Last weekend I headed up to Sheffield to visit some of my best mates from uni. There are only 10 miles between the city centre and the heart of the Peak District, meaning its a haven for anyone interested in getting active outdoors. Normally, I pack my rock climbing gear and head to Stanage Edge in Hathersage. This time, I took my bike.
I love Twitter. I've made many wonderful, like minded friends through it. I've sourced new business opportunities and use it as my news feed. When I wanted to find a Sheffield cycling club to take me out for a spin, I turned to Twitter. It didn't take me long before I found La Squadra and contacted them about a ride on Saturday morning.
I met them at Nonnas, a delightful Italian coffee shop where I warmed up with a hot chocolate and the friendly atmosphere.
At 9am, we jumped on our bikes and headed out of town.
The guys in the club instantly made me feel welcome and we chatted away about previous cycling adventures, plans for 2014 and who I ride with in London.
Within 20 minutes we were out in the open roads, soaking up the fresh air and busting our lungs and legs up the hills.
I loved getting to know new people and hearing their stories of why they got into cycling and what it meant for them. At one point I overheard someone say "I've been looking forward to this all week, it's the best part of the week for me". For all of us, cycling offers that 'me time'.For some it might be the only opportunity they get in between work and home commitments, especially if there are kids on the scene.
La Squadra took me on a tour of the Sheffield hills, we covered 4 of the top 100 climbs in the UK. I loved how everyone appreciated how lucky they are to have this on their doorstep.
We had 2 punctures and someone got sick on the climb up Mam Nick, perhaps a hangover playing havoc! Around 12pm we stopped off in a cafe and re-fuelled. I opted for ham and egg and there was some discussion as two people had ordered flapjack but there was only one slice left. Oh the trials of Saturday morning cycling decisions...
When we left the cafe, the clouds had parted and the The Peak District was on display in all it's glory!
We tackled another hill with stunning views at the top.
We wound back down a long, 10 minute descent which completely took my breath away. The colours, the crispness in the air, wind in my face, the beauty around me. Incredible.
It felt like the world was singing to me.
We passed through Hathersage and headed up one last big climb before turning around and enjoying 'Surprise View' aptly named because as you come over the valley from the other direction, you have no idea this is what you will see when you turn the corner.
By now, I was exhausted! It was a real blowing-out-the-cobwebs ride for me! First time I'd properly been out on my bike since Ironman Wales and I was certainly feeling it. As we caught up with the rest of the crew, which by this time had dwindled from about 20 people to 10, they were talking about going for a beer. Of course I was in!
We found a pub just outside Sheffield and sat in the sun laughing, admiring the clouds and drinking our well earned pints of beer. One of the guys produced chocolate from his pocket, score!
By the time I got back to Sheffield I was a very happy lady. I'd had the best time, worked hard, made new friends and was welcomed back for another ride.
It was challenging, inspiring and fun. It reminded me of why we love cycling so much. If you are headed to a new city for the weekend, take your bike and make some friends to show you around. Cycling ties people together across the globe, give yourself the chance to share your passion in new environments. It may well be one of the best decisions you make. This was certainly up there for me.
Thanks La Squadra, can't wait to ride with you again soon.