Since my last entry about Paris Roubaix back in April, I haven’t had the best of times really. Illness has hit me pretty bad, and in all honesty I’m fed up of talking and worrying about it.
So I’m going to write about something different today, something light-hearted and that brings me back to the joys of cycling and what it’s all about! So I’ve made a quick an A-Z of some of the things I love about riding my bike and everything (precursor – mostly food) that comes with it.
A – Accessibility. One of the best things is that there are very few barriers to getting on the bike. All ages, genders, abilities – you name it. I will admit that being overtaken by an E-bike up a hill is one of the most annoying things in the world, but hey, at least everyone is out and about on two wheels.
B – British Summer. Despite what you might think, a UK Summer can be pretty blissful. Don’t get me wrong, it will still rain for 50% of the time (our Nationals a testament to this), but at 17 – 25 oC, cruising round beautiful hills and countryside lanes, it’s almost worth putting up with the other 9 months of the year that are *expletive*.
C – Café stop / chocolate brownie / cake / croissant / coffee. Feel free to add any additional snack or drink of choice to this wonderful list. Possibly the most lucrative attraction to the sport are the universally-recognised fuelling strategies adopted by all on the group ride café stop.
D – Disc brakes. Besides not having to change brake pads every 2 minutes, when you’re descending a 25% gradient in the North Yorkshire Moors in the pouring rain, it’s nice to actually make it down the hill on bike not bum. I would also like to add Di2 as a late entry to this section because, well, it’s just so much better than mechanical isn’t it.
E – EATING. More riding = more eating. Self-explanatory. Well, to a degree – in all seriousness, fuelling correctly before, during and post riding has a huge impact on your performance and health so it is really important!!
F – Friends and family. Where would any of us be without our support team? The tireless, loving work that goes on to get us to where we are now. It’s also so important in making friends, for those of us that are a bit weird. Cycling unites us – rumour has it even siblings have been known to get on when going for a ride together (?!)
G – Group rides. Linking in to the above are the joys of going out for a ride with a group of mates. It can get lonely doing it all on your own sometimes, so a bit of a laugh and a wheel to sit on is worth the extra 10 minutes of waiting for ‘the late one’ to turn up.
H – Hills. Walking is slow; ride a bike. The views can be pretty awesome from up high, you get that panoramic view of looking down on the places you’ve been and where you’re going next. Plus, what goes up must go down!
I – Introvert. I am not 100% introverted, but enjoy time by myself amongst my own thoughts. Cycling offers that way to escape, that feeling of peace, freedom, and being alone in your own little world for a little bit.
J – Jelly-legs. Isn’t it satisfying coming back from a ride and just collapsing on the couch after a tough day in the saddle? Knowing you’ve worked hard, deserve the rest and that bacon for lunch, even if you won’t be able to walk up the stairs the next day.
K – Kit. I don’t care if the general public think we all just look like a bunch of idiots in lycra. I think we look pretty cool. And might I add that I get to wear some very awesome kit myself, possibly the best in the peloton… ?
L – Learning. As well as the physical changes that happen (eg. increase in endurance) as you get older, there’s a reason some of the riders in their 30s are at the top of the game – because they have experience. It takes time and patience to gain the knowledge of the racing, your body, tactics, teamwork etc. There is such a huge amount to learn, and I am at the start of that journey! Often it’s the things you can’t teach that are the most important.
M – Mechanics and masseurs. The behind-the-scenes magic that happens at the races, that is rarely seen or appreciated. An enormous amount of work goes on to get us riders ready for each day of racing, so a little shoutout to all the parts that come together to make it a team.
N – Nap. A long ride is a good excuse for a little doze off in the afternoon. Guised under the concept of fatigue, really, it is the avoidance of doing household chores…
O – Offroad. Road is not the only way to go! MTB, Cyclo-cross, gravel / Yorkshire lanes, Track, BMX… they all offer lots of choice if you want a different kind of riding, especially away from traffic.
P – Pictures. Taking the memories home of the places you’ve been and the people you’ve seen. Always nice to look back on and remember the good rides. And the bad.
Q – Going quick. There’s something about going fast that emotes the feelings of freedom and fearlessness. It’s somewhere in us all.
R – Racing. The big stage races are back in full swing. Pretty crazy to think I’ll be doing some of them this year, rather than being the little girl running around the riders’ buses at the end asking for bottles or numbers as souvenirs…
S – Sign Sprints. If you haven’t raced each other for every ‘30’ village sign you get to on the ride and kept tally of the score, I’m sorry, but you haven’t lived.
T – Team / teammates. I feel very lucky to be on EF-Education – TIBCO – SVB. It’s such a great team. Lots of love for my teamies 🙂
U – Unpotholed roads. A smooth road is a rare find for the UK, so we have to make the most of it when we find one. An obligatory picture of any newly laid tarmac MUST be posted in the group chat immediately, to let all other riders know the great news.
V – Vitamin D. Get that sunshineeeeeeeeee.
W – Worldwide. I have met so many people and learnt so much about different countries already this year. It’s so nice to be in a sport that is so loved all across the world.
X – The eXtremes. Ok go with me on this one – I’m talking about the worst rides you have ever been on: The freezing snow storm, double puncture, no one to come and pick you up, 6 hour, solo, café closed, snapped gear cable, sit down and cry on the verge kind of ride, that somehow, you have survived and made it home, just about, in one very broken piece. Because you are a hero. You have made it home to tell the tale and bask in your victory against the odds. But you will not set foot outside again for a week from the trauma, and you will never, ever, do that again. Until the next time you do it again.
Y – Yorkshire Tea. Please sponsor me.
Z – Zeal. Cycling brings such joy, excitement and purpose into our lives. It’s true that there are many downs and many times when things are not going right. But what would our world without cycling be?!
(A: Less expensive.)
Up now for me is the Commonwealth Games!! I really hope to be illness-free by then, but only time will tell. Check out my Instagram page here to see how I am getting on.
Thanks for reading!
Photos: Getty Images, Twila Federica Muzzi (@twilcha), Abi Smith (@abijesmith)