Charity bike events are a great way to get involved with your local community, raise money for good causes and have fun too. I did my first charity bike ride several years ago and this year will be my seventh Wirral Bikeathon.
Truth be told, I didn't enter myself into the first one, it was my wife. Before we had children, I used to cycle a lot but when they were young (we had twins) it was a never-ending cycle of feeding, washing, cleaning, shopping and sleeping (me as well as the kids!) So there was never any time to go cycling and I gradually withdrew from any form of exercise. As a middle-aged man, this was bad news and the love-handles became a spare tyre of more tractor proportions than a bicycle.
Ever supportive, unbeknown to me, my wife entered me into that first Bikeathon. Bit of a shock, and an even bigger one when I realised it was just six weeks away and I hadn't been on my bike for around five years. I needed a plan. Here's what I did.
I had just six weeks to prepare so I needed to get back on my bike and build up my fitness levels. At first I found it a little daunting but then I said to myself, I can walk a mile, so I must be able to cycle five. The first circuit of the Wirral Bikeathon is just 14 miles so all I had to do was a small amount of cycling in each of the six weeks and I'd be fine. In the first week I did one ride lasting 30 mins, that's it, nothing too strenuous there. The following week I increased this to 45 mins and 60 mins the week after, all of which were on the flat.
For those of you asking if you have to do any fitness training, you can just turn up on the day but with just a small amount of preparation, you'll enjoy the event so much more. My article on How to Prepare for a Charity Cycling Event gives advice on a wide range of topics and is well worth a read. The article looks at basic fitness training as well as what you should eat, drink and wear. In addition, it gives guidance on how to prepare your bike and what bike gear you'll need.
So having done three gentle rides, I wanted to step it up a little. My fourth ride was for 60 mins again but this time I included a gentle climb. The following week I did this again but added an extra climb, nothing too steep or difficult. Finally, the week before the actual event, I was feeling good so I did a 90 min ride and included a couple of small inclines.
The big day came and I was really excited but a little nervous if the truth be known. I got to the event early and was amazed at how many people were there, all as excited as me! It was such a buzz to be surrounded by one thousand (yes, a thousand) other cyclists. There were people aged from 8 to 80 (truly), people on road bikes, mountain bikes and several tandems. There was a real party atmosphere and everyone was clearly looking forward to setting off.
So off we went. The Wirral event is split into two circuits, both of 14 miles, but most do just the first one and this is what I had intended to do. However, by the time I'd finished the first circuit, I felt so good that I decided to complete the full 28 miles. And believe it or not, I could have kept going (but didn't). I was so proud of myself for having taken part and I enjoyed it so much, I've entered every year since.
So, as well as raising money for a great charity, cycling events like these are a way to motivate yourself into getting fit and having fun.