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WHY I TOOK UP CYCLING: How Jamie’s battle against serious illness led him to cycling and triathlon

By Jamie Fox

Recently people have asked me “Why did you take up cycling?”
My simple answer would be “for my health”, but let me explain further.

In 2014 I was having a really bad year health wise, the worst I’ve ever had in fact. I’d been in hospital three times and been off sick for nearly a month at a time for every visit plus multiple days off because I simply couldn’t do anything.

I had caught MRSA of the lungs and another bug (the name escapes me at the moment) and just couldn’t shift it or get it under control. The Cystic Fibrosis (CF) that I was diagnosed with at six-months-old was winning.

Another big factor that year was that I was finishing Gene Therapy Trials which I now believe is the reason my lung function had held on for so long because the drugs were helping to my lungs and keep me healthy. In 2013 my lung function had been around 75-80% and gene therapy was doing a really good job, but not long after I had finished the trials I was starting to get sick a lot and my lung function was dropping like a stone and infections were feasting on my lungs like an all you can eat buffet.

By the end of 2014 I was back in hospital for the third time looking for help, looking for answers and getting frustrated with the whole situation. I needed to try to stop my health declining, in hospital I couldn’t breathe and had to be put onto oxygen.

How cycling played its part

I had never felt so ill, so scared and so down mentally let alone physically, this was all new to me. I knew everybody who has CF is different and everybody’s fight is different but this was my first time experiencing this and I was out of my depth thinking I could handle it. I didn’t cope at all, it’s most likely taken me until this year and it was committing to a cycling challenge that played an important part.

It was the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 Ride that got me started in 2015 and this year I want up my game even further to tackle an Olympic distance triathlon with the help of Ribble.

During that lowest point three years ago, I sat with the doctor and said, “Once this admission is done I’m going to go away and assess things. I’m going to prove you wrong that this isn’t going to carry on and that I can help my health and my diabetes, if there’s no more that you can do, I want a go at trying something different”. I appreciated that the doctors were trying to help but I think my mindset was that “I’m going to take things into my own hands and I feel this is something I need to do, if the drugs can’t help then let me find out if I can do something”.

But what would I try?!

I had been looking into big, physical challenges where I could maybe try and see if that helped my health. I’d thought about the London marathon but, I didn’t think I could cope with running that distance with my weak left leg. What about a shorter distance? What about walking up a mountain like Kilimanjaro? I had been wanting to go there for a while but I had to be realistic. With 50% lung function walking up a mountain with the lack of air becoming more and more apparent – I wasn’t sure. What could I do?

I could cycle? I could do that. I liked cycling and I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted and it wouldn’t put too much pressure on me (well so I thought, how wrong I was!)

SO cycling it was. It had to be something big, something I would remember forever and know that I had done it starting from nothing. It had to be something I could say to the doctors “See I did it. Two fingers to your complacency”. I was trawling the internet and came across something that caught my eye.

The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

I came across this ride in simple terms its 100 miles on closed roads through beautiful London and surrey countryside taking in the sights of world famous London. I mean 100 miles is big enough for the challenge to be big, catch people’s attention and maybe few a few pennies for the CF Trust. But firstly I needed a bike.

I was fortunate enough that my partner at the time offered to buy me a bike for my birthday (thank you) in November 2014. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t a carbon fibre, ‘go fast’ bike, but it was mine. My bike that I hoped would pedal me to great things. I had no idea how far it would take me and what challenges I would achieve, but I loved this bike from the first day I picked it up.

Starting to ride and falling in love with cycling

I went for my first bike ride a few days later (the picture above is me after my first ride) and it shocked me. I managed a measly six miles, just six miles and I was beat exhausted and my lungs hated me, but I had the bug, I knew I wanted to do this. I fell in love with cycling straight away, Lycra isn’t a fashion statement but knowing your dressed in it sort of gives me a sense of pride because I know I want to achieve something whilst dressed in my cycling gear. Over time I put my training gear on and I know I’m doing it for a purpose, to stay fit, to show others what’s possible and to help the CF trust and hopefully the money raised with help of you lovely people has helped made a difference to others in some way no matter how small.

That day I signed up to the RideLondon-Surrey 100 with the CF Trust and the rest as they say is history.

Since January 2015 I have cycled about 7000 miles and I’ve completed:

  • RideLondon-Surrey 100 Bike Ride 2015
  • KM Bike Big Ride 50km 2016
  • London To Brighton 55 mile bike ride 2016

And I’ve managed to raise around £3,500.00 for the CF trust along the way.

