Chick on a Bike
Sarah Lawrence chronicles her adventures as she gets ready for the Taupo Cycle Challenge.

Chick on a bike: The challenges of learning to ride

The uphill battle can become a satisfying challenge when you dip into your mental reserves to embrace rather than detest hill work. Photo / Thinkstock
The uphill battle can become a satisfying challenge when you dip into your mental reserves to embrace rather than detest hill work. Photo / Thinkstock

I'm well into my training for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge happening in 17 weeks.

So far, I've worked up to 30km rides which I'll continue to build on. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really starting to enjoy my hill work. Thanks to the reader who gave me some invaluable advice about changing my mindset over hills. Instead of bracing myself for the uphill slog (looking forward only to flying down the other side), I have started to think of the hill as a friend rather than an enemy. I realise how quickly hills can help build stamina and increase fitness. Plus it's pretty satisfying when I finally reach the top.

There are a few aspects of cycling that are taking some getting used to. The first is wind. Rain I can handle. But wind can be just plain nasty. I've found a stern crosswind to be rather disconcerting. I'm certainly no waif, but I still feel as though I might blow over. I'm told by more experienced riders that I'll soon get used to it.

I'm ashamed to admit last weekend I decided against my Sunday ride - I couldn't brave such an awfully windy Auckland day. Surely no one would be mad enough to cycle in this I thought, but when I popped out to the supermarket in my nice warm car I was shocked to see a number of cyclists had ventured out. I've come to the conclusion they are either completely mad or had kind of an emergency and couldn't find a car to get them there. Obviously riding against the elements will take some adjustment - but I know the more I get out there, the more I'll get used to it.

The second aspect to cycling I have found to be a little challenging is sharing the road with drivers. I am now acutely more aware when I'm behind the wheel of my car just how vulnerable cyclists are - there is not a whole lot to protect us if we come a cropper with a vehicle. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the young man in the little red car who decided to cut in front of me to enter his driveway just as I was approaching it. Charming. Also big-ups to the woman in the beastly BMW who nearly collected me on a roundabout - clearly she didn't believe the give way rule applies to cyclists. If only this had happened in a few months time when I'll have developed quads of steel and could have caught up to Mrs BMW at the next set of lights, where she would have received a stern talking to. I now realise why cyclists get up at the crack of dawn to go riding. It's not just because they are morning people who enjoy a good sunrise, it's because at that time of day there's considerably less traffic on the road. So, early mornings, here I come!

In two weeks time when I blog again, I will have had a skill session with Amy Taylor, master cyclist and my personal trainer. She's going to observe my riding style, give me some tips on riding more effectively, pedalling and breathing efficiently, hill climbing and also a lesson on nutrition including how to eat while riding. So stay tuned, I will share all I learn.

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