So I actually did it. My first Sportive and in my usual all or nothing style I opted for London to Brighton as my first. Around 44 miles from the start point in Sutton to the finish line in Brighton and as if that wasn’t enough, as we live just 12 additional miles north from the start why not add that onto the route for good measure? Yes, my naivety got the better of me, as little did I know what lay ahead but maybe that was a blessing in disguise! Thank heavens for my Pearson’s road bike.
I should make one thing clear, I am by no means an athlete but I am a regular gym bunny and bikes have always played a part in my life, especially when the sun is shinning! So after 5 years living in high-rise in Hong Kong and with a newfound appreciation for the great British outdoors, on our return to Blighty I decided it was time to invest in a road bike and get out on two wheels to explore this beautiful landscape I call home.
I still remember bike shopping as a child in the 80’s, on one occasion picking out a red and yellow Raleigh BMX, probably my first media influenced purchase, having just watched the film ‘BMX Bandits’. I would cruise around the driveway with my brothers on there’s, living the Hollywood dream on a driveway in South Yorkshire! We were ‘awesome’.
It was on the same driveway where one of my earliest bike memories took place, this one not quite so ‘awesome’. It was shortly after I graduated from stabilisers to two wheels. I thought I was invincible, taking to it with ease. I was a natural! My parent’s driveway at the time had a large rectangular tarmac area with a sunken garden to the left of it, which was protected by a shallow wall, no more than half a meter high. In the middle of the driveway was a sunken drainage grate and as my confidence grew on two wheels and fueled on by my competitive nature of wanting to do what my brothers were doing, I quickly progressed from circuits to attempting jumps over the said grate. I quickly mastered my technique by running the length of the drive and soon my confidence was over flowing. It was at this point I decided to take a different line to my target, this time opting for a slightly shorter route across the drive.
Poised and ready for the challenge, off I went at high speed, jumping over the grate as it approached and landing cleanly just the other side. How pleased was I! But what I hadn’t anticipated was the shallow wall at the end of my new route. Having sailed over the grate with ease, as my wheels touched the tarmac I looked up only to realise I hadn’t quite factored in my new stopping distance. I quickly squeezed the breaks but I needn’t have bothered as my wheel promptly made contact with the low wall, bordering the sunken garden, bringing me to a grinding halt! That however was not the end of it as I then took flight, straight over the handlebars and the wall, which due to the sunken garden was now a meter drop to the ground. Not far, I know that’s what your thinking, but as I made contact I was not landing on the soft lush green lawn that lay just a few inches in front of me, I was landing full pelt on the sharp thorns of the once beautiful rose bushes that bordered the sunken garden, now a tangled mess of thorns, petals and me! Let’s just say you could probably here the screams a mile away but thankfully nothing was broken, with the exception of a few rose bushes! So as you can imagine that was the end of my dream of becoming a stunt bike rider and horticulturalist but it certainly hasn’t deterred my interest in cycling, or roses!
So when it came to buying a road bike I was pretty swamped for options. You only have to type the words into Google to be overwhelmed with choice. Where on earth should I start! Phone a friend? Listen to the reviews, or in typical Helen Read fashion, as I’m not remotely technical when it comes to this type of purchase, ask myself the following; does it look good followed by will I look good on it? Yes, shallow I know but I’m being honest here and for all the right reasons, because if the answer to both these questions is yes, then you can guarantee I’m going to use it! (I know the bike purists out there are cringing right now but hey, we all have to start somewhere!) Thankfully my husband was on hand to take me through the technicalities and keep my feet on the ground and after a lot of pondering he suggested I visit our local bike store Pearson Cycles in East Sheen and have a chat with the team there.
If you haven’t visited Pearson’s and you’re a bike lover then I suggest you add it to your ‘to do’ list and soon, as it’s a great piece of British biking history. Recognised by the Guinness Book of Work Records as the worlds oldest bike shop! And for any bike lover you won’t be disappointed! Did I mention, they make great bikes too?
When I first visited the store, I had a clear set of criteria in my mind; firstly I wasn’t buying a bike there and then, secondly I had an idea of budget from the endless number of reviews I’d read and thanks to my husband, I had some idea of the technical spec I was looking for. I ran through my requirements with Guy Pearson at the East Sheen store and before I knew it he’d found me my perfect bike! It was great friendly service and certainly not pushy. I left the store empty handed on my first visit but was back the following day, having slept on it, to make my purchase and it has proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving back to the U.K. A brilliant piece of British design engineering, which has given me a new love for road biking.
So much so, my first Sportive was with Pearson’s, joining their London to Brighton Sportive supporting Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, which took place on Sunday 7th May.
It’s fair to say it’s an epic ride and like the terrain there are some serious highs and lows! Ditching Beacon will remain my nemesis, let’s just say the air was blue and I had to resort to foot half way up but I persevered and the encouragement from fellow riders was quite frankly incredible and yes I made it to Brighton! But best of all was my trusty steed, the aptly named Pearson’s; Hammer and Tongs. A brilliant British Product, combining great design and great engineering so if your looking to get fit this summer then look no further I cannot recommend Pearson’s enough!