I’ve had a mountain bike for, ooh, about ten years? It’s hardly been used. You see, I’m not too great on a bike. Don’t get me wrong, I can ride one, as a kid, I wanted to be a BMXer, and I was happy to ride along standing on the crossbar, and once, the seat. I have never managed to right without using my hands, but that really would be showing off. No, my problem is my leg strength. I used to blame my leg length, or lack of, but cyclists like Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott, who aren’t just similar builds, but similar heights to me, means that I can’t use that excuse.
It’s definitely a strength issue. On the few occasions when we did ride out together, The Bloke would be casually pedalling off into the distance, whilst I frantically tried to keep up. He tried to tell me that I had the bike in the wrong gear, but the lack of clunking emphasised the fact I’ve got weak quads. Even in the gym, on a static bike, he could add the kilometres far quicker than I could.
At the start of April, we got the bikes back out, for two reasons; firstly, we cancelled our gym membership, but needed some cross-training to compliment the running. Secondly, one of the roads to our Tuesday running group was due to be closed. It was a slow car journey, in any case, with all of the rush hour traffic, and with the Great Central Way being close to both the start and end points, we may as well use that instead. As it happened, the road closure was put back to the summer, but on our first journey, we managed to get to Brian’s quicker than driving. No surprise, really. Leicester is terrible for driving.
To my surprise, I felt as though I was cycling quicker than I had done before. I have no direct comparison, as I never measured my speed, time, or distance, but The Bloke wasn’t tearing off, as he had in the past. He was still quicker, however. I also wasn’t struggling up the hills as much, although I felt as though I could run up them quicker, especially the steepest one. Maybe, the improvement in my running, and the fact I’m running outdoors, has strengthened my quads more than I thought. I currently use my Garmin Forerunner 220 to record the speed. It’s not a multi-sport watch, so I do have to change the activity type once it’s uploaded to Garmin Connect.
My Garmin is also linked to Strava, so that also requires a quick edit. Strava appears to be used by far more cyclists than runners. There are various segments set up, so you can see how you compare with other riders. Considering I’m riding a heavy mountain bike, my figures are around the bottom end of the top third of women cyclist per section, with one exception. The big downhill. Like my running, I’m better at riding down than up! I say riding, it’s really freewheeling. I might be quicker if I didn’t stick my legs out. *sticks tongue out* Over the last six weeks, I’ve been getting quicker, even riding just once a week, with an average speed between 10.5 to 12 miles per hour. I’ve only had the one bad experience going up the big hill, where I had to stop at the bottom, and couldn’t get going. In the end, I had to get off and walk.
The Bloke decided to upgrade to a road bike, as he had a great deal through his Vitality health insurance. He seemed excited, for a change, after riding it home, and how much quicker he was. On our commute to Brian’s, he showed off by easily zipping past me. To rub it in, he said the main difference was going uphill, where it felt so much easier. I am only just getting used to riding standing up, to get any purchase going up! Despite the fact I did say that by putting in the extra effort, I’d be getting a proper workout, unlike Mr Speedy Gonwheelies, the decision was made; I will be getting a new bike.
Looking around, there are so many different options, and looking at the specs, I found it all a bit overwhelming. I need to know what the difference between the gear shift levers are, but it would take hours of research. In the end, it came down to two bikes, one of which was only available in Nottingham, the other was a unisex bike that was available locally, but was just okay for my height. I am not comfortable not being able to have my feet on the floor, so I am a little afraid at having to have the seat at the correct height, but it’s the one we’ve gone for.
It’s not quite a road bike, it’s a cyclocross bike. The wheels and tyres are more rugged, but these can be changed. It’s about 1kg heavier than the other bike I liked the look of, but I would guess it’s significantly lighter than the current bike. If it can make my commute up hills easier, though, I’m all for it.
That seat though! *anguished face*