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Doc Sarah's Bicycle Pages



Why cycling?

In 2004, I was beginning to seriously struggle with my health. Despite going part-time at work, I simply couldn't keep myself well enough to stay at work for more than a few weeks without getting ill again, and I was looking for a simple way to keep fit without having to take all the time to go to the gym - something I could just do whenever the weather was good. I had a bicycle (most people do), and when I lived in Birmingham I used it to ride a mile or two to the shops, but hadn't used it at all for several years. It was a Raleigh Camaro hardtail MTB with knobbly tyres and cheap Shimano gears - a five speed rear and triple front.

I asked Stephen to get it down from the storage spot in the garage where he had put it, and he came out for some rides with me

At first I was terribly out of shape, despite going to the gym and doing aerobics. I could only manage rides up to 7 miles and