From beginner to club cyclist

Rich shares his story, and tells us about his decision to start cycling, and his journey to joining the VO2 Maximum Racing Team club. 

Since I was young, I have loved playing football and cycling. I was fit enough to take part in most sports  -  horse riding, playing cricket and tennis, you name it, I could probably attempt it if someone asked me to. However, as I got older, little obstacles started appearing, my energy and fitness started dwindling and my weight was increasing.

Fast forward some fourteen years and my weight was 14st 7.4lb I’m just shy of 5ft 9” so that put me in the weight category that no-one wants to be in.   With four young children who want to play, run around and generally have a dad that will have the energy to get up and go to the park with them, I knew I had to do something about it.

I had always been a keen cyclist, having cycled to school daily for 4 years come rain or sun, so I considered the 12 mile round trip to work in Tunbridge Wells from North Tonbridge.  My plan was to be a commuter. Nothing more, just simply to get fit by cycling to work when I could. 

August 2016 was the start of the adventure and I started looking at what bike to buy! Heading to the shops, I saw the bike I wanted.  I liked it because it was the right colour and had disc brakes – I didn’t even think to consider the size or weight of it!  And as for kit – lycra was for proper cyclists, not those who just ride to work.  I was was quite happy in shorts and t-shirt with a base layer and a rucksack. 

Then it happened, I joined Strava and a Twitter group called UKCycleChat.  I’d caught the cycling bug!  I started researching clothing, pedals, gears, bikes and clubs in my area.  I noticed VO2 Cycling on Twitter and as they were based in Hildenborough just a few miles from my home in Tonbridge, I contacted the owner Jimmy George in my quest to learn more about bikes and all the questions I had about cycling. I quickly discovered Jimmy knew lots about bikes, bike positioning and fitness.  Jimmy was friendly and knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, he was on my wavelength.  He understood the reason why I was cycling and I soon realised that VO2 could help me achieve my goals.

In March, VO2 hosted a cycling sportive event around the hills of the North Downs in Kent, I took part. My first ever sportive was going to be challenging. I was a commuter, but suddenly became a weekend cyclist. The week before I had visited the London Bike Show and I even bought some Lycra!  But, I was set for the event -  42 mile loop including riding up Ide Hill, up and down Toys Hill and across the lumpy roads of Chiddingstone,  and I sucessfully completed the sportive

Encouraged by my achievement, Jimmy had mentioned that VO2 didn’t just do cycling. They were a Triathlon club which offered its members all round fitness opportunities. Swimming lessons in Sevenoaks, a gym and circuit training from their Hildenborough headquarters. I joined as a guest member and went to my first circuit training session on a Monday night.

Hosted by Jimmy, the atmosphere was friendly and the other members there were all chatting to each other and soon involved me in their conversation.  When I got home, the enthusiasm Jimmy showed for each of the individuals at the circuit training really encouraged me. You can tell Jimmy really knows how to push each person to their own individual limits.

I was given the chance to go out on a Good Friday cycle with the cycling part of the club. Hildenborough to Box Hill and back, a mammoth 64 miles of rolling hills and of course the iconic Box Hill. Promised a coffee and cake stop at the top, I was up for it, and I had such a good ride.

Over the last month, I’ve been offered so many opportunities to improve my fitness through cycling and circuit training, not only being encouraged by Jimmy, but also by the other members who really do go out of their way to offer advice on different techniques that will improve your cycling and group riding skills.

The biggest mistake I made initially was saying that I could do it by myself. Everyone at VO2 has made me feel welcome, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

You can find out more about joining the VO2 Maximum Racing Team club on their website.  Catering for atheletes of all abilities the club provides a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for triathletes and cyclists looking to train with other like minded members.