Ride London is now 15 weeks away (how did that happen?) and there’s no way to sugar coat it – I’ve been putting off getting out on the bike recently. I’ve had a case of “Oooh let’s buy loads of shiny new cycling gear” without actually making it out on the bike wearing it… you might say all the gear and no idea.
There’s a few things that have been holding me back from getting out there, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve overcome most of those fears, and this week I’ve managed to get 90 miles in the tank including my first bike commute to work (lush on the way there, pissed it down on the way home. C’est la vie).
Even though I’ve only been back on my road bike for just over a week, I weirdly feel like I’ve come on leaps and bounds in terms of my confidence and wanted to share a some of the things I’ve done to help me get firmly back in the saddle.
Don’t be afraid to fall
Obviously no one wants to fall off their bike. There’s the obvious point that you could get hurt and then the second point that you might look a bit of a tit in the process, but to be honest as long as you’re physically ok, you’ll get over the probable embarrassment.
I’ve just started using proper cycling shoes – by proper, I mean clip-in cycling shoes when your feet are quite literally clipped to the pedals (SPDs or cleats to give them their real name). I bought my SPDs at the back end of last year and they’ve been tucked away at the back of the wardrobe, being unloved and gathering dust.
Clip-ins are much better than your average trainers for the bike (you can push AND pull, and basically use your leg muscles much more efficiently) and from someone who’s never used these before (and who, let’s face it is a bit clumsy), this has been the biggest thing holding me back because I’ve been so damn scared of not being able to unclip in time when trying to stop and crashing to the ground.
To help me overcome my irrational clip-in shoe/falling off fear, the best thing I did was wear my SPDs to a few spinning classes before I attempted to use them on my road bike. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in terms of confidence building – it helped me get to grips with clipping in and out of the pedals whilst static, and when I headed out on my road bike, it felt like a total breeze. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever used to cycle without them…?
I’ve only had a couple of minor falls in the last week (including accidentally hurling myself in front of a stationary car at some traffic lights when trying to push-off up a hill) but I’m still here to the tell the tale – and those couple of falls have helped me think about my body position and what to do differently next time.
Put yourself out of your comfort zone
My husband is a damn good cyclist, and I always end up heading out on the bike with him so that I don’t have to worry about what to do if I get a flatty/fall off etc. because he’s always there to have my back.
To get my confidence levels up, I made sure that the first couple of rides I did when I started with the SPDs, were solo. I didn’t go far and stayed close to home, but I knew I needed to get out on the bike alone to get used to the whole process of clipping and unclipping without the safety blanket of someone being there – and get used to riding on busy roads alone too.
Skip the car and bike to work
Yeah yeah ok, I’ve only done this once so far thanks to the eternal winter that’s plagued us, but it’s definitely going to be the best way of getting some good practise and easy mileage in, even though it means a horrifically early start. It’s been a bit of mini goal for me to do this during April, as from the beginning of May, I’m pretty much away for six weeks with work, and that is a BIG chunk of time to not be cycling regularly for.
The route to work actually takes in good mix of hills, flats and a hell of a lot of traffic lights so it’s a good’un for all-round cycling practise and making sure I have a basic level of all-round bike fitness.