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5 months later

MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
edited March 2011 in Road beginners
Hi all, I'm in a bit of a reflective mood today so I thought I'd have a little write about the past five months and how everything has gone since I started cycling again. No real reason other than for my own amusement but I thought writing it down would help make it clearer in my own head and could also give people a little push if they are considering riding again.

Back in September I decided I wanted to start cycling again. I was permanently attached to a bike when I was a kid but hadn't really cycled since I was in my late teens, I'm 30 now. There were a couple of reasons I wanted to cycle. I have a 19 mile daily commute and driving at rush hour isn't much fun. The cost also seems to be going up all the time. The main reason was down to a crash I had last year. Nothing major but I ended up with whiplash and was in pain for months afterwards. My back still isn't perfect now but it's ok most of the time. I've always kept myself pretty fit, mainly using weights, but while I couldn't exercise I started to put some weight on which I wasn't happy about. Toward the end of my treatment my physio recommended I take up either running, swimming or cycling. Swimming was out straight away. Not a fan at all. I tried running but I've had a weak knee since a sports injury at school so after a few weeks I had to stop.
That left cycling.
When I thought about it I realised it made sense to cycle for a more than just health reasons so I started looking for a new bike. I had to keep my budget very low and I knew I'd end up spending money on accessories too so I ended up with a B'Twin Sport 1. Yes, it's a bottom of the range budget bike and most people wouldn't even consider it a good enough beginner bicycle but I thought it'd be good enough to get me started and if I kept cycling I could always treat myself to something new and keep it as a winter bike. I was very pleased with it when it arrived and even more pleased I kept my bike budget low when I started buying accessories. You don't realise how quickly it's all going to add up. Every time you go to a shop or look online you find another thing you have to buy. I've spent more on accessories and clothes so far than the bike cost me!

After a couple of very short test rides my first proper ride was a shortened version of my commute. I thought I'd never be able to manage the full 19 miles so I decided to ride part way and get a lift for the rest of it. That would be my new commute. 12 miles was still a daunting task, especially as part of it was along a busy A-road. I managed it but it was very hard work. I was tired and sweating like a pig by the time I finished. It felt good to have done it though. Apart from a few scary moments when lorrys or cars were flying past far too close I enjoyed it. My legs didn't though and were complaining the next day. After a few days off the bike I did it again and it felt better this time but I realised along the way that jeans and a t-shirt wasn't the best combination so I started to look at proper cyclist's clothing. The whole lycra thing was never going to happen. No way! So I took the easy route and bought a loose fitting jersey and some tracksuit bottoms. After a few more rides I started to feel more confident on the bike and although I still needed a couple of days between rides I could feel my body getting used to it. My backside didn't like it though and I gave in and bought some cycling shorts to wear under the tracksuit bottoms. The pad made a big difference but there was no way I'd wear them on their own.
After a month of riding my body was handling the 12 mile commute pretty easily so I thought I try the full 19 miles. That extra distance seemed huge but I got there and felt amazing for doing it. This became my new standard commute. I couldn't handle it every day but three days a week was manageable. Some days it seemed like I'd never make it. My body really seemed to struggle on a couple of the hills but as time went on it became easier even though the weather was getting worse.
After a three week Christmas break I was expecting the worst. I'd been a complete pig over Christmas and eaten far too much chocolate and cake. I was feeling fat and very unhealthy. That first commute felt awful but when I checked my time I was quicker than before the break. A couple of days later I was quicker again and even quicker the next day. I couldn't believe it. Then my body realised what I'd been doing and I could hardly move all weekend. A few days off and the stiffness went away but the weather worsened. I got caught out one day and did my first snow commute. It was all about survival. Every turn was a challenge as my bike tried to skid away from me. Visibility was awful but surprisingly I didn't feel the cold. I was more concerned about getting to the other end. I made it safely and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I'd always been a fair weather rider until then and cancelled my ride at the first spot of rain. Not anymore. Since then the only thing that stops me is bad wind. Because my route takes me along the coast it's simply not safe when the wind gets up, especially along the busy roads. I've had a few scary moments where my front wheel has been blown sideways and I've struggled to hold it all together. I actually enjoy the bad weather now. It's very satisfying to strip off at the other end, remove your dirty kit and have a good shower. I'm still not so keen on cleaning the bike afterwards though.
Last month my body seemed to be over the Christmas lull and I felt 100% again. Pretty much every ride has been quicker than the previous one and I'm starting to feel like a proper cyclist now. I can put down the power whenever I need to and even if I go flat out the whole way I still find myself sprinting at the end and feeling fresh when I get off the bike. I'm loving it.

So in 5 months I've gone from being worried about cycling 12 miles to riding my 19 mile commute 4 days per week and having a longer ride on my day off. Usually around 40 miles. My budget bike has stood up to it well although I bought new wheels after hitting a large pothole and buckling the old front rim. The only other problem was snapping a chain after 600 miles. Apart from that it's been brilliant and I don't particularly feel the need to upgrade to anything better at the moment. Clothing wise I've gone from jeans, t-shirt and trainers to bib tights, merino jersey and proper cycling shoes. I swore I'd never wear lycra on it's own but it doesn't bother me now. It feels far more comfortable and it's more practical. When the weather warms up a bit more I'll have no problems wearing shorts and a tighter jersey. My fitness has improved massively since I started and I can feel myself getting stronger with every ride. My girlfriend loves how my legs look too :lol:
I've even joined a club, the Chester Road Club, although I haven't been for a club ride yet.

Cycling was the best thing I could have done. It's given me so much and I love it
Five months ago I was a guy on a bike. Now I'm a cyclist.


