Cake and Lycra

I barely remember the date of my wedding anniversary but that’s ok as my husband always does.

We were married in 1992 after just 9 months together. It felt right. It was right and 22 years later we are still together. They say marriage is about compromise. My first “compromise” was learning to play golf. It took years but the thing about golf is, “it’s a great leveller”. My handicap never got any better than 18 and his is a constant 7 so I get shots. I can play with him and more often than not beat him. It is a win win situation. I am not a golf widow, I happen to love golf and we play together and enjoy each other’s company.

We have always been a cycling family. By that I mean my first Christmas present from my husband was a Giant mountain bike. Of course, he bought himself one from me as well. We cycled together in the hills carrying our bikes up mountain sides as it was long before the days of the 7 Stanes. Perhaps, as a consequence of being early mountain bikers, our son, who is now 20, is an accomplished MTB Enduro racer. Our daughter, aged 18, is a student who refuses to wear a helmet, cycles on a reconditioned bike from the Bike Station and growls at anyone who infringes her advance stop line in Edinburgh. Brenda Mitchell and Roz Galloway

Two years ago I switched from mountain biking to “skinny”. It was my friend and colleague, Roz Galloway, who suggested that we do an all female sportive. It was a 50 kilometre ride around Fife. I entered the sportive, then bought the bike (white Bianchi), then switched from flats to clip ins and missed out on a podium finish, all within 8 weeks!

I was hooked and even better here was a new hobby for my husband and myself to enjoy. I learned to play golf to join him, he learned to ride motorcycles to join me, but moving in to our 50s we could now cycle on the roads together. What fun. We could keep fit, keep the arthritis at bay and spend many happy hours together.

That is how it started. We rode together from home to coffee stop extending journeys each time from 10 miles to 20 miles to 40 miles. And that is when the transformation happened. The lycra became de rigour and the strava detailed his and his mates' every move. He entered the Caledonia Etape. He cycled with his mates and although we tried our best, every journey with me became a battle. He would frequently fly past me at 20mph screaming “tuck in” or would patronisingly say “well done” as I appeared red faced and out of breathe after a 10% ascent.

So, he did the Etape with my son in just over 4 hours. My son did it in under 4 hours. I was delighted for them both and promised to do it in 2015. I had, however, just one request now that he had proved himself. Would he be my “pace maker” for Skinny Tweed 2014? Skinny Tweed is just a bit of fun. I was delighted when he said, “of course I will”. I promised I would try to keep to a 14mph average speed and so off we went practising on A roads which I hated and in thunderstorms where he assured me if I kept cycling I would dry off. I never did get much above 14mph but given it was “just a bit of fun”, it didn’t matter.

The day before the Skinny Tweed my daughter dropped the bombshell. Mum, she said, Dad doesn’t want to cycle with you. He has his friends coming and frankly you are a bit too slow. I was shocked; how could he be so cruel. I stamped my feet. I told him he thought more about his lycra loving friends than me but then it occurred to me. He is a bloke. He doesn’t think beyond the lycra and strava and to be honest that is fine by me.

On the morning of Skinny Tweed, he went one way with my son “who trashed him” and I went another. I did 41 miles on my own, stopped for coffee and cake, took a selfie and sent it back to my daughter to say what a wonderful time I was having. I did have a great time. I rediscovered why it was that I loved cycling.

You can cycle at your own pace. It is not a competition. You get to stop for cake and coffee.

My kids say our current difficulties are easily resolved. Buy a tandem. That might be ok so long as he promises not to wear the yellow lycra bib shorts that he got from the Etape as the slightest hint of rain causes them to become see through. The advantage, of course, would be that I could steal his snacks from his cycling top whilst on the tandem but he doesn’t carry flap jacks and I am not sure I want to suck on high protein fruit gels.

So, from two cyclists who took to the roads together, we have different experiences. He is lycra and strava and oozes confidence on A roads. I like to push myself, try my best and whilst I accept he is physically much stronger and faster, we have now gone our separate ways. I still appreciate the cake stop.

On Saturday 14th June 2014, I attended the first ever Women's Cycling Forum. I met some amazing women. There was Rachel Aldred (LCC Policy Forum), Sarah Dorman (Pedal on Parliament), Sally Guyer (Cambridge Raincoat), Claire Connachan (Belles on bikes), Polly Jarman (Play on Pedals), Jo Holtan (Cyclehack) and Jane Rodgers (CTC Inclusive Cycling Development Officer) .

The evening was an enormous success and I particularly enjoyed hearing from Claire Connachan of Belles on Bikes. It is OK to cycle without wearing lycra. It is ok to hate hills. It is perfectly acceptable to like cake stops. Cycling is for everyone but I strongly believe that more women should get together and enjoy cycling which is why I will be supporting Belles on Bikes and would love to set up a Belles on Bikes group in the Borders.

That way, my marriage might last another 22 years!

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