Before going out on an epic cycle ride with Apollo Cycling Team, the only thing myself and Sir Bradley Wiggins had in common was our love of Ocean Colour Scene.
Bruised and physically drained, after completing the 18-mile course, that was still the only thing Sir Bradley and I had in common.
I’m not cut out to be a cyclist, of that I’m sure, but it was an interesting night learning the ropes. I’d always thought that riding a bike was as easy as, errr, riding a bike. I was wrong. These racing bikes are a completely different animal to the bicycle I was used to as a child. For a start there were no stabilisers.
The trickiest part for me was having my feet clipped into the pedals. Being clipped in is extremely useful when the bike is in full flow, helping you get extra power with each revolution.
However, when coming to halt the fact I was still attached to the bike proved to be a problem. The plan is, as you slow down, you clip out one foot, shift off your seat and put your ‘free’ foot on the ground as you stop. Try as I might, I couldn’t master this sequence. Instead, after clipping out one foot, my trademark manoeuvre was to wobble uncontrollably then fall over sideways in the direction of the footpath.
The route we took saw us leave Lurgan and head down the Portadown Road in the direction of Portadown via the roundabouts of Craigavon.
By the time we were passing Craigavon Hospital I felt like taking a pit stop to get some gas and air. We made a detour via Carn Industrial Estate to wave to my co-workers at head office, but rather disappointingly, unlike I’d seen on TV, none of them were cheering me on by the roadside with cups of H2O.
As we made our way along Charlestown Road to the turn at Derrytrasna Road I was told we were halfway home. A fact that also meant we were the farthest point from where we started.
As well as the ‘clipping out’ issues, the other steep learning curve was the getting accustomed to the amount of gears on the bike. As the night wore on I got slightly better at knowing what gear to use in which situation meaning I didn’t have to do as much ‘leg work’.
I wouldn’t describe myself as unfit, but riding a racing bike requires the use of different muscles and the tapping of different reserves of energy than I’m used to. Put mildy, I was punctured by the end of the 18-mile run, but thankfully the bike I’d borrowed wasn’t. It’s just as well given that these racing bikes can cost anywhere between £500 and £5,000.
I’m told no matter how expensive the bike, the issue of having a sore backside after a lengthy cycle isn’t eliminated. It’s just something you get used to.
One thing that I couldn’t get used to was the falling off. You’d nearly think I’d saved my falls for the busiest roads just so the maximum amount of people would see me. Given that I was wearing full Apollo kit, anyone who saw my spectacular tumbles may think less of a club with a member who can’t stay on his bike, and for that I apologise.
I was told those starting the sport usually take a few weeks to get used to their bike before they go onto the open road. It was just as I’d suspected. I’d been well and truly thrown in at the deep end.Having shed blood, sweat and tears in my efforts to get a story, surely my next special feature should be a full body massage followed by a wine-tasting course in a hot air balloon.