I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again – A Collection of Firsts

Hello fellow humans,

It’s been a little while since I’ve given you an update, so I thought I should probably reassure you that I haven’t thrown in the towel, sold the bike and bought the wardrobe* I was after in the first place

*Wardrobe status remains negative – plz send furniture to the following address:
Give Louise’s Clothes A Home
North London
LDN
UK

That should do it.

So what have I been getting up to over the last 2 months?!

Well, Birtie and I have been getting along quite well, we’ve travelled to exotic places such as Potters Bar *ooh*, High Barnet *aah* and Sewardstonebury *is that a real place?* (yes Google it). On a side note how exciting is it reaching the end of the tube line you frequent (shout out to the High Barnet branch of the Northern line)?! Just me? Moving on…

The miles have been building, and I was particularly pleased to recently exceed the 100 mile mark in a week. Now, for any regular cyclist this is no feat I am well aware, and YES I know that’s sort of over 7 times too long compared to what will have to happen on RideLDN day, however it was a satisfying metric to see when I opened Strava ok.

IMG_9476

Cash me doing a century howbowdah

We were hit by a barrage of punctures on one ride (3 on the same wheel of the same bike I think constitutes a barrage), so there has been a rapid increase in mechanical ability (think I’d still have a panic if I punctured on my own, mind). This also led to comments such as ‘I’m over this’, over what? The ride? Puncture repair? Cycling on the whole? All of the above. HOWEVER, we powered through, and upon reaching a cafe serving up delicious and well earned food, the memories of being covered in oil on the side of the road were swiftly (mostly) forgotten.

Brunchpuncture

Left: Puncture no. 1 – photo credz to Anna (do not judge our technique please ok) Right: The sort of food that removes traumatic puncture-related memories and the pain in your legs

Now so far none of this has really addressed the title has it? “What are these firsts?” I hear you cry.

1. Knockdown

This one is not the most positive, but is possibly an unfortunate right of passage for cyclists. After riding through torrential rain to take Birtie for a service at his birthplace Decathlon Surrey Quays (do not get lost in the rain it will make you very sad), I returned a couple of days later to pick him up, happy to be reunited. Unfortunately, about a mile from home I had a little altercation with an unapologetic taxi driver and ended up on the floor. Now this was a very minor crash by most standards, but a little traumatic nonetheless. Thanks goes to the passerby who ran after the taxi, stopped him, and had a go on my behalf. I was a little (a lot) too shaken up to have said anything of worth, so merci. Also cheers to the nice lady who picked me up off the pavement. When things go wrong, and people are horrible, it is nice to have your faith in humanity restored by strangers who are more than happy to help.

Onto the more positive and life affirming firsts…

2. Drink up look sharp

Right this one probably seems ridiculous, but it was something I’d been worried about. When on long rides it’s obviously super important to keep yourself hydrated (and well fed), and you don’t want to have to stop every 10 minutes to achieve this, thus therefore ergo being able to drink from your bottle or ‘bidon’ #cyclelingo on the move is important, especially for a sportive where you’re not stopping at convenient traffic lights all the time! After laps in Regent’s Park I thought I’d have a go as I headed off for work (picking a road with no traffic – safety first), and to much jubilation, I succeeded. I think I did a little fist pump in the air afterwards, then proceeded to cycle down the road repeatedly taking out and replacing my bottle, which to be fair, probably looked pretty strange. If you saw me last Thursday there’s the explanation for my actions.

v8bAj5gK5QuNW.gif

Yeah dis me

3. Everest

Later that day (good to save all achieving for one day isn’t it) it was glorious weather, so I decided to take a longer/convoluted route home to make the most of the sunshine. When I was nearly home I thought maybe, just maybe, this was time to attempt something that had been on my list of achievements to achieve. Swain’s Lane, a name familiar with cyclists and runners alike is a rather hilly hill, sufficiently hilly to be number 27 in the Official 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. Whilst I’d ran (crawled) up it a fair few times, I was yet to make it up by bike, with the last run up dominated by thoughts of the fact this MUST be far too steep for two wheels, and anyone who claims they have must be lying on Strava.

Swainoz

Swain’s – it must be noted I took this on a run last year, not during my first ascent w’bike. Too busy trying not to die to have my phone out.

Anyway, the end of a long and hot day was in my eyes the perfect time to try, as I figured this gave me a plethora of excuses should I need to get off and walk. For anyone unfamiliar with the climb, it’s gradual at first, then gets worse until the steepest section past the gates to Highgate Cemetery at the top. It’s also noting that it (the top section anyway) is one way, so once you’ve started, there’s no turning back. As soon as I turned the corner onto Swain’s my brain immediately told me this was a bad idea, I was not going to make it, but as explained, no turning back. I kept going, the easier section over fairly rapidly, then the corner, my legs were already unhappy by this point and the voice in my head once again saying this was impossible. HOWEVER, somehow, the legs kept turning and I made it to the top, a massive grin on my face and probably as red as a tomato but I had DONE IT. A wise and wonderful friend once told me that your mind gives up long before your body does, and if Swain’s is anything to go by, that’s got to be true. Mental strength and resilience is something I know I need to work on, to quieten that voice of ‘you can’t’ and replace it with ‘you can and you WILL’ – that’s probably the only way I’ll get up the hills in RideLDN…

“…your mind gives up long before your body does…”

So there you have it, firsts firsted, total miles ridden stands at 643.2 miles and another first coming imminently – tune in next time for when I’ve (probably against my better judgement) attached myself to my bike in #CleatGate.

