Addiscombe Cycling Club run “Leisure Rides” throughout the summer, for those looking to broaden their cycling horizons and take on a bit more of a challenge in a relaxed cycling environment. They are fully supported by up to four outriders and led by a guy called Monty.
Easy – 2hours plus 30min cafe stop
Steady – 3hours plus 30min cafe stop
Challenging – 4 hours plus 30min cafe stop
The first ride of the season took place on Sunday, and was supposed to be Steady, although Monty told me afterwards it was more like an Easy ride- which didn’t do much for my self-confidence I must say.
I had major butterflies in my stomach on the way to Coulsdon Town to meet the group. I opted to walk/cycle to East Croydon and get a train rather than cycling the half hour to the meeting point, saving my legs and avoiding getting lost/being late.
There were about 10 other people – everyone had road bikes, and the majority wore cycling shoes and proper jerseys. And while no-one looked like an elite racer, I was surprised not to see at least one person with a hybrid, or meet someone who was a bit new to cycling. Everyone was very friendly though, reassuring me that these Leisure Rides always had a great atmosphere and many of them returned year after year to ride with Monty, even if they didn’t cycle over the winter.
We headed out and pretty much immediately were straight into a hill – honestly in those first 5 minutes I considered turning around and saying “sorry this isn’t for me”, as everyone disappeared into the distance. But I gritted my teeth and told myself I would at least give this one ride a fair chance. This kind of set the precedent for the rest of the morning. Monty cycled alongside me giving me tips on which gear I should be in, and how to tackle downhills safely while I grunted in response to his questions, and pushed my legs to try and keep up.
The ride leaders made sure we were safe at all the junctions, sometimes holding up traffic so we could cross but I still got that little lump in my throat as I tried to slow down and unclip before reaching the roundabout or giveway – hopefully something which I will get used to in time!
After what felt like never-ending hills, but was actually only around an hour of cycling, we arrived at Priory Farm for a cafe stop – there was a delicious looking array of cakes, scones and treats but my stomach couldn’t face the thought of food. I had a ginger beer instead and sat down to chat with people for a few minutes.
There were perhaps less hills on the way back but they were definitely longer and steeper – I probably would have got off and walked had I been riding on my own but the thought of getting even more left behind, and with Monty at my elbow, I pushed onwards, lungs and thighs burning.
This may sound like a rather negative account of my experience, and if I’m honest they were only a few points where I got the chance to look around and admire the views and smile at being out in the country, and definitely no stops for photos! But I was proud of myself for dragging my butt out of bed, and keeping going. I think the heat on Sunday didn’t make things any easier either – I was glad of my Camelbak as well as the bottle of High5 Zero on my bike, and I definitely have some interesting tan lines now…
It has made me a little nervous about the prospect of cycling up even harder hills for London to Brighton in 2 weeks, and for RideLondon but actually I’ll be on my own (with thousands of other people) so can take it at my own pace, and get off if I want a break. I’m not sure club riding is for me just yet – I clearly need to be a bit fitter – but it was a good experience cycling with a group and exploring more of my local area.
I just need to do some more hill training!
Have you cycled with a club or group?