Michelle came from the ‘dark side’ to take up cycling and now says I’m happier now on the bike than when running. She is loving every minute. Here, she talks about tips that helped get her started.
Michelle was an avid runner but wanting to mix her training up she decided to get on two wheels. In just four months she rode her first century ride. Here, she talks about what helped her build endurance and shares tips to help other new riders.
A new challenge.
So Michelle, what is it about cycling that has you hooked?
I considered myself a runner more than anything over the last three years, running all distances up to metric marathon. Cycling is something I’ve dallied with though, and I bought myself a cheap trail hybrid about 5 years ago.
Around four years ago I did the Liverpool–Chester- Liverpool ride (52 miles) on that bike and it was truly awful!
I got a place in my first ever ballot entry for RideLondon100 2020. At that point, I knew I had to invest in a proper bike. I only got my gorgeous R872 Disc at the start of April this year and haven’t looked back since. RideLondon was made a virtual event. Like so many others this year, so I didn’t get the chance to ride through London and conquer the terrifying Box Hill. But I did complete the 100 miles in and around my hometown.
What made you choose the R872?
To say I’m a layman when it comes to bikes, and the jargon that comes with them would be an absolute understatement. I literally knew nothing when I went into the Preston HQ. Jaco (who is a showroom advisor) was just incredible.
He spent 45 minutes with me. Jaco was asking me what the bike would be used for, what other activities I do, what my budget was etc. He really listened to me, taking it all in and explained everything in super simple terms.
The big bonus for me was that he never once tried to upsell me. He knew my budget and he stuck to it. I can’t explain how grateful I was for that. The best thing about Jaco is that he clearly has magical powers. He looked at me, asked me to raise my arms and knew exactly what size frame I needed. How?? How does he do it?!
How did it feel to ride?
I had that super cheap, heavy hybrid trail bike before my Ribble and all I can say is wow, are they different. My Ribble is so light, so easy to manoeuvre and looks blooming stunning too.
The fact that I picked a fairly windy day to try it out properly probably wasn’t wise. I was getting buffeted by the wind, trying to keep the bike upright. But it just did exactly what I asked of it. It was surprising that it could turn so tightly and that my feet were secure in the pedals. I have the cages to slip my feet into, not quite ready for cleats. It slipped through the gears seamlessly. I was in love from that very first ride.
You have done some great things in running, but what was your goal for cycling?
So the big aim was to complete that first century ride at RideLondon 100 but it just wasn’t to be. It got cancelled, I sacked off my training and just got out there for the joy of it. When they made it a virtual event it was a nice surprise but I really hadn’t trained for it.
When you started cycling, was there anything that you were apprehensive about?
My biggest fear, and still is to some extent, was riding on busy roads. I’m really lucky where I live. There are numerous national cycle routes, lots of cycle paths and within five minutes of setting off, I’m in beautiful countryside on quiet lanes. I still try to avoid cycling at busy times of the day, so I like to be home by 8.30am if it’s a weekday morning ride or done by 10am if doing a long ride on a weekend.
I think it is super key though to gaining confidence on the bike, that I am cycling with some cars around me. I’ve had a few hairy moments with people not really giving room but 99% of the time, drivers do give me space.
I’ve just started venturing out at night too so being seen is a biggie for me – I think I have the brightest lights in the world on my bike.
How did the first few rides go?
Slowly, very slowly! Gaining confidence on a slimmer saddle, slimmer tyre and a frame that weighs next to nothing took some time. I just kept plugging away though at little distances. It would be say 10-15 miles on roads that I know well and at times of day when I knew it would be quiet. I did get a little bit of aching in my back and shoulders those first few goes too – my body was used to running half marathons, not cycling for a couple of hours. Nothing a good sports massage couldn’t sort out though.
The first 100.
What was training like for the London 100?
I’m an Executive Assistant by trade, so being hyper organised is built into my system. I had my training schedule in my diary before I’d even bought the bike.
I was nervous about the number of hours I needed to squeeze in on the bike as I’m out of the house for 12 hours a day and really didn’t know how it was going to pan out. As I’ve said, the second they announced it was cancelled I ditched the training plan and went out for fun. I honestly think that was a way better approach to being ready for the virtual ride in August.
I spent time on the bike because I wanted to, not because I had to, and I know I enjoyed that couple of months ‘training’ so much more because of it.
And… how did it go?
Boy was it an early start on that Saturday morning…5am I was up and dressed ready to go. My partner, Sam, was going to ride with me so we made sure everything was ready to go the night before and literally got dressed half asleep, before stepping out the door. We broke the ride down into four loops of varying distances, with each loop ending at our house for toilet and snack breaks. We finished our ride in 9hrs and 45mins which I’m super proud of, considering I went from barely anything to 100 miles in four months.
The first 20 miles were great! I’m joking, we were fine up to the last 25 miles or so when we were both tired, my knees and back were incredibly sunburnt (guess who didn’t think to apply sun tan lotion to her knees?) and we were both very hungry.
I had planned out the loops a couple of days before but they did include a couple of roads that we would cover numerous times. We quickly realised that would be boring so our third loop was made up on the fly while we were out there which, in hindsight, was not a great idea.
I’m forever grateful that Sam helped me smash the distance and very proud that we didn’t argue once.
Learning along the way.
As a cyclist now, what would you say to someone else who is wanting to start out in cycling?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other riders on social media. I got loads of advice and tips from some of the people I follow on Instagram.
Find a quiet route that won’t have loads of cars and has a good quality road surface for your first few rides. It’ll help you gain confidence on a new or old bike and you can start to explore further afield as your confidence grows.
Also, PADDED SHORTS! If you’re a woman, a good chamois cream and a quality pair of padded shorts will be your life saver, trust me.
And finally… what have you got planned in the future?
Next year I’m hoping to finally run the London Marathon (I should have run it this year but COVID-19 had other ideas) and will enter the ballot for RideLondon100 again. But, before that, I have entered my first sprint triathlon in May. I’ve realised that, although I love running, adding cycling and swimming to the mix has definitely made my hobbies way more fun. I’m comfortable being a jack of all trades and master of none. I would even go so far as to say I’m happier on the bike now than I am when running…. but just don’t tell my run club!
Top five tips for new riders.
Michelle’s top 5 tips to start cycling.
1. If you can, go to one of Ribble showrooms, the advice and support you’ll receive will mean you know what you’re getting and that it’s right for you. Or they do have Live Chat so you know you will be getting the right bike for you and your needs.
2. Make sure you’re visible. Doesn’t matter whether it’s day or night, wear the brightest clothes, with specific hi-vis materials to make you stand out.
3. Get a helmet that fits. Sounds silly, I know, but measure your head to make sure it isn’t going to slosh about on your head or squeeze you too tight.
4. If you’re a woman, get a female specific saddle – you’ll thank me for it after a 50 miler.
5. HAVE FUN! Riding shouldn’t always be about how fast or how far you go. Enjoy your cycling and the distance and speed will follow.