There are many reasons why you decided to get on a bike and start riding. And in those first few hours of riding a bike, you’ll quickly determine whether cycling is for you. If you enjoy it, then there is a good chance that you’ll get the bug to start riding more. Whatever motivates you to move forward with your cycling you’ll find that your riding will be rewarding. You’ll find that cycling will be part of what defines you as a person. Once that happens, you’ll be on a cycling journey that many of us are on. As you gain experience and fitness, you’ll be inspired to continue your cycling journey and build the confidence to take on great cycling challenges. One of the pivotal steps on that journey is doing your first cycling challenge. I know for myself that it was my first cycling challenge that made me decide to change from running to cycling. So here are five signs that you’re ready for a cycling challenge.
1. You have mastered the basics of bike riding.
Cycling is a bit daunting at first. There is a lot to master in a short amount of time. I remember the first time I got on one of my friend’s bikes and was riding in a school playground after school. It was an exhilarating feeling when I was able to get my balance right enough to keep the bike upright and ride fifty meters in a relatively straight line. Then I panicked and fell off just as I had to turn to avoid the playground’s boundary fence. But after a few attempts, I was able to master turning. It wasn’t long before wanting a bike for Christmas was at the top of my list. Being able to ride in a straight line and corner are only the start. Then there is:
- learning to brake effectively and stop,
- getting your first cycling shoes and learning how to clip in and out,
- descending down a hill,
- riding in traffic,
- riding in bunches and the art of sitting on a wheel,
- riding on a windy day,
- riding in the rain,
- getting your first cycling kit,
- learning how to fit a helmet properly,
- taking a drink from your drink bottle while riding,
- repairing your first puncture.
If you like to challenge yourself cycling provides so many initial milestones that it’s not surprising that you get the bug because it’s like the exhilaration you first got when you were able to ride in a straight line. Cycling gives you so many more skills and goals to master, making it so rewarding when you nail them. It’s all part of the cycling journey that every cyclist is on. So, it’s no surprise that once you get a few of these mastered that you are looking for the next challenge and that’s usually signing up for a cycling event.
2. You have built a basic level of fitness.
I remember taking my wife out on her first ride. She was recovering from a knee injury that she sustained in a walking trip around Mt Egmont in New Zealand and part of the rehab she was doing involved getting on a stationary trainer and getting some movement and strength back in her knee joint. As I was riding at the time, so she thought she would try riding as well. We spent a few weeks looking at bikes, and she picked out a nice silver Italian Olmo bike from one of the local bike shops. After practising clipping in and out in one of the local car parks, she was ready for her first ride around the scenic and safe Centennial Park in Sydney. On her first ride out on the road, Jodie did two laps of the park, and that was enough for her. Jodie built her fitness from there, and her first event was a race with the local masters club. She went on to win medals at State and National level as a women’s masters rider, but she started with just these two laps at Centennial Park.
With a basic level of fitness, you may find that having a good day out being active and enjoying the ambiance of one of the shorter rides like Bicycle Network’s 20 or 50 km options of the Around the Bay ride with your family or friends, or even on your own is enough for you. Or, you may be looking for more of a challenge and take on one of the medium or longer distance cycling events like the Bicycle Network’s Newcrest Orange Challenge 70 or 100km options or the Around the Bay 100 or 135 km options. After a few events, you might be inspired to take on the more challenging Around the Bay 210, 250 or 300 km events or the epic 230 km Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. There are other events as well, like the L’Etape Australia. Or, be like Jodie and focus your cycling towards racing and join a local racing club and start racing criteriums or roads races.
Regardless of which event you choose as your first event, you’ll know you are ready once you have built up a basic level of fitness. For events around 50km and less, you’ll be able to complete them with just a basic level of fitness without needing much in the way of any specific training. For events from 70+ km and above you’ll need to be more committed to your training in preparation for these events.
As part of our online training centre, we offer many cycling training programs specifically for events from 70+ km and upwards. We also offer an apprentice program for people wanting to ride events of 50-70 km events. You can check out a list of the training programs we offer by clicking here. When you sign up, you get access to these training programs, unlimited email coaching support and join our cycling community of like-minded cyclists around the world.
3. You have a desire to challenge yourself on the bike.
I remember the first time I got to ride my friend’s ten speed racing bike. I was riding a kid’s straight bar bike with three gears at the time, so getting onto a racing bike with more gears and drop bars was another one of the defining moments in my cycling. I vividly remember stepping through the gears and riding faster and faster. It almost took my breath away. Down in the drops in a more aero position I was able to start travelling much faster than my upright flat bar bike! With the wind rushing past my face I got totally hooked into bike riding that day. It was so much faster and easier than the running I was doing. I saved up for a 10-speed bike, and on a wet day I picked it up from the bike shop and rode it home.
