Photograph of riders on the Toru of Britain 2016.
Tour of Britain 2016


We had been back in the UK for a few days and I was freezing! Well, it was October.  My bum was recovering, slowly.  I was glad to get back on my own bike, with a saddle made for girls, brakes on the top of my handle bars and my very own Granny ring! Andy kept banging on about SPD pedals and cleats and how much easier I would find riding my bike if I used them. I couldn’t just see it but, the goddess had those really cools shoes on, which I assumed had cleats on them. I wasn’t convinced.

On the first pleasant day after reply since the holiday, we decided to ride to Tiverton and back. A round trip of about 12 miles. I was back! Olympic medal, clearly in my sights again.  My Corfu experience was already a thing of the past. My experience preference must have been just to the saddle, lack of brakes on top of the handle bars and lack of a Granny ring on the hire bike!


We returned home from the ride without incident or accident. Whilst putting our bikes away a chap pulled up on a bike, stopped and had a chat. It turns out he was a member of the village cycle club and asked if we would like to join. The club they have a Facebook page for members. Andy doesn’t do Facebook, but I do, so we joined. It was quite a casual set-up. Organised Sunday morning rides and mid-week evening rides are offered. And, if you fancy going out and want company, you can add your ride to the Facebook page and if another member fancied a ride, you won’t be alone.

The club members all seemed like a great bunch and about a week after joining, one of the members, Chris, held a basic bike maintenance evening at his house, I baked a coffee cake to take along. There were about ten of us there, Steve, the guy showing us how to maintain our bikes was great. Unfortunately, I understood NONE of what he was saying! That evening, I realised that these people were really, really into cycling. Whereas, I just wanted to look as cool as the goddess!

At the end of the evening, these cycling fanatics were talking about events they had taken part in, 35 miles, 70 miles, 100 miles, cycling in Majorca, cycling mountains in Wales….that was it, there and then I decided I was going to do something like that, after all I cycled 50 odd miles in a day on a blokes saddle so, I was clearly capable of anything.


I carried on cycling the couple of miles to work and back over the winter. Andy and I did a few rides of around 10 to 15 miles when the weather permitted.

At the beginning of January, after suffering hip pain for many years, I had to have an injection under anesthetic. I thought I would be able to go back to running afterwards but, I couldn’t. It was just too painful. So, within a few days I was back on my bike. Around the middle of January Andy tells me about a charity ride taking place in June, The Nello. A 100-mile ride in aid of Force, a local cancer charity. ‘Shall we do it?’ he asked. In what I can only describe as a complete moment of madness, I agreed! The second I said yes, he entered us into the ride.

There is no way I will ever back down from a challenge. But, holy s**t, this was just stupidity! 44 years old, ex-smoker, unfit. There were a thousand and one reasons why I shouldn’t do it but, a thousand and two why I should! The Force cancer charity had helped people that I know and we never know what cards we are going to be dealt in life. I might need their support myself one day.

If I’m completely honest I never took in just how far 100 miles really is on a bike. I had done just over 50 on Corfu, but that had taken around 8 hours. The Nello isn’t a race, but I knew I needed to improve dramatically to finish in a day! So, I continued to ride to and from work, occasionally adding a few miles onto the end of my commutes.


Now I convinced myself that cleats were going to make the Nello possible (weird girl logic!) Obviously, the second I agreed to change my pedals, Andy clicked ‘buy it now’ on Chain Reaction! He informed me that SPD cleats would be easier to get on with than SPD SL’s (I still don’t know what this means!). I also invested in a pair of Shimano road shoes. They arrived far too soon. I just wasn’t ready!

Andy held my trusty Trek steady whilst I practiced ‘clipping’ in and out. This was easy. ‘Come on’ I announced ‘let’s go for a ride!’ Andy agreed (he usually does). I turned my bike around on the drive, set my Strava, clipped in and promptly fell off! With bloodied knees, I felt like a 6-year-old!

With Andy’s encouragement (after he stopped laughing), I got back on, determined the f***ing cleats would NOT beat me. Our practice ride went without further incident. I was sure the cleats made very little or no difference. But at least I had shoes like the goddess but, it didn’t make me any faster.

Ahhhh, I needed a new bike…………………….

Helen Jones 07/04/17


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