Mountain biker Adele Mitchell is bravely finding her feet on a road bike. This week she joins Cranleigh Cycling Club for her first club ride. How hard can it be?
My first impression was that the mass of club riders all looked like they were going to be very quick indeed. With this in mind, I nudged my Ruby Elite (kindly loaned by Specialized for this project) towards the beginner’s group - probably not the most obvious place for a carbon fibre bike, I admit. Someone spotted me, however, and I was advised that I would be fine with the faster 40 milers.
Just stay in the middle of the pack and they’ll look after you.
There then followed a short ‘team talk’ about riding in a group: stay tight, ride two a breast where possible to keep the group compact, and respect the pace (don’t race off, try not to lag behind). As learning curves go, this was going to be a steep one! Here’s what I found out:
1. The peleton is a friendly place.
Within moments of setting off I had different riders at my side and we chatted about riding, the bike and technique, which was very kind of them and really helpful. They were also greatly amused by my Camelbak - sadly my extensive riding kit doesn’t yet include a bottle cage. Unfortunately, my eyes were fixed on the road the whole time and I soon lost track of who I’d spoken to – so I’d like to apologise to anyone who had to listen to my ‘I usually ride a mountain bike…’ story five times.
2. My legs were in for a bit of a shock.
As a rule mountain biking legs are fit for a contrast of bursts of power for climbing and balancing off the saddle on descents, while road biking is all about consistent cadence (number of revolutions of the crank per minute). I’d never ridden in this way for so long and it took my legs a while to get used to turning the whole time. It was also tricky to know how to pace myself over the distance so I was pretty tired by the end. But, I kept up the whole way and, with this experience under my belt I’ll hopefully be more efficient next time.
3. The climbs aren’t as steep as on a mountain bike.
Though I’m aware we skirted a couple of the more severe ascents, and the descents aren’t as scary.
Neither are they littered with rocks, roots and drop offs. Despite this I still rode like a mountain biker: so while everyone else seemed to keep a neat, efficient outline I couldn’t help but slide off the back of the saddle going downhill and nudge forwards on the climbs. I suspect this is upsetting for the purists.
4. This is one very lovely bike.
The mid section of the ride was fairly flat and with the wind following the Ruby felt as if it had sprouted wings. I glided along behind the ride leader and everything just fell into place. I really enjoyed the whole ride, but this was the best bit.
5. I may need some adjustments to the fit as in the last half hour I started to get neck ache and my hands went a bit numb.
6. I need to eat more during the ride.
I have only myself to blame here because I know from past experience that longer rides send my energy levels plummeting. I’m told – by a pro cycling coach – that a snack every half hour is optimum and next time I will remember to pack more than a banana. By the time I got home I was ready to eat my own hands but instead I gorged myself on peanut butter on toast. Every mouthful was DELICIOUS.
7. It may not be mountain biking, but you can still fall off.
Half a mile from the finish, at a set of traffic lights, I managed what can only be described as a ‘school boy error’ and failed to unclip in time. Over I went, straight into an extremely spiky Hawthorn bush. Any discomfort was completely overshadowed by the embarrassment of having a spontaneous lie down in front of my new riding friends and a queue of traffic (when you fall of a mountain bike it’s usually only witnessed by squirrels). So, you can take a girl off the mountain, but you can’t stop her going home looking like she’s fallen off one!
With thanks to everyone at Cranleigh Cycling Club for being so friendly and helpful, and for putting up with me!