The above picture, from my personal Instagram account, was posted 5 years ago today. I had just placed an order for my first bike since I was a teenager, a 2013 Specialized Sirrus Hybrid bike, and it frightened me to death.
Rewind to the previous June (2013) and my son, Zac, had just been born. Having a child is a momentous occasion in the life of any adult and I was no different. I had the same hopes and fears as every new parent; I hoped he would be happy, I hoped he would be healthy but, more than anything, I questioned whether I would be good enough to be his Dad. Moments like that can often be lightbulb moments of clarity, where new ideas form and a new resolve to change for the better is found. It took slightly longer for me, October to be precise, but what happened changed me for good.
I had smoked for years. Not just casual smoking either, 20 a day since I was a teenager in senior school, nearly 20 years all in all. Looking at Zac I realised how unfit I had become, I had played football and cricket well into my late 20s but as my 30s hit and my knees gave out I played less and less sport and gained less and less exercise overall. I wanted to be able to do all of the things a Dad should do with his son; run around, play football in the garden, ride bikes without becoming a wheezing mess, gasping for air. For that reason I resolved to give up smoking by doing Stoptober so I got myself the worst tasting e-cigarette I could find and an app to tell how many days I’d gone and how much money I’d saved. It went surprisingly well but, in order for it to continue, I knew I had to have something to throw myself into, a goal to focus on and something to achieve so I signed up for the British Heart Foundation London To Brighton bike ride and placed the order for the bike. The rest is history I won’t recap.
I’d always enjoyed watching the Tour de France on TV and actually had a chance live encounter with the race in 1990 as a 13 year old on a school trip to Mont Saint-Michel, but I never really considered what the purchase of that bike and that goal of giving up smoking may lead to. We completed our epic cycle from London to Paris and raised a lot of money for the Rainbow Trust and I completed the Ride 100 amongst many other sportives. This year we’ll be in the Arenberg Trench to see the pros thunder by in Paris Roubaix and I’ll be off overseas to cycle through some of Sweden’s amazing landscape. I have completed things that I would never have thought possible 10 years ago and I have a deeper understanding of a truly wonderful sport, as well as meeting some brilliant people along the way.
All that from one simple order for a bike…..