Now there’s two parts to this story but the first part will be pretty short and sound very familiar to most of you reading this.
Like the majority of people I had bikes growing up as a child. I can remember a couple of Christmas mornings unwrapping a bike. I was never sure why my parents tried to wrap it though because it was blatantly a bike underneath the wrapping paper.
Back then, as a youngster, I didn’t know much about bikes. All I needed was the the tyres to hold air, the chain to stay on, and the gears to work. If I had that I was a happy kid.
The bikes varied from mountain bikes to BMX bikes and my Dad came across an old road bike at one point. I loved all of them but even though they were different types of bike I didn’t really use them for their specific uses. They were used for everything!
If my friends and I were out exploring the woods, or building a make shift river crossing in the summer holidays, but the BMX was my bike of the moment then guess what – we were riding through the woods and the mud on the BMX. Having a choice of bikes, which is a luxury I’m lucky to have today, wasn’t something I had as a kid. Whatever was available was what we used.
The bikes were used to get to football practice, go to the shop and buy comic books and sweets, get to work when I got my first weekend job etc. The bikes were a means of transport and just so happened to be fun at the same time.
Then all of a sudden – no bikes! I moved up to Scotland when I was 17 and whatever bike I had at the time didn’t come with me. I didn’t own a bike again until I was 30!
Other hobbies and fitness goals filled my life up along with work. My career started at 22 years of age, somehow it’s still going, and all of those things together must have kept the urge to pedal a bike buried deep down. The fact I learned to drive and could afford a car was most likely another reason. I could now get places quicker and my friends could come too.
Then one day at work someone mentioned the ‘Bike to Work Scheme’. A way of getting a bike where the payments were taken from your wage but the overall cost of the bike was cheaper due to how the scheme worked. You could get a bike, or a bike plus accessories like a helmet etc, up to £1000 in value. Time to go shopping!
I picked a 2018 Cube Attain Road Bike. It was black with white flashes, alloy frame, carbon fork, rim brakes, with Shimano 105 2 x 11 groupset. None of that meant anything to me at the time. It didn’t matter though. I had a bike and I was going to use it.
I purchased some padded shorts (yes you read that correctly…) along with a phone holder so I could attach it to my handlebars, and I was ready. Away I went. I did a short loop of about 12 miles. My phone rattled around until it was nearly destroyed, my shorts moved around more than I would have liked, I was pretty sure every time I took my hands of the bars to take a drink I was going to fall off and die, and to top it all off I got a puncture about 400m from my house. Great success? Not really.
To say that learning to ride a road bike was a challenge is a fair statement. Of course I could ride a bike but the skill set I thought I owned wasn’t quite ready for the thin tyres, the 100 psi tyre pressure, the lack of suspension, the numbing of certain male specific areas due to not having the bike set up correctly etc. None of these things I had considered.
But we all start somewhere and this was my journey into cycling properly. Cycling for fitness, improvement, enjoyment, all as an adult. Well – adult by age, I’m still in my late teens deep down.
So as the weeks passed I discovered a revolutionary invention that you may have heard of – bib shorts. What a brilliant invention. Do they look a bit strange? Yes. Do you care about that when you realise the comfort they provide on the bike? No. If you’re reading this and are new to cycling put bib shorts on your Christmas list. You can thank me later.
Next came the clip-less pedals. Ridiculously named in my opinion as the only thing you do with them is clip in and out… However, if I was buying SPD-SL pedals I needed shoes and cleats. I’ve already published a post on different types of shoes and pedals etc. Take a look here. More money spent but now I was clipped in. Did I fall off at the junction at the end of my road the second time I wore them? No comment.
After a few months, as fantastic as my own company is, I decided I needed to make a cycling friend. Someone to pedal around the countryside with. I went to Strava, found a local club, and popped a message on the message board. One person got back to me and that person was Mr P! Be sure to throw some love his way on his Instagram. Not only was he a stupidly strong cyclist who put me to the sword many times but now he’s turned his hand to running. He seems to be pretty good at that as well.
To say the local club near me is a bit clique is another fair statement. I would have thought a small area like where I live would have been quite accommodating to new members but it was quite the opposite. No ‘hello’ or ‘come along and ride with us’. In fact there have been times I have seen some of the members wearing the local jerseys who even fail to return a wave as I cycle past them. I’m sure it’s not like this everywhere though and I would definitely encourage people to reach out to local clubs. Riding with others is great fun.
It didn’t matter though – Mr P and I had met, got along well, and were now cycling buddies. Let the fun begin. Andy had a beautiful bike when we met. It was a Specialised S Works with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 equipped. He used to beat me all over the place on that mean machine. There I was doing what felt like 500 watts just to hold the wheel. My time would come though. I would upgrade one day and surely all these hard miles of getting dropped by Mr P would strengthen my little chicken legs.
We ticked of the 50 mile ride together and then the 100 mile ride. Nice cycling milestones that I had wanted to do since I bought the bike.
We were clocking up quite a few miles back then. These were the pre-marriage and pre-children days. My time was my time and if I wanted to ride my bike for 6 hours then guess what? I was going to do it. I had well and truly fallen in love with road cycling and it was time to think about that upgrade. Was it a shock how much a fancy bike was going to cost? Damn right it was, but that’s a story you can read about tomorrow in Part 2!
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