Trish Dixon, Our Customer of the Month for May wrote us this lovely blog about her love for biking, where it came from and where it’s going:
I love my bike, with a passion, to the extent that any time my husband enthusiastically suggests a periodic upgrade (they are all second hand I promise), my heart sinks. The rehoming process is as heartfelt as handing over a family pet. I know my bike; it knows me. It has seen me safely through countless moments and adventures now stored away for later years. Shared memories with my husband, or cycling friends, of just being embedded in the outdoors on tracks that never fail to inspire a former youthful streak. It is rare that an outing on my bike doesn’t just make me feel bloody lucky to be out. Even those when I return home wetter than if I had fallen in a pond (not unheard of) or carrying a kilogram of mud on each boot. There is a mischievous glee within that says “Ha I survived that, the rest should be easy”, and then I have to deal with where to put all the mud!
My passion for cycling has found me relatively late. I met my husband and our friends through windsurfing, a massively social and exhilarating sport that has cemented our like-minded friend group for life. To have a genuine passion for something is a rare treat, to share that with others just magnifies it manyfold. The best( and the worst!) bits are relived endlessly, and the challenge to improve techniques draws on the late starters, like me, to feel that thrill of achievement through learning. How lucky that years on, our interests have morphed collectively and the shared experience is now largely our bikes.
For me the learning is as addictive as the sport, a far cry from schooldays where sport exclusively involved anything with a ball, and effectively left me on the sidelines – catching or hitting a ball was just not in my abilities. (Apparently, it is not uncommon for cyclists to be so classically uncoordinated! When I learnt this I let out a little cheer “Hoorah, there is hope for me yet”.) I need to be connected to my sport, literally. Then it all makes sense. Riding, snowboarding, dinghy sailing, kayaking, mountain biking, I am the classic British seated athlete, but there any Olympic comparisons end. All my activities are undertaken with enthusiasm but within limits to ensure I can keep doing the thing I love for as long as possible, and I defy anyone to say that I enjoy it any less.I think I am subtly competitive but more to improve than to win at any cost.
I enjoy a challenge and was delighted when I was invited by a friend to join as a pair to participate in my first ever mountain bike race, a 4 day stage race in Spain! I had no idea that a race of this caliber would have ex olympic and world champions racing the same course as pair of middle aged bike obsessed females representing the only 50+’s female pair in the race, or 40+’s for that matter. Lined up with 600 other riders at the start of day 1, I knew we at least had the controlled procession of the first 2km neutralised zone through the town to shake off the nerves before heading to the mountains. In reality the pace was so much greater than I had anticipated that by the time we rounded the third corner the pack was out of sight and it was the spectators who pointed us the way. With my long-suffering, exceptionally capable but massively patient partner for those 4 days we laughed endlessly, survived almost intact and didn’t come last. She and her husband were truly the heroes and gave their support wholeheartedly and genuinely. For me it was the experience of a lifetime, and sowed the seed, next time I can do better…
Real life inevitably gets in the way of pastimes, it’s what makes any cycle time so prized. I am happy that family and work commitments don’t give me limitless leeway to disappear off to events endlessly, What I do claim though, is a single special event to aim for and work towards in the calendar, keeping alive the satisfaction of training and improving throughout the year. One day I would aim for another stage race, but it seemed more attainable to set sights within the UK~ a longish event perhaps…? And so my second MTB event ended up as a 12 solo hour endurance race. It was a hell of a 12 hours. On crossing the finish line at midnight the shaking head says “never, ever, EVER again”. By breakfast the following day the tougher bits seem to have evaporated. Instead ethereal images of riding through layers of mist at dusk; the darting head-torches of riders, invisible in the dark, like fireflies between the trees; the encouraging cries of “Come on Solo, you can do it” from the faster team relay riders as they courteously but swiftly passed. Surreal and magical, but with my bike we had made it happen.
I love the sociability of riding with friends as much as I treasure the focus that a solo ride can give. For me often the only time to ride is super early which rarely works with other people, but riding solo is special and cherished in a different way. For a start I am convinced that the weather is always better just after dawn. Roads are quiet, the woods are exclusively mine, clear thinking time is at its best, and a dose of endorphins of a great start to any day.
But riding with friends, usually the girls, is key to the fun element. Somehow we talk endlessly ( to the bemusement of the boys if I ever ride with them! ).Our playground is an amazing network of single tracks through woods that can keep us entertained for 25 miles or more, never repeating the same path and scarcely brushing a road. Nobody returns from a girls ride carrying the same worries that they might have started with. The freedom that our bikes offer is more than a matter of geography. And that is where Findra seem to fit in so perfectly. A company whose products are about women being outdoors makes sense to me. I’m outdoors a lot even when not on the bike and suffer stupidly from the cold so having the right layers is key. A close fitting thin warm layer is vital but it is a real bonus to enjoy the styling so much that they become my favourite top layer when I am off the bike (plus I like feeling just a little bit of a mountain biker in my everyday life too). I will confess to living in my Marin long sleeved tops and beloved neck warmers for the ease and comfort that they provide both physically and psychologically. Wholly snug I now have a life without drafts which is heavenly and just as comforting if tired after a long day or heading out for a chilly early morning spin.
The ethos of the girls getting out and riding is fundamental to me. Findra share that conviction and their passion for bikes rings a familiar bell. But it was only after reading an item about one of the Findra girls completing a 24hour solo event that the plan for this years challenge started to form…I recall she did well but have deliberately not gone back to reread incase I find she has a terrifying pedigree in the XC racing world. For me all I needed to know was that she had done it, now it is my turn to give it a try.
On 28th July 2017 I will pinch my husband’s van, equipped with bike, lilo and instructions for erecting an awning (that fills me with more alarm than the event itself) and, hopefully, head West. Cornwall hosts Pivot Twentyfour 12. A weekend of 12 and 24 hour team and solo racing which I only subsequently discovered is the UK 24 Hour Solo Championship! The prospect of 24 hours on my bike is exciting and terrifying. As if 12 wasn’t hard enough?! I want to finish, but I want to hold on to the moments along the way too. Riding through dusk into the dark; pedaling past midnight (life all became a bit tough after 10pm I recall); to see the sky lightening with dawn on the way and sharing sunrise with my bike. The big achievement of completing would be fabulous, but I would be happy enough to store any of those interim moments too.
Too many of those closest to me have had the options of what they chose to do taken away from them far too young. All I know is if I can give something a try I will , whatwhateverthe outcome I will be grateful to have had the chance to have given it a go. It takes life on an interesting path, a bit like a newly found single-track, and who can resist that?