Pedalling through the barriers to cycling
Being somewhat of a scaredy cat, and living on a rather off-putting 'Big Hill', I admit to being a lapsed cyclist. Living only a short walk (downhill!) to my local town, not possessing a cycle carrier for our car, and residing around 25 miles (along a very busy ‘A’ road) from my place of work, are just some of the excuses I've trotted out to preserve the status quo.
That was until one of my colleagues, the irrepressible Sarah Walker, announced CTC were working with Hampshire County Council and MyJourney Hampshire to give two hours cycle training to Hampshire residents for the princely sum of £5.
Crash! Down fell the final barrier to cycling.
Feeling inspired, I signed up for training that afternoon. And a week or so later, it was all booked and confirmed. No more excuses.
The day of the training arrived - I must confess to being a little nervous. Despite passing my Cycle Proficiency (it is one of my proudest moments!), I have always been very nervous cycling on roads (I used to think the double yellow lines were there to ride between!). The thought of all the local children laughing at me, wobbling along on my trusty (and rusty) old bike, or losing control on the 'Big Hill' was playing on my mind. I asked for a few tips from my colleagues: ‘Don’t worry about it, and enjoy it’ they said, ‘It’s just like riding a bike’.
And it was. When my instructor, Rolfe, arrived he immediately put me at my ease. I had explained my situation (nervous, lapsed cyclist), and my goal: to feel safe and confident to cycle around my local area so I can go exploring. ‘No problem – we can do that’ was the response. I thought that was a little optimistic!
We started by going through the ‘M’ checks on my bike, making sure everything was in working order, and then progressed to the ‘ABC’ checks; (air, brakes, chain). After my bike was given a clean bill of health, we moved on to a demonstration of ‘secondary position’, along with a quick discussion about cycling and road safety. A quick ‘pep’ talk was dispensed by the ever-patient Rolfe, and then it was time. We were off. Up the 'Big Hill'.
And within 10 yards, I felt like I was 11-years-old again. The feelings of freedom and sheer joy came flooding back. Admittedly, I was a lot slower than I was aged 11, and had to stop MUCH more frequently. Rolfe spared my blushes (and legs and lungs) by stopping to discuss pertinent points about road positioning, signalling and general road safety at regular intervals.
Despite the pedalling being a little more tiring than I remember, the time flew by. I had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Sadly, the light, my lungs and legs combined to bring an end to the session after an hour. I am, however, counting down to session number two next week, which will take in a more adventurous pedal round town. I cannot wait.
Since then, I have indulged the patience of my various colleagues, especially the guru that is Chris Juden, to ask for their advice about such things as cycle carriers for cars (so I can practise in my local forest) and even new bikes.