Where my cycling journey began

I don’t think my story is too dissimilar to others, I bought my first road bike, an entry-level Cannondale - no bells and whistles, in lockdown as a means of escaping my London flat and getting out in nature. At the time, I never thought cycling would be more than a way to get around. As lockdown persisted, cycling became more of a necessity for my mental health and slowly 30k rides turned into 60k rides, into 100k rides. Initially, it wasn’t a strive to get better, I had thrown myself into running at the time and signed up for a few races which was my main focus and cycling was always just for therapy. However, several running injuries later, I realised and took advantage of the benefits of cross-training.

As the (un)common thread goes, you start as an injured runner, you become a cyclist and the logical next step is to sign up for a triathlon. Right? Considering I have a bit of a background in competitive swimming, my glory years were between the ages of 10-13 years old before I quit, so combining the three disciplines felt like a logical path and starting triathlon is where my obsession with cycling began.

Learning from my mistakes and tips for beginners

I don't want to glamorise my progression in cycling, I made A LOT of mistakes along the way, not knowing how to fuel properly, bonking hard, not knowing how to take care of my bike, not knowing how to fix a puncture or change a tube (questionable whether I can do that now), the list could go on.

My advice to anyone is to start slow, get comfortable on the bike, don't worry about speed or distance just learn to enjoy where you are at, the rest will come - Richmond Park is a great loop to do if you are starting your cycling journey.

Fuel yourself, do not underestimate how much fuel you need to take on whilst cycling, you absolutely do not need fancy gels, flapjacks, cereal bars, or Haribo will do. Better yet, stop for a coffee and a sweet treat. If you are ever cycling around Regents Park - Fortitude Bakehouse is one of the best bakeries in London - get a cinnamon bun!

And on taking care of your bike, I am not the best person, (shout out to my boyfriend who does a fair amount of cleaning and maintenance for me) but YouTube is your best friend. A few helpful links:

How To Keep Your Bike In Top Condition For Longer | Maintenance Monday

How To Clean, Protect and Lube Your Bike

How To Fix A Bike Puncture - Repairing An Inner Tube

And one last thing, cycling can be expensive as it is. Do not feel like you need to go and buy all the latest gear. Listening to a podcast with Donna McConnell (@the_ironempress on Instagram) who made a great suggestion. If you are buying kit, buy the winter kit in summer and the summer kit in winter when it's cheapest.

Making cycling my personality

My friend and previous coach Tommy Trees was the first person to tell me I had some potential on the bike in 2022 after my first Olympic distance triathlon. A lesson to be careful what you say to people because I took that unintentional encouragement, ran with it and made cycling a lot of my personality.

Summer of 2023 I took the plunge and got my first big girl road bike and current baby, my Canyon Aeroad. I finally understood what people were saying about getting an aero bike, it’s like putting on a pair of carbon-plated running shoes. This is also when I started riding with friends more and was introduced to the London cycling community. Just know, if you live in London, you never have to ride alone - there is an abundance of clubs you can join depending on what you are looking for and it is a great way to meet some like-minded people.

Make sure to check out Puresport Cycle Club, Chain Gang Cyclist, Black Cyclist Network, London Dynamo, and Trashmile...the list goes on. There are also a few female-only clubs and female-only club rides with lots of pace groups such as Velociposse and Islington Cycle Club - there is a space for everyone.

Diversity and inclusion in cycling

On that note, let's be honest here, cycling is not a diverse sport. I have had people double-take when they see me cycling, whether it's because I’m a woman, a person of colour, or the combination of a woman of colour on a nice bike does not register as something that can occur - I don't know. But I think it is important to raise this conversation because the reality is being a woman and a person of colour are both barriers to entry into an inherently white sport.

I would be lying if I said I don’t often think about my place within the sport because even if something is a hobby, it can be tough to keep at it if you have the slightest feeling that you do not belong or are an outsider. Some key inspiration for me here is Ayesha McGowan and Yewande (Yewie) Adesida, who have broken boundaries in the sport and openly spoken about the need for more diverse representation in cycling.

What I’ve come to learn, and this is not profound or new, you have to stay confident that you are right where you are supposed to be and believe it. One thing that has been special for me immersing myself in the London cycling community is finding people that make me feel a sense of belonging and let me know that I have a place in cycling. Honestly, part of the reason I share what I am up to training-wise is to show other women there is space for them.

On a macro level, I think we are at an interesting point in women's cycling in particular. The popularity and viewership of women's cycling is growing but funding is still far from where it should be in comparison to men's, hopefully we will see some parity in this over the next few years. On a more personal level, I hope that by sharing my experiences and story, I can inspire more women to be confident and feel at home in the cycling community. There is a space for everyone, and I strive to help improve my little corner of the cycling world.

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