Fareham Wheelers Cycling Club
How can I get to the stage where I can ride 30 to 40 miles, climb huge hills,
and average a good speed on my own?
This article was written by Geoff Loveman. This is a picture of me when I was about twenty five years old. I ate a lot and didn't do any exercise. After I saw this photo I decided to start cycling to work. I had no idea how unfit I was. There is no way I could have cycled up a speed bump, let alone ridden up Portsdown Hill. I've put this picture here so you can see that I do know what I'm talking about. I have been there, I do know how much it hurts when everyone is riding away up that hill and you are watching them go. Don't give up, you can do it!
So you are just starting out or you want to get started in cycling. You just checked out our club runs page and holy-moley… it says our ‘short’ rides are about 30 miles long!!
Sounds impossible right?
Impossible? No! Tough? Yes!
Do you need willpower to become the sort of rider who thinks 30 miles is actually a short ride? Yes – you do.
Will you have to persevere and work hard? Yes, you will.
Will it take up a lot of your time? Well, it will probably take up at least five hours a week. Is that a lot? Not if you enjoy it! Actually, the Government recommends all people of all ages to get at least thirty minutes to an hour of exercise each day, so it is basically the recommended amount.
If you are the kind of person who likes a challenge, if you enjoy the outdoors, if you like to keep fit or have made an honest decision to become fit, then cycling is a great way to achieve your goals and enjoy yourself at the same time.
Hang on a minute…What was that about an ‘honest decision’ to become fit? Well, what that means is that you need to truly want to achieve your goals and accept that there is no easy, quick or cheating way to reach them. It is going to be hard sometimes. It is going to be tiring. You are going to sweat in the heat and go numb in the cold, get soaked and maybe plastered in mud when it is raining and sometimes you might even fall off.
If you are now thinking “Oh no, I just wanted to ride on sunny days but still be able to happily ride 30 to 40 miles every now and then.” Then I am sorry but that is not going to happen. You are going to need to ride your bike and ride it a lot. And once you get fitter you will have to keep on going out on your bike or you will lose the ability to do those rides.
Don’t fancy it? Fine. Want to stick to five mile rides on sunny days – no problem – I enjoy rides like that too. But our club run involves cycling 40 miles or so each weekend because that is what our members enjoy doing. We are the kind of people who like a challenge! We try to cater for all abilities but we assume that people who join our club will be trying to get to the stage where they can ride the club run without finding it too difficult and that means that you will have to put in effort yourself! Yes, that is what I said “You.” We can help, we want to help and we are here to support you but at the end of the day we can't spin the pedals for you.
Still interested? Great!
We run taster rides which you can read about here.. but if you are really just getting started, you will need to do some riding before you even venture out on a taster ride.
Hang on just one more minute....if Fareham Wheelers are so keen to get people cycling, why don't you have really short rides that anyone could do??
The answer is simple - you need to be able to ride your bike yourself to get to the start of our rides. Chances are you probably live at least a few miles from where our taster rides start (in Wickham Square) - so there is no point in us running Five mile absolute beginners rides because by the time you get from your house to Wickham Square, you will be in no state to do the ride. You have to accept that you need to get a basic level of fitness before you can join in.
So how should an absolute beginner get started? Well, there are plenty of different ways to improve your fitness and this is just one way, if you have a friend who wants to get started too then all the better. If not then you are going to have to face the fact that you may have to do a lot of it on your own. Try to remember that no one owes you your fitness, you owe it to yourself to do this. One step at a time and day by day, you are going to get fit!!!
Right then, here goes:
Get a bike – if you already have one then great. It doesn't matter what kind right now, borrow one if you don't have one (from someone about your height!) Don't rush out and spend loads of money on a new bike - not yet! A lot of the advice below is to ride 'round the block' - all I mean by that is stay local to your home. Don't ride in one direction away from your home, get too tired and have to walk back. Also, at some point you will have to learn to change an inner tube (when you get a puncture) but as long as you stay near home, you can walk home if you get a puncture and fix it there.
Please follow the highway code, I don't advise riding in the dark until you are confident and when you do go out at night, have a decent set of lights!
Week one for a total, absolute beginner:
Ride round the block for ten minutes. Don't try to go fast. Do this every other day for a week.
Weeks two, three and four:
Ride round the block for twenty minutes every other day.
Weeks five to eight:
Ride round the block for twenty minutes every day for six days, take one day off.
Weeks nine to twelve:
Ride round the block for thirty minutes every day for six days, take one day off. Well done, you are now doing the UK Government's minimum recommended amount of exercise each week. It is a lot more than most people do so you can feel pretty good about that but remember - this is the absolute minimum that anyone should actually be doing!!
Next, use Bikely to Work out a few different routes near your home that are about six, eight and ten miles long.
Ride thirty minutes on Monday, six miles on Tuesday, thirty minutes on Wednesday, eight miles on Thursday, take Friday off, ride ten miles on Saturday and thirty minutes on Sunday. Do this every week.
Now is a good time to decide if you actually like cycling - there are lots of ways to keep fit and you are much more likely to stick at it if you find ways of exercising that you enjoy. If you are really enjoying cycling then great - if not, try some other exercise but don't stop exercising ever again - just remember how hard these first four months have been - you don't want to go through that again!!!
Round about now you should seriously consider cycling to work, (if that is possible for you) and if the distance is five miles or more then great! If it is less than five miles, jog it instead! If it is less than two miles, just walk.
Cycling to work is a great way to fit in a bit of exercise into your regular routine, it might take a bit longer than driving but it saves time if you were going to drive and still have to go cycling later as well.
Ride ten miles every day, five or six days a week. Remember this month, you will never ride less than fifty miles a week for the rest of your life (except when you are ill, if you are ill, take it easy on yourself, have a rest, watch tv.) You will not believe how easy this is when you get to this stage. If it is difficult, you need to give back that clunker you borrowed off your friend and buy a road bike. Go to a decent shop - don't know one? - Ask for recommendations on our forum..
Congratulations, you are now ready to try our taster ride - don't be fooled though - it will still be hard - cycling is always hard - you just get faster - that is the challenge! You can go further and faster than you ever would have thought possible - now get out and ride! You are a cyclist!
This is me about ten years later, finishing the London Triathlon. Yes, you read it right, ten years later - getting really fit takes a long time!
Keep at it and don't ever stop!!
p.s. I still eat just as much, in fact, I eat more than ever - exercise is great!!
p.p.s. Yes, getting fit we can do, but as the pictures show, we have no cure for preventing balding or plain butt ugliness.
Now stop reading and get riding!