Dan has been a member of Leighton Buzzard Road Cycling Club for 18 months and started out as a complete novice.
It was a few months after I’d started cycling to work that my friend Ross had the idea that changed my life.
“Our cycling club has got a spare ‘club bike’ for newcomers to ride. Do you want to give it a go?”
I thought he was absolutely barking mad. I was the wrong side of 15 stone, and the only exercise I ever did was trundling to and from work on an old town bike I’d found on eBay. While I’d always been interested in pro cycling, I’d never ridden a road bike and I hadn’t a clue where to start.
A couple of weeks later, Ross turned up at my house with this ‘club bike’ set up and ready to go: sweeping drop handlebars, amazingly thin wheels, pedal cages to hold my trainer-shod feet in place and a horribly uncomfortable-looking saddle.
“Try a few miles on your own, see how you feel, then tell me if you think you can do 35 miles with the club on Sunday morning?”
Er, OK, good luck with that.
I wasn’t very fast and I didn’t feel very stable to begin with, but when I got home an hour later, I felt like Chris Froome winning the Tour de France. The thrill of speeding down a hill at god-knows-how-fast, or getting out of the saddle to (slowly) climb up the other side, had won me over.
“Sod it,” I said. “Let’s give this a go on Sunday.”
I rocked up in a cheap pair of cycling shorts and a green football goalkeeper shirt feeling like an absolute plank. But the welcome I received from the rest of the club was warm and the support I received all the way around that group ride kept me going. I might have been the slowest rider in the slowest group, but in my head I felt like I’d scaled Everest by the time I got back into Leighton Buzzard.
That first ride was in August 2016. As I came back over the following Sundays and got to know my clubmates in the post-ride pub, I heard about all these different adventures they’d been on, or bits of fancy cycling kit they’d bought:
“I’ve ridden from Leighton Buzzard to Brighton before. That’d be a nice fun jaunt to the seaside one day.”
“The Dunwich Dynamo: 113 miles through the night with 2000 other cyclists. There’s nothing like it.”
“You’ll feel the benefit of clip pedals rather than trainers. Sure, you’ll fall off once or twice, but there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Get up at sunrise, ride to Birmingham Airport, get on the train, back home for lunchtime. Nice light training ride.”
At the time, each of those four things sounded bloody terrifying and a million miles beyond my capabilities. Within a year, I’d bought my own bike and done them all – and lost nearly two stone in weight in the process.
And that club bike lives on: it’s kept at Dorvics, where it’s serviced by experts and kept in tip-top condition for the next aspiring newcomer.
Road cycling has made me lighter, fitter, healthier, opened my social circle to a whole new group of people and driven me to do things I never thought I could achieve. It really has changed my life for the better – and if a podgy, beer-swilling git like me can do it, then so can anyone.
I still won’t shave my legs, though.
Looking at taking the first step into road cycling? Not sure where to start? The experts at Dorvics can give you all the advice you need and can help you find your perfect bike. To find out more, click here.