Like most people, I began cycling as a child. My most vivid memory of cycling at this time was riding in a figure-of-eight repeatedly on my front drive. I also remember going on family cycles when we went on holiday, whizzing around with my parents and annoying security guards with tales of my adventures.
What I don’t remember was the burning sensation going up a hill or the out-of-breath moments when you’ve given everything you have on a straight and then some.
So when I decided to take up cycling again, at about the age of 16, I was in for a shock…
I went out with my dad around the local area, thinking my fitness would be fine. I remember thinking, I should wear something to keep cool, and something that would let in a lot of air. I borrowed one of my dad’s XL t-shirts and donned my large basketball shorts and headed out with my dad. Cranking up the hills on my red KHS homemade hybrid with my dad on his Colnago road bike, I realised I made a huge error.
I don’t know how long we had been out for, but I remember not wanting to go out again anytime soon.
Aged 18 I decided to give it a second go, same bike, different clothes; this time I wore leggings and a sports top. I huffed and puffed up one of the local hills, and had to stop halfway up, only to be passed by a jogger. My dad cried out, 'I’m teaching her how to ride a bike properly!' and left my humiliation at that.
But it felt so good… To be out in the fresh air and to rush down the hills after struggling upwards… I wanted to do more, and I wanted to get better.
At that time, I made a bargain with my mom. If I helped my dad lose some weight she would help me fund my first bike. I persevered for about 5 month and got my first road bike – a white Avanti Sora road bike.
I used my bike to commute to and from college (a 24km round trip) and then got my dad to cycle with me on weekends. I was soon able to keep up with him and we went on many adventures. I even tried joining cycling groups in my area, but they told me that, as a woman, I wouldn’t be strong enough to ride with them. Unfortunately, this stunted my progress.
Then I moved to Manchester and virtually stopped cycling.
After university I got my job here at Wiggle and vowed to myself that I would get back into cycling so that when I travelled back to see my parents, I could continue to cycle with my dad.
I spent my first six months here not doing a lot of cycling, in fear of the local Portsdown Hill and saving up for my next bike.
Then I met a boy and he brought back my love of cycling. We went out on adventures and I was sad to realise I had lost all my fitness. My baptism of fire truly came on the 10th of February 2018. We cycled 70km in the rain and ice, slowly freezing, and with no food. What a mistake! I went home crying and sniffing, knowing the next week would be integral to whether I rode ever again… Or not.
I decided I didn’t want to let my fear of failure win, so I regrouped and strategized – I would now face my fear head on and do hill reps, but this time, I would do my rides alone. Although avidly against Strava, I decided to map my rides in order to see my progress hoping it would provide the necessary boost of confidence. I also managed to scrape up enough money to buy my second bike, a Vitus Venon CRX Disc Road Bike - Ultegra (my now most trusted best friend). This, along with my resolution to join my boyfriend and friends for casual cycles, gave me all I needed to progress.
Sports don’t come naturally to me. In the past, I’ve always relied on my talents to achieve goals. I’ve worked hard at cycling to become better and faster, both on my own and with my friends and colleagues. Within the last 5 months, I’ve completed my first ever century in kilometres and my first sportive, as well as zoomed passed the cycling groups that rejected me (and I had flat pedals beating them!). Although I still have a lot of work to do, these achievements for me are far greater and more important because I have put in 110% of my effort.
Most of my cycling friends are women, and I’ve taken most of my encouragement from women. It is inspiring when I see women across all disciplines of sport achieving their goals (and no goal is insignificant either) as it reinforces in my mind that I can achieve mine too.