should probably withdraw considering I didn’t have the appropriate gear, i.e. an actual off-road bike. But no – a husband saying she shouldn’t do something is surely red rag to a bullish wife, and so I asked for a mountain bike for my birthday (‘I’d like one with knobbly tyres, a bombproof frame and suspension to save my bum please’). And with a few off-road tips from cycling fanatic friends, and with a lot of practice peddling up and down the craters on the local common getting to grips with the gears, we were off! Cirencester Off-Road Duathlon was done; my new-found love of cycling was settled.
I asked for a road-bike for Christmas.