The power of the bicycle

January always feels like the longest month in the year, who knows why it feels like this but it is like getting two months for the price of one, deal.  For many people January and February is the start of leaving the old behind and looking to new beginnings, 2019 is a blank page of a novel so make it a good one. For me, I went in to the new year thinking how I would surpass the amazing experiences over last two years as a Primal ambassador.  I have ridden in and been to some great events like Six Day London, completed my 1st triathlon, met some amazing icons in pro-cycling, Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Rafa Majka, Bradley Wiggins, the name dropping goes on, I became Chatteris Cycling Clubs female Captain for 2019 and received the award for the outstanding female ride leader and it’s been great to share my experiences in my blogs and social media. So, what about this year, what challenges await?

I confess that over the autumn and winter months I have crossed over to the “dark side” and have been enjoying every moment of riding off-road. It’s a “its not you, its me” thing.  I will always love riding on the road, putting on my Aqua Helix range of cycling apparel to match by beloved Liv road bike and challenging myself and my fitness as much as I can, but I have started to really get into appreciating the challenges of riding through muddy, twiggy, grassy terrain and finding obstacles along the way to practice my cyclocross handling skills. The appreciation of being able to ride off-road when it has been raining or snowing or when the roads are still icy at ten o’clock in the morning, knowing that if I fall off, I should have a softer landing than tarmac….in most cases, although there are more chances of me falling into a nettle bush and the pleasure pain of the stinging, tingling itch through my Primal Dawn Women’s Bib tights!!  It’s been great to take my Ribble CGR out and turning the ride into a mystery tour, you don’t even have to go very far to get a good ride in. Road riding takes you on an adventure along the straights, with a hill, or a left and right turn, junctions and cross roads; riding along a grassy field you can go left to right, up or down, across, over and under or zig zag your way along a short route and it can be just as tiring riding 14 miles on grass and mud as it can be riding 40 miles on the road.  One of the things I like about being off road is the quietness of it (apart from the sound of my own wheezing).  Riding away from traffic and seeing more of the hidden landscape around me, the hidden gems and the additional freedom all through the simplicity of my bike. To most of us, the bike is a mode of transport to get us from A to B, to exercise and have fun. Anything is possible on a bike and I am fortunate enough to have more than one bike to create my adventures so I am lucky.

One of the issues that I look upon and appreciate more each time I am riding is that in the UK we are fortunate to take advantage of the bike if we have one purely for fitness and fun and that accessing a bike shop on or offline is pretty easy, although through our own choices, can end up being a very indulgent and expensive trip.  We also have the choice to be wasteful with our bikes, leaving them to rust in the elements and not caring for much them.   Having caught up recently with a friend, Alan, who I hadn’t seen since our ‘Tour De France’ adventures in July, he had not long been back on UK soil having spent some time out in Kibera, Kenya.  As retired police officer he now volunteers his time to a charitable organisation called Red Rubber Ball.  Alan, along with 18 other volunteers had travelled to East Africa and spent the day with the Kibera Cycling Club, providing them with 6 new bicycles and putting them through their cycling proficiency.  The Kibera Cycling Club was set up by the Red Rubber Ball charity, partnered with professional and volunteer cyclists of Safari Simbaz Cycling Club within the grounds of the Raila Education Center in the Kibera Slums of Nairobi. The project supported by non-other than David Kinjah; world class cyclist and coach and who had been the coach and mentor who led Chris Froome to professional cycling with Team Sky. Chris had encouraged Kinjah to continue the legacy and set up The Safari Simbaz whose motto is, “Reducing poverty through the power of the bike”.  Between RedRubber Ball and Safari Simbaz Cycling, their aim is to empower and educate those with limited access to secondary education.  The fact that a simple bicycle can provide so much to those who without their help, would likely to turn to crime, gangs and more.

 

Through Alan I had been put in touch with Kinjah and spent lots of time reading about the work of the cycling clubs and reflecting on how this simple mode of transport, the bicycle, can, like music be a universal language.   I am not getting deep and meaningful here but even for the kids and adults here in the UK, the simple skill and advantage of having a bike and being able to ride leisurely, play with friends, get fitter or learn the basic maintenance skills so that they can look after their bikes and make it more of a hobby are literally priceless, relative to the opportunities it leads to.  Which leads me nicely on to one of the up and coming projects by a local organisation where I live, Active Fenland.  I had been approached in the summer by the organisation with the plan to help get local people active and out on their cycles, not just adults and children who can already ride, but those who are sedentary (meaning not very active…I had to explain that part after some comedic confusion with my friends thinking it meant sedimentary). The project is in its very early stages and one I am very keen to help with, not just myself but for with the involvement of my cycling club along with the guidance and skills of our club coach. Its easy to assume that every adult can ride a bike but not everyone can and not just learning to ride but also to help some of the more deprived areas in our community be more active together.  I get very excited by anything that will encourage people to ride a bike and the same goes for our club coach Matt, who through our recent meeting with Active Fenland was even more enthusiastic than me, so I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, taking a leaf out of my book for a change and I am sure I will be silenced more often than I dare think when I take up the next set of his cyclocross coached sessions which will continue in the next few months.

So, I am sure I have answered my own question, what is my next challenge?  Last year it was the triathlon, which I hated so much thanks to a panic attack in the open water and spitting out reeds that I will need to try it again one day, so not to leave my experience on less than positive.  I have my 3rd London Marathon in April, although the hip/psoas muscle is causing some issues that my osteopath is working on, and I can always walk or Jeff it.  Having watched the final Eastern Region Cyclocross race held locally at Milton Country Park I now know what I wish to challenge myself in, taking part in at least one of the 2019 CX races.  It will be hard, no doubt but having seen all levels and ages of rider taking part, the encouragement from the spectator, the cowbells and the popularity of this event makes me feel that I can do it even if I am last.  I don’t always like to sit in my comfort zone and having spoken to a few friends who have challenged themselves by taking part say they love it.  “Yes, it’s a complete lung buster” said one of my CX buddies who is in his first year of Cyclocross but as he is a GP, I am taking that as ‘I won’t die (of embarrassment) stuck, wheezing in sludge right next to the biggest crowd of spectators’ on the course.   I am sure if he says he and his 12-year-old son can do it and see the improvements each week so can I survive my first one.  By the end of the year I hope to be writing about the experience and wondering why I was even worrying.

So it could be quite another busy year, not just setting my goals for the rest of the 2019, taking part in CX racing, riding on the road in a Velo29 event in which Primal are the kit sponsors for the second year (very good choice) or attending Six Day London but helping the community to experience what I and many of my cycling friends feel every time we get out on our bikes, the freedom to be a big kid on two wheels and encouragement to achieve their goals!

Until next time

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