It will be the first time I’ve ridden a bike in years. I actually can’t remember the last time I rode one, and feel both dubious and nervous about starting again. It’s a whim – my Dad is a keen road cyclist and my sister often goes out with him for hours at a time, exploring the miles of quiet country roads that surround us here in Mid Wales. I have also started writing a blog for Red Kite Events, a company that runs MTB and sportive events. It’s got me a little bit more interested than I used to be and I feel like I should go out on a bike just once to see what all the fuss is about.
Dad has chosen a short (very short!) route for us – an out and back 5 miler from home, going a little way out across the Epynt. He’s put my bike saddle up and done something to the gears apparently, I’m not sure what and it makes little difference to me since I don’t understand it anyway. He explains everything he’s done to me and it goes in one unknowledgeable ear and out the other in seconds.
The weather is warm and I feel mounting apprehension as I climb onto the yellow bike. What have I let myself in for? I like walking and have climbed Snowdon this year, but cycling has never been something I was keen on, even as a child when I did ride more often. But there’s no turning back now – Dad has already set off.
We hit uphill straight away because the track to our house is on a hill. I hate it already, struggling up the slope, progress slow. It feels like it takes forever to get to the road, but I am triumphant when I reach tarmac – I haven’t gotten off to push my bike once (a big achievement for someone who’s not ridden one for years, let alone up a hill!) and made it all under my own pedal power. I take a gulp of water and catch my breath.
All you experienced bikers reading this are probably laughing by now, the track was only three quarters of a mile and I’m acting like I’ve cycled 50 all uphill miles. But it felt like I’d passed some sort of test, that first hill, and I carry on along the (flatter) road feeling elated.
The route is fairly flat and very familiar from my thousands of car journeys to and from home over the years. You don’t notice the lumps and bumps or the camber of the road when you’re driving though, and I’m surprised to realise that the ‘flat’ road is actually gently sloping downhill. I pedal along, enjoying the slight breeze.
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it is obvious to me now that cycling opens up a world of opportunities – so much quicker than walking and so much more quiet and calm than driving. You can breathe and take the scenery in. I’m still wobbly though, and find that staring straight ahead is my best bet for the time being!
We reach the point where we turn back quicker than I expected we would. I feel like I could go loads further. Once you settle into a rhythm, even hills aren’t that bad. There is one ‘big’ hill on the way home to tackle. I catch Dad up and manage to overtake him, which I think takes him by surprise. We laugh and then he zooms down the other side and out of sight. I go more slowly, not yet confident enough to take my hands off the brakes and freewheel it.
The whole ride takes us no more than half an hour to 45 minutes and I arrive home feeling pleased with myself. I’ve managed to tackle hills I had been looking at before the ride and dreading. I feel okay, although I have muscles in my legs that I didn’t know existed before and my bum is a bit sore. And most of all, to my greatest surprise, I realise I actually enjoyed myself!
It takes me a week to email Dad and suggest we go on another bike ride. This time, we do a circular route. It is muggy and after work, so I’m tired and not feeling one hundred percent. I almost ring to cancel, but then tell myself that exercise is supposed to help and make myself drive home.
It takes me a little while to establish a rhythm this time, and there are a couple of occasions where I hop off to catch my breath and push my bike for a little while. Dad cycles slowly beside me and we chat. Finally, I manage to get into the swing of things and tackle a long, steady uphill, reaching the top without stopping and without getting too out of puff. We pause for some water and to take in the view. Despite low-slung clouds partially obscuring the Cambrians, it is stunning. I feel happy and excited. Cycling could open up many more opportunities for me to enjoy one of my favourite pass-times – taking in a good view. Walking allows me this opportunity to an extent, but it takes longer.
The downhill is long and flowing, beautifully smooth tarmac. I even get up enough guts to take my hands off the brakes and freewheel it down to the bottom. My fingers hover nervously over the brakes but the feel of the wind rushing past me is exhilarating. I barely pedal for the next five minutes.
I make it to the top of the last uphill again without stopping, keeping a slow and steady pace. I’m elated and have a private celebratory fist pump into the air. Dad is way ahead again, cycling homewards. I amble along, enjoying myself. He waits at the top of our drive for me and we head down towards the house together.
I’m sore again, but less so than last time. And what is more, I definitely want to go cycling again! And for longer… Maybe I’ll push for a 10 miler next time? Who knows. All I can say is that I have definitely been bitten by the cycling bug. Maybe I’ll even take part in one of Red Kite Events sportives in the future? Or am I being a little over-ambitious after just two short rides… Only time will tell!
Apologies for the lack of pictures of me on a bike - once I'm on I generally just want to keep going!! The few that have been posted are of the scenery in our wonderful corner of Mid Wales, that can all be viewed from the saddle of a bike, whatever experience you have!!
From top to bottom:
View across Llyn Brianne Reservoir.
View across the Cambrian's from the Epynt viewpoint, on the B4519 between Garth and Upper Chapel.
View across the top of the Cambrian Mountains (one for you mountain bikers), up above Coed Trallwm.
View across the Epynt, taken along the back road between Cynala and Tirabad.