First, some background. Four years ago I couldn’t ride a bike. Inspired by a trip to the velodrome during the 2012 Paralympics I resolved, at the age of 32, to learn. Not only that, I set myself the challenge of getting good enough at cycling to ride in a velodrome and set a time for the ‘Kilo’ event. Mr FtW said he’d come along and do it as well. The fool.
I duly learnt to ride a bike, but nearly four years on I’m simply not confident enough to go anywhere near a velodrome track. The problem is that we live in London (#firstworldproblems) and the thought of riding on the road absolutely terrifies me. That limits my bike riding to parks and there’s a limited amount of time in my life for me to get to the park and….you get the idea.
Mr FtW learnt to ride a bike as a child, as most normal non-clumsy people do. He could be very, very, very good at cycling but he doesn’t have the a. Interest, b. Time and c. Money. He uses an exercise bike at home as part of his workout routine and very occasionally cycles to work, but his road bike is ancient and was gifted to him by a friend after his (admittedly quite cheap) bike was stolen a few years ago. In short, it ain’t exactly a Pinarello.
A couple of months ago we popped into the Lee Valley Velodrome to grab a drink and snack with the FtW juniors during a trip to the Olympic Park. I said I’d buy him a taster session as part of his wedding anniversary present. He *may* have rolled his eyes at this point…it’s not like I’m living my dreams through him or pretending like he’s a pro or anything to fulfill some kind of twisted fantasy of mine *ahem*.
So, last Sunday afternoon Mr FtW lined up with 11 other nervous-looking novices and took to the track. The taster session was an hour long and introduced the participants to the concept of riding the track without falling off, with the aim of going progressively higher up the banking so that the braver people could get near the top by the end. We were sitting on the seats adjacent to the back straight and (admittedly from a distance) he certainly looked the part despite refusing to wear Lycra and not hiring cleats (you can do the taster session in trainers.)
The group did a couple of laps of the bottom of the track (the pale blue section) first, followed by the dark blue line, then up onto the boards between the black and red lines. At this stage the more confident participants were told they could overtake. Most managed to do this successfully but one person misjudged a manoeuvre and clattered down onto the track, ripping his shorts and denting his pride.
Mr FtW’s progress was more serene. He wasn’t exactly ripping past people (he’s too naturally cautious to do that) but he didn’t ever look like he was struggling. He even managed to give us a couple of cheeky waves as he sped along. Towards the end of the session the instructor (who was brilliant) encouraged the group to ride near the top of the track. We were delighted to see Mr FtW rise higher and higher until he was riding over the advertisements. Junior FtW no. 1 pointed out excitedly that he was higher up the track than anyone else. They might have been faster but they weren’t as brave…
Every time Mr FtW passed us his grin got bigger and bigger. He’d been nervous beforehand but it didn’t show. At the end of the session each participant got a certificate and it was only right that we got a photo of him proudly holding it with the track in the background. We felt insanely proud of how far he had come in an hour-long session. I think he should go back and do the accreditation course but he has to *want* to do that and I’m not sure he does….
I’ve watched A LOT of cycling at the Velopark but seeing my husband, the father of my children, the sun to my moon (etc etc etc) ride the track was really special. I felt oddly emotional at one point. He did so well and I felt very proud.
Apparently if you’re thinking of doing a track session you absolutely should as its great fun. Also the bikes are ‘Really light and really cool’. Mr FtW is now trying to get me to sign up…maybe not for a while yet…