How I got started in Cycling

I’ve decided to deviate from the norm with this post. Here is the story of how I got started in Cycling – hopefully it might do something to explain why I spend so much time riding a bike and writing about it. Here goes.

As a child, I wasn’t exactly an athlete – very far from it in fact. My preferred hobbies had long been eating and television, I would do almost anything in order to avoid getting out of breath. As you might imagine, I wasn’t exactly on the thin side – I’ll shamefully admit to weighing 80kg at the modest height of 5’7 by the age of 16.

Every class has one – that kid who always gets picked last in PE. I managed to extend this further by simply not participating, after a few years the teacher and I developed an understanding – I’d sit on the sideline pretending to do work and he would look the other way. I was well known for my laziness, in a strange way I was almost proud of it.

Self-deprecating jokes served as a good defence mechanism. Being both short and fat required a good sense of humour if school was to be survived. If I’m honest all the ribbing from my friends didn’t do wonders for my self-esteem, not that I’d have let anyone know it at the time. At around the age of fourteen, I began to feel guilty, both my parents were from a medical background and I had a keen interest in health science.

I had tried a few sports in the past. Swimming from from ages eight to ten and Horse Riding from eleven to fifteen. However, in the end I always went back to what I’d now consider my base programming – doughnuts were simply too good to resist. Thing is I enjoyed exercise – the thought of doing it was far worse than the actual sensation, it was this apathy that proved to be my downfall on many occasions.

Having given up on Horses, oweing to never winning anything and deciding that my lack of coordination meant I’d never be as good as I wanted to be, a change was in order. It was a fortunate coincidence that my Father had just taken up Cycling, having suffered an Achilles tendon injury six months earlier. I suspect he was concerned about my size (can’t exactly blame him), to that end it was decided that I should start accompanying him on rides.

At the time I was extremely reluctant, amongst other things the thought of donning lycra and being unable to conceal the extent of my bulk was a great concern. I was expecting a familiar pattern to reoccur, I’d try it once and might enjoy it – keep going for a few months and then find an excuse to stop.

I will always remember the first time I got on a road bike, specifically a 58cm Giant SCR (at least two sizes too large) sporting a triple chainset. Still, at the time it felt light – I’d only ever ridden Mountain Bikes before and as such didn’t know any better. I was slow, very slow – my excess weight made hills truly torturous, just getting to top and being able to carry on and finish the ride was a major challenge.

However, somewhere along the line during that ten mile introduction, I began to enjoy it. The sensation of travelling under your own power coupled the wind in my hair and the sun on my back – this sport was different. Could I finally have found the means to get me off the sofa and away from the doughnuts?

That first summer, I slowly improved. Losing a bit of weight for the first time in years and seeing a gradual increase in speed was very satisfying – progress, slow but still progress nonetheless. I even rode a couple of Sportives with my Father, the first one being down in Devon where I now live most of the time. Sadly I’d not lost enough weight to be-able to cope with the 20% inclines the route encompassed – I will admit to having to walk up the hills, something I have never done since.

It helped that my first foray into the sport coincided with the 2012 Olympics. Like many others the exploits of team GB’s Cyclists inspired me to carry on. All this talk of marginal gains and pushing yourself to the limit made me try something I’d never done before – ride hard deliberately. I almost began to feel like an athlete.

My Christmas present that year was my first proper bike. A Cannondale SuperSix 105, easily the best seasonal gift I had ever received – it made a huge difference to be riding something light and the right size. As I write this, it’s sitting in pride of place, taking up most of the space in my small Uni room. Really I ought to sell it – as a student it’s tricky to justify owning four bikes, sadly I’ll never be-able to bring myself to say goodbye.

Unfortunately, my riding tailed off during the winter. I’ve spoken before of my aversion to indoor training – the wet, cold and dark conditions did little to persuade me to get out the door. However, the interest was still there and the following summer I got on my bike again.

Since then I haven’t really looked back. Of course I’ve gotten faster, lost a large amount of weight (20kg to be precise) and ridden competitively. Yet the basic reason why I chose to ride my bike is the same, I bloody love it.

Cycling has made more of a difference in my life than I ever would have expected. It’s taught me how to push myself, be self disciplined and to go the extra mile to achieve a goal. At times, I can even say no to a doughnut. In fact, the sport has made such an impression that I have completely changed my chosen career path. For years it was the same – “I want to be a scientist, work for a big company and make lots of money”. Luckily, I’ve long since realised that wouldn’t have worked for me. As such, I’ve changed to a different degree – with the ambition of becoming a Cycling Coach or Sports Scientist working with a professional team.

I’ll keep riding for as long as I physically can, the 100+ hour record is a long term goal. I can cope with anything life chooses to throw at me, as long as I can get out on my bike afterwards. Of course there are drawbacks; being tired from training, never managing to save any money and frequent dealings with incompetent drivers just to name a few. Happily – they are easily outweighed by the substantial increase in sanity that Cycling brings.

Just to finish with. If you are a thinking of getting into Cycling, or even if you’re not – give it a try. You never know what good could come of it. Bye all.




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