Reaping the benefits

Since I started training at the end of 2014 my hospital fortunes and health have stabilised. I wouldn’t say its improved as such as my lung function hasn’t improved since 2015 but it has most certainly slowed down in its declined and stabilised at around 50 to 55% for the last two and a half years. I am the fittest I’ve ever been even with my lung function and I’m still smiling look ahead to the future and what other challenges I can take on. I won’t lie, it’s been bleeding hard there been days still when I’ve not been able to do anything and my CF has affected me even on good days, but I feel better mentally knowing I’d rather be in pain training than be in pain in hospital or coughing. All the miles, pain, tears and falls have all been worth it.

Since 2015 my hospital visits have decreased massively with two admissions in January 2015 and September 2015. And that is the last time I was admitted to hospital for IV Treatment it’s been 21 months since I had a stay in hospital. It’s not been easy I’ve pushed myself like mad, I’ve still been really sick at times and I’ve still had infections and other problems and bugs have taken their toll on me at time and I’ve swallowed a lot of tablets to fend off sickness but I haven’t had to stay in hospital.

Positive effects of training

All the training has also had a positive effect on my diabetes. I now have much lower levels which I’m still working on to improve and I’ve got it under control and by having a good diabetes control it helps my chest and reduce infections because infections feed off sugar and can turn in to a vicious cycle of problems.

And now you know why I took up cycling, that’s the long and short answer but without deciding to get on two wheels and put my feet on the pedals I have no doubt I would be in that terrible place I had feared two years ago getting more and more used to hospital beds and going insane because I just wouldn’t cope. Thanks to cycling and maybe my stubbornness to prove people wrong, I’m here talking walking and still breathing through my lungs without any further grief.

And what next in 2017?

It had to be another big challenge. I felt it had to be a triathlon, an Olympic distance to be exact. On the 24th September 2017 I’m taking part in the Hever Castle Olympic distance Triathlon to in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust:

1500m swim + 40km bike ride + 10km run

One after the other, all in one go.

Thank you Ribble

I have to give a huge shout out and thank you to Ribble Cycles, I wrote to them this year asking if they could help me at all in lending me a bike and they went above and beyond what I expected. They kindly offered to give me a new bike to help me complete this challenge and my future challenges that I want to take on. The day I visited their new shop in the Birmingham Mailbox was amazing. They are all so lovely, so supportive and couldn’t be any nicer. Their offer of support will never go unappreciated, they have inspired me to keep pushing and wanting to achieve more. Without their help I could never have got a bike like this. So thank you thank you thank you to everyone at Ribble. You are all amazing for helping me and supporting me on this journey and I will forever be in your debt.

Triathlon training commences

I started training in in about October last year nothing too serious, the odd ride, the odd run but I didn’t start swimming until January this year and that’s when I started really upping my training and thinking seriously about attempting a Triathlon. I knew this would be big. The biggest challenge I’ve ever attempted. Hardest thing I’ve ever wanted to finish and the pain and training hasn’t disappointed in challenging me and making me doubt myself that’s for sure.

Training for this has been a whole different world to just biking and it’s getting harder every day. I’m swimming twice a week running twice a week and cycling twice a week plus doing short exercise at home. And not small distances either. I’m now swimming two to three miles every week, cycling 50 miles per week and running about 10km a week at present, I know that may not sound like a lot but I’m still learning still improving and still increasing my distances.

First a Sprint Triathlon

And so far I have managed to complete a sprint Triathlon in April as a practice run but that is nothing compared to the big one and I learnt a lot from that, mostly how hard and painful it is and that was only 250m swim 10 mile bike ride and 3 mile run. That is nothing compared to what I want to attempt.

I now have approximately a dozen weeks to keep training improving and hopefully dodging hospital until the big day. It’s already tough but I’ll write again soon about training progress.

What’s pushing me through this training is my health, my stubbornness and wanting to raise awareness and funds for the CF Trust. This is what inspires me to keep pushing.

Support Jamie

You can support Jamie in his fund raising for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust by visiting his Just Giving page JamieFoxCFChallenges and keep updated via his Facebook page Jamie’s CF Challenges for Charity.


These guys deserve a huge thank you for everything they have done for me and I hope to be able to return their generosity one day.

GUIDE: Gym versus outdoor cycling – which is better?

Which is a better workout, an exercise bike in the gym, or an outdoor ride on a proper bike? For us at Ribble, there’s no contest – getting out in the elements on your favourite route beats quite literally going nowhere on a trainer bike every time!

Sure, the weather or darker winter months may force you to cycle indoors, or you could use an indoor trainer for specific interval training, but our preference is nearly always to get outdoors.

