For those of you that saw my excitement yesterday at doing a 12mile bike ride and wondering why the heck are you so excited – this should explain!
I never learnt to ride a bike as a child – i thought we’d get that out of the way first, you can close your mouth now…..
Yep, never got it, I’d once got taken up a big hill near to where i live and got sent down on my blue BMX, all went well until i got half way down, my tyre burst and i went flying. Well my bike soon disappeared and i never actually learnt.
Skipping forward 25years…..
Last year, i was standing outside my flat watching the Prudential RideLondon come past cheering all these amazing people along and similar to when I used to watch the London Marathon or Great North Run i wished i was out there, but there was one big problem! I had considered getting a recumbent trike – but they are hugely expensive and I wanted to have a go first. (Keep this in mind for a future challenge of mine next year).
Discussing this at work the next day i broke the news i couldn’t ride to stunned colleagues and i said that my new years’ resolution for 2017 would be to learn to ride and do the RideLondon event. As i was researching whether adult cycling lessons actually existed, I though to myself, why wait until next year?
On 3rd September I had my first lesson – dressed in jeans and a hoodie convinced I was going to fall off millions of times.
I was given a bright blue ladies bike to play with – I named her Sasha.I was lucky to have a great guy called Chris from Cycle Confident, who in my opinion has the best job in the world as he gets that “proud dad” moment every week.
First off, getting on and off the bike – remembering to get on from the left so not to catch the chain. This was a bit like the scene from Karate Kid – only instead of “wipe on, wipe off” it was “get on, get off”.
After giving that a bit of a go, next was practicing letting the bike go from a static position and once the bike starts to fall, putting my foot down depending on which way it was going.
From there I went scooting along, trying to get up some speed and lifting my legs up and free-wheeling for all of about 5 yards. Next was pedalling along, while Chris balanced the bike by holding onto the handle bars until I picked up enough speed then he let go – I think I managed about 5 feet before putting my feet down.
“Right then, have a go on your own” WHAT??…..
I didn’t let on but I was petrified. I then spent another 45mins trying to get both feet on the pedals, but as soon as I pushed down with my right, I felt the bike wobble and that was it STOP!.
To be honest I was quite happy to have Chris to chat to – my bum wasn’t doing so well and I couldn’t wait to jump out of the saddle and give it a rest.
So Chris started again with keeping me balanced until I got both feet on, then he’d let me go and I’d pedal for myself. This worked wonders – I cycled about another 10metres on my own, which I was terribly proud of. One last go on my own before home-time – I did it, I got both my feet on the pedal, now knowing when to expect the left pedal to arrive – I cycled a good 30meters until I got to the car park barrier. Safe to say I was on such a high after that, I loved it and couldn’t wait for next week to see how I’d go on.
Week 2 started with a different trainer holding me up from the side and feeling which side I was balancing on more – left it turned out. We’d do that for 10mins until I wasn’t resting on his hands at all and I managed to cycle a fair bit before stopping before the corner (we hadn’t done corners yet).
Corners weren’t easy – I was doing the beginner thing of going where I was looking but unfortunately I was concentrating so hard on not hitting the car park furniture that I kept going towards them! My turning circle was huge, and I wouldn’t pedal through the corners either, but after more practice in week 3, I got my corners ok to connect about 10 loops up and even got pedalling through the corners (getting brave).
The weeks after that consisted of going round and round in loops and trying to develop some kind of control – i.e. going through a set of mini cones in a straight line, practicing gears – & starting from a high gear.
Finally we did some technical riding to make sure we had control – riding in a straight line, winding in and out of cones, looking behind (so difficult), and riding towards one of the coaches until he said left or right and you had to dodge around him – he should get paid so much more for doing that!!
After one more session it was recommended that I’d graduated from the beginners class and should really be looking for do on-road sessions.
I felt a bit confident after this and got myself my own bike, a Specialized Sirrus Sport – a beautiful speedy thing nicknamed Susie!
We’ve been on a couple of adventures upto Wimbledon Common where there’s no traffic and plenty of room to wobble about and practice on my own.
This week I took the bike to Battersea Park, hoping to bump into some friends and ride the Thames Path. I ended up doing 3 laps of the park, trying to see what 10k on a bike is like. I found it tough work and get a little niggle in the muscle above my knee – but all experiecen and happy to be in the saddle. Sunday was run day with Windmilers, so I cycled up to the common (walking along the Ridgway as its very busy and no cycle lane). I got to the windmill with my legs and bum sore – still got a 3.5mi run in and cycled back home.
Tuesday I’d planned to ride into Richmond Park and do a loop (I was overly excited). I also raised my seat about an inch before going – it made such a difference. The ride to Richmond wasn’t easy, but I wont bore you with the details.
I felt right at home in Richmond Park, they have a road going around and a separate path for pedestrians and cyclists, I stuck to this and with my trusted map in hand headed around the park – safe to say I loved it (apologies to those on Twitter & Instagram where I didn’t stop talking about it all day). I stopped for a cuppa at Pembroke lodge and got back home after doing 12miles – way further than intended. My knees didn’t hurt, neither did my bum and I could’ve quite happily done another loop.
I’m full of confidence right now, I’m loving my cycling and cant wait to get in the saddle again.
I still need to get used to riding on the road and with traffic but I am getting there – also need to work on signalling.
Few Tips for those Starting out:
– Sign up for a Training course. Your Borough probably already does free cycling lessons for beginners and those a little more advanced. I rode with Cycle Confident who were fab and they provide the bikes too (http://www.cycleconfident.com).
– The bike will wobble – get used to it particularly when setting off.
– Get out there – find a quiet road or car park and practice, the more you ride the more confident you get
– If something goes wrong, get up and get back on!
– Your bike becomes and extension of you – when I run and I have a niggle I tend to run through it, when my bike starts to squeak “keep riding it’ll go away”.
– Buy your bike from a reputable dealer and get checked out with a bike that’s right for your height and for what you’re going to use it for. You can also try the bike out in most stores.
Can you ride?
Do you have any tips for me to improve my riding and give me suggestions of riding events
I’ve been recommended a few routes around Richmond Park but I want to know your favourite places to ride – I need ideas to fuel my addiction!