Journey to the Tour de France Part 2

In this instalment, Andy takes us through getting his bike and the first few rides he took on it and some of the trials and tribulations of getting on (and off) a road bike for the first time.

First rides…

So, the big day arrives and I feel like a kid, off to the shop to collect my new toy, I mean bike… The back seats are down and off I went with my shoes in hand so I could set my seat height.

When I arrived, there she was, with her pedals on, seat bag on and they threw a set of lights for free and had put them on, shoes on (which were very strange to walk in, I felt like a penguin) and I sat on the trainer and started to pedal.

After a few adjustments, it felt good, but then – you know what I’m going to say – I couldn’t get my shoes out the pedals, you just pushed down to get in, but pull up and nothing happens..?

He could see me puzzled and whispered, twist to the side, and, as if by magic, my foot was free. I promptly signed on the dotted line and off I went.
As soon as I was home it was time to play; quick change, I stood there and my partner just laughed, I looked in the mirror and so did I. I would never wear Lycra, when I was young and fit, yet here I was, 40 years old and 17.5 stone, it was a sight to behold.

But as I looked, I remembered why I was doing this, for a great cause with Ben (four months to D-day) and two months earlier at Christmas, my baby daughter was watching Thomas the Tank Engine, I had an evening suit on for a work do, and she said: “Daddy look, you look like the Fat Controller.” We joked, but I knew I had to do something.

Right, helmet on, I adjusted it as it sliding all over the place, right foot clip in, pushed and off I went, all the while trying to get the left foot in while moving and looking down, but I managed it and heard a cheer from the house.

Off I went for a first ride around the village and back roads, totalling eight miles and, riding up the road home, I remember what all my cycling friends had said, everyone falls off the first time with the unclipping.

Deep in concentration, I was determined this was not going to happen to me and I unclipped the left before I had even stopped. Yes, I felt good. I gave the bike a quick wipe over with baby wipes and she would live in the dining room for the time being until I found somewhere more permanent.

The next day, my partner Denise (Den) wanted fish and chips and I volunteered to go and get it. No driving for me, I got my gear on and rode but I pointed out it would be the long way and I’d be back in an hour or so.

After 12 miles and with chips in hand, I had rang ahead and asked Denise to be outside to take the chips, as I came up the road, Den was holding our daughter in her arms. I slowed down, handed over the bags and over I went.

I had forgotten I was clipped in and over I went, still attached to the bike in front of them both, no injury but as I looked up both of them were wetting themselves with laughter.

I had done what every said I would do. I did it again a month or so later but in slightly more humiliating circumstances. This time I was outside the bike shop in front of four mates and a family crossing the road. As the mother went past all of the giggling, she suggested I should go back in there and buy stabilisers for the bike. I failed to see the funny side at the time…

Over the first two months, I was riding two to three times a week, two small rides in the week and then a longer ride at the weekend, with the first target being 25 miles…