  • riggsy81riggsy81 Posts: 281
    I got the Sport 1 as my 1st road bike as didnt want the spend a fortune and to be honest I cannot fault it, obviously for the buget its not going to be top spec but it does the job nicely until I get myself a new one next month...

    glad your enjoying cycling :D
    I̶m̶ ̶t̶i̶r̶e̶d̶
    I̶t̶s̶ ̶r̶a̶i̶n̶i̶n̶g̶
    I̶t̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶ ̶l̶a̶t̶e̶
    JUST RIDE!!!
  • rc856rc856 Posts: 1,144
    Nice write up.
    Made me smile :)
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    Nice write up. Quite amusing reading about you transition from jeans to full lycra. Glad to see that you don't let bad weather stop you.

    You mentioned your commute is along the coast. Chester to N Wales by any chance? I used to commute into N Wales when I lived near Chester. Are you making use of the sus trans cycle way? That would keep you off the busy roads for a bit.
  • MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
    Not far from Chester and going to Holywell. At first I didn't know about the cycle paths but I gradually found them. The best part was finding the path which means you can avoid the A548. I used to hate that road. I usually use the paths now but sometimes use the roads for a change. I wish there was one to miss the road through Oakenholt and Flint. I hate that road. I've reported a few of the potholes and they've been filled but it's still not much fun.
  • crazy88crazy88 Posts: 560
    Cracking write up mate!!! I started cycling daily when I moved house last summer. It's only 3 miles each way, but it's literally all downhill going, and uphill on the way home, so I get a decent workout on the way home.

    I'm just in the process of building up my new bike. I had bought a Maruishi (random japanese bike) from a mate which pretty much fell apart after the 6-7 months i've been cycling. My new one is a genesis day 2, and i'm putting Tiagra drivetrain on it. I can't wait to get back on a road bike as my mtb is fun for off road, but just slow.

    I haven't managed to get the courage for lycra yet, i'm strictly a baggies man which causes funny looks from other road riders sometimes :)

    I really found the commute hard at first, the hassle of getting the bike out, the pain, the weather etc. Now I hate it when i have to get the bus though. I too only stop for wind. I live rather high and the wind is really dangerous sometimes. I enjoy the rain riding though, makes it more fun.

    On a side note, do you wear a buff? It's the one piece of winter clothing i'd recommend most, they're amazing. Here's the one I have....

    Thanks again for the write up, it was good to read.
    Out with the old, in with the new here.
  • MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
    I tried a buff but found I became too hot very quickly. I had to take it off after 10 minutes each time so I stopped after that. The cold mornings were a real test though. Those first few minutes of breathing in freezing cold air certainly woke me up! I found that shorts, leg warmers (finally bought bib tights to save time getting dressed) a merino wool jersey and softshell were enough to keep my body warm and once I got going I'd get used to breathing in cold air.
    The morning routine used to be a hassle but I enjoy it now and the ride sets me up for the day. The mental benefits are huge.
  • crazy88crazy88 Posts: 560
    Yeah the ride in the morning is a nice wake up. My ride to work is 3 miles all downhill as mentioned, so I don't even break a sweat going, hence why I get on with the buff. If it's very cold on the way home i'll wear it around my neck, but over my face and I get too hot too.

    How long does the commute take you now then, and how long was the car journey? For me, it's faster to cycle even at 6.30 as the bus stops so often. Coming home is about 10 minutes longer than the bus, assuming we were both to start at the same time, but there's rarely a bus so i'd say it was almost just as fast to cycle, and so much more pleasant.
    Out with the old, in with the new here.
  • MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
    Oh yeah, one funny thing I forgot to mention. At first I found my appetite went crazy. I was always really hungry so I decided it was because I wasn't loading up properly. Before and after every ride I started to shove as many cereal bars down my throat as I could. After a couple of weeks I realised I'd gained half a stone :lol:
    My commute rides are around an hour after I eat anyway so now I just eat normally or I'll have a snack along the way if I go for a longer ride and I've found I'm slowly getting leaner.
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 10,152
    Well written. 19miles in an hour is pretty good going. Well done and keep it up.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
    crazy88 wrote:
    How long does the commute take you now then, and how long was the car journey? For me, it's faster to cycle even at 6.30 as the bus stops so often. Coming home is about 10 minutes longer than the bus, assuming we were both to start at the same time, but there's rarely a bus so i'd say it was almost just as fast to cycle, and so much more pleasant.

    The 12 ride would take 55 minutes at first but now I'm managing the 19 miles in 1 hour 5 minutes most of the time but getting quicker every week. By car it's half an hour but I always feel much better after riding so the extra time is well worth it.
  • Great post - your last line sums it up for me "Five months ago I was a guy on a bike. Now I'm a cyclist." I'd been cycling to work (only about 5 miles) for a while, but started putting in bigger miles at the weekends on a road bike. I live in Sheffield, so my playground is the Peak District, so I'm very lucky. I used to see cyclists going up the hills and think that they were crazy nutters who couldn't possibly derive any pleasure from what they were doing. I am now one of those nutters, and find it impossible to go up/down any hill anywhere without wondering what it would be like on the bike.
  • twotyredtwotyred Posts: 822
    Small world. I used to commute from Saughall to Mostyn. The sus trans cycleway does make getting to Connahs Quay a lot safer/pleasanter than the A548. Oakenholt/Flint isn't bad really. Just to get some hills in on the way back I used to sometimes go up the hill from Greenfield through Holywell to Brynford and back to Chester via Mold and Saltney crossing back over the Dee using the footbridge at ferry road. You're fortunate having N Wales on your doorstep as there's some great riding there. Cheshire's good for flat stuff as well.
  • Well done mate, good write up. Keep at it :D
    "That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college! " - Homer
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