Who takes up cycling for the first time at 63?

Posted by Avril Jones on

Quite a lot of people, it turns out!  Quite a lot of them women, which is fantastic!  So why me?  What possessed me?  And why do I love it so much?  If you're tempted but unsure, read on and learn along with me.  It's been quite a learning curve but I've 'met' (mostly virtually) so many wonderful, warm, friendly, helpful, encouraging people and it brings me joy.  Riding makes me feel like a kid again and what can be better than that in such a tense, worrying time?

It all started in early July 2020 when I received an email from a charity I was already supporting through my personal challenge to lose 70lbs (5st) or 31.75Kg.  I was half way there, 35lbs down by dieting and food logging in an app called LoseIt.  I'd just started going to the gym (a habit I lost in my 30s due to a change in circumstances) - when Covid-19 hit the UK like a tidal wave and everything shut down.

Knowing regular exercise would boost my weight loss, I tried to start running.  My mildly arthritic knees complained.  I was going to persist but then this email arrived from Myeloma UK.  Their annual London to Paris bike ride couldn't go ahead in real life due to Covid-19 - but it would now take the form of a virtual challenge.  Any kind of riding, anywhere you like, indoor or outdoor, and a whole month to complete the 316 miles.  Plus an interactive map that would plot your progress, with street view, each time you added the distance of your latest ride.  

It brought back memories of holidays in France and my one and only visit to Paris, just three years earlier for my 60th birthday.  The idea of even pretending to ride from London and finish on the Champs Élysée set off my imagination, along with heaps of optimistic enthusiasm.  An average of just over 10 miles a day for 30 days really did sound achievable ...

I wasn't allowed a bike a a child and never had one as an adult.  Yet it was always there.  An inkling at the back of my mind that I'd like to ride a bicycle.  I had an old mountain bike gathering dust (and rust and mildew) in the garage.  It was bought on impulse on my way home from being made redundant in 2000, ridden maybe three times, then left, lonely and neglected, mainly because I live in a valley on the edge of the Surrey Hills and couldn't even get up the start of the first hill.  I felt defeated.  Soon the bike was hidden behind junk and clutter.  Now I wanted it and couldn’t get near it so I asked my partner to perform the necessary excavation - and immediately realised it was going to need some TLC to make it ridable.


A call to the popular local bike shop got it booked in for service and new brakes (I remembered them being alarmingly useless) - but he was busy and it wouldn’t be ready until a week into the challenge month.  10 miles a day became 14 and, realistically, I knew I’d be unlikely to ride every day.  Still, I would complete the distance, whatever and however long it took.

For now, I just had to wait.

As I go along, I’ll try to compile a glossary of the abbreviations and terminology I’ve picked up.  I’ll also compile a list of resources that I’ve either used and found useful or that come recommended by others.

If you’ve read this far, welcome along!  Please subscribe for future editions and find out why all cyclists ever seem to talk about is cake!  Maybe coffee too, but mostly cake.  🧁🍰🍩☕️🌰🍮🎂

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