I decided late last year that I was going to become a cyclist. You know, one of those ‘snazzy looking’ riders donned in lycra and professional cycling shoes? I would say that this personal quest was ‘a little’ (well a lot) out of my comfort zone. It has been quite an emotional and physical experience. This journey has been about ‘feeling the fear’ and ‘just doing it anyway’. The benefits have far exceeded my expectations.
I serendipitously stumbled across a cycling book in the local op shop – handed over my $2 – and went home enthusiastically to read about what I might need to consider to get started. Nicole Cook is a retired cyclist and Olympic Gold Medallist representing Great Britain. Her book ‘Cycle for Life’ was a great read and I quickly realised that there was quite a lot to learn in becoming an amateur cyclist. It felt a little daunting.
I decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and pop into my local bike shop Urban Pedaler to have a look around. I was greeted by the owner Gabe Sullens who was overwhelmingly knowledgeable and passionate about bikes. He spent a lot of time with me going through the difference between road, mountain and hybrid bikes and the pros and cons of aluminium and carbon fibre frames. We agreed that I would go back during the week for a comprehensive ‘bike fitting’ and to spend more time with him to learn about bikes and cycling preferences. Gabe was brilliant and gave me the ultimate retail experience which I admired and appreciated from the get-go. He earned my full confidence.
A ‘bike fitting’ ensures that the bike and equipment fits the rider. It is a comprehensive process that takes into consideration a riders’ abilities and limitations including: flexibility, range of motion, injuries and comfort levels. It is different to the standard ‘bike sizing’ that you generally receive in a bike shop for free which typically checks for seat height and reach to the handlebar to achieve a ‘near optimum’ performance.
The first step was taken!
After the ‘bike fitting’ I trialled many bikes out on the road to see what I liked the best. For me it was ultimately about quality, comfort and confidence. We landed on the Cannondale Supersix EVO Ultegra road bike. I fell in love with my new piece of machinery and just thought it was the most beautiful looking thing. I loved it so much that I kept it inside for a while (secretly on display) before moving it into the shed.
The Cannondale Bicycle Corporation specialise in beautiful and highly respected aluminium and carbon fibre road, mountain, hybrid and children’s bikes. They have an enviable reputation for innovation in the industry, utilising game changing technologies. Cannondale have won numerous design awards.
Gabe looked at me and said…’So this beautiful looking bike needs to make sure that the rider is also looking, feeling and performing at her very best…’. So I said to him…’Is this the lycra moment?’. He laughed and said to me with a rather cheeky grin…..’Well if you start looking around you will notice that the most serious riders will match their cycling outfits to the colour scheme of their bike’. And then he said with a firm voice…’ Silvia, if you are going to invest in a nice bike it is very important that you look the part and feel comfortable and confident on the road’. He gave me the nudge that I needed to take that second step.
I went shopping to ‘kit myself out’. I purchased a helmet, lycra shorts with a padded insert (very important), jersey with reach pockets and a full-length zip (so you can make adjustments, depending on how much air you need to cool down), gloves, matching water bottles, clip-in shoes, odometer, bike pump and an emergency kit for flat tyres. Wowsers.
I was officially ready!
My husband Matt encouraged me to head out to the local velodrome and my ‘Type A’ personality kicked into gear as I started dreaming about all those professional cyclists who compete in races such as the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France across the globe as I zoomed around the beautiful track.
One day I got home from a practice ride and my children saw me all dressed up in ‘my gear’ for the first time. My daughter Chloe said to me…‘Oh wow mum – are you going to become a professional Olympian cyclist?!’. Don’t you just love the innocence of young children? So, I confidently replied…’You can become anything you want in your life – if you focus and work hard enough – you can do anything and I will back you 100%…including becoming an olympian if that’s what you want to do!’.
At this point I was feeling quite proud of myself. Then, I hit a ‘bit of a snag’ with my clip-in riding shoes which I was learning how to use.
Getting used to riding in these beautiful shoes proved difficult for me. I felt psychologically trapped in them, was scared to clip ‘in and out’ and was worried that I would fall and hurt myself. I practiced at home, used lots of positive self talk and then drove to the velodrome to give it a go. It was a disaster. I worked up all the courage I could muster, jumped on my bike and fell immediately on the concrete with my clip-in shoes locked in to the bike grazing my legs and arms. I hobbled home with blood dripping down both legs feeling very sorry for myself and completely frustrated. My confidence was knocked and I felt that I had failed.
It would take me a month to get back on my bike after that. I was frightened and determined all at the same time. I decided that I was not going to give up. I had come too far to have this bike sit in the shed collecting dust.
So, I took myself and my beautiful bike off to see Gabe who put me on the stationary trainer to give me some tips and tricks so I could get back on my bike with confidence wearing my clip-in shoes. It worked a treat and after practicing further at our local footy field on soft grass (sweating with nervous energy!) I hit the velodrome successfully and just nailed it. It was such a majestic feeling as I rode around full of power, speed and confidence. I felt free and strong. I had discovered a newfound inner strength, conquered a personal quest and was on the road to becoming the best cyclist I could be.
I have been riding now for a few solid months toggling between the beach, velodrome, forest tracks and family bike rides. I am starting to notice the benefits. The fresh air and feeling closer to nature clears my mind and lifts my mood. Cycling has strengthened my whole body through increased core, leg and muscle strength. My cardiovascular fitness has dramatically improved and I am slowly increasing my power and distance. We have been on many family bike rides. I am meeting people in my community who also enjoy cycling. I will join my local cycling group for bike rides on a weekday (very early rise!) and weekends as soon as I get a little better and faster.
I have a very keen eye on the Around the Bay in a Day bike ride. The one day in the year where Melbourne unites to celebrate cycling. This year it is on Sunday 7th October. There are rides starting from 20kms right through to 300kms. The 300km leg is capped at 300 riders and covers the entire coastline of Port Phillip Bay including a climb up the infamous Arthurs Seat.
There is something to be said about ‘feeling the fear’ and ‘just doing it anyway’. Who knows where it will take you?
Until next time.