For All the firsts …...cycling is the one.
I’ve been cycling properly for almost 2 years exactly. Prior to that I had owned a road bike for about 6 months but not done more than my 3 mile commute or the odd lap of Richmond Park. 50 miles seemed incomprehensible – even though it was a distance I had previously run, the thought of cycling it, blew my mind.
Over the past 2 years I have experienced so many firsts. From my first ride with cleats (around the bandstand on Clapham Common) to my first “cleat fail” as I collapsed into a heap at some traffic lights after failing to unclip.
From my first group ride – with Dirty Wknd, to my first Ride 100, to my first solo 100 mile to just last week and my first road race! I try to tell people I’m still new to cycling, although I am told otherwise but I feel like every time I get on my bike I learn something, which still makes me a newbie right? Ok, so maybe not but it’s reassuring to know and remind others that whilst we have all been riding for different lengths of time, many of us do still feel like newbies. That feeling does not really go away. With each step conquered another goal appears, but for me that is what makes this sport so exciting and interesting and is what keeps me getting back on the bike day after day - no matter how sore I am.
Most people I talk to say that cycling has changed their life, and I could not agree more. The friends I’ve made, my diet, my outlook, the places I have seen. Cycling has introduced me to the most amazing group of friends who I will happily see day in day out if possible, who will rise at 4am with me to watch the sunrise in Richmond Park on the summer solstice. I have ridden to places like Bruges and in the Alps. Places I have watched the pros ride on TV, but that I can ride too!
Before I cycled I ran a lot, and whilst running was great for my health and my mind cycling is something else. Running gave me a lot of time to think, little attention is required to put one foot in front of the other and over-thinking things while out running sometimes had a hugely negative impact on my thoughts, mentality and subsequent life/decisions. Cycling is different. When I am out cycling on the road my mind empties of everything else and I have to focus on the road, the cars and pushing on. When my mind wanders it all generally, wanders to the conversation I’m having with my riding buddy or to the coffee stop and how far ahead it is. The positive mental impact this has had, is something else. I can’t really explain it, but maybe I don’t need to.
Many of the changes and my development as a cyclist has definitely been gradual. Whilst I sit here writing this having averaged weekly mileage of 370km for the past few weeks I have to remind everyone including myself that I didn’t get here overnight. Friends often look at my mileage in awe, and I in turn look at their speed in awe. We should never compare ourselves to others, least of all in cycling, BUT, the friends and community I have discovered means that these comparisons are no longer a negative thing. No, instead they are the encouragement I need to push on, get stronger, train harder, so that I can ride with my friends without hanging off the back. So that I can compete in a road race without getting dropped on the first lap and so that ultimately these ‘firsts’ continue for a long time to come.
The opportunities within cycling are every growing, especially for women and with the clubs, groups, friends and communities available. This might feel like the end of my cycling story – but I’m sure it is just the beginning of the very exciting next chapter.