Cycling to get fitter – or getting fitter to cycle?

When I started cycling, it was partly for social reasons and partly to get fit. If more friends had been golfers, runners, or squash players I might never have taken up cycling.

Ten years later, I feel like a committed cyclist. I still enjoy the social side but my original aims don’t account for me hauling myself up Dragon Hill Road (up to the Uffington White Horse, about 1km with a climb of over 90m) 68 times in the last 4 weeks.

What has happened, of course, is that I no longer ride to get fit – I now work hard to get fitter in order to cycle better. It’s a strange reverse – I don’t remember consciously taking that decision and by way of irony, the extra training I now do is done alone so I’ve lost some of the other reason for cycling in the first place.

I was wondering why and when this happened. It wasn’t when I did my first sportive – that was just 50 miles and the only extra training I did with that was one ride by way of route recce with the friend with whom I did the actual sportive.

Clearly, the competitive instincts cut in after that ride when it occurred to me that I could have done a better time with some training. It was that which made cycling and not fitness the reason for getting on the bike. After that, the competitive instinct means I continued to want to get better – going faster, going further and riding up bigger hills and that has required the extra training.

I’ve loved it and don’t regret it for a moment but there is a word of warning – make sure you know what is the tail and which is the dog out of your sport and keeping fit. It might start out with the fitness as the dog but once the sport takes over you can’t tell where it might lead. Beware, it might lead to an everesting attempt like I plan for July.

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