bikeI am now back on track with my 12 challenges for 2013. The fourth challenge – chocolate making is on the 20th April. I am an expert chocolate eater, so feel I need no preparation for this challenge, especially after all the Easter chocolate! The fifth challenge however is looming fast & as I have just been reminded, with only 3 weeks to go I am leaving my training a little late! The 5th challenge is a 50km off road cycle ride round Stonehenge. If the weather & my bike fitness allow, it should be an enjoyable scenic ride (haha).I only have a rather ancient (it was good in its day!) Carlton road bike with gears on the cross bar – not at all suitable for this off road challenge! I have managed to borrow a bike from my sister, which Basil, her husband (a regular Iron Man competitor) ensures me will be just fine! Having picked the bike up at the w/e I got it out of the van today, to get in a bit of training before been taken out by the experts, Lanky Trev & Neil from Wessex Outdoor Training (who are out on their bikes regularly & run Mountain bike leaders & Assessor courses). I had to do some basic bike mechanics before I could even get out on the road, put the front wheel on, pump up both tyres, re-fit the front break cables, find an allen key to tighten the seat & put the chain back on, which is about the limit of my skills!

I also had to dig out my cycling gear, which has not been worn since 2008! I knew my cycling shorts were at the end of their life, but I hadn’t realised that I had binned them!! I did however find a fetching all in one cycling piece, which has a good padded bum, and will do the job just nicely! Having got the bike in reasonable working order I thought I would pop out for an hour & test my road legs. I know Neil & Trevor are going to enjoy this event, getting their own back after the long WHW in March! Cycling uses all the opposite muscles to walking, so I will suffer!

As I mentioned the vast majority of my cycling (and I did a lot up & down the Dales round Leeds in my youth), has been on a road bike, where you lean down over the curved handle bars. On a mountain bike you are very upright, which does not feel quite so natural, and I also got the feeling something was missing – like a seat belt! I cycled about 8 miles, the first 5.5 miles was on road, and I have to say, I felt quite good! I managed to suss out the gears on the handle bars, and got up the local hills without too much puffing. I then turned off road for the final 2.5 miles home, this was a very different ball game – very bumpy & by the end I felt like I had been continuously driving over a cattle grid. The final hill reminded me that I needed every day of the next 3 weeks to get some serious miles in. Hopefully I will have built up a tiny bit of off road fitness before my first trip out with the experts at the w/e! Also I will need to take up their kind offer of checking the bike over, the front brakes are a little bit lacking & I don’t do down hills well at the best of times!

I have some ideas for my remaining 7 challenges, but am open to suggestions ….. all ideas will be considered!