Cycling Stories — Kerri
The Unexpected Cyclist
If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd enjoy cycling I'd have laughed in your face, my P.E. teachers from school would have laughed in your face and so would my friends.
I didn’t do exercise, it wasn’t for me. But in just one year I’ve clocked up 539 miles including 50-miles around the Ilkley countryside with 800 other cycling enthusiasts.
My journey into cycling has been an unorthodox one; the result of a work challenge during our tenth year of business and my husband's full emergence into the world of Lycra, energy gels and a multitude of water bottles littering our home.
I’m not even sure I should be cycling, after all I’m not naturally athletic, I get bored easily and I bruise like a peach. But thanks to my husband’s enthusiasm and a fair amount of my own stubbornness, I'm a now a fairly average cyclist.
In August 2016, the Shooting Star directors set each member of staff a challenge to travel 26-miles each to cover the distance between our two offices (Lincoln to Bristol). I asked my husband, already a dedicated cyclist, to take me out to complete a "short ride to get some of the miles done". Twenty-four and a half miles later I was hooked.
I couldn’t believe how quickly we covered the miles and getting outside in the fresh air, riding through the countryside, struggling up hills that felt like mountains and coasting down the other side, it felt like I was flying.
Just six months later, I was signed up to the Southwell 30 miler, the furthest I'd ever cycled at that point. I tried to think tactically, stay in the middle of the group, find someone with a similar pace and stick with them. However, for most of it I was cycling solo, just me surrounded by fields and fields of sheep.
Once I'd completed the Southwell Sportive - in less than the two and half hours I'd set myself - I realised I was recorded as the second fasted woman who cycled using Strava that day. Second! Obviously, I’ve now followed the fastest woman and am now aiming to beat her next year (Props Jane – you legend!).
After a few more months of hill training including a failed attempted at 'The Terrace' near Belvoir and my first group rides with Flintham VC and Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) social groups, I was ready for the FLAB 50 around Ilkley.
Mentally, I knew that I could probably make the 50-miles, but the one thing that filled me with dread was the 17% ascent straight after the lunch. I’m not one of those cyclists you watch who seem to coast up those inclines without a hint of a struggle, I’m panting my lungs out, barely able to talk (can you imagine?!).
Thanks to the generosity of a range of lycra-clad strangers, I faced the hill. First up, a lady in the queue for the loo at lunch who took me by the shoulders and gave me the kindest of pep-talks – if she could do it perhaps I actually could too – and a guy whose name I never got, but who was my cycling companion for the day, who never minded when I went quiet or panted alongside him as we went up the hills together.
We took the hill slow and steady and although I did have to get off in the end and walk up the last two minutes, I overcame my initial fears and did as far as I could. It’s something to work on for next year, isn’t it?
I hate to admit it - because it means my husband was right (and let’s be honest no wife wants to admit that) – but I do feel better for taking up cycling. I feel healthier, I’m tougher physically and mentally than I was and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way.
I hope people in Newark will be inspired by the athletes taking part in the Tour of Britain and consider getting on their bikes more often and taking to the countryside every once in a while, there are loads of lovely routes and all roads lead to…. a cake stop!
If you see me out there, give me a wave, a nod or a smile. And welcome to the club!
Want to join the growing gang of unexpected cyclists? It’s easier than you think!
- All the gear but no idea
If you’re just starting out, make sure your bike is safe and you’ve got lights, a helmet and sensible kit. Call in to see Dave at Newark Cycles for bike advice.
- Get Social
There are so many cycling groups out there and they’re all on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Search for local clubs or social groups who cycle together frequently or check out the British Cycling Network for handy hints and tips.
- Sportive Challenges
They aren’t for everyone, but if you fancy working towards something why not sign up to a local sportive?
- The Cursed Cleatastrophy
We all fall off, but nothing beats falling off while using cleats to clip you to the pedals. You feel a mug, cycling friends will welcome you to the club, non-cyclists will marvel at your bruises. Get back on the bike!