Broken Bike parts – Roundabout in Brakel, Belgium – Image copyright Cristi Ruhlman
Episode 1: Adventures of a Would-Be Cyclist…..or How I Ended Up Getting a New Bike
How does a calm “fun ride” on a hot humid day turn into a meeting of steel and skin on the road?
Well, I found out yesterday when I rode in our local Fourth of July bike ride. It started off beautifully. My husband rode the first bit with me, until my 25-mile course went one way and his long course the other. We both did what we could to ride together–me trying my best to keep up, him attempting to go slowly enough for me to follow. It was fun–hilly and HOT!!!! But I did it, and was proud of myself for just getting up so early and riding.
All went well as I rode the final miles by myself, until within 500m of finish, suddenly I got crashed by a woman who decided that mid-corner was a good place to just STOP! I didn’t even have time to think WTF. As I was flying in the air, I did have that thought I’ve heard so many riders talk about on TV, the slow motion moment when you think to yourself, “Oh, @#$% This is definitely gonna hurt!”
Now you have to know that I ride a Specialized 29er. The thing is steel framed, a monster, and the wheels must weight 5 pounds each. But now it’s trashed–wheel bent, derailleurs gone. Though maybe it’s a good thing the bike is a tank–it took the worst of it. Fortunately, I came away with just a rainbow of arm bruises and an impressively bloodied knee.
But truly, I should have known better! This was not the Tour de France, no teams here–it’s each rider for themselves out there! Not that anyone was timing the darn thing! So I learned: Keep your eyes open, you never know who is going to do what, when.
Now, I know the woman-whose bike was unharmed-was sorry, she even offered to pay for my bike, which was very kind of her. She asked me later what she should have done differently to have not cause it. I had to stop……and pause the requisite 5 seconds, so I wouldn’t say the first thing that came into my head. I mean seriously, my first thought was, “Hello! Maybe next time it would be good to not stop dead in the intersection!” No, I said something nice (something not completely truthful either), but something polite.
Now rather than dissuade me from riding, it’s pumped my enthusiasm for cycling and riding my bike. Not the crash or the road-rash, of course, nor the fact that it was hard and it was hot, but the excitement of seeing riders ahead of me, of trying to catch up and to pass them. Not to beat them, but to just see if I could just get there. And with my old bike in a few pieces at the bike shop where I left it, I have a new bike in my future. I might just be able to do that catching up and passing a little bit easier now and most definitely in better cycling style.
So now with some more work and a few Kilos lost (both from me and a new lighter bike), I’m going to my set sights to ride the next “local” event. Maybe next time, I’ll even try the 44-mile ride . But my first lesson is learned: “Just like the Tour de France, it’s a jungle out there……even on the charity ride circuit!”
“And the wind will bear my cry,
To all who hope to fly,
Hear my song of courage and ride into the night!
So for now, wave goodbye
Keep your hand held high
Hear this song of courage long into the night”
Manowar – Courage
Theres something about saying ‘200 kilometers’ which causes my gut to flip. We’re going to ride all through the night until our bodies can take no more, then the sun will come up. And we will ride some more.
My teammates lights illuminate me from behind, throwing shadows of pumping calves onto the road. Cadence high, we plough into the night, four strong, towards the half way point tea stop. I drop back and let another take the lead, tucking in behind his back wheel and revelling in the silent vacuum of the draft.
Let me explain. Silence is something I’m not accustomed to. Since age 5, I’ve not left the house without a walkman/discman/MiniDisc/MP3 player and at least one spare set of batteries. The crowd in my head was so loud, the only way was to drown it out. The noise and the craziness in my head led me to some dark places in life, sitting homeless aged 14 with a needle in my vein, tasting oblivion in its rawest form. Even having got clean, it led me down a path of self destruction, over and over. Drugs, drink, sex, gambling, computer games. Over and over, I gathered myself and took a strained step forward, heavy with the guilt and shame of my past. I had to escape – but with each way of escape came a new low.
When, last August, I was looking for a new bike to replace the steel mountain bike I’d run into the ground, little did I know the changes it would bring with it. I was 17 stone 2 pounds, with zero self respect and a tendancy to think about throwing myself in front of buses. Things were not all good. Once again, I made a decision that things should change. And change they did.
I got up off my butt and started taking action. Therapy, a new sponsor in recovery, doing what was recommended for those in my situation. I got a temp job, and I needed to ride to work. Why I went for a road bike I don’t know, but once I’d got it home, I knew I was in love. Clips, cleats, helmets, lycra – this was all new to me. I’d stepped into a big bold new world, full of weird looking middle aged men, and I didn’t care. I’d found something I could enjoy. I rode to work. I rode to AA meetings. I rode to see friends. I rode everywhere I could ride. It wasn’t long before my boyfriend started to see the pounds shed. People commented on how ‘healthy’ I was looking. My legs went from things that sat under my desk to defined slabs of muscle.
