As one of the newer members of the club and new to road cycling in general, I have been asked to share my experience as a first year , in joining VC Iveagh and how it has helped me steadily improve.
By way of introduction, I’m 29 (getting ever closer to the dreaded 30) I work in a desk job and prior to buying my first road bike in March I had done very little in the way of exercise over the past few years. I had always enjoyed cycling in general, but had previously only owned mountain bikes, which received very little use, I decided that maybe buying a road bike would be a good idea for fitness, given that it would be much more accessible than mountain biking.
My first step was getting a bike, I proposed the idea of a Cycle to Work scheme to my employer, which they thankfully agreed to. Given that I was venturing into a relatively unknown world, I didn’t want to spend too much on my first road bike, so I chose a model from the previous year, which was heavily discounted at Chain Reaction Cycles. The beauty of the scheme meant that I was also able to put all my starter gear (helmet, pedals, shoes, shorts, jersey, lights, etc.) into the package, which I found to be a cost-effective way to get started. I would advise anyone starting out not to skimp on gear – it’s all needed and without the appropriate equipment it may be difficult to fully enjoy the cycling experience safely.
I set out on my first cycle on a Saturday morning. I had big ideas about how far I was going to go – a 15-20 mile route, taking in quite a few hills. Needless to say, after 3 miles I was pulled over at the side of the road, feeling a little worse for wear. I cut the route down to about 8 miles and headed for home feeling a little dejected. Determined not to let it get me down, I headed out again the next day along the local tow path – I went a good bit further than the previous day and a good bit faster. Over the next few weeks, I got out two or three times a week, building up my speed and distance gradually, until I could comfortable cycle 20-25 miles at 15-16mph average speed.
Since starting, I had looked into several of the cycling clubs in the local area. For me, living in Scarva at the time, VC Iveagh was the obvious choice, so I made a few enquiries and was advised to join one of the midweek social runs on a Wednesday night. The first one was announced on the VCI Facebook page and I decided to bite the bullet and see what it was like. I turned up at the car park in Scarva to a group of about 8/10 cyclists, most of them in full club kit – a daunting sight! The group were very welcoming though and explained where we would be going that night, how we would generally ride two abreast, etc. We set off on the road and very quickly I settled into the rhythm of the group. I was dreading a couple of hills that I knew were coming. I have to say though, riding in a group at a steady pace and chatting to those around me, the hills came and went without me even taking much notice.
After a few weeks of participating in the mid-week spin, I became more interested in other club activities such as the clubs race league. I was still working on trying to increase my speed, especially on solo rides, and felt that maybe targeting a few events in the race league would be a good way to improve. While I didn’t think I was quite at the pace I wanted to be at for a Time-Trial, I decided that I’d like to give the Aussie Pursuit a go – the thinking being that I could potentially learn from the other riders.
At this point with some confidence, I also started to head out with some of the more experienced riders/racers on a Saturday morning. Given the Saturday morning run is affectionately known as the ‘9:03 Pain Train’ I was a little dubious about heading out with these guys, but I’m really glad I did. Sure, there were times when I was chugging along at the back, struggling to keep up, especially on some of the hills, but this was an opportunity to learn from some of the more experienced riders, which has certainly helped me.
I have since competed in a couple of the club time trials. While my times were relatively slow, my second attempt did show a 20-second improvement over my initial effort, which I was really pleased with, especially considering it was a tougher course and it was a pretty awful night weather-wise.
The continuous desire to improve led to my selling my mountain bike and investing in a second-hand TT bike (bought from another club member who was upgrading). This should hopefully help with some of my goals for 2017, which are to compete in more TTs and road races at club level. The aim would be to increase my overall pace and improve my TT times considerably. I’d also like to complete a longer ride, currently my longest ride is 100 miles and was completed as part of the VC Iveagh l’etape Rathlin. In order to try to achieve my goals, I’m also taking part in ‘The Hurt Locker’ – the club hill training ride held on a Thursday night. Again, it’s encouraging to see the small improvements week on week.
Overall I’ve really enjoyed my first season cycling with VC Iveagh. The spirit of friendship and camaraderie is really second to none. The help and support provided by more experienced cyclists is invaluable – whether it be a simple word of advice or encouragement, or even in giving you a tow when the going gets a bit tough.
Club cycling really is the wat ahead and I would definitely recommend joining VC Iveagh to anyone interested in starting out in the world of cycling.
By William Strain