Climber’s cough plagues me. My lungs burn. It is six hours since I raced up Swains Lane in the brilliant Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb race. Regrets? Sure, but only my tactics!
Hosted on my local hill, Swains Lane, a short sharp lung buster I’ve had an on-off relationship with for many a year. I’ve climbed it 94 times in 4 years, a tiny amount considering I think of this as my local hill. Why? Mentally Swains Lane has gotten into my psyche. It is the hill I think about when I talk about hill climbing, the hill I think about when I imagine pain. Lots of pain.
We cyclists lie to ourselves. A lot. Like most of the human race we rely on perception rather than reality. We are our own marketing managers and spin doctors, massaging reality to tell ourselves that all is well in the world. We are not mental. Well, just a little.
Little mind tricks are what keep us pedalling on cold wet rides or slogging through an interval or headwind. They make us better riders or enable us to hold our heads a little higher when we realise that yes actually, we do look a little ridiculous wearing Lycra and hobbling and slipping on our cleats in supermarket aisles whilst searching for cheap energy!
Drum roll please… many years in the making, I finally entered and completed a hill climb race. And yes, I loved it! What kind of animal looks forward to pain, who destroys their body in pursuit of seconds and metres gained? The hill climber. A strange beast.
I’ve always enjoyed hill climbs. There’s nothing quite like the fire in your lungs and legs near the summit of a hill and knowing you’ve still got to push on. A mental challenge as much as physical, only will power and the ability to block pain gets you through the final metres of a climb. Come on!
The pack, the bunch, the group, the bastards. Group riding is both a chore and a delight, your definition determined by the gap between the pace of the pack and your fitness.
- The main field or group of cyclists in a race.
French, literally ‘small ball’
The conversation between head and body when you’ve been cycling too much.
Head to body: I’m up for this, let’s have it!
Body to head: I’m not so sure, I’m a little achy. We cycled three big days back to back this week.
Head: That’s true but I feel great, come on, stop your whining and let’s get out there. Rule 5 yeah?
Body: Rule 5? How old are you? I thought you were the wise one?
The New Forest is an amazing place to cycle. A plethora of tiny lanes, lost to the world. Riding beneath the trees, between horses and ponies and donkeys, green everywhere, a carpet of purple heather, the smell of fern, of pine.
A look up, a quick glance of the sea, sail boats rocking in the Solent. Hills? There’s few to talk of, gentle rises here and there, road surfaces excellent. If I could build a hill free cycling paradise it would look a lot like the New Forest. Only with even more donkeys.
Get off my road, you shout, as if I’m an immigrant ahead of you in the doctors, a leech on your neck. You are vocal yet you are in the minority. Venom for no other reason than I check your progress, your assumed and ill conceived right to the road makes me your enemy, a fly you must swat aside, a lesson you must teach.
Once you’ve scared me, passing so close that I could touch your car with my elbow, I wonder how the kids in the back seat of your car perceive you, I wonder how you react at work when you’re told to do something, or how your partner puts up with you after you’ve had a few beers, or how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror. Proud probably, unfortunately.
Weather calm, legs rested. Ready. Ride London 46, that’s right, 46, awaited. And boy was I excited.
I only heard about this new shorter route of the RideLondon 100 when I was invited twice by different people on the same day. It’s a great idea to reduce the route and encourage new cyclists to get into cycling.
This was a question I’d been asking for a few years. Me, procrastinate much? I’ve been a solo rider for five years now. Riding my bike has always been an escape, a time to forget life’s ills. Cycling has been my meditation.
Yet I’d been thinking about joining a cycling club yet never committing. Why? Firstly, I’m pretty anti-social, not in a throwing beer bottles at police English football hooligan kind of way, I just enjoy my own company, where I’m always right, funny and intelligent! Yet alongside this was also my fears of the unknown and my perception of cycling clubs in the UK being a bit cliquey and snobby.
A warm up ride through the Brecon Beacons seemed like a good idea when sat at my laptop, not so much when sat in the saddle. It’s been a while since I last cycled in Wales, how quickly I’d forgotten the only flat roads in this land are supermarket car parks.