Then, I did London to Brighton. The first time I’d ridden more than 15 miles in one go, and I cried in pain. But the pain was good. It was me, my music and the pain, and I kept going until I could go no further. Then I freewheeled the rest of the way into town. Riding in the open, out of the city, became my new favourite thing. I’d book tickets out to Reading, ride to Oxford and back and catch the train home. Then Cambridge, and then Brighton again. All the time, gaining in speed and distance and loving every minute of it.
The facebook group of the Dunwich Dynamo drew me in. It was some months away, it seemed fine to sign up to. I booked coach tickets, and then realised that I’d committed myself to the most physical exertion I’ve ever done. Anticipation, Fear, readiness to prove myself, a desire to succeed, so many emotions spent months going around my head. I was as ready as I would ever be. I was a healthy 12 stone, with quads capable of keeping going no matter what.
Somehow, on the night, I made it to London Fields. I didn’t know anyone and faced a night of lone riding. My fear of failure stirred. My ego is unfaltering in it’s desire to see me fail, to remind me of all the times where I’ve failed in my life. To tell me that I will never achieve anything. It was working full force that evening.
Suddenly, I hear someone call my name. Someone from the facebook group recognised me. The rest of the evening is complicated to explain, but involved a lot of waiting around for people. In the end, 6 of us set out from London Fields at about 9:30pm.
The ride out of London was hectic. Too busy to think, the only focus was on staying alive. When we gathered ourselves, we had lost two. Four rode on. Crossing the M25, we were surrounded by nature. Trees and fields as far as the eye could see. The sun setting, we stopped into a petrol station for a quick release of internal pressure, and we were off again.
I can’t pinpoint when it was, but something clicked and I flipped my headphones down around my neck and revelled in the sound of freewheels buzzing, of cranks pumping, the crackle of tyres on worn asphalt. Peace surrounded me as we rode on, cutting through the wind like a knife through warm butter. Eddies formed in my ears, the cool air an alien feeling, but the cans stayed off.
The simple pleasure of maintaining cadence and following the red lights took the internal noise away.
At some point shortly before Sudbury, we lose two more. Despite looking up and down, we can’t fine them. Two remained for the second half. We silently plough forward into the night.
I came to realise, this isn’t such a big deal. We ham it up, talking in kilometers to make ourselves sound like Gods of the road, to the uninitiated. We scare ourselves into jelly when all we need is the simple pleasure of pressing down with our calves and quads, over and over.
This is not a battle with the clock, or with the bike, or the road. It is a battle with ourselves. It is a battle with our fear. It is not a test of strength, endurance or ‘Rule 5’. It is a test of Courage, a test of resolve.
The Dynamo changed me before I even rode it. But having ridden it? I can laugh at anyone who says ‘you can’t do that’.
I can do anything.
While I ride I raise money for Addaction
You can sponsor me via JustGiving
Good Company by Frank Patterson
What makes 2000 plus cyclists of all levels venture out on to the roads and head out on the ambitious ride between London Fields in Hackney and Dunwich on the Suffolk coast? I’m sure a lot of cyclists asked themselves that same question at one point between Saturday night and Sunday morning which was when the ride took place.
I think to ask that question we need to evaluate the question, why do we cycle? What aspect of it makes us happy? I think one thing we can all agree on is that our agenda for cycling is totally different?
It was my second Dunwich Dynamo, did the first one last year and my experience of that was truly a roller-coaster… This year I decided to do it again, but this time around raising money for the charity Trees for Cities
TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER
As a London cyclist where we’re used to constantly being pushed around, where the majority of motorists complain about cyclists and believe they don’t belong in the city, it was for sure a different picture on Saturday evening as we left the city, a large field of cyclists who adhered to traffic rules and stopped at red lights and kept to the left wherever possible just as it should be. When you are as large as we were motorists know that they can’t bully you, some had even engaged and showed an interest in what we were doing.
JUST LIKE THE TOUR DE FRANCE
As we were rolling out of the city waiting to get past congestion and traffic lights so we could spread and really start pedalling, I couldn’t help making comparisons with the Tour de France which I’m a great fan of and really is the base and were the beginning of my passion for cycling started. I used to get up in the morning with my brother, sit glued to the TV screen and watch the beginning of the gruelling mountain stages, as the riders were rolling up the first mountain they were laughing and chatting – they all knew what a hard day of torture it would be. That was how it was like on Saturday as we were rolling out of London we were joking and catching up but deep inside we knew at one point we would be close to being broken both mentally and physically. When darkness had fallen and you really were in the middle of nowhere and there’s only one way… and that’s forward. When you start fearing, when will I hit the wall and what happens when I do? One unnerving sign is when your cycling partner stops talking to you and all you get back in reply when asking if they are OK is ”Yes”.
