How I came to love cycling – from no exercise and baggy clothing to Strava and increased performance.

why I started cycling

If you’d asked me 5 years ago if I’d be wearing Lycra, on Strava, caring about watts and FTP then I would’ve laughed at you.

5 years ago I was living in Houston, TX with my wife Melissa and two dogs, working the normal corporate job, driving everywhere (partly due to the lack of infrastructure for anything other than cars) and living the normal life of ‘not enough time to exercise’. We’d bought a brand-new house, were enjoying life to a degree but never quite felt at home.

Then it all changed. My family came to visit from the UK and in discussing what we wanted to do, they suggested travelling for a year and within the space of about 2 weeks we went from focused on corporate life and living in the suburbs to figuring out how to travel with two dogs. We bought a vintage Airstream, completely renovated it ourselves, and hit the road around the USA and Canada for 10 months. Living on savings, camping for free, and being out in some beautiful places. Oh, what I would give to do it all again but with a road bike in the truck.  

I can just imagine cycling around Malibu, climbing up long roads in Montana, Whistler and through Colorado. Man, the cycling I could’ve done. I can type about our travels on another blog; this is about my cycling journey.

Moving back to the UK 

After our travels, we moved back to England and I found a job in Birmingham. Melissa followed with the dogs a week later and I started commuting on the train, 5 miles. I did this for about 3 months and then got fed up staring at strangers faces from 2 inches away. Whats the point in that? There must be a better way! There was….it was called the cycle to work scheme. I went to the bike shop, bought a boardman and had no idea how to change gears on a road bike. It was actually a gravel bike, but I didn’t know at the time. Aluminium frame, carbon forks, and gravel tyres.

I started going along the canal towpaths to work and believe it or not, took me exactly the same amount of time door-to-door. Clothes and laptop on my back, 5 miles, 23 minutes. I fell in love with it. Logging the commutes on Strava, seeing how fast I could go, increasing my average speed and cycling 40 miles a week (Friday working from home) when it was adding no extra time to my week, except for the shower at work when I arrived.  

Then, I actually went on the bike during the week and even went out on a Saturday. I bought some cycling clothes for the road bike, some snazzy Lycra, and went out. My first ever ride with someone, I showed up with flat pedals, running shorts, padded shorts underneath and my panniers still on the bike – he was in full cycling gear on a Ridley Di2 bike. The look he gave me. But fair play to him, he waited for me. We did 26 miles, did about 1200ft of climbing and averaged about 15mph.

I. Was. Dead.

But there formed my love of cycling. I bought pedals to clip in. I bought new cycling clothes. New Jersey. Proper bib tights. A bike computer. And, took my panniers off the bike!! I started watching cycling videos on YouTube, subscribed to cyclist magazine, starting watching cycling. I watched the Giro D’Italia from start to finish. Football used to be my love, but that was forgotten about and I was all in on cycling.

Cycling started dominating my life

Along with my commuting, I became a weekend warrior with a local cycling club and going out with them. I was starting to do about 100 miles a week within 6 months of cycling. I was losing weight, getting fit, getting faster. I met lots of people, got connected in the local cycling community and it was brilliant.

Cycling was starting to become an obsession. How could I go faster? How could I beat my PB’s on Strava? Could I get a KOM? How could my jerseys and clothing make me more aero? Can I find t-shirts and everyday clothing to wear, so I never have to wear anything that isn’t related to cycling?

I remember the first time I did 50 miles on my bike. On the gravel bike, not a road bike. Out for probably 5 hours. Around Birmingham and Warwickshire. The scenery, the views, the road, the sun and freedom. Spinning the legs. Social rides with new friends. Challenging myself. It was absolutely brilliant. How had I missed out on this my entire life?!

This was the end of 2018 and there was nothing stopping my obsession with cycling.  Then, I crashed. Well, a car crashed into me. I was fine; my bike was not.

But then I got a carbon road bike…. and the obsession grew (once I’d recovered…)