New forest Gravel cycling

From Zero to Hero

For some of us, cycling is a way of life. We’re brought up to ride bikes, it becomes second nature. It can feel unfamiliar and unnerving to hear that someone has never taken to the two-wheeled life. This was the case when I met my partner, Sam. She had never cycled or even tried to ride a bike. Always up for a challenge and eager to learn, Sam decided that the time had come to start her cycling love affair.

If only she knew someone with access to bikes and an abundance of useless cycling knowledge! Lo and behold I built her her very own Bristol Bike; I had the new steed banged together in double-quick time with a selection of second-hand/workshop parts (a little help from our workshop elves did no harm).

I’ve never really considered how you ride a bike. It’s a bizarre thing to describe to someone: you just do it, there is very little thought to it (part of why I love it so much) but balancing precariously on two wheels was not something humans were designed to do, so teaching a new cyclist was a fun learning curve. We started in a large sports field, just shuffling further and further each time. I then channelled my inner cycling proficiency instructor and brought out the classic cone slalom. She took to it like a duck to water, weaving in out of jumpers and cones with ease… the real challenge was stopping, we were sure we needed to master that before we started dreaming big. Sam had a tendency to go foot out, flat out instead of reaching for the brakes.

Our first venture onto the road was the following weekend. A shaky start – to say the least – was followed by a quick sit down, reset… and then we were flying. The route was a little bumble down the road and across the Strawberry Line (an old railway track now dedicated to walking and cycling). The “bumble” was harder than expected and with shaky confidence it took longer than we thought, but that’s okay! We all start somewhere and I was already amazed that Sam already felt able to tackle the roads. The Strawberry Line was a welcome rest from the stresses of cars, people, and junctions. Sam trundled along carefree with a smile plastered across her face… just as cycling should be.

From this point on she has been going strength to strength, I’ve caught her looking longingly at her bike as if there is some deep love affair growing between them. Our evenings were filled at first with gentle rides around Horfield Common, practicing manoeuvres, then we began to venture further afield with rides over the bridge and into Ashton Court. Dinner dates have gone from Deliveroo to finding Bristol’s best picnic spots. Her longest ride now stands at a very impressive 45 miles, and she has even managed a weekend of camping and gravel riding as part of the Woods Cyclery Grand Rando.

I’d never wanted to push cycling on anyone and I’m happy to do my own thing, but the fact that Sam not only enjoys but really loves riding her bike has made me pretty darn happy. In fact… in a couple of weeks, we are planning our first long-distance cycle tour. To go from never riding a bike to committing to cycling, camping and riding a bike to work every day, I think that is pretty impressive stuff. May the tailwinds be in your favor Sam… and please go easy on me!


Since writing this blog we have ridden our week-long cycling tour and Sam’s record distance is now 60miles… and she still very much loves her bike.