Chelsea: Hey Hetty – tell me ALL about you, how long you’ve been cycling and what’s its big attraction???
Hetty: I am based in the Peak District. Over the past three years, I have gone from being a total newbie to cycling to a bit of a bike fanatic!
It all started over a pint when a friend suggested he was keen to get out mountain biking – I’d heard it was good fun and decided to give it a try. It’s safe to say after the first ride I was hooked and quickly resurrected my dad’s old bike. It weighed the same as a small horse and didn’t have working brakes, but that seemed to only add to the fun. The interest in road biking followed shortly after, however, I’ll admit I am 100% a fair weather roadie!
A few years later I’ve upgraded my bike and am still equally enthusiastic to get outside. My favourite thing about cycling is the freedom it can give you to explore so many different places. Whether I’m on the road or mountain bike, I love long days out and the distances you can cover – even better when there is a cake stop too!
Chelsea: Cake is and will always be a motivational factor for me. So…. If you had to choose between road cycling and mountain biking which one and why?
Hetty: I would have to pick mountain biking. Although I love my road bike (it’s very pretty) and the speed you can get up to on the road, I’m happiest out in the hills. I also get a particular sense of satisfaction in coming back from a ride head to toe in mud!
Chelsea: Yeah I’m with you on the mud thing. How do you choose the right bike?
Hetty: Take your time when it comes to choosing your first bike (road or mountain) – if you’re like me and easily excitable it’s tempting to dive straight in and buy something. Before you do this, make sure you have got out a fair bit – try road biking, mountain biking, cyclocross – whatever takes your fancy! That way you will find it easier to narrow down what you want and have more of a feel for bikes when you try them.
If you can afford to invest in a new bike it’s worth getting down to a nearby bike shop and trying as many as you can – often the staff are really helpful. The advantage of a new bike is you don’t have to worry too much about mechanicals/maintenance at the start. However, this often comes with a price tag! Second-hand bikes can be a good option as there as so many out there, and they’re often cheaper – the downside to this is it’s harder as a beginner to know if a bike is in good condition. My tip here would be, if you are unsure, try and get a second opinion or see if you can take any advice from a friend who is already into cycling. If you don’t know anyone, don’t worry there is plenty of information online too.
Chelsea: I kind of fell into mountain biking (literally) but I wish I’d taken more time to consider the right type of bike for me. I want a new one but I’m holding out until I know exactly which one I need. For those just getting onto a bike for the first time what’s your advice?
Hetty: Relax, have fun and enjoy it! Most of us learned to ride a bike as a kid and haven’t really done much since… However, we have a tendency to get straight on the bike and expect to remember how to ride straight away! Start small; you can always build up and don’t give yourself a hard time – it’s not easy, and the disciplines (mountain bike, road biking, etc.) are all pretty different.
From a practical perspective, a helmet is an essential and padded cycling shorts are a big help – they will certainly make your life more comfortable!
Chelsea: Yes it’s certainly not uncool to wear helmets – mine’s saved me more times than I care to remember. Do you have any bike maintenance tips?
Hetty: When it comes to maintenance, I am still very much learning! The majority of my knowledge has come from YouTube – it’s a great resource and the next best thing to having someone teach or show you in person.
From personal experience, when it comes to fixing your own bike – don’t be afraid to give it a go, don’t worry if it goes wrong and expect it to take three times longer than you think! I will never forget the sheer frustration of the first time I tried to change the tire on my mountain bike. The video ran through it in a smooth three minutes – it took me 45 minutes, two inner tubes, all my patience and maybe even a tear of frustration! The good news is each time it gets easier, and if all else fails there’s always duct tape and zip ties to fall back on until you can get it to a bike shop!
Chelsea: I did a free bike maintenance course with my local council a few years back and it was the most frustrating but informative course I’d done. Persistence and practice are the keys then. Ok the fun part, tell me about a trail you’d love to do or have done?
Hetty: I feel so lucky to have so many amazing rides on my doorstep – it’s hard to pick just one! Further afield, one of my favourite adventures had to be riding the West Highland Way in the middle of Hurricane Barney – it was wild! The plan had been to go on a two-day trip staying at the Loch Chiarain bothy. However, conditions were so bad I had to retreat to the tent. Still, it was a great day out riding!
When it comes to routes I would like to do the list is endless! Top of the list right now would be mountain biking in the Atlas Mountains in Morrocco or mountain biking the Trans-Pyrenees route. I imagine either would be amazing!
Chelsea: You’ve prompted me to take advantage of my own amazing doorstep rides. You are brave – in a hurricane???! Do you have any WOW moments that stand out whilst biking – tell me about it?
Hetty: My biggest WOW moment was both a wow that was amazing and wow that was slightly terrifying! I had decided to enter ‘Ard Rock Enduro, a tough 45km loop with five downhill timed stages – right on the limit of my ability! The theory was that through training for the event I would become a better and bolder rider.
The day had come, and I was stood at the top of Stage 1, looking at the course ahead it was terrifyingly steep! After a slightly shaky start, I really got into it and ended up having an awesome day. My ‘wow’ came at the end of the course – I was just amazed at what I had ridden, and the fact I had got around it in one piece!
Chelsea: Respect Hetty – I got terrified on a red route at Llandegla, I need to get my priorities straight! Do you have any recommended reading for those wanting to get into biking more?
Hetty: There’s a whole host of great resources out there! A few I would recommend would be Total Women Cycling for all things bike related for women, Pink Bike for looking for a second-hand bike, good videos and the latest news and Bike Radar for buying guides, advice, and reviews.
Thanks Hetty for sharing your insights and memories. I’m getting more and more inclined to get on my bike soon. The last in my series interviews a local (to me) Mountain Biking Coach (coming soon!)
Find Hetty on: