I never do things by half and, my journey from “sofa surfer” to cyclist has been no different. I bought my first road bike and a week later, joined a beginners group ride with the Mickey Cranks Cycling Club (“MCCC”) in my home town of Witney, Oxfordshire. “A flat, easy 30 miles with coffee stop at Bampton” was the brief posted on the group Facebook page. Until now, I’d been mightily impressed with my 7 mile loop that I did to try out the new steed. 30 miles!? That’s longer than a Marathon! 9am start on Sunday from Mickey Cranks’ bike shop (“the shop”) – what have I done?! No more lazy Sundays and they think that 30 miles is easy! With those fears spinning around my mind like a gyroscope, I went to bed early on the eve of my inaugural group ride. Now, most people would start such an outdoor pursuit in the Spring, when it’s light, sunny and mild . . . not me, this was November.
Sunday morning came sooner than I’d ever known before so, up I got and went quietly downstairs so as not to wake the house, to the dark, cold room where my kit had been laid out the night before. Before I had a chance to retreat to the warm comfort of the bed that I’d left, I was kitted up in enough hi-vis to be visible from space and off I went, on the cold, wet, solo 2 miles to the shop. I was soon welcomed by the warmth of Hannah, the ride leader of the starter group (“Eddies”) that day. We went through the hand signals, group etiquette and route. Then, as the group was formed, it was 9am and we were on our way. 5 miles . . . 10 miles and there we were, at the coffee stop! That wasn’t so bad. On the return leg, we had 2 punctures and several of us lent a hand (and tubes!) to get us rolling again and almost as soon as the ride had started, we were back at the shop. 30 miles, a few minor repairs and with a stomach
full of coffee and cake, the euphoria of what I’d just done overshadowed all of the fears. I was hooked and I couldn’t wait to go again.
Winter became Spring and, through the experience and knowledge that I’d gained from riding with MCCC, on a chilly April morning, I was at the start line of my very first 100km sportive. This led to 3 more through the year on one of which, I raised over £600 in sponsorship for MacMillan Cancer Support. I went on to complete my first century ride, cycle around the Wales Velodrome (organised by MCCC) and lead many of the Sunday club rides through the rolling hills and picturesque villages and views of The Cotswolds.
Looking back over my first year with MCCC, I’ve gained more than fitness. I’ve gained new friends with a common interest and a collective knowledge that I could never have had access to otherwise. I’ve set and achieved goals way beyond my own expectations and I now have the confidence to do solo rides on the roads that I’ve discovered (and in some cases, never knew existed!) through riding the varied routes of the Sunday club runs. I’ve found a new hobby that’s accessible to everyone regardless of budget or ability and one that provides a release from the stress of the day job, an escape, a therapy, a focus. As the Sunday club ride ends and Monday comes around again, I’m already thinking about next week’s ride and getting out with the club again.
– Colin Jones.