Juliet Elliott, resident expert about all things two-wheeled, has allowed us a peak into her Mum’s journey back in to cycling after a double knee op.
Have you ever read an interview in a magazine and thought about how you’d answer the questions? No? Maybe it’s just me!
There’s one particular interview in the weekend paper which uses the same set of questions, week in, week out, and I sometimes figure out how I’d respond to the familiar line of questioning. One of the questions asks, ‘to what do you owe your parents?’ and I’ve often wondered, how would I answer?
I’m pretty sure, that my answer would have to be, ‘the belief it’s worth trying everything’ and I’m confident that this attitude was a gift from my parents, whether bestowed consciously or not.
I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge – don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t get scared or I don’t struggle, nope, I don’t sail through life thinking everything is easy. But I always try, even if things are tough, and I never doubt that it’s worth giving things a go.
My mother has never stopped wanting to try things, she’ll give things a chance, no matter how challenging it may seem – whether it’s racing my brother on ski’s or signing up to a degree course later in life.
The latest effort involves getting back on a bicycle after double knee replacement surgery. It’s been a battle – her will, against her knees, but she’s winning. I’m so proud of how hard she’s tried and can’t wait until we get the chance for a pedal together.
I didn’t decide to restart cycling because of the Olympics. It was because I saw so many MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra) in my rural area. They were having a good time, chatting and laughing when they stopped at my café. I thought, ‘why can’t middle aged women do the same?’
The problem was I had a new (artificial) knee and I hadn’t cycled for a long time. I explained this to the people from Sheffield Cycling and went off to meet them at Bakewell. They supplied me with a bike and a great guy as trainer. He was brilliant; adjusting my saddle so it was in the best place, moving pedals around and just making sure everything was as easy as possible. It was amazing when I cycled off and pedalled around the car park.
I wasn’t able to go back after that first visit, I worked in London so instead I tried cycling around Hyde Park slowly beginning to feel more comfortable on my bike. Then disaster struck, just as I was getting to grips with it all once more, I had to have a second ‘new knee.’
The second op set me back quite a bit, which is not surprising; it was definitely harder to get back on my bike this time, but I was determined to do so. I tried all sorts of things to make cycling easier – I got shorter cranks for my bike, but it didn’t help much. I also had a lesson with people in Gunnersbury Park on their bike, but it wasn’t great. The mission continued.
I went to Cycle Hire in Peak District National Park at weekends, which was wonderful as I got to ride a three wheeler. It was amazing cycling along through beautiful fields full of flowers and riding on an old former railway track and it made me determined to properly get to grips with cycling again.
Back in London, Bikeworks tried to help me in my quest. My balance was ok – I could glide down a hill at Hyde Park but with two new knees I had lost my confidence.
Finally I got a trainer from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who offer support to people looking to get into cycling. I tried so hard in the rain but just couldn’t push off without him holding my saddle. It was all in my head to be honest. In the end, the trainer said in a kindly way that he thought I had to go back to the static bike in the gym.
Back in the North again, I was still determined to cycle and I got depressed seeing all the other cyclists pedalling around. I had to make it happen somehow! I got adult stabilisers for an old bike in the garage beautifully fitted by Bike Garage in Hope, Derbyshire. It was all still in my head though, and I often had the feeling I was leaning to one side and might fall off.
Getting back on my bike has been a bit of a battle, but it shows what you can do if you really want it. Now weeks of work on the static bike have finally made my knees so strong that my confidence is growing and last time I met my RBKC trainer I finally cycled off happily.
So I’ve done it, but not without considerable effort – I’m sure a person without new knees could have done it a lot more quickly!