A Year of Cycling Failures

I sat down to write this post without realising that it was just over a year ago that I wrote a post covering a lot of what I wanted to write about today… only more optimistically. Having deleted the original draft of today’s post I can now just link to last year’s which was all about my intention to buy a bike, cycle, lose weight and get fit. Easy, right? Well no. I failed miserably in 2012.

Oddly it was exactly one year ago that I wrote another post about how my daughter and I had just collected my new bike and done a couple of loops of local lanes. Without realising it, today my daughter and I got our bikes out for the first time this year and did exactly the same route. And then cycled two or three miles more.

So why all this talk of failure? Because during 2012 I didn’t lose weight and I didn’t get fitter. Or at least if I did lose weight and I did get fitter I’m now back where I started. It’s time to work out what went wrong and, more importantly, how I can now fix it and actually realise my goals.

I think that three things conspired against me last year. I’m tempted to cite the terrible summer we had as one of them but really that was just an excuse not to cycle as much as I should have done.

1. Fear

I live in a hilly area. It’s called the Mendip Hills and whilst it’s not like Cornwall or Scotland or the mountains of Wales it’s not flat like the area of Merseyside where I grew up and enjoyed my childhood cycling years. When you’re very unfit and you know you’re meant to be cycling you look at the roads in a different way. You start to notice inclines and imagine that if you’re on a bike you’ll not get up them. I became scared of the hills around where I live and decided that since I’d not make it up them I’d better confine my cycling to the immediate area which got boring and resulted in short rides.

The reality is that I need to try to get up the hills. Until I actually fail, and by that I mean that I’m also unable to push my bike up a hill even if I can’t cycle up it, I’m assuming I can’t do it which is, frankly, a bit pathetic.

2. Purpose

Getting fit and losing weight are both purposes for cycling but, like when you are a smoker and know the health risks but still don’t quit, when you’re overweight and unfit it isn’t enough to simply decide to change things. Unless you have a lot of willpower there is little really driving you on.

However, last December I turned 40. It struck me that I’m very possibly over half-way through my life. Whilst people are living longer you don’t see many overweight 80 year olds so in reality, if I carry on as I am, I’m likely to only have another 25 or 30 years ahead of me. That’s a sobering thought because it’s not that long.

I want to live to reach and pass 80. I want to see my daughter grow up and reach middle age. If she has children I want to be able to spend time with them and not just when they are babies. There are a lot of other things I want to do too and right now I want more time ahead of me than behind.

3. Naivety

I thought that I’d be able to start cycling and that I’d start to feel fitter quickly and that the weight would drop off. It might if I’d managed some reasonable length rides and not restricted myself (see item 1). I thought it would be easy. Very little in life which is an achievement is easy.

Solving The Problem

So what am I now going to do next?

Well the good news is that the cycling itch is well and truly back. I think it started from a feeling of general listlessness and lethargy and a feeling that I’d put on yet more weight and that my fitness levels were really, really low. This was all exacerbated by me reading a cycling book again. This time it was Ellie Bennett’s Mud, Sweat and Gears. I love reading cycling books and am always inspired about stories of people doing end-to-end journeys, travelling across Europe, America or touring around the world. I dream of doing similar journeys myself and then I sigh and remember that I can barely make it beyond the village bounds.

The fact that I sat down this evening to think about why my attempts to cycle last year had been so disastrous have also helped. I’ now need ‘m now going to plan some longer routes and actually give them a go. If I can’t cycle them I’ll get off and push the bits I can’t ride. If I can’t push I’ll stop and have a rest and then carry on. What I’ll not do is give up before I’ve even tried.

I am going to create a routine for myself. Being a self-employed, single parent it’s very easy to not find the time to go out for a ride. I’m probably going to start by having a short daily ‘commute’ twice a day and if those rides evolve into longer ones then so be it. I’m also going to try to get into the habit of going for a ride when I need some thinking time away from computers.

I’m going to reward myself too. At the moment I have two things in mind. The first, easiest and cheapest, is to sign up for the BHF Glastonbury Bike Ride which is the evolution of the sponsored ride I did back in the mid-2000s which made me realise I still enjoyed cycling. I loved the ride last time I did it and I’d love to do the 50 mile route this year.

The second is to book myself on a cycling holiday. At the moment I know I’d struggle to enjoy one because I’m so unfit but I’d love to do one as my first taste of a cycling expedition. I’m not sure what I want to do or where or even when but I’m going to make it happen.

I’d like to find an occasional cycling buddy in the area. There are several keen cyclists in the village and surrounding areas but they are all fit, capable cyclists who I’d massively slow-down. I need to find someone closer to my own current abilities for now. However I know that once I’m more confident and capable there are at least lots of people for me to go out on rides with.

Finally, I’m going to go on a basic bike maintenance course (at a minimum). I’m pretty hopeless at practical things and maintaining a bike, if not terrifies, at least fills me with trepidation. I’m not sure I’d even cope well changing an inner tube at this point. Knowing a bit more about the mechanical side of things and having more confidence in repairing and maintaining my bike would be a big confidence boost.

So I guess that all I can now say is watch this space!