How is it possible to love cycling but be afraid of your bike?

Julie Creffield guest blogs on keep it simpElle about loving cycling but fearing the bike

“I bet no one new to my blog would believe me if I said this wasn’t a cycling blog, but with so many amazing stories to share, that is what I need to do! Julie’s is the next #OneInAMillion story I have for you…”

Elle, keep it simpElle

I got my first bike for my 10th birthday back in 1988. A blue BMX which was the height of fashion back then. I have a nagging feeling it came off the back of a lorry via my Dad…as I specifically asked for a pink one with tassels. Nether the less I rode around the streets of East Ham like I owned the world until I fell off it and my mum locked it in the garden shed nether to see the light of day again.

At age 12 my Grandad who felt sorry about my bikeless existence me gave me another bike…again I think it was blue, more of an adults bike this time (clearly second hand), and again I came off it, at the top of my road after getting my shoe lace caught in the spokes.

Then I went a long time without getting on a bike…I didn’t need one because now I had a car…and don’t worry I have a clean record when it comes to accidents with this mode of transport.

In 2006 I found myself with a place for a Triathlon (don’t ask), and so without a bike I ordered one from my Mums catalogue, a heavy bright yellow monstrosity of a thing it was…completely unsuitable for a triathlon…in fact on race day I cycled the 20K around the docks in East London with a flat tyre.

You see I just don’t have much confidence when it comes to bike maintenance, plus I don’t know what kind of bike ones needs for different cycling activities, I just want to be able to cycle from time to time.

In my 30s I bought a sturdy hybrid bike to cycle to work on, which was probably my most successful experience on two wheels. The bike lasted me a good few years, cycling the 8 miles back and forward to work every day for a couple of years…and when my daughter came along I even put a baby seat on the back and we would cruise around the Olympic Park when the weather was good…but I always took it to a shop if ever it got a puncture.

I am somewhat afraid of things going wrong with my bike though.

They are so unpredictable.

They just make me feel so vulnerable.

I can’t fix a puncture to save my life, and I am forever seeing poor souls on the side of the road struggling with inner tubes and other paraphernalia, or worst still coming back to the place they parked their bike to found it gone, the lock broke on the floor.

I once caught a bloke trying to cut the lock of my horrid bright yellow mountain bike with a wood saw, I saw him out the window of my mums house and ended up chasing him through the streets of Forest Gate while on the phone to the police who couldn’t care a less.

But I love to cycle.

So this in the dilemma.

As it stands I have three bikes at home that are not being used, my 6 year old daughters bike where the brake cable has come out (no amount of YouTube clips of how to fix it have helped), my old hybrid bike which I lost the final remaining key for the lock a few years back and my lovely new road bike which I used back in May for the Paris Triathlon which now has two punctures…or at least two flat tires.

So yes, I now have a glorious road bike, specifically designed for triathlons and the like, it is super light, has all the right specifications (don’t ask me what they are) and yet I still don’t know how to ride it.

Let me explain.

I chose the bike from Decathlon and a lovely technician there set it up and made sure it was the right height etc, and then he gave me a quick overview of the gears. It all made sense as he explained it to me…but then I cycled the 8 miles home in the same gear too afraid to mess it up.

A few days later I went out for a longer ride and tested out the gears…and before you knew it I felt like I had really broken it…in reality I was just in the wrong gear, but for the life of me I couldn’t get it back up to the right gear.

Again no amount of YouTube videos made it any clearer.

I managed eventually through trial and error to get it back to where I wanted it and decided with literally a week to go until my Triathlon I would leave it as it was. I don’t know why I find it so confusing, I understand it in principle but in the moment it all goes wrong.

Its kind of embarrassing having such a nice bike and not being able to use it properly, not to mention I’m making things harder for myself on long rides, especially when there are hills, especially when cycling with others.

For example, I cycled 40 kilometers around Paris in one gear…it’s just as well I can’t speak French, because the shouts of frustration from the various men who passed me as I pushed my way up the various hills were most definitely not “good on ya love”

But I have decided I am going to tackle my fear of my bike this year by getting involved in more cycling activities, by asking for help, by cycling with other women…because the truth of the matter is I have felt embarrassed after having taken part in a range of cycling events over the years to not know such simple things that other cyclists just seem to know.

However, I am not going to let that fear get to me anymore.


Leave Julie a comment below or catch up with her most recent adventures on Twitter and Instagram.



  1. March 14, 2019 / 18:17

    You had so many ups and downs with the bike and you still continued to go on with it… Well keep it up.
    Looking forward to hear more such stories from you!

  2. March 10, 2019 / 18:04

    I would love to help you with this as much as I can. I did not personally go through this confusion about the gears when I started cycling.I have an inner stubbornness that I’m okay with breaking things which helps. BUT I hear it all the time from new cyclists. Women and men.

  3. Jacqui
    March 10, 2019 / 12:58

    It’s even more awesome you did that ride in one gear! ??. I’ve tried to change inner tubes and fix punctures but with no success so I take the whole bike (yep, not even just the wheel!) to my local bike shop and pay! Bonus is I get the tyres nicely pumped up!
    I aim to join my local cycle ride group who meet monthly, it will be a start! Thanks for reminding me.

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