Over the hillside
Finally making good on a long held ambition, and discovering the thrill of cycling, really cycling.
It’s been three years since I started thinking about joining a club ride and doing more on my bike than simply commuting in and out of central London. Three years spent thinking I wasn’t quite good enough, that I’d overawed by experienced club cyclists, that I’d struggle to ride in a group, that my enduring paranoia about riding in proper shoes/pedals ruled me out of this kind of riding.
Inspired in part by following Jon Hicks’ ever-growing obsession with cycling, and Mark Boulton’s too, but also determined not to be left with any regrets, today was the day I finally made good and just did it.
Our ride took us from Dulwich Park and up through my familiar territory of Crystal Palace and on through the suburbs of West Wickham, out and out, climbing over 200m of hedge-lined lanes around Biggin Hill and through the sort of idyllic village you can’t believe is within riding distance from London. Not that I saw too much of it, focused as I was on the back wheel in front of me. But there was something joyous about escaping from the city for a morning at least, of being part of a cycling collective and - most of all - realising ‘I can do this’.
3 hours, 55km, 2 bananas and 1 empty bidon later, I was sat, espresso in hand, a euphoric, babbling mess of a cyclist, ecstatic at achieving a long-held ambition, at being with a group of people I realised that I could I belong to, and being more in love with cycling than ever. But more than that, my fears had been groundless. I’d been tested, but felt really comfortable throughout, encouraged by chatty experienced heads and fellow newcomers. Instant addiction.
Dulwich Paragon makes a point of being an inclusive club, offering a welcoming hand to cyclists like me and giving them a chance to be a part of a cycle club. From the outside, and even from the proximity of being a fairly regular cyclist, cycle clubs can look intimidating, all immaculate bikes and lean limbs. But Paragon more than lived up to its claim of openness and I’d heartily recommend them to anyone in London looking to make the move from commuter to weekend cyclist.
I can’t tell you how good the bacon sandwiches tasted when I got home.