If you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll know that I am a cycle shoes newbie. I bought them before Christmas, did a few turns round the block, crashed (slo-mo spectacular) and then wimped out by finding various excuses to leave them gathering dust. 

My excuses ranged from “I just want to tackle my fear of hills first” to “I don’t want to crash before the Bath Half Marathon” to “The weather’s really bad, it’ll hurt too much if I take a tumble in this!”

Well, the Bath Half* is done and dusted and I’ve run out of excuses - my half ironman triathlon is next, so it’s now or never!

Honestly, I am not sure how ready I am going to be for my event in June, but I am having some great adventures on the way

Good Friday, I put on my shoes and with my support crew in tow, set off across town to the relative safety of the Bath-Bristol cycle path. Perfect weather, quiet-ish roads  - nice! In town, I didn’t clip in my left foot, but once I got to the cycle path it was time to tackle my fears.

“Just keep practicing clipping in and out” said my support crew, so I did, freewheeling along and practicing the manoeuvre as I went. So far so good, until he says, “now do five practices on the other foot”…

Whoa, now hang-on a minute, that is impossible – my other (right) foot is my control, my safely blanket, there is no way I am unclipping that side as I go along. So I didn’t. And even on the left side I unclipped every time I encountered a potential hazard ahead…you know, like, another cyclist or something!

I made it though, all the way to the end of the 15-mile ride without major incident.

So now my tactic is to go cold turkey on the trainers and ALWAYS wear my cycle shoes. My thinking is that if I don’t put pressure on myself to clip in when it’s busy, then I won’t wimp out in favour of trainers. Eventually, I’m hoping I will just get used to them and clip-in all the time. Fingers crossed!

Easter Saturday (the very next day) I broke my Cycle Shoes Rule by deciding to ride from Devizes to Bath on the canal towpath (above). We drove over to cheer on some friends competing in the annual Devizes to Westminster canoe race**, so after much whooping and cheering from us, they set off on their epic 125 mile race to London and I headed the opposite way on National Cycle Path route 4, for the 22 mile ride back to Bath.

The weather was fairly miserable, which in many ways was a good thing because it meant this normally very popular route was extremely quiet. The path is fairly rough with lots of potholes, so I took my old mountain bike (hence breaking the cycle shoes rule) and had a really enjoyable, wet and muddy ride.

“Have you seen any penny farthings?”

Just out from Devizes (heading west) is the famous Caen Hill lock flight – 29 locks in the space of two miles and for me a lovely, gentle, downhill section. The locks are an amazing sight and well worth a visit - there’s a café too, so if you’re in the area, check it out. 

After this it’s pretty much 8 – 10 miles of rural idyll punctuated by the occasional country pub before you reach Trowbridge and Bradford-On-Avon. As I battled against the gusts of wind and heavy rain on a particularly remote and exposed section, a chap popped his head out of his canal boat home and asked,

“Have you seen any penny farthings?”

Initially I thought he was taking the mickey out of my ancient bike, then I realised he was serious. Then I thought “on this bumpy old bit of towpath, in this weather? You have got to be joking… surely?

Except, I don’t think he was joking, he looked totally deadpan and slightly concerned, like he had been expecting them hours ago. I hadn’t seen them alas, so I reckon he may have had a long wait ahead. But the encounter did made me smile all the way to my catastrophic puncture at Winsley Hill.

I won’t bore you with several paragraphs about my inability to remove MTB tyres and fix punctures, so we’ll fast forward to the point that I called for help, cycled a mile on a flat back tyre and got a lift the remaining 4 miles home. Yeah, I know, not ideal, but there it is!

Honestly, I am not sure how ready I am going to be for my event in June, but I am having some great adventures on the way and, that’s a big part of why I entered the event in the first place.

 

*Bath Half Marathon – 2.06 if you are interested - historic injury kicked in with 5 miles to go – but a great day nonetheless!

**Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race www.dwrace.org.uk

Looks to make your fellow participants envious!