Our competition to tell us about Your Defining Moment on a Bike gave us so many wonderful entries to choose from. They varied from spine-tingling to tear-jerking to grin-triggering. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to enter.
It was nigh on impossible to choose a winner. We think we have. But here are just a few of the runners up, each of which could easily have walked away with the £50 voucher. Or pedalled, rather...
To make things easier for the VeloVixen 'panel', we've arranged them as category winners:
Best Running Convert: Sarah Marsden (Goldilocks Running)
Cycling and I haven't always been friends.
As a runner making the jump to triathlon, I mainly viewed the bike as a rolling picnic to set me up for the fun part: the run. I grudgingly went out cycling, and did the minimum miles I possibly could to ensure I made it round the triathlon course- after all, cycling was complicated and scary and it hurts, right?
I couldn't ignore it much longer though.
The yellow road bike slotted in the corner of my living room continued to stare at me, whispering 'please take me out! Please?' every time I passed it.
I started dating a proper cyclist, one that knows what the word groupset means and voluntarily cycles up hills, and I could get away with it no more. I grudgingly stuffed my jersey pockets with snacks one Saturday morning and headed out to meet the local club for their beginners' ride.
That was six months ago, and I'm now a regular, getting out two or three times a week throughout the cold of winter and now the first gleaming days of spring. That first ride felt like it took an age, as the wonderful leader patiently spun alongside me in the freezing rain as I figured out gears and hills, and how to make the two work in unison. Her cheerful chatter and homemade flapjack saved me when I was bonking badly and all I wanted to do was get off the bike and walk home, and since then, I've learned to love cycling.
The technicality of choosing, maintaining and riding a bike, the fear of the busy roads and the terror of turning right, the comparison of your ride to everybody else's on Strava - these might all feature, but none of them can take away the feeling of freedom that comes with riding a bike.
I might not agree with much of the Velominati's work, but they were right when they said 'Free your mind and your legs will follow'; since I shed my preconceived notions that cycling was scary and elitist, I've come to realise there is no better feeling than pushing yourself further and faster than before, of the wind whipping through your hair as you whizz downhill, and the views from the top that make the pain of climbing worth it in the end.
The real moment I knew I was a cyclist now? On Easter Saturday, I awoke to brilliant sunshine at my parents' house in Lancashire. Normally, I'd excitedly pull on my running shoes and head out for a long run, exploring the local country lanes and enjoying the serenity of being outside in the fresh air.
Know what I did instead? I rolled over, woke up the speedy cyclist next to me and said, 'Please can we ride to the Trough of Bowland today? It's perfect riding weather to go exploring!'
And so we did.
We rode through beautiful countryside, past wildlife and other cyclists, all with the grin on their faces that said 'This is why we ride'. We slogged up some monster climbs, and when we got to the top, we stopped and ate and enjoyed the views. We posed for ridiculous photos, we laughed, we sang, and when I got my gears completely wrong and couldn't turn the pedals any more, James didn't even laugh, just helped me get moving again and enjoy the rest of the ride.
I rode further than I have ever done before, and as I showered afterwards, and stretched out my stiff shoulders, I felt like I finally got 'it'- why cycling is so brilliant.
Best Bounce-Back from Separation: Kam
My defining moment in cycling has a bitter sweet flavour to it. I, like most women I imagine, was an avid cyclist as a child but regrettably gave up my passion during my teenage years and only got back into the sport when my partner of 7 years, Mike, brought me my first bike as an adult; a beautiful blue Brompton.
He is a passionate cyclist, always out cycling on long distance rides and encouraging me to do the same. He was my source of encouragement, always there to help with cycling advice. About 2 years ago, he left me rather suddenly and my world fell apart. I know it sounds silly now but I couldn't bear to look at the bike that he bought for me as it painfully reminded me of the many happy cycling trips we shared together. I hid the Brompton and all my cycling kit in the spare room and for over a year I shielded myself from anything bike related.
Around 6 months ago I found the courage to take Brom out of confinement. I felt a sudden and deep longing to go out into the countryside and feel the wind in my hair. Leith Hill in Surrey was one of the hills that Mike had always wanted me to try on my Brompton but I never had the courage to do it. I took the Brompton to Surrey and approached the beginning of the hill with trepidation but also a buzz of excitement as it felt so right for me to be back in the saddle.
Sadly I had only got 10 minutes into my ascent and I felt a surge of negative emotions flood my system. I tried to cycle through the feelings of loneliness and hurt but I had to stop at the side of the road and have a little cry. A couple of jelly babies later I told myself I was going to get as far as I could and that my six speed bike was more than capable of taking me to the top. As soon as the trees opened up and I saw the lovely blue sky I felt so much better and very slowly I made my way to the top of Leith Hill.
This was most definitely my break through moment. I was exhausted and coughing up my lungs; my chest hurt when I inhaled but I felt exhilarated and even laughed from sheer relief! I was certainly looking forward to the decent.
The experience taught me that I have it in me to cycle alone and although I am still a little raw and upset I managed to find some strength to make it up a pretty challenging hill.
Best Bounce-Back from Illness: Jessica Lewis
In February 2009 I was in the late stages of pregnancy with our second child, Isaac. Our daughter Izzy was two and a half. Two weeks after Isaac was born, my husband returned to work, to be told he was to be laid off that day.
Another 2 weeks later I found that one side of my neck to be swollen.
I went to the doctor as I thought it could be mumps and would be dangerous for the baby. After scans, blood tests and an operation to remove the lump i found i had thyroid cancer. I was 26.
Our world was shattered; it was like living someone else's nightmare. Why did this happen to us? You get married, have children and everything else should run smoothly and happy. This wasn't the case. As I had to have treatment, consultations and operations we struggled financially and had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
Everything we had worked so hard to build up came crashing down around us. We never went out, i fell into a deep depression, and we couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel.
Until the children were old enough to ride that was. We saved and saved and bought the best bikes we could afford, and we started cycling! It was like living a new life. Every chance we had we were on our bikes. The children absolutely love it.
And we are still the same now - we both work so don't get much chance to be out all together... but when we do we never want to come home! When people see us out altogether they always comment how we are a proper little family! That makes me so proud.
Cancer to most means the end, but to us it's when our little cycling family was born!
VeloVixen Favourites for Early Stage Cycling Converts!
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