It’s funny how we look back and realise the things we’ve now achieved we once deemed impossible. When I graduated from uni and moved to London, the thought of cycling 7 miles each way to work seemed inconceivable. Dangerous and far too much effort. Or so I thought...
In 2009 I set a goal to complete my first triathlon. I bought a road bike and started community to work on it. I would cycle 14 miles each day and around Richmond Park on my weekends. I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon and realised I had completely fallen in love with cycling.
I can’t pinpoint where the idea to cycle from London to Paris in 24 hours came from, but I remember knowing it was what I wanted to do. With one 60 mile bike ride under my belt, I headed off to complete my very first London to Paris with three guys I met on a bike forum, in November 2009. It rained the whole way, we had tears, punctures and arguments. Yet when I got to Paris the beer had never tasted so good, I had the best sleep of my life and felt invincible. I was hooked on cycling, adventure and endurance.
Since then I’ve cycled London to Paris in 24 hours nine times and I run the L2P24 Sportive if you want to try it too! I’ve cycled through the eight Alpine countries and climbed their highest summits, cycled Coast to Coast across the USA, from Nice to Geneva through the Alps on the Haute Route, Coast to Coast across the UK, the 3 Peaks Cycle Challenge, 312km around the island of Mallorca in 13 hours, and I'm a two time Ironman Wales finisher. Blogs and videos on all my challenges here.
Cycling has completely changed my life. It’s a truly wonderful sport and although I could go on forever about why I love it so much, I thought that sharing my tips on how to build cycling strength would be more useful!
1. Face your fear
Every fear you feel about cycling, other people have felt too. If you worry about cycling on busy streets, not being fit enough, not knowing the lingo, having the right kit, being stuck at the back, not knowing how to change punctures. I could go on. Don’t worry! Everyone has exactly the same fears and everyone has to start somewhere. Face your fear, embrace it and find people to take you under their wing until you build your confidence, skills and strength.
2. Set yourself a challenge
Find a challenge that inspires you (and maybe scares you a little!) This will provide you with a brilliant motivation to get out cycling and weather the cold and wet months of training in the winter for the glory of completing your chosen challenge in the summer. Choose the level of a challenge that feels right for you and your life commitments. London to Brighton is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful ride. If you want to stretch yourself further my L2P24 sportive could be an option!
3. Fuel your passion
As with any sport, focus on what you love about it. It’s easy to get caught up in statistics and pressure to achieve PB’s, that sometimes we loose sight of what inspired us and made us fall in love with it in the first place. I love using my bike as a way to explore the world, and at such a wonderful pace. I love riding down quiet country lanes in the summer, finding country pubs and there’s always a cake stop on a good ride! I love how it’s the basis of so many friendships I truly value in my life, it’s such an amazing way to meet people and form strong bonds. The more you love it, the more you’ll cycle and the stronger you’ll become, so fuel your passion!
4. Build power in the gym
To build confidence, speed and agility on the bike, strength training, lifting weights, spinning and WATT bike sessions are all absolutely fantastic investments of your time and energy. It’s the combination between loosing weight and building sheer muscle strength that increases your power to weight ratio.
If you really want to become a badass cyclist, nothing beats riding in the mountains. Cycling strength and the ability to ride hard and long is just as reliant on your mental strength as it is on your physical strength. Putting yourself in the pain cave and cycling up a mountain for an hour or two is an epic test of endurance and you will undoubtedly reap the rewards. Plus it’s possibly one of the most inspiring experiences you could grant yourself.
Now you have my top tips, I can't wait to see you make new friends, cycle in the mountains and eat cake. What’s not to love?
Now onto my bike! I’ve been mega excited about this and have kept it quiet until now, but I have recently been riding the Halford’s Pro Carbon SLR bike and boy is it swift! Maybe that helped contribute to me feeling like a pro, because my cycling is definitely not, but who cares when we feel the part, right? I get asked a lot of questions about which bike I’d recommend and I find it quite hard to answer because I only know the bikes I ride.
For the past four years I have cycled my Cannondale Super Six Evo. Now I’m also riding the Boardman and loving it. It’s lighter than my Cannondale, the double tap gear shifters took a little getting used to but now I’ve got them sorted it’s a smooth, responsive and fast ride. The team at Halfords were great at helping me choose the right bike, get it set up in store and offer a 6 week service. Get’s my approval!
Huge thanks to Neil Irwin adventure photographer for freezing your fingers and toes off with me to capture these stunning images. Richmond Park inspires me to go for sunrise cycling whenever I get the chance, and these photos help me share what I love about it.