Is there any science behind the idea that outdoor cycling is better for you? We’ve taken a look:

Outdoor cycling uses a wider range of muscles

One factor people tend to forget is that when you’re riding a bike on the road, you’re not just using your legs to pump the pedals – you’re also using your whole body to keep the bike balanced, particularly when you’re going fast.

Core muscles like the stomach, back and abdominal muscle groups get a greater workout when you’re keeping a bike balanced, and if you stand, lean or duck while you’re negotiating hills, your shoulders and upper body are taking the strain too.

While you might get some degree of the same workout on a fixed-down exercise bike, you don’t have the same impetus to do so – i.e., keeping yourself upright! So you’re less likely to use as many muscles as you do on the road at the gym.

Riding outdoors pushes you harder

Some argue that you’ll train harder in a gym setting, inspired by the other people around you, than if you were out on the road on your tod – however, at least one study suggests the opposite’s true.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha asked 12 keen cyclists to ride 40km on two separate days: one indoors on a training bike, the other outdoors on flat roads. Although they were asked to put the same amount of effort into both, researchers found they exerted up to 30% more power and worked up higher heart rates on the outdoor ride.

It’s unclear why this is – maybe riding outdoors, with the scenery rolling by, cycling harder doesn’t feel like as much work as it does in the gym, where you’re more focused on your energy levels. Either way, it’s another point in favour of the great outdoors.

You’ll feel the benefit in cold weather

Most gyms maintain the same air-conditioned temperature all year round, but Mother Nature isn’t quite so forgiving. But do you actually burn more calories in cold weather training?

There’s no clear consensus on this. We know the basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn while doing nothing) increases slightly in the cold, but this is hardly likely to make a noticeable difference. It’s also thought that people have more “beige fat” (which burns more easily) in the winter months than in summer.

However, researcher and endurance athlete Michael Joyner MD says cold conditions help your body regulate its temperature better, enabling you to exercise longer and harder than you would otherwise. So while the cold might not do the work for you, it can help you push yourself further.

Finally, it seems intuitive that exercising in the freezing cold outdoors helps develop greater resilience and mental toughness than pedalling away in a climate-controlled gym… but we might be biased.

Best bikes for your improved workout

So hopefully we’ve made our case for why you should ditch the gym membership and get out on the open road for your daily workout or commute to work. With that in mind, here are some of Ribble’s recommended bikes for fitness training and getting out there out on the road:

Evo Pro


Ribble Evo Pro carbon road bike

The Ribble Evo Pro (pictured above) is our popular entry-level carbon sportive road bike. This model has often been a first step into the world of cycling or maybe a cyclist’s first experience of the lightweight responsiveness of a carbon bike so we have acknowledged that by increasing the head tube for a more upright and comfortable position. The Evo Pro is the perfect weekend bike but could also be used for fast commuting and riding sportives and challenge rides.

Ribble CGR

Ribble CGR bike

The Ribble CGR is a light yet robust 7005 aluminium bike with disc brakes and clearance to take 35mm tyres. The key to to the CGR (above) is it’s versatility as a road commuter and all-round bike capable of everything from winter riding to summer trips along the towpath. This cleverly designed frame could easily become the key do-it-all bike that you are looking for.

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Ribble 7005 Winter Audax bike

This is a design classic we’re rightly proud of. The Ribble 7005 Winter Audax (above) is the bike that thousands of UK club racers turn to for their training sessions. With a 7005 aluminium frame and carbon bladed fork, together with mudguard and rear pannier mounts, it’s also a popular choice with commuters and tourers.

 

Bike to work, get fitter and make a difference with Strava

Now that more summery weather is here there are definitely a few more bikes parked in the Ribble bike shed every morning. Do you cycle to work? If you’ve not contemplated cycling to work it really is a great way to start the day, improve your fitness or maintain some base training miles. You can even see how your fitness is progressing if you record and upload your ride to a social website like Strava to compare your riding with friends.

Route Builder

Tips for your cycle to work

  • Research your route beforehand as the shortest distance is not always the fastest or most pleasant. You can plan routes in the Strava Route Builder (above) or websites like Garmin Connect, Ride with GPS or Plotaroute and route profiles will tell you how climbing there is.
  • Consider having a dedicated commuting bike which you can equip for daily duties. It saves wear and tear on your best bike and you can fit mudguards and lights.
  • Variety makes your commute more interesting so try a few different route variations. Ask any cycling colleagues for route advice as they may know some great, less obvious roads or cut-throughs.

