Last time around I wrote about how the one upside to the lockdown around here has been quiet and safer roads to cycle on, which has given me hundreds of miles on the bike in the last few months, the most I have had in years outside races.
One thing I noticed about riding verses running is there is a lot more thinking time, mainly as cycling has different physical tolls on your body (although not necessarily on those hills!) but also something about being sat up and looking around means I seem to experience more of the scenery, and the extra range has allowed me to see plenty of new parts of my county.
For some reason during one of my rides, my mind started flashing back to my own bike history, which I realised could be broken down fairly well into decades, showing my age a bit as well:
The Eighties – BMX Bandits
I got my first bike (that I can recall) at about the age of 6 or 7: a red Raleigh BMX. Sadly the one in the picture (Raleigh Night Burner) was not mine, but it did have the same sort of padding padding in the top tube so was close enough, although this one is missing the spokey-dokeys that used to come free with breakfast cereals! I still remember the day I graduated from stabalisers at our top riding spot at the Seven Sisters near Eastbourne, although the main problem was this made me much slower than my younger sister who could now out-pedal me on her smaller (pink) bike – We were definitely the coolest kids around!
The Nineties – Off-Road Riding
My next decade brought a different ride, something better equipped to deal with the more rugged conditions around our farm: a mountain bike. This was another big deal, not just as it was a great Christmas surprise, but gave a bit of extra freedom as we lived fairly rurally and meant we could ride through the fields and gravel paths (again the below picture is not me, but it was something like this!) Despite the space I never really got into riding anywhere further, in fact I am not sure I ever took it on a road, but I still have good memories of flying over grassy mounds in the fields.
The Noughties – Indoor Riding
This was the only decade of my life where I didn’t own a bike at all, having spent most of my time either at uni (where I was in constant fear of being robbed) or finally owning a car (and therefore dismissing all two wheel modes of transport for the next few years)!
Having started driving, I did at least take the decision to improve my fitness and got around to joining a gym, which introduced me to the likes of Concept 2 and TechnoGym equipment, including of course their stationary bikes. The quality varied massively depending where you were training, ranging from fairly basic LED displays and foot cages in the cheap hotel gyms I frequented, rising to all-singing jobs with built in touchscreen TVs and proper clip-in pedals at the top end health clubs (even underwater bikes in one place I wrote about here). But by the end of the decade I was starting to want a bit more, which finally managed to get me back outside and into the wild.
The Early Teens – Triathlons on a Mountain Bike…?
After completing my first triathlon relay in 2010 I decided to go all out and enter a triathlon the following year. Realising a bike would be a fairly crucial bit of kit for the job I swiftly signed up for my company’s Cycle 2 Work scheme, and was equally swiftly talked into getting a Carrera Fury by the teenager working at Halfords, which as it turned out was totally inappropriate for what I had in mind.
Most beginner triathlon guides make some mention of ‘any bike will do’, but believe me there are few things more dispiriting than crawling around a circular route at tractor pace on a knobbly tired tank and being overtaken by people twice your size. Yes, it might have had slightly less risk of a puncture, and yes I could take it off road if needed – but 10 years later neither have happened!
That said, it got me around the course in the end, and to that matter through my next few years of triathlons up to Olympic Distance, and did teach me a lot of valuable skills, the most important of which was riding with clip-in shoes, something I now cannot imagine going without.
I do have to own up to one last crime, as convinced by magazines it would save me time, I ended up buying a set of tribars for the Fury. For the uninitiated these are the extensions that go in front of your handlebars that let you lean forward and ride in a streamlined position, a must if you are on an indoor track, but about as useful as go faster stripes in my case, although I do still think they looked kind of cool before I took them off!
The Late Teens – Finally a Road Bike
The cracking point came when I started looking into longer races, my 90 km Avenger, or worse the 100 mile Velo, would be unthinkable to me on an off-road bike, so I returned to the scene of my former crime for a more suitable option – a Carrera Velos road bike. How much of the choice was down the the black and yellow colour scheme I can only guess, but it has served me well since, through over 1000 miles of training and racing.
So after nearly 40 years of riding I am finally happy with my ride, although who knows where the next decade will take me – maybe I will finally venture off that road and onto the mountain paths, the velodrome, or who knows where. Following the lockdown one thing I am hoping is to be able to ride at least part of the way into work, so hopefully those promised lands of dedicated cycle lanes will finally materialise in Birmingham, and maybe the next one will turn out to be something like a Brompton. Whatever happens there should be plenty to look forward to!