After attending an event called ‘Unleash the Power Within’ by Tony Robbins, I realised I needed to do more to get fit, so I started running. Whilst it was quite enjoyable, it started causing me problems with my knees. I decided to buy a bike—the first one I had owned since I was a teenager—in the hope that I would enjoy this just as much, but without the physical pain.
In order to up my commitment and ensure I embraced my new purchase, I signed up for a local event called ‘The Century Cycle Challenge’, a one hundred-mile bike ride. One hundred miles on the bike is, I believe, the equivalent of running a marathon. It takes twice as long, but uses around the same number of calories, so this was a pretty big commitment for me at this stage. I joined up with a group of guys that I only vaguely knew, and had certainly never cycled with, which was pretty scary in itself, since I was a complete novice. However, doing so provided even more motivation to commit!
I spent the two months I had to prepare for the bike ride gradually building up my cycling, and by the time the Century Cycle Challenge came around, I’d managed two 50-mile bike rides, so I had no idea of what I was letting myself in for. I arrived at the event early on a crisp and frosty May morning to meet my new teammates. It soon became apparent that I was the only person I could see that had a mountain bike. At this point I had spent no more than an hour cycling with anyone else, so it was really a baptism of fire. Did everyone know something I didn’t about mountain bikes? Perhaps my wisely researched purchase was not looking so wise after all. So I started to discuss with newfound cycling enthusiasts, and apparently things like suspension and wider wheels do little for you on the road other than add weight and slow you down. Not exactly what you need when you have 100 miles over the ‘ruts’ of Rutland in front of you.
The camaraderie and euphoria of the day got me through, and I even managed to make it up the final long and steep climb that leads you up to Neville Holt, the home of the finish line. Drinking, eating and celebrating ensued, and as a team we raised over £10,000 for Hope against Cancer. As an event, it has raised over £1m for charity over just a few short years, which is an amazing achievement on the part of its organisers, James Sellicks and Chris Jee.
What I Learned
So I had completed my challenge and got the cycling bug. I subsequently found the right bike for me, but have kept the mountain bike for bike rides with the family. As it happened, I did buy the right bike; the problem was I needed two!
If you think you will mainly be on tracks, with some road cycling, opt for a hybrid bike, but at the road bike end—no suspension and a nice light frame, but with treaded tires. If you want to be mostly on the road with the odd track, I’d look at the ‘Cyclo-Cross’ bikes, which are basically a road bike with fatter tires.
When you are cycling, I would not encourage you to listen to music, as I am not sure that is safe. In my experience however, I get on fine listening to books. Because it is spoken word, you can still hear the traffic, but as with anything, don’t do anything you yourself don’t feel safe and secure doing. Try listening off-road to start with, and if you are comfortable with it at that point, see how you do on some nice quiet roads. If it does work for you, I believe you will become hooked much quicker, as well as keeping your mind stimulated.
And remember, as Mario Andretti once said,
‘If everything is under control, you aren’t going fast enough!’
This is as true about life as it is about cycling.