Happy International Women’s Day!
A year on, I’m looking back and I can see that that particular ride marked a pivotal point for me in my cycling journey.
I haven’t had an opportunity to get involved with IWD events this year, so I wanted to take this opportunity to look at the progress I’ve made over the past year instead.
The 80-mile ride to Oxford was at that time, the biggest journey I’d yet made by bike. In fact, before then the longest day ride I’d managed was out to Clevedon and back, which totalled around 42 miles. This was a huge jump for me.
It was all a bit haphazard, and I’m smiling to myself as I read back on my experience, and how I was feeling at the time. I was new to riding with STI shifters, I wasn’t clipped in, I was riding a CX bike without the efficient gearing, and I was loaded down with two huge Vaude panniers, causing me to drop my bike twice that day.
The Adventure Syndicate
Although I knew who they were beforehand, the Adventure Syndicate had at that point seemed like a very distant thing that I could only read about on the internet, and I hadn’t given a huge amount of thought to getting involved.
I also didn’t really feel like a key part of their demographic. These are some amazing women, doing some epic riding, and inspiring other women all over the world. I was a fat lump with a bike I wasn’t used to, attempting to ride the furthest I’d ever gone, and feeling like I wasn’t going to make it.
Watching the premiere of their NC500 film at the festival was awe-inspiring, as was meeting Emily Chappell at the end of it. It drove me to sign up for a weekend of riding with them in the Yorkshire Dales, a couple of months later.
If you’ve not read about that experience, it’s one I recommend. It was actually a very difficult post to write, because it stirred so many emotions. That rollercoaster of a weekend taught me a really valuable lesson: the ride is definitely in the mind.
It also left me feeling like I was exactly the right demographic after all. I learned I was capable of so much more than I thought I was.
Reading back on that first ride to Oxford, I was still terrified of descending on road, which is quite charming to me now. I do still get a bit tense on particularly hairy descents, but the roads to Oxford were really nothing to worry about. I’ve now done much worse.
In terms of mileage, I’ve come a long way as well!
- I started clipping in and taking myself out on solo rides
- I rode to Oxford a second time
- I set out to ride a Century, and ended up doing a spontaneous 200k
- I did my first two-day ride, camping in the New Forest, and riding to Steyning.
Getting back off-road
While catching up with her, I found myself promising to get back into mountain biking, even though at the time I was way too scared to actually do it.
It took me until December to try again, but I finally did, and I’ve since become obsessed. In just a few months I’ve been mountain biking in the snow, I’ve been to Bike Park Wales and the Forest of Dean, and am even clipping in off-road now.
Upgrading the tools
As much as I loved Regina the Orange, she really wasn’t the right bike for the riding I was doing. After two long rides to Oxford, Adam persuaded me to look into a steel touring bike.
Along came Dori, the Dawes Galaxy Plus. She’s exactly what I needed for those longer rides, and has also become my everyday commuter.
She was actually pivotal in getting me back on the trails, funnily enough, when I was riding her through Ashton Court one day and spontaneously took her on the Nova Trail.
I also rode Dori in my first ever Sportive, which I sadly never wrote about. Despite being super comfortable and having a lovely low gear, she was far too heavy to keep up with my carbon-mounted roadie companions. That was the day I realised that I needed a road bike. So that’s how I met Edie, the Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20.
I finally ended up saying a fond farewell to Regina when I traded her in for Phoebe, the Cotic BFe. She’s now my favourite toy, and I intend to have a lot more fun with her this year.
I’ve come incredibly far in a year, I think.
I’m a much more confident and competent cyclist. I’ve come up against some big obstacles and found my way over them, whether it’s learning to trust my bike to get me through the roughest terrain, or conquering my nemesis, Harptree Hill.
I’ve also ridden with some incredible people, who continue to inspire me all the time. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by like-minded (bike-minded) folk, who can tolerate my company enough to go on two-wheeled adventures in all kinds of weather, all year round.
I’m going to leave you with some more awesome memories of the past year, and I look forward to sharing many more to come!