She’s cycled 3,000km over the course of a year. But she’s only just started to consider herself a ‘cyclist’. And she’s done it all on a £100 second-hand bike.
Like an increasing number of women in the UK, Chloe got back on her bike after a break of nearly 20 years, having last ridden when she was 13 years old. Two years on, and not only has she cycled the equivalent distance of riding to Instanbul, it’s safe to say that cycling has become an every day part of life for her.
But this massive mileage isn’t the result of charity ride, sportive or challenge. This is the distance she’s covered simply cycling to work.
“At the beginning of last year I set myself the goal of trying to encourage myself to cycle into work more than 3 days a week. If I cycled into work and back 3 days a week, that added up to 45km.
So I made myself a secret target of 60km and I didn’t really think about what that would look like over the year, I just had it in my head that each week I would aim to do roughly that. If I did a bit less one week, I’d do a bit more the following week.
Then halfway through November I looked at my Strava profiles and I had something like 2,720km so far that year. I thought ‘Oh my god! If I just push myself a bit up until Christmas I could probably make it to 3,000km.’ And I did!"
With average journey times in London by train and bus taking 10 minutes, and the cost of public transport rising, encouraging more people to go by bike is a priority for charities such as Sustrans. And Chloe’s experience goes to show that switching modes of transport can have a big effect not just on your physical fitness, but also your mental health.
“I think the biggest ride I’d done last year was 50 or 60 km. But all of those little journeys, to work, to the supermarket, to gigs, to see friends, to pop into the city, they all add up. It shows you the kind of distances you have to cover living in a city like London, but also that you can convert that into fitness benefits which is surprising.
Broadly speaking it helps me manage my weight, and I feel strong and active. It’s probably had a bigger effect on my mental health. It gives me that decompression space between work and home, and going through greenery and having a bit of contact with what the seasons are doing - it’s really good for the soul."
Events and charity rides are often the catalysts that drive people to pick up their bikes again, and Chloe is no different. What is unusual is the scale of her first endeavour.
“My boyfriend had been cycling for over a decade in London. He occasionally goes off and does random adventures on his bike, and decided to cycle from London to Paris. I thought ‘I like Paris, I like France, I speak French’ and cycling from London to Paris sounded like it might involve cheese and wine, which I also like. So I decided to go for it."
Cycling to work was a way to prepare for the ride, but having not cycled since childhood, and facing a commute through central London, preparation was all important.
“Starting cycling in London was really scary! My local borough council, Lambeth, does subsidised training and maintenance classes, and my first cycle from my house in Stockwell to the initial training session in Clapham Common was terrifying!
But the one-on-one tuition was amazing. They took me down quiet roads, showed me how to signal, and how to position myself in the road, and then did the same on busier roads, giving me feedback on how I was doing. That really helped to build my confidence.
I’ve not had any accidents on my bike. The massive bulk of my riding has been problem free."
It’s one thing signing up for an adventure to keep you motivated, but often quite another when it comes to gearing up for a rainy commute. Apart from the health benefits, Chloe found journey mapping application Strava a very useful tool.
“I started using Strava to record how far I’d gone: because I have a smartphone that was an easy way of doing it.
I like the fact that it feeds back on your personal records on particular parts of your route. I do do the competitive thing in as much as if I’m in the top ten at the end of my ride, that’s kind of awesome, because I’ve never been a sporty person that the thought that I could be top 10 of anything is kind of amazing. If I get a QOM I’m happy all evening."
After cycling first to Paris, then 3,000km over the course of 2014, it’s safe to say Chloe has no intention of returning to public transport any time soon.
“When my TFL tube pass came up for renewal I didn’t bother, and now just cycle most of my journeys. Five or six days a week I’ll be on my bike.
Considering I was pretty inactive for 33 years of my life, it’s all the more astonishing that I’ve covered 3,000km. That’s the equivalent of cycling to Istanbul!
I’ve got the bug, definitely. This year I’m even organising a group ride from Marseille to Genoa, in the sunshine."