Ride One: down, up, round and ... ouch!

Posted by Avril Jones on

Collection day arrived.  Ross Cycles is on ‘the hill’, as we valley dwellers refer to the other half of the town.  The shop is on a busy road, on the corner of a cul-de-sac with an alley at the  end, forming the first short leg of my route to the local aerodrome, where I planned to get acquainted with my bike and get my first few miles done.

The first surprise was how much better my tatty old heap looked.   Shiny and red!

As the photo shows, it was a beautiful day.  I wheeled the bike round the corner, hoping nobody would watch me nervously climb on and, inevitably, wobble away.

This town turns out to have more hills than I’ve noticed while walking.  I mean, it has some BIG hills - but perhaps that's why the small ones seem insignificant - until you try to pedal up them or not go flying down them at breakneck speeds.  When walking, you don’t take much notice of little bumps, either.  As a new cyclist, your undercarriage is very sensitive to every little bump and judder!

The side road by the shop turned out to be my first hill, or descent.  The most innocuous looking slope takes on quite a different character when you have a pair of eager wheels rolling under you.  Time to test the new brakes ... They're so much better - phew!  Then a dismount to walk along the footpath.  This comes out on a road I know so well from driving.  It's a narrow road that most drivers inexplicably take too fast and I needed to get a little way uphill.  Riding up hills takes good use of gears and strength that only comes with practice.  So I carried on walking the bike, up the short hill and across the road into a flatter side turning.

Here, it became very evident that I'd need to practise moving off.  Pedal up, push down, wobble, argh!  I think it took me three goes.  Good job I decided long ago that learning something new is no cause for embarrassment!

From here, I could pedal along without having to worry about hills or obstacles so I was able to relax a little, while constantly watching out for cars or car doors appearing from nowhere.  Then I reached the next junction.  After the previous wobbles moving off, plus my slowness at gaining any momentum, I decided to walk the bike across the road again.  Next junction was a notorious mini roundabout where, typically of mini roundabouts everywhere, some driver(s) will aggressively charge across it without even slowing down.  Then there are others who sit waiting for someone else to make the first move, like a Mexican stand-off.  Either way, it's very tense.  Once again, I walked.  Almost at the aerodrome now - just one very quiet road up to the gate.

I'd never cycled around the aerodrome before.  It's very popular with walkers, cyclists and people teaching their kids to ride.  The perimeter road is a two mile lap and I'd dog-walked it many times.  When walking, I had never noticed how much of the tarmac surface is cracked or badly crumbled, making for a very bumpy ride - and appalling saddle pain!  Already a little bit tender from the short road ride to get there, I couldn't face a second lap.  I still had to ride home, a couple of essentially flat miles followed by a long, steep, downhill.

Some riders love fast descents.  I don't.  They terrify me.  I was on my brakes the whole way down - but at least they worked!  That road leads to a huge, six-exit roundabout that most drivers treat like a race track.  I was not even going to consider joining it.  Luckily, there are wide underpass paths from each exit with a big open space in the middle.  A quick dip through there got me onto my home road.  I never imagined I'd be so relieved to get off the bike!  I had known saddle pain would be an issue to begin with but I had not expected it to be so bad.

My first outing had netted just under six miles and I had another 310 to go.  Dreams of 30 mile rides to catch up were absolutely dashed.  Clearly, it was going to take me way beyond the end of July to complete the distance.  My next task would be researching how to overcome the saddle pain problem.  I was in agony and it was going to take time to heal even if I found a magic solution to the problem straight away.  As with so many things in life, there is no single solution that suits everyone.  It's an issue that deserves its own, separate blog post.  

Until next time ..

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