My relationship with a bike has lasted longer than Brangelina’s marriage…
I can’t believe how I’ve been able to stick to my 100 miles a week rule. It’s changing me. Not quite physically yet, although those 15% hills are getting easier, but mentally. I’ve had to replace my brake pads and chain but have only had one puncture since July. Look after your bike and it’ll look after you right?
My Orbea has been with me since October 2011. I bought it on a whim. There was an offer for 0% finance in a Bristol store called Bike UK and I took it. I was actually surprised when it was approved and suddenly I was walking up Whiteladies road, back to my student accommodation, having never ridden a road bike, with one in my hand. I parked it next to my Dawes Duchess and felt terrified. It was a financial commitment, but also a health commitment. I had to get on this machine and turn my legs and start to accomplish those famous cycling routes I had read about.
My father and Mark Cavendish are both responsible. Earlier that year, I had watched the Tour de France for the first time. It was the year of the green jersey for Cav. The competition took my breath away. Once my father had explained the aim of the game; the individuals, the teams, the yellow jersey, polka jersey, sprint contests, king of the mountains, all that stuff and there’s so much more, I realised cycling was for me. I was passionate about this sport. I had watched rugby, football, tennis and cricket, feeling excited for my country, but I’d never felt nervous, anxious and high like I suddenly did for cycling.
The lycra had bemused me initially, now I found myself buying it. After heading out the Wednesday after purchasing my new toy with the university cycling club, in tracksuit bottoms, trainers (what the hell were cleats?) and a hoody I realised I had to up my game. I didn’t think people would turn up in lycra, but of course they did. I’m sure you know was road cyclists are like. It’s a religion. It’s also because going out on a 50-mile trip in the wrong kit is just uncomfortable and unbearable. Once you own a pair of cleats, you realise how inefficient your pedal strokes were. It’s all about making it enjoyable. Struggling to get up a hill and worrying about your bottle slipping out of its cage is terrifying, finding your helmet slipping to the back of your head, not having enough pockets to carry a spare inner tube and pump; these are just a few of the initial problems I faced.
Yesterday, I went out on a 27-mile ride. I can tell how far I’m going to go by how many water bottles I put on my bike. It’s literally a mental thing. If there’s one, it’s going to be a little ride, between 14–18 miles. Two bottles and I mean business. I try and stop a little more on my rides now, not to rest, but just to look and be still, that’s when I took this photo. When I’m by myself I usually just rush around my route, watching my average speed and never really enjoying the scenery. Now that summer days are leaving us behind (and what a summer it has been), I’m trying to appreciate the green countryside before the leaves are completely gone and the landscape is dusted with frost.
I have to realise how lucky I am to have found something that my body and mind enjoys. I’m don’t have a cyclists physique, but if I keep working hard, it’s going to come. When I find myself keeping up with my friends and contesting for a cheeky sprint, I realise that I’m actually quite good. I’m competitive but also don’t mind losing. I actually enjoy losing. It gives me something to aim for. My aim is to become the best cyclist I can be. That’s why I bought that bike 5 years ago. That’s why I’m still cycling 5 years later. My relationship with a bike has lasted longer that Brangelina’s marriage. Yep, I mentioned it and had to make it this post’s title!
Now back to those one hundred miles a week. It’s going to get tough when the days get shorter and it’s bitterly cold, but I’m going to manage. I have to. My time on a bike is not a waste. It inspires me. Keeps me strong and should never fall to the bottom of the to-do list like it has so often over the past five years. It’s my meditation time. My yoga. My drug.
Here’s to many more miles. Thanks for reading. Mary x