Going back to my point about the Tour de France, you really feel like a professional athlete when the local people stand on the streets or peer from their balconies and windows cheering and spurring you on. That gives you the extra 10% that could be crucial at that point even though the comment I heard ”Come on you guys you’re nearly there” can be slightly misleading and optimistic when there is still 40km to go. This year along the route several candles had been put in place along the route, I would like to believe that they had been put there just for us but what a tremendous amount of work that most have been.
THE CONNECTION WITH NATURE
As a kid I remember the majority of things we did as a family were on bikes, and that was only back in the eighties. I recognise that today’s modernised society is beneficial in many ways but I am seriously worried that we’re losing our connections with nature. I still believe as I always have that our beautiful now very fragile planet is best experienced on 2 wheels rather than 4 wheels, of course I know that there are certain trips that it’s necessary to make in a car.
As darkness slowly changed to dawn you cannot even begin to describe the sensations that you experience, but you just don’t have the energy to fully appreciate and absorb the moment. From when you hear the first chirps of the beautiful bird songs, to cycling past elderflower bushes from which there is still flowers to pick, and the blackberry bushes which I’m impatiently waiting to fruit, it all took me back to my childhood to when I used to go out picking with my parents. I can’t help but think that today’s generations of children are seriously missing out if their parents are not doing that with them. I also thought about the charity I’m supporting Trees for Cities, how happy it made me to see the lush greenery and the biodiversity it must be supporting and while my reasons were purely because of environmental concerns I realised it also brings a great deal of happiness, there’s no reason cities should be any different. When we live in a big city like London we can often forget how important tress are to us. In fact they’re vital to our livelihoods they give us Oxygen, they suck out pollution and they also help us deal with floods and heat.
It was the 20th Dunwich Dynamo, a big thanks should go out to the organisers Southwark Cyclists I find it astonishing that they can keep this completely cost-free. Thanks to all the pit stops along the way, to all the brilliant people out supporting the riders. And let us not forget to keep protecting our beautiful countryside so we can continue to cycle in these breathtaking surroundings. At the beginning of the blog I asked why someone would do the Dunwich Dynamo, I hope I have given you an answer, it’s why I did it!
I hope I have encouraged you to donate to my cause, if wish to do so you can here and it would be massively appreciated: www.justgiving.com/DynamicDunwichDynamoDuoTrees
Are you a Velo Sister?
Well if you live in London and are of the female persuasion why the hell not!?
The cyclist and women’s cycling attire designer Anna Glowinski of AnaNichoola has started up a British Cycling affiliated club for like minded ladies. It will be sponsored by the AnaNichoola brand. It’s early days but Anna says she’s currently working on designs for the club strip and if her past and present clothing and accessory ranges are anything to go by then it should be stunning (no pressure Anna). As you may know from previous reviews Nancy and I both ride in AnaNichoola clothing.
So if you are in the general area why not come along for the ride and be part of the club from the starting gun, they’re a relaxed bunch.
The club meets weekly for training rides in Regents Park, London – all abilities are welcome. The rides follow a chain-gang format led by the MuleBar Girls, giving the riders a chance to learn bunch riding skills and after a gentle group warm-up the riders split into groups according to speed. In the fastest group ladies can get in some race training and in the slowest group no member is left behind. In true MuleBar Girl style, there is a social at the pub after each session.
If you are involved with or run a cycling club or team, male/female, any age, discipline or country then please get in touch with Cycling Shorts, we’d love to hear from you. We want to tell our readers worldwide about what you get up to and where and feature it in a new club & team section on the website.
London Velo Sisters
Visit the London Velo Sisters dedicated website for more info.
For more information and to join the London Velo Sisters look us up on Facebook.
Free gloves and discount for members from AnaNichoola and Club jerseys and badges coming soon when you sign up!
When and where:
*every Monday in Summer daylight hours 7-8 pm, Regent’s Park
*Meet at the bandstand by the inner circle
*If you are late find us riding around the inner circle
*Feel free to post any rides you are doing to see if any of the Velo Sisters want to join you
You have heard me mention the lovely folk at Wheels for Wellbeing before in a blog last year. The charity helps people with and without disabilities into cycling, hand cycling and other non-traditional cycling activities. Because of the serious hard work the team and volunteers have put in it’s been shortlisted for the National Lottery top 10 funded sports projects.
We want to try and help them win so we are asking our readers to take one moment of their time and click to vote for WfW. Your vote could win them a £2000 cheque and an appearance on British National TV. You don’t need me to tell you just how useful that sort of money and exposure is for a charity in these hard time. So please take a minute to click and vote, don’t forget to tell your friends to vote to!
For more information on Wheels for Wellbeing please visit their website: www.wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk
To Vote please visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/project/wheels-wellbeing
You may remember our earlier article by Alex Murphy on the Restless Ride that he and a number of howies staff and friends took on the night of the Spring Equinox Across Wales. Here finally is the film featuring author, cyclist and howies fan; Rob Penn.
The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.
The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.