Of course I have cycled before – on a mountain bike to and from the shops, and around the park on a Sunday afternoon. I was actually pretty speedy on my Raleigh Pacer when I was seven years old, and aged 15 I could get some serious air on my little brother’s BMX.
But now that I live in London, I’m less familiar with life in the saddle. Cars are, of course, a constant hazard, and I’ve been the victim of bike theft not once but twice in the last few years, so I decided to ditch two wheels in favour of two legs and start running everywhere instead. But now that the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 is looming closer (and may in fact have taken place if you’re reading this after 2nd August), preparation for this event is high on my training agenda.
Firstly, there was the small detail of finding the right bike. I got one from Wiggle UK (wiggle.co.uk). It came in the box like a Christmas present, fun to unwrap and lovely to look at, but it needed some attention from my local bike shop to set the gears, the handlebars and the seat and to check the brakes before I could take it for a spin.
Next was a helmet, and luckily mine was left when those burglars popped by uninvited, so that was one less thing to think about. For the rest, I called into a cycling shop near home, which I discovered was a Mecca for cycling enthusiasts. It was packed with apparel and gadgets, and reminded me a bit of visiting Mamas and Papas when I was pregnant – do you really need so much ‘stuff’?
The answer is ‘yes’, according to the Lycra clad man working there. It was when he told me that I needed bike polish that I became convinced he was chancing his luck. In fact, he listed so many specialist items that I went into panic mode and decided to seek advice elsewhere.
I turned to Phil Bingham, co-founder of VeloVixen (velovixen.com), whom I trusted to advise me on what I really needed. He was brilliant, providing me with a shopping list of kit, letting me know which pieces were essential and which were optional (and which would probably be pointless in my case).
The great thing about the website is that it covers cycling for everyone, from beginners like me to pros, so whether you’re into 100-mile rides, biking in the park, or just popping to a spin class every week, there’s something here for you. Following our chat, I now have an order for shorts, jersey, gilet, arm warmers and socks.
As for the bike, it has taken me a little while to get used to a road racing one, which requires totally different posture to what I’m used to. Leaning forwards and down onto the handlebars unnerved me at first, particularly going downhill!
In addition to my posture, I also have to think about the gears and the pedals. I chose not to go for the clip-in option fearing that I would get stuck and end up falling over rather more than I would like. Instead I fixed some cages to my pedals to keep my feet in position, and they seem to work well.
And of course, I’m still getting used to being saddle sore. I haven’t cycled 100 miles before, my furthest ride being just 50, and I experienced an ache even then, so I dread to think how much cushioning I will crave on the day. I have seen that you can double up on padding with some cycling underpants. Seriously tempted…