I’m now two years into my Project Snail idea, which in a nutshell, was to have more fun on my bikes and to do this by trying to improve my fitness, skill and confidence – all of which when I looked at myself I realised were areas where I was lacking quite a bit. At this point last year I looked back over my first year and realised I had moved on quite a bit through a combination of riding more, riding with different people in different places and having some coaching from the marvellous Ed Oxley.
This year has very much carried on in the same vein and whilst I still have pretty major confidence issues I do feel like I’m improving slowly and I have definitely had a huge amount of fun over the year which is the whole point for me of riding my bikes. As well as simply trying to ride as many days as I can, which hugely helps on the fitness front – little and often, I actually bought myself a proper full suspension bike which has brought me endless smiles, I simply love it. It was great to have another session with Ed shortly after I bought it when the picture at the top was taken. That section was a classic for me, I looked at it and bottled it numerous times but with Ed’s gentle encouragement I finally made it and I actually look like a proper rider I think on that photo. Later on in the day we rode the section at the end of a run with Ed following me down, as we approached he veered off on another route whooping through the woods and when we got to the bottom he just said I knew you were going to be fine and would ride it so left you to it. It was one of many small steps I took during the year each one of which, while nothing for many people, filled me with a huge sense of achievement.
I also rode in a couple of events, the Morvelo City Cross in Leeds which was huge fun and attempted to ride up a steep hill which was quite frankly silly and fun at the same time. Although it did not involve riding I did put on an event which combined books and cycling with a couple of authors coming to talk about their adventures. Having never done anything like this before I was worried it would be a shambles but it actually turned out to be a cracking night in front of a packed house. I’ve got some ideas for some similar events this year as well. Talking of events I guess the main one was witnessing the Tour de France take place in Yorkshire a weekend that will live long in the memory. Seeing all the events that took place around the tour as part of the Yorkshire Festival and seeing different people on bikes in and around Leeds on a daily basis I’ve set up Leeds Rides which aims to show the human side of cycling in the city. I’m hoping to try and get a thousand people on it in 2015 and then have a bit of an exhibition and a party.
Perhaps the most exhilarating step I took this year was to venture into night riding, something that genuinely terrified me but which is something that I have hugely enjoyed doing and which created some amazing memories and pictures. It also enabled me to ride much more over the winter which I’m hoping will pay dividends as the weather and the light improves and will have helped me considerably on the Project Snail plan.
Without doubt though the most important thing for me in my riding has been the people who I’ve ridden with who have helped, coached and cajoled me along. Thanks to all of you it’s been genuinely humbling and loads of fun. There are too many to mention in person but the Garage Bikes community in particular are a special group of people and riders who are great to be around and who make my world a better place. I’m not a competitive person on a bike, for me it’s all about the social side of things, riding, having a chat and finishing with a beer (or occasionally having a cheeky swig from a hip flask on the ride) and this side of things has been the real highlight of the year for me. The day before yesterday was a classic case in point, 3 of us on an amazing ride around Hebden Bridge, me out of my comfort zone but being encouraged by better riders, all of us enjoying one of the best rides of the year chewing the fat as we rode and finishing with a cracking pint. If I have more rides like that in 2015 I’ll be very happy indeed.
Rob finished the the ride and tweeted the following. I still think Project Snail is ongoing but who knows maybe I need a new nickname. Any ideas ?