Thx for reading, and as per, if you have a couple of quid in your pocket I’d be eternally grateful if you’d visit my fundraising page and help my efforts to raise 500 big ones for Refuge, because domestic violence is horrible and Refuge are fantastic. Literally however small the donation, I’ll be super thankful!

LP xox


What is RideLondon?

Who am I raising money for?

How did I get into this mess to start with?

Group Riding

So I’d be riding about by myself, getting to work occasionally and in general avoiding being hit by a car, which I considered overall positive.

The next step was apparently to ride in a group, I’d been told this was more fun, was this true? Only one way to find out.

The challenge of finding a group to ride with is definitely finding something that matches your ability level, now even though the bib shorts were giving me delusions of grandeur (see previous post), I was no pro. I am no pro. I will likely not turn pro in the near future. Another factor is that a lot of cycling clubs around want you to become a proper member, complete with fees and an overall feeling of just being a bit serious. This said, nothing wrong with these clubs, just not sure they were right for my current cycling infancy.

I’d been told about a club called Dirty Wknd, which didn’t make you become a member, and ran designated beginners sessions. This, along side the lack of vowels in the second word, appealed, so I thought I’d check it out. There was an upcoming beginners session in Regents Park, and as that was pretty near my house I thought I’d give it a go! (Another bonus, your first ride is free, so nothing to lose)

Now, I’d heard the rumours about the outer circle at RegeyP, I knew cyclists loved it, and a lot of them headed there. As I turned onto it on that Saturday morning, I was suddenly pretty concerned I’d accidentally invaded the Tour de France, as bikes raced round in tight packs. Thoughts:

  • Oh no.
  • This was a bad idea.
  • I do not want to partake in the Tour de France please.
  • Why are they so close together?
  • Need more lycra.
  • Is that Bradley Wiggins?
  • Is it too late to just go home?

Anyway, upon persevering I found the Dirty Wknd guys, and my pro-cyclist-peloton-related worries were soon quelled. As this was a beginners session it started with a little chat about how to ride in a group, what the hand signals people use mean, what to shout instead if you’re a fresher like me who fails at taking your hands off the handlebars etc. We then headed out like animals headed for the ark to do our laps of Regents Park. Thoughts:

  • These people are so nice.
  • This is not the Tour de France.
  • It is nice to have a chat while you’re riding isn’t it.

Following this, I did another Dirty Wknd ride in Richmond Park, which was flipping WINDY. This was also my first real experience of having to climb up a hill, which was a gear-related learning curve. Top tip: Big ring + hill = bad idea. Again, it was great fun! Riding with people means lots of chat to be had, but also for people like me with very little experience, a lot of helpful advice! Like anything, riding with people better than you will in turn help you to get better. By the end of the ride, which at about 24 and a half miles was the furthest I’d ever ridden in one go, I’d figured out how to be in mostly the right gears to climb a hill (thanks to various people’s help) and got a lot of pointers about RideLondon itself from people who had done it before.

Stravacake.jpg

Because as we all know, the natural accompaniment to cycling = cake

Put simply, I got it, I understand why people are riding about in groups. After the above rides I’ve done 2 gloriously sunny and lovely rides with a couple of people I met through Dirty Wknd, one to Epping Forest and one south into Kent/Surrey from Crystal Palace. We’ve already got an idea of where we’re heading next so there will be more to report on!

 

Kent:Surrey:Eppingcompilation.png

Clockwise from top left: Westerham, Surrey; drinks stop at Botley Hill Farmhouse – Warlingham, Surrey; High Beech, Epping; a road most likely in Kent.

Points to summarise:

  • Training actually going OK
  • Actually liking it guys
  • Got tan lines

Final point, the reason I’m doing all this is Refuge (see my Charity Post), if you feel at all able, however small the donation, I’d be super super grateful for any contributions to my fundraising efforts! Thankyouthankyoupleaseandthankyou.

LP x


If you’re looking for a group to ride with and Dirty Wknd sounds interesting…click HERE to find out more. (No I’m unfortunately not on any commission I’m just a fan ok)

 

On(/Off) the Road

Right, now I have a long career* as a cyclist, I thought I’d share some of my extensive experience with you, my dear readers, in the view that it just might be useful**. Probably just an insight into what goes on in my brain, probably mostly unique to me, likely irrelevant to the rest of ya, however, there might be a couple (~1.5) of actually useful points.

