And no, I didn’t get that lost!
I hadn’t been on a bike in several years and probably not cycled more than 10 miles in total at a time but I consider myself relatively fit and am more competitive than I would like to admit. So when my other half, Luke, challenged me to go on a 50 mile bike ride to visit friends, I readily agreed. Luke is a keen cyclist, having cycled to the south of France last year (I should have known better). Upon agreeing, things escalated quickly and soon enough I had committed both to taking a whole week off work, and endurance cycle, from London to Bournemouth, via Kent…
Stolen bike wheels
I dusted off my bike and attempted to do some training rides. Admittedly I didn’t follow my own advice of building up mileage gradually, and I started with a 35-mile cycle ride. Luckily, I managed well, and felt more confident about the journey ahead. I knew I would need to ride 50 miles per day, so I embarked on a structured, regular training programme. This included cycling three times a week at varied and graded intensity and durations. This was also supplemented with one gym or swim session.
All was going well, until someone stole my bike wheels. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in London, but it was NOT in the plan! By the time I had kitted my bike out again, June had rolled around, and the ride was around the corner. I wasn’t prepared enough and was more than a little apprehensive for the challenge ahead.
The first day was fortunately uneventful and it was nice cycling through the Kent countryside. We even stopped for a sunny picnic on the way. Feeling fairly confident, over the next couple of days we headed over to and across the south downs which was beautiful, but very bumpy with hilly terrain.
By this time my legs were starting to feel quite tired and I was convinced something was wrong with my tyre. A pit-stop in a bike shop confirmed a lost wheel spoke, and I was advised to cycle on smooth road, avoiding the bumps. We carried on, but fatigue was creeping in, especially when we got lost a few times. On approach to the camp site we faced a 1.5-mile, uphill, off-road trail. With no strength left in my legs at all, I had to walk the bike the rest of the way in a race against the sun setting.
Heavy legs and wild horses
After a good rest, we woke bright and early. We headed towards Chichester and stopped just before Southampton. Although it wasn’t a pretty beach, I could see the sea! By now, my legs were starting to get considerably tired and heavy. Unfortunately, this wasn’t settling overnight, as it had done earlier in the trip. I wasn’t sure how much further I would be able to cycle but Luke encouraged me through the gruelling rides. Another day brought a ferry crossing and we cycled into the New Forest. The excitement of seeing the sea and the beautiful new forest scenery boosted my energy levels and we rode along some of the trails near our campsite. It was beautiful and peaceful, waking up in the morning to see wild horses running around.
Our last day of cycling had arrived and I was completely exhausted. My legs were heavy and sore, but I was almost at the end. The sun shone on a bright sunny day, and we made our final pursuit to Bournemouth.
Lessons learnt and looking to the future
After cycling a gigantic 230 miles through seven counties with only a few tears (!), we finally made it to Bournemouth and enjoyed relaxing on the sand in the sun with an ice cream. My legs have never hurt so much! Despite this though, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. The following day, we took a train to Brighton to recover for a few days, before returning back to London.
I thoroughly enjoyed our adventure on wheels, but I have learnt some lessons along the way. I recognise how lucky I was not to pick up an injury, after my lack of training. Endurance cycling can cause great pressure on the lower back and knees. As a Physio, I know I would have managed much better by undertaking a gradual and sports specific training programme beforehand. On this occasion, I didn’t do enough and will practice what I preach in future. I also would have benefitted from a Cycle Assessment to ensure my bike set-up was ergonomic and correct.
Just as the dust settled and my legs started to feel normal again, Luke came to me with the idea of a cycling holiday to Portugal in the Autumn. My initial thought was no (!) but, on reflection, it would prove insightful to see the difference in my performance with proper training behind me. May be next year? Watch this space…!
If you are a keen cyclist, check out our “51 Ways to Improve your Cycling Fitness“. Remember that proper training and preparation will ensure you remain injury free and have your best possible ride. Our expert Physios have bags of experience dealing with cycling injuries, so call or email us if you need our help!