Tales from my first male dominated road club ride

Tales from my first male dominated road club ride
19 January 2015 Janine
Being the only girl cycling with fifteen or so men and not chicking them wasn’t the plan. Being the only girl cycling with fifteen or so men and getting dropped was most definitely not the plan. (They were nice enough, I didn’t.) Especially after writing to Bristol Road Club to ask them to kindly amend the line ‘beginner rides are suitable for women and children’ on their website, which they did to my pleasant surprise. The least I could have done would be to turn up and keep up. Well, really Janine.

There are no photos of this beautiful 55-mile ride, because I was too busy trying to keep them in sight. But here’s a photo of what I cycled up. They gave me a head start, yet the pack silently whirred past me a few minutes in… I actually enjoyed the climb though. It was white, snowy, pretty and gradual.

Sadly Aragorn had to bail this time

Clever, really, deciding that your first club run of the year is going to be with one of the two major road clubs in Bristol, on a wintery January day, which is another way of saying ‘only hardcore ones out cycling’. But as my mother says ‘you don’t do things by halves dear’ and I don’t suppose she’s far off. To be honest, I went along to Bristol Road Club on Saturday because the website said that newbies would be taken out on a gentle ride of a friendly 40 miles at around 14mph. Said website forgot to explicitly mention that this doesn’t happen in the winter.  And so, as mentioned, the outcome was me and a bunch of guys as lean as 2% milk with thighs as strong as the stuff that coffee machine at BW cycling pumps out. (Sip, ziiiiing!)

Cheddar or Wales? Cheddar was the majority vote, and out we headed, post intro’s at BW and obligatory discussions about how many layers we were wearing; “this is Janine! She is new! Be nice to her!”

And nice they were. I wasn’t dropped actually. Not once during the 55 miles cycle loop through Cheddar. A mere technicality of course, because the regulars seemed to take it in turns to cycle with me at the back until we reached the pack, who were quite stationary by this point of course.

To be fair, I didn’t start lagging until 20 miles in. Up to then, I was in the pack, and the ride was exactly as it should be according to the club website: ‘challenging and pleasant’. It was a new experience cycling in such a tight group – I kept leaving a gap between me and the bloke in front which to my mind was perfectly sensible, but each time I was told to ‘catch up! fill the gap!’ As this was exclaimed to me, and I obliged, recalled words from the club website sprung into my head:

“Like the table manners learned as children the formation is innate to us. Two abreast, tight against the curb we form two lines.”

And so. From that moment on, an annoying ear-worm merrily accompanied my ride: “the animals went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!” And this was on loop for the next 35 miles, only briefly interrupted on Harptree Descent by an excitable ‘This is it’. I have a strange affliction, whereby on mild-to-terrifying descents I start singing, and I never know what it’s going to be until I’m whizzing down the hill at a mind boggling 8mph – forearms begging me to please release the breaks and have some fun. Someone checked in with me whilst whizzing past me on the hill with a quick ‘y’alright?’ but I was mid-sing by this point and there was no stopping me (unlike my ability to descend) ‘Ohhh can’t you see… this is it!”

The coffee stop at the bottom of Cheddar Gorge was quite the eye opener. My legs were on fire by this point,  and I had firmly promised myself that if I made it to the bottom of the Gorge with these men in site, that I’d pretend to ride back alone but sneakily catch the train. Of course they were having none of that and nor was I. At a mere hint of this, whilst chucking a salmon and cream cheese sarnie down my gullet quicker that you can that say ‘that sounds disgusting’, stories were regaled of men ‘with all the gear and no idea’ who may have done exactly that. It’s just not cool unfortunately to catch the train home if your bike’s in one piece. So after said speedy sustenance and a giant coffee, ’twas up the Gorge I headed, and into twenty more miles of teeth grinding, quad screaming pure pleasure.

The desire to cryvomit turned into smiles again. Two guys were cycling with me in the last few miles and I got the impression they weren’t holding back so that felt more like fun again. And then – like a mirage of a promise land, Ashton Court appeared before my eyes and it was all over. They said to me ‘you are more than fit enough to do this – I know when I see someone who’s struggling believe me. In three or four runs you’ll be fine’. Praise indeed.

Now – they say that an easy ride is better recovery than doing nothing, so today I cycled 30 miles to Clevedon, ate cake and cycled back through mud and ice, narrowly avoided a stint on the M5 and asked a policeman manning a crash site for help, but that’s another cycle story. Terrifying it may sometimes be, but it’s never dull.

aaaaaaand, relax.

Comment (1)

  1. Holly 5 years ago

    love it – you can't beat a musical interlude as you career down at top speed! always a cracking read xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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