Posts tagged ‘Tour de France 2014’

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

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December 6, 2013

Hello road bike!

As you may remember, I recently sold my Pashley Princess, after a long, painful time deciding what to do. Rather wonderfully, I have been given a road bike on a long term loan and I love it.

Riding a road bike after a Pashley is such a different experience. To start with, it felt a bit as though I was constantly on the verge of tipping over the handlebars, despite everything being set up properly, purely because I was used to the ‘sit up and beg’ style of the Pashley. Getting used to the different handlebar style, the brakes, the gears, (and the tiny saddle!) took a bit of time, but now I feel as though I’m flying. I’m clearly not flying, but actually travelling at rather more sedate pace, but still compared to the Pashley, it’s seriously speedy!

Road bike

Walking down a very muddy bridlepath!

Sometimes, and I know this is weird, I develop a relationship of trust with a machine, even though I know it’s not sentient. I feel that way about my little car, and now I feel that way about this bike. I know that for some serious road cyclists this bike is considered a bit of a workhorse, a winter bike, rather than one that is built for speed. It’s not carbon fibre, for a start. But for me, as a novice, that’s what makes it so special. It’s the Welsh Cob of the road bike world! And, given my love for the Welsh Cob (for those of you who are not horse lovers, the Welsh Cob is a beautiful but study native pony) then this feels exactly the kind of bike I should be riding.

I’m so incredibly grateful for it and really looking forward to spending some time building up my fitness so I can ride for longer. At the moment, I can manage 25 -30 miles with a much-needed stop for cake. In my defence, it’s hilly round here! With the Tour de France coming to Leeds next year, I am hoping that the momentum around cycling that is building up in advance will be maintained beyond, and Leeds will become a place that’s great to cycle, for sport, for commuting, for families. And I’ll be there, on the Kona Honky Tonk (silly name, splendid bike) with a grin on my face…