In it for the cake!
Welcome back! This is my second installment of road cycling encouragement!
Busy roads have to be one of the main contenders when addressing the causes of cycling panic, but whether we like it or not, traffic goes hand in hand with road cycling. It's possible to avoid heavy traffic and faster roads, but being sensible and learning to be confident is invaluable. The advice I was given, and still adhere to, is 'make yourself big'. Ensure other road users can see you, have the courage to stand by your decisions and actions and stay out of the gutter. Often riding too close to the curb will have you swerving for pot holes, raised manholes and trying to avoid punctures from thorns and debris.
Riding further out, or two abreast means you are more visible to other road users. (This is a documented legality [rule 66] in the UK Highway Code, before the anti-cycling brigade butt in!). It also means that they have to slow down until they have enough room to pass you safely without being tempted to squeeze themselves past you. Don't put yourself in, or allow others to put you in a dangerous position or situation.
Road respect works both ways, we aren’t the only vulnerable road users. Be mindful of horses and their tendency to spook if they’re surprised. Be sure to make them aware that you’re approaching with a friendly ‘hello’ before you pass them slowly and widely. From my days as an equestrian, I can speak from experience when I say that you definitely do not want to be offering a 16hh gelding a croggy!
In a nutshell, consideration costs nothing and regardless of our mode of transport, we are all required to follow the rules of the road. Without going all fluffy on you, just be nice, be patient and don't behave like a wassack. I like to acknowledge good manners. A wave, a nod or even just a smile can go a long way. You never know, a little appreciation might just be all the encouragement someone needs to remain a cyclists friend!
When it came to riding with a peloton of strangers, this was always something which I’d completely disregarded. My lack of self confidence would never have allowed me to ride as part of a group and I felt I had to apologise to anyone who stumbled across the misfortune of accompanying me on a ride.
However, do not be deterred. When it comes to accepting and welcoming fresh blood, cyclists are a whole different breed. Local clubs and organised rides can be found on the British Cycling website, where newbies are always welcomed with open arms. See their Breeze organisation which is aimed at women who are new to cycling and is run by volunteers. Local clubs are often free to join and usually have a Facebook page too which can be a great way to make friends and join the cycling social scene.
In it for the cake
Joining these groups doesn't mean you have to sign up to gargantuan rides, it just means that you have a support network accessible for encouragement, friendly conversation and more importantly, people to drink posh coffee and tuck into indulgent slices of cake with! Don't go too mad mind, although cycling is an awesome way to burn fat and build muscle, logic tells us that if we put in more than we take out, this ratio will end up being the wrong way round. Regretfully I know this too well.
Speaking of huge distances, when I first realised the length of some of the rides, it felt utterly ridiculous that folks would contemplate travelling these distances without having a motor attached.
But ... With a bit of practice and motivation, it's much easier than you think to pedal through the barriers of your comfort zone.
Sportives are a great way to test your personal limits & there are usually an abundance of them in local areas, especially throughout the summer months.
I'm not an overly competitive person by nature & participating in these doesn't force competition upon me, they simply allow me to take part & ride as hard or as leisurely as I feel fit to. However, if you wish, this type of organised ride can act as a platform of which you can dip your toe into competing with other riders if you think it's something you might want to have a go at.
Personally, I really love taking part in sportives, for many reasons in addition to the thrill of the ride. These reasons being free cake(!!!), free stuff and/or a medal, some offer Sports Massage, you can take part alone or with friends, then obviously celebrate completion at the pub afterwards. They can be a great forum of which to raise money to help out a charity of your choice, while setting you your own personal fitness goal.