*Have owned a bike for 5 weeks

**Probably only if you have less than 5 weeks experience on a road bike/a bike on the roads

10 Personal Reflections From a Month on the Road – From Me to You (Mainly Me)

  1. You will be much colder on a bike than if you were running (is this obvious? Am I an idiot?) – do not underestimate this and dress appropriately, you will only decide erroneously against wearing gloves once.
  2. Road bikes are called road bikes because they function at their best on the road. The well meaning cycle paths of Hampstead Heath will turn into mud and you will end up pushing/carrying your bike across a field in search of tarmac.
  3. The first time you make it the 8.5 miles to work on your bike, you will feel smug as arriving at the office. Do not let the fact you’ve still got to do a full days work then make it all the way home again taint this feeling.
  4. Some car drivers don’t want to give you any room/probably/definitely are trying to hit you yes. Note to self: Be a better driver. Some pedestrians also want to kill you with their haphazard walking out into roads/cycle lanes. Note to self: Be a better pedestrian.
  5. Gears – apparently important. Figuring out how to get out of your ‘big ring’ before you’re half way up an unexpected hill in Richmond Park probably would have been a good idea. Don’t worry – laps mean you can have another go in a more reasonable gear.
  6. Speaking of hills, probably stop trying to beat unassuming men who do not know they are in a race with you up hills. You keep doing this. You are not a good enough cyclist to keep up this hobby but this will not stop you trying.
  7. WIND is the enemy, who knew. The gusts will bring moments of terror, head winds will be draining, and you will spend a lot of time thinking you must have a flat tyre/your brakes must be jammed on to explain why you’re going so slowly. Unfortunately this is just old mother nature causing problems. Does this ever get easier? Remains to be fully elucidated.
  8. You will turn your data off whilst using Google Maps. You will go slightly the wrong way and Google will then refuse to speak to you the whole way home. You will moan a lot about this and how technology is out to get you before you realise this is because…YOU TURNED YOUR DATA OFF.
  9. The moment you realise you are able to take your hands off the handlebars and indicate, yes I said indicate (yeh pretty sick bike skillz I know cash me outside Team Sky) you will be INCREDIBLY pleased with yourself and the cars around you probably will be too.
  10. PADDED SHORTS. YES PADDED SHORTS. Basically get some. Do you want to ride to work on a cushion or not? Yeh I thought so.
    • Side note – For that ‘I am the pro I never dreamed of becoming’ feeling, get BIB SHORTS. You will also feel a bit like a wrestler which is exciting. You will parade around in them in the house a lot, and your housemates will care less about your new shorts than you do.

Thus concludes my brain thoughts for the day. Thanks for reading this waffle, your prize is an unrelated picture of Birtie from when we had the abovementioned trip to Hampstead.

IMG_8376.JPG

My boy hanging out by a massive plant pot.

LP x


Up next: Group Riding

Charity Choices

The story so far in clickbait:

You won’t BELIEVE what this young professional from *insert name of your current town/city* has bought instead of a wardrobe!

Blog 1 – Results Day

Blog 2 – Bike vs. Wardrobe

Part of my reasoning of the fact I’d go through with RideLondon if I got a place, was the thought that I’d raise money for charity. I’ve always had the mindset that if someone’s asking for sponsorship for a challenge, it should indeed be a challenge. Maybe this is me being difficult, but hey, that’s how I see it. On this premise, I felt like this was something I’d feel was acceptable to be asking people for sponsorship for.

With so many great charities out there, it was tricky to pick, but I’ve decided I will be riding for Refuge, a charity that does amazing work both aiming to prevent domestic violence, and working with those who have been affected.

Image result for refuge logo

Last year, I got a black eye. Not to do with domestic violence, no (essentially I walked into the back of my friends head, good one Louise), however, this did really get me thinking. Each morning I was there trying to cover the bruise up with make up, something myself and my friends could laugh about, however it occurred to me that for so many this is not a joke, but an absolutely terrible reality. Women (and men) living in fear, doing all they can to hide the signs of what they’re going through behind closed doors.

Shocking Stats Time:

  1. 1/4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime
  2. 1/9 will be severely physically abused this year
  3. 2 women a week are killed by current or former partners in England and Wales

These are our mothers, our sisters, our friends. Heartbreaking isn’t it.

So I think this situation can be summed up as – NOT OK. As a result, I’d like to make a little difference by raising a little money by doing a little cycle ride.

Sound fair? If you enjoy being asked for money (who doesn’t amirite) then WATCH THIS SPACE a treat is in store. But in seriousness, yes, there will be some sort of online fundraising situation, yes, I will be a bit annoying and potentially clog up your news feed with my pleas (#soznotsoz in advance). This said, anything you can give will a) Make a big difference to the lives of women, men and children suffering in silence UK-wide and b) Make a big difference to my motivation to carry on with this cycling lark, so in advance, THANK YOU.

Thanks for reading,

LP x


What is this Refuge?

For more information on what Refuge is, what they do, and where to get help if you need it, head to their website.


Up next: On(/Off) the Road