Join us on Strava Global Bike to Work Day

Why not join us in making our cycle commutes count on Thursday 11th May by joining the Strava Global Bike to Work Day. Not only will we all be offsetting tons of greenhouse emissions by being pedal powered but our (anonymous) commuting data will be shared with planners worldwide to help improve cycling infrastructure.

All you need to do is make and record a point-to-point cycle journey during Thursday and upload it to Strava as a commute. You will be part of a global event and contribute to a better cycling future.

Here’s how to play your part and join the Strava community

The hashtag #CommutesCount can also be used on other social media channels in support of a better future for cycling. The challenge is already set to beat the 79,879 worldwide participants in 2016 so make your ride count.

Ribble CGR

How do you compare?

Strava Insights for the UK show that during 2016 an average of 223,376 bike commutes were uploaded to Strava every week, with cyclists logging an average distance of 13.5km (8.39 miles) and an average of 35 minutes in the saddle.

Bikes for commuting

If you’re looking to do more commuting by bike the highlight of our urban bikes is the popular, new commuting bike the CGR.

Versatility and practicality are at the core of the cleverly designed CGR – this is a bike that will not sit idle for very long. With the advantage of disc brakes, a carbon fork, mudguard mounts and pannier carrying capability this bike just ticks so many boxes.

The all-round practicality of the CGR does not prevent it from being a nimble and enjoyable ride and as the bike’s designer says: “We wanted a bike that was comfortable enough to ride every day, efficient enough to ride all day and even agile enough to take off road.”

EXPLORE THE CGR HERE

TEAM RIBBLE: Ailbhe and her Aero 883 all set to Tri

Team Ribble sponsored triathlete Ailbhe Carroll looks back on her 2016 and forward to her new tri season which begins on Gran Canaria on March 26th.

My last race of 2016 was in October and finishing racing that late made for a very long season, yet it was my first ever full season without injury or illness. I got to the end of a season absolutely whacked purely because I completed the season from start to finish. It was the first time I have ever felt like a proper triathlete!! Tick that box off!! Yahoo!

Continue reading TEAM RIBBLE: Ailbhe and her Aero 883 all set to Tri

GUIDE: Celebrating National Cycle to Work Day

The 14th September 2016 is Cycle to Work day, a nationwide event that encourages workers to swap their regular mode of transport and hop on a bike for their daily commute. Unfortunately, riding a bike to work continues to be a challenge for many of us in the UK, and the event hopes to raise awareness of the many benefits cycling to work can bring.

Let Ribble help you with your commuting

We’re here to encourage Britain to join the cycling revolution that so many other parts of the world are already involved in. If you can brave a bit of rain and take the required safety precautions, then the UK is truly a great place to cycle.

Cycle commuting

A recent YouGov poll of 1,143 workers discovered 87% of people do not cycle to work, with a further 4% claiming it to be inapplicable to their situation as they work from home. This leaves a tiny 9% of workers regularly using their bikes as their main form of transportation, with non-cyclists claiming many factors as deterrents.

42% of those asked claimed distance was the main reason they decided not to cycle, while the changeable weather was the focus of blame for 1 in 5 people. As well as being put off by an unreliable forecast, accidents were an understandable source of worry for more than 1 in 4 people too, with a lack of cycle lanes being a major concern.

READ SOME WET WEATHER RIDING TIPS HERE
Improve your bike skills and confidence

Another concerning statistic is one that highlights the fact that women are more than twice as likely to choose another form of transport due to lack of confidence on the road. If you want to improve your cycling skills, there are many courses available that will give your confidence a major boost. The National Standard for Cycle Training scheme, which is also known as Bikeability, is suitable for all age groups. The scheme aims to develop a cyclists understanding of today’s roads and focuses on improving balance and control.

Cycle commuting

Those who decide to join in on the 14th September will discover all the benefits that riding a bike to work can bring. As well as improving a rider’s overall health and fitness, getting to work via two wheels instead of four can truly benefit the environment as well as your own wallet! The price of petrol and parking certainly isn’t cheap and train prices have already started to rapidly increase this year alone – so why not opt for change and ride a bike?

Cycle commuting
So get involved and Cycle to Work

Choosing to ride a bike to work is a brilliant way to fit a workout into a busy day, while avoiding the many terrible traffic jams that workers find themselves stuck in every morning. Participating in the nationwide Cycle to Work day on 14th September 2016 is an ideal opportunity to introduce yourself to cycling, and you never know, it could even become a regular mode of transport for you in the future!

VIEW OUR BIKES DESIGNED FOR COMMUTING HERE

Cycle commuting