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I would ride five hundred miles…

…And I would ride five hundred more

Today I hit 1,000 miles cycled for the year. This means I’ve managed to maintain regular rides since January1. Who would have thought it: I’m back on the bike.

Last Christmas I was over 13 stones in weight which pushed me into the ‘overweight’  zone on the BMI calculation. This made me unhappy and was rapidly reducing my potential wardrobe (including my official kit at work). Something had to be done, I thought, and then forgot about it.

Luckily a few days later Strava, an on-line training log I use, sent me one of those automated emails that links to a video of your achievements for the year. I didn’t expect it to be riveting viewing but I was interested to see what my annual mileage for 2014 was. It was zero. I had unintentionally created a Beckettian YouTube piece.

I suppose it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. I’d finished my season early in 2011 (2,634 miles) and 2012 had petered out in April (only 1,338 miles for the year). The new job didn’t sit easily with a regular training and racing schedule. Still, I’d got a few rides in during 2013 (well, 80 miles worth) and I assumed that I’d done the same in 2014. Not so. It looked as if I needed a New Year’s resolution: ride your bike and lose weight. Except I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike. - Fausto Coppi2

Despite this, on the 3rd January I rode my bike for the first time in over 12 months, admittedly only for 13 miles. The roads were icy and it was raining and blowing a hoolie. After that I felt virtuous, tired and a little apprehensive. Luckily they were the worst conditions I’ve had to endure so far or I don’t think I’d have persevered.

The ‘plan’ was to try and ride two days a week and to reduce what I ate. Since then I’ve dropped 34lbs in weight and put 1,009 miles on the clock. I did miss a couple of weeks with a cold but recently I’ve started to add an occasional third ride a week. Now the weather is better I aim to ride 80-100 miles a week3.

I’ve found that the short rides and extra recovery time have allowed me to build fitness gradually. My stamina has improved but my strength is still not good (though being lighter helps on the hills). I’ve enjoyed seeing the progression in my fitness and my Strava friends have encouraged me from a distance. On-line support isn’t as good as the banter of riding in company though. I’m too slow for most group rides but I did treat myself to a day at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit riding with old friends. I didn’t hang on for long, but with a lap of less than a mile I had plenty of company (and there’s a club house with tea and cake).

One thing I didn’t want to go back to was the turbo trainer when the weather was bad. Instead I bought a set of rollers. I’ve used them twice and have only fallen off once, which is not too bad. I do recommend them for comedy effect if nothing else.

I’ve recently bitten the bullet and joined the local Eastbourne Rovers Cycling Club. I’m not fast enough for club rides yet but hope to get there in the next few weeks.

I don’t suppose this new enthusiasm will last – the second part of the year has the potential to be a lot more complicated than the first half – but I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of cycling again, which is good. I enjoy the way it pulls you into the moment and puts everything else on hold (something to do with oxygen debt and present tense risks I think). I hope I manage to keep the wheels turning and the miles ticking over.


1 This distance would not have impressed Tommy Godwin who averaged over 200 miles a day in 1939. Nor would it be significant to Steven Abraham and Kurt Searvogel who are trying to break his annual mileage record this year.

2 Coppi is supposed to have said this when a reporter asked him what it takes to be a great champion. My aim is somewhat lower.

3 This compares to 150-200 miles a week when I was racing earlier in the millennium and 300 miles a week when I was a young rider.