I used it to ride to school, and at the weekends, I was getting out to explore my local roads around the city I lived in. We didn’t have a car at the time so having a bike gave me the freedom to get out and travel around without the confines of using public transport. I loved challenging myself and would map out longer and longer rides to complete.
I was competing at running at the time, so it wasn’t long before I found a recreational cycling event to do. On the day of the event, I rode out to where it started and lined up on the start line with perhaps seventy other riders. In a woollen blazer from school with a t-shirt underneath, a pair of cutoff jeans and a pair of my old running sneakers strapped into my pedals with a pair of toe clips and leather straps. I had a great ride and finished with the front group. It inspired me to go on to start racing.
Like me, if you have a desire to challenge yourself, it won’t be long until you are looking for an event to ride. The event you choose will be dependent on how fit you are and what events you have ridden previously.
We have helped 1,000 of cyclists just like you prepare for the recreation and racing events around the world. Please check our list of cycling training programs that go with our coaching support here.
4. You have friends that are doing a cycling challenge.
I probably would have never got into racing if it wasn’t for a guy called Allen Taylor. He was in my class at school. We were part of a group of kids that rode into school on our bikes. He had a similar ten speed to mine. They weren’t great bikes, steel frame, aero nothing, a five-speed cassette on the rear to give us our ten gears in total and fat tyres on heavy steel rimmed wheels. I had done a few rides with him on the weekends. On Monday he was talking to us about how he had gone racing on the weekend.
I don’t know how he started racing, whether it was through his initiative or whether his dad thought it was a good idea, but I was intrigued and got the details off him of where the racing was being held. The following weekend I let my parents know that I was off to do a race and planned out how I was going to get there. As it was a fair way out from the city, getting there involved riding a few km’s to the railway station then catching a train out most of the way before riding the rest of the way to the event.
When I got there, I signed up, handed over my entry fee and they gave me a number to pin on my back. It was a handicap race, so I started with a group of riders, and we rode off together. I didn’t know where I was going so I just followed them around the course, taking turns at the front. We got to a hill, and we dropped most of the riders in our group until there was just me and one other. We swapped turns till the finish, and he sprinted over me as we crossed the line. His name was Andrew Voschezang, and he went on to be my training partner for several years.
If you are riding with other people, there is a good chance that they’ll invite you to ride with them at an event. Riding with friends is a great way to be introduced to cycling events. You can share travelling arrangements to and from the events. Also, it can be a lot more fun to do it with a group of other riders that you know or your friends rather than on your own. The comradery of finishing the events together also provides a great bonding moment for your friendship and in many cases inspires you on to do great events together in the future.
You want to ride in a certain route but would like some support to it do.
Since reading about it in cycling magazines and then seeing it on TV, I’ve always wanted to ride the Paris-Roubaix course. While I’ve never wanted to race it, every year, a day before the event, they open the course up and run several recreational rides over it of various distances. It’s a great way to take part in what has got to be one of the most epic Springs Classics on the racing calendar and experiencing one of cycling’s most iconic rides. Both Jodie and I did it as part of a Springs Classics cycling tour that we did with Paul D’Andrea from Sierra Sports and Tours, who is our European Tour partner.
Riding on cobbles as an amazing experience and I had to pinch myself when I rode the sector through the Forest of Arenberg to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. Jodie was amazing on the cobbles and took a good 16 minutes out of me once we tallied up our time splits of all the cobbled sectors at the end of the ride. Coming into the finish and rolling around the Roubaix velodrome for a lap of honour was awesome being able to share the whole experience with Jodie too. As part of the same tour, we also got to ride the Tour of Flanders course on the Belgium cobbled bergs.
However, doing these events on your own is quite a different experience. Some of the sectors are only available to ride on when the event is being run, and then you have to contend with dealing with local traffic and making sure that you have mapped out the course and can navigate it on your own. It’s much better doing it on the day of the challenge with closed roads, the route is all marked out for you and getting a medal at the end to recognise the achievement of finishing it. Plus, watching the race the following day, intimately knowing how hard it was to ride it the previous day.
While some events provide you with the chance to ride in an area that’s not somewhere you normally can ride, all of them provide you with the support and infrastructure to be able to achieve something quite great. And, in many cases make it a lot easier to challenge yourself to do something that’s quite an achievement, safely. And, if the event is raising money for a charity, being part of something bigger than just a bike ride.
Cycling events are a great way to take on new cycling challenges in a safe and supportive environment. They are a great experience to be able to share them with your family, cycling friends or partner. They enable you to build up to greater cycling challenges easily and help you become inspired to go on to do even greater achievements with your cycling. Cycling events provide purpose to your riding as you train towards them and many cyclists use events to help keep them motivated as they check them off during their year. They provide a great sense of satisfaction when you complete them. Cycling events are an important part of your cycling journey, whether it be your first event or part of a bucket list of events you are working through. I recommend that you check out the events being run in your local area and sign up to them. They will enhance your riding and take you places that might not have considered before.