This weekend a group of women will be riding a 500 mile time trial. Why? To prove they can, and to prove to other women that they can do things they thought they couldn’t too, with a little bit of confidence and self belief (as well as lots of flapjacks).
I’ve found myself writing about cycling and confidence a lot lately. Often with a probably overzealous presumption that the two are intrinsically linked in the heads of most cyclists. Perhaps that’s not the case, but it’s certainly true that a lot of riders I’ve discussed the topic with draw a strong correlation between the two c’s.
From an outsider’s perspective, I can understand why the invisible link might be difficult to see. What is it about swinging a leg over the saddle of a bicycle that could change a person’s mind set? The simple act of pedalling isn’t particularly masterful and though increased fitness might cause a person to hold their head a little higher, that can be found via many outlets.
There’s something about cycling however that has undoubtedly altered my personality, though – and the deeper I worm my way into its culture the more I feel the positive effects.
The first thing that cycling gave me was the realisation that I wasn’t as disastrous at sport as I’d always thought.
From the very beginning I cycled with racing as the incentive. In fact, for some absurd reason the third time I rode clipped in it was as part of a triathlon. The first thing that cycling gave me was the realisation that I wasn’t as disastrous at sport as I’d always thought.
Discovering time trials, I fell in love with the drive for self-improvement that racing the clock brings. Seeing the results of 6am turbo trainer sessions carried out when trying to ignore the smell of bacon drifting from the open plan kitchen in my spareroom.com flat was enough to make my heart swell with pride.
It wasn’t just about going faster, though. You can discover confidence through cycling without a stop watch of course. There’s something about hours spent rolling through leafy lanes, grunting up the inclines and letting the brakes off to freewheel down the seemingly endless fairground ride descents that just makes life feel so much more real and the trials and tribulations of everyday existence so very insignificant. People can be mean, work can be tough, money isn’t limitless – but what does it all matter with the wind whipping at your knees and the sound of a freewheeling hub ticking in your ears? That simple truth is the reason why the bike trade is such an excellent industry to work in, coincidentally.
From the top of a mountain, the world below and all its tiny complications look very small.
My first solo rides that somehow, remarkably, got me from A to B without too many map checks resulted in a growth in confidence, and moving on so did the first club rides where I could hold the wheels of riders I looked up to in more ways than one. Soon I was climbing with them in Mallorca and the Pyrenees – seeing new parts of the world from the saddle of a bicycle. From the top of a mountain, the world below and all its tiny complications look very small. And with the adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream at these moments I always find inhibitions and the shyness I’m mostly conscious of just dissipate and filter away with the wind.