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Back on a bike after years in the gym - why has everything changed?

How have I forgotten so much about cycling?

Here’s to a summer of sweeping descents, smooth tarmac, effortlessly climbing out of the saddle to crest yet another Alp, all riders around you bow to your cycling prowess…. 

It turns out I am dreaming and very possibly delusional, but I am at last returning to riding. It’s been almost 5 years since I last called myself a bike rider, but finally, I have thrown a leg over a top tube and ventured out for what cyclists call a ‘ride’. Yes it was only 20 miles and yes, I was passed by fat pigeons, but I remain determined; ‘The Comeback’ is on! 

Currently, it is early spring, and the country is showing signs of wriggling free of winter’s grip. The warming sun and longer days have woken a cobweb-covered, dusty and rusty cyclist deep within me, and it’s time to train him.

Ciaran riding through London

Firstly, I guess a little bit about me would be useful. My name is Ciaran, and I am a Personal Trainer (PT) at AMP Athletic, in Marylebone, London.  For the past five years, I’ve been off the bike, focusing on building size and strength, but before I put in reps, I put in miles and miles cycling around my former home, Somerset. I’ve even been lucky enough to venture to the French Alps, where the climbs were not so gentle on my ‘generous’ build.

Having loved riding the big climbs, I want to return to the Alps this August. That might be an optimistic goal given my current cycling fitness and the current pandemic situation, but we carry on undeterred. Given that the last pedal turned in anger was up Alp D’Huez in 2015, some socially-distanced training is without question in order. Whether or not the global pandemic ceases in time for a trip abroad, I am determined to get better on a bike than I ever have been.

Where I’m starting from

I am 23 years old, I stand at 6’0” on the nose and, following several chicken munching, weight training filled years, I weigh approximately 12kg more than the last time I rode up Alp d’Huez. I currently work and live in London so my riding options are pretty extensive, given the beautiful surrounding countryside. Whilst I am anticipating some weight loss during training, I’m not specifically trying to get light. I am going to continue eating and weight training as normal, and get out for rides where work allows.

I will be heading towards the local climbs soon, so should you come across a wheezing heifer on a Surrey slope, please remember climbing is not something I particularly excel at (cough-cough, 90kg). Should anyone have any tasty Strava routes around London or suggestions of the best roads to ride, please leave them below!

The Bike

I'm sorry for the bar situation

Ah yes, enough about the fat pilot, let’s talk kit. My current training set up comes courtesy of my brother, whose addiction to cycling means that I have a Cannondale Supersix Evo with Ultegra Di2 groupset and a pair of fancy carbon wheels. 

Finishing kit consists of a carbon Pro handlebar, Thompson seat post and carbon Fizik saddle. Of course, I recognise my good fortune to have (free) access to all this kit, but there is still a seemingly unending list of ‘bike stuff I need’. From mini-pump to bottle cages, inner tubes, gels and saddlebags, I’d forgotten quite how much kit goes into being prepared for big rides. Quite frankly, I’d forgotten just how expensive cycling can be, but any suggestions of kit I may have forgotten are more than welcome.

The set up also feels far harsher than I remember, hardly surprising considering the full carbon frame and zippy wheelset. I’ll touch more on the ride and handling once I’ve begun training properly. My only jaunt so far has been a quick lunchtime spin around central London, hardly fitting distance or terrain to judge this machine or get used to the slammed position.

This will also be my first foray into the world of power meters. There’s one on the bike but I’ve never used one before so tips, tricks, and training recommendations are again more than welcome. 

I think my first move will be to establish a baseline FTP (functional threshold power) and go from there! As Box Hill is so close, it seems that my future holds many efforts up the famous Surrey slope. 

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