On the 29th January, 2019, British Cycling launched their #OneInAMillion campaign aimed at bridging the gap between male and female participation levels in cycling. Having been cycling myself for about 6 years now (as an adult), I’ve noticed the lack of female representation especially when I’m taking part in sportives or races.
If you’ve been following my journey on two wheels then you will know there are so many ways to enjoy cycling. Personally, I’ve cycled London to Paris with friends, taken part in sportives, signed up to Breeze Rides, been a sweep cyclist for a half marathon, tried track cycling, tried cyclocross racing… and there is still so much left to be explored!
But, I thought I’d use this campaign from British Cycling as a good excuse (as if I ever needed one!) to share as many stories from cycling that I have found inspiring. Couldn’t think of a better story to kick this off with than Helens (of 1 Vision 2 Girls)…
Helen’s #OneInAMillion Story
In 2014 I hadn’t ridden a bike for years. In fact I wasn’t even sure I knew how to anymore. My friend Abbie quite liked cycling and was interested in cycling to Paris. We used to go to the gym together a lot so she asked me if I would be interested in joining her. I was reluctant to spend the usual 3 days cycling there and decided it would be a waste of holiday. So I managed to find a 24hr challenge, we signed up for this! 275 miles cycling and a 2hr ferry (Dover to Calais), all to be done within 24hrs.
I borrowed a bike from Abbie one weekend shortly after this, I was a bit too nervous to take it outside so I tried riding through my house from my living room through the dining room… Then was a bit braver, rode round the corner (about a mile) to my mums house. Then 2 of my amazing friends agreed to help me test ride my cycle to work route from Hornchurch to Canary Wharf. We set off one Sunday evening and rode along the CS3 (Cycle Super Highway) to Canary Wharf. When we arrived we rewarded ourselves with a drink and a burger in a pub on the docks and got the train home afterwards. First ride successfully completed.
Then I bought a bike… I knew nothing about bikes… I went into a high street retailer and asked what sort of bike would be suitable. After getting some dubious advice in the first shop I tried I tried another shop. Eventually I had narrowed it down to a choice of 2 that were suitable, the shop ordered them in and when they arrived one felt far more comfortable than the other. Therefore my first adult bike was a Specialized Sectuer that I purchased using my employers Cycle to Work Scheme.
Building Up Training In Essex And Beyond
I trained quite hard for the event, started off cycling to work at least twice a week, then adding extra mileage on to my route home so that my commute days ended up with approx. 12 miles to work and 30 miles home. I wasn’t fast, but I was making it to my destination each time quite ok. Then we started to do some longer weekend rides, I didn’t really know where I was going, I just weaved my way through the Essex countryside trying not to get lost. The company I worked for also had offices in Brighton so some days we rode to Brighton after work, stayed in Brighton that night, worked there the next day and cycled home after work. I have to say at this point I wasn’t enjoying my cycling, it felt like a chore, something that had to be done rather than something I wanted to do. I vowed that when I returned from Paris the bike would be going on Ebay!
When the time got closer to the event date they released the GPX files for the route so myself and Abbie along with a few others who we had ‘met’ on the participants facebook page, grouped together to cycle the first section of the route from London to Dover. This is not an easy route, there are hills, lots of them (Kent Downs are not Downs, they are ups!). There is also a pretty evil climb just before Dover. I got off and walked… We went back a few weeks later and did it again. I made it up the hill (huffing and puffing thinking my legs were going to fall off). We could do this! But I wasn’t having fun.
Then about 2 weeks before the event something happened to me. I stopped hating every minute on the bike and actually was doing ok. I realised I was faster than I had been, it was feeling easier and I wouldn’t say I was enjoying it but I didn’t hate it!
The London to Paris Ride24 Event
We took part in the London to Paris Ride24 event in September 2014. We had a great ride to Dover, showered and changed on the ferry and started the night section well. In fact we did amazingly well until about 40 miles outside of Paris when Abbie’s front wheel buckled and what should have been less than 3hrs riding turned into 5hrs. We couldn’t even push the bike easily. Progress was slow. We arrived in Paris just over 26hrs after we left London. But we were ok. We’d had a great time, and on a boat tour the next day made the decision to try again, 2 weeks later supported by friends rather than as part of the event. So 2 weeks later with 2 cars of dedicated friends as support crew we headed off. We made it this time. 23hrs and 52mins after leaving London we were in Paris, in front of the Eifel Tower, sub 24hr target achieved!
That October I bought 2 new bikes… My bike didn’t go on Ebay, it became part of a family of 3 bikes and started my love of cycling. Since then I have ridden Newcastle to London in 24hrs, cycled 180 miles around Lake Vattern in Sweden overnight, participated in many major cycle sportives, taken part in multiple Ironman events and become an ambassador for cycling brand Primal Europe. I have a beautiful selection of Liv Cycling bikes and I love them. In 2014 if you had told me this was my future I would have laughed at you.
My beloved Specialized Sector was eventually sold to a friend who wanted to get into cycling. It wasn’t a conscious decision to sell it, but when someone I knew was looking for a first bike I knew it would be perfect for her and she loves it. The bike gets far more miles cycling with her than it would have done had it stayed with me. But I am super grateful to that bike for showing me how cycling can feel.
Seeing The World From A Different Perspective
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a child. Or if you are too scared to start off on the road. I am pretty sure there is a secret cyclist in all of us. Everyone should give it a go. It is fun, gives you freedom and lets you see the world from a different perspective. Helps to keep you fit, provides a great opportunity to make friends, and there are many other reasons to join in. To list them all would take forever, so I think everyone should go out and find their own reasons to ride.
You can read Helen’s blog, 1 Vision 2 Girls here or leave her a comment below!