Sportive Blog - Abby Holder: My year of cycling discovery

Sportive Blog - Abby Holder: My year of cycling discovery

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Looking back, 2013 was the year I became a “proper” cyclist, rather than just someone who had an old bike in their shed.

The year started promisingly with a visit to America in February, where I spent some time in the mountain biking mecca of Moab. I took to mountain biking like a duck to astro-physics. On the first day I fell off and bruised my ribs. It did hurt, but only when I inhaled. Still, I’ve never had the pleasure of falling on my face surrounded by such amazing scenery.

I came to the conclusion that cycling was fun, but would be an awful lot easier without all those pesky rocks in the way and decided it was time to give road riding a go. This brought its own challenges; namely SPD pedals. I learned to ride mine outside a bed and breakfast in the Peak District in May. The place was run by a family of cyclists and they kindly offered me their lawn to practise on. Then stood and watched. No pressure. 

Trying SPD pedals for the first time, I took some tips from a nine year old, who had learned to ride in the womb and couldn’t understand what I was worrying about.

I took some tips from their nine year old, who had learned to ride in the womb and couldn’t understand what I was worrying about. And with that I was on my way. Road riding was a revelation. Who knew going uphill was so much easier without big, fat mountain bike tyres slowing you down. That day I rode about 50km with 1000m of climbing and was hooked.

By August I decided I was ready for Honister Pass in Cumbria. Beforehand I read some advice on climbing on the Insight Zone. It said don’t go too hard too early. Instead, aim to put out your highest power at the top of the climb. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Honister Pass, it’s the perfect place to test this advice out.

If you start from Seatoller, the first part is so steep (25% I’m told) you can’t go hard. You can barely go at all. But it soon eases off and the whole ascent was shorter than I expected. And there’s a cafe at the top. So I followed the advice and put out more power at the top of the climb, lured by the prospect of a cheese toastie.

Alongside all this, in 2013 I became a cycling commuter and a Breeze ride leader. I learned how to take a tyre off without tyre levers, how to take my rear wheel off (and, more importantly, how to get it back on again) and that sometimes the best way to recover from a hard day’s riding is to lie in the bath with a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun.

So that was my 2013. And as it’s drawing to a close I find myself thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions which involve giving something up.

I think it’s better to resolve to take on a challenge or try something new.

So for me 2014 will be the year for trying out some Sportives (I have already committed to my first one: The Wooler Wheel Borderlands event), ideally having followed a training plan (which I intend to start in January), sharing the fun of road cycling with Breeze riders and falling off my mountain bike less. Wish me luck....

Give the gift of British Cycling membership this Christmas