Eleanor (L.) getting to grips with her bike under Fran's watchful eye
When Eleanor joined us in August 2020 as the latest member of our team, she had plenty of pedigree - but not necessarily cycling pedigree! She volunteered to be our cycling guinea pig to see how she took to it. Here are her first impressions...
For my twenty-first birthday, two of my best friends decided to teach me something new: how to ride a bike. Unfortunately for them, my dad beat them to it just over fifteen years earlier.
In fact, I passed my cycling proficiency course with flying colours at the age of eleven so, in theory, I was already a relatively proficient cyclist at twenty-one. After all, the phrase ‘it’s like riding a bike’ was coined for a reason.
The truth is, though, that I was pretty nervous about cycling again: I had barely touched a bike since primary school; I was not hugely fit; and I was certainly not someone who felt road safe.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that they so completely convinced themselves that I couldn’t ride a bike – if I didn’t know me, I would probably have similar suspicions.
It ended up being a really fun time and, for the record, I rode the bike perfectly adequately. This will probably always be a story that provides amusement to me and all of my friends and, actually, I really am glad that it got me back on a bike… even if I already knew how to ride.
Following this re-discovery of my cycling abilities, in my final year I brought my mum’s bike to university with me. In theory, I would use it to ride to campus; in practice, within a few weeks (and before I had so much as sat on the saddle) it was stolen, and that was the end of that.
Since then I haven’t given much thought to cycling. I know I can ride a bike, which is great, but I’m still not hugely confident or comfortable cycling and, when I was at university, I didn’t really need a bike to get around.
This summer marked the end of my university career and that meant moving back home to the countryside. While I might not be amazing at cycling, as someone who cannot drive it is now essentially the only means I have of getting around on my own.
In moving home, I also started a job at VeloVixen, a company dedicated to women’s cycling apparel, run by passionate and enthusiastic cyclists, and home to a whole community of women who share their love of riding bikes.
My work at VeloVixen is almost exactly five miles away from my home. It would feel quite ridiculous to exploit the trusty taxi service that is my mother to commute five miles to work at the best of times; to ask my mum to drive me five miles to a job that is all about women’s cycling with the aim of making it easier for women to ride bikes would feel downright embarrassing.
Therefore, there were no two ways about it: I had to start cycling.
In preparation for this looming reality, I asked my boyfriend to take me on a practice run.
I asked very specifically for practice on roads so I could get used to navigating traffic and road safety. He, of course, very quickly took me off road.
It was horrible, incredibly bumpy and I was wearing leggings that did not provide much protection. So, I became very grumpy very quickly (the fact that there were cows only made matters worse).
The next week I started work. Still unsure of how safe I would be on the roads, I shamefully enlisted the mum-taxi for the first week.
By Saturday I was determined that this must end and so my dad cycled the route to work with me so we could time it, sort the bike out and I could try the roads out. My bottom still hurt, the bike was not set up correctly, and I was still pretty grumpy when cycling.
Within that first week at work, however, I did a very stupid thing: I made a suggestion that I should try to take myself from ‘Cub to Vixen’ and write about the process.
This was stupid for several reasons: first, I am bad at cycling; second, I haven't yet made the breakthrough with cycling - although that might just be residual annoyance about the cows and my poor bottom; and third, I am very stubborn.
This puts me in a predicament because I would really like to just call it a day on the bike, but I can’t because I have challenged myself and I don’t want to give up before I’ve even really stated.
So, this morning I peddled off to work on my own. It was unpleasant and I did nearly fall off, but I actually felt damn good about myself for getting on and doing it.
I’m not sure what I think would qualify as being a ‘Vixen’ – given that I feel like the runt of the cub litter right now. I think I need to find my footing a bit before I can establish exactly the parameters of this cycling transformation I am attempting to embark on.
Though I may really love cycling right now, I am excited for this journey and, thankfully, I think the only way is up from here.
Are you new to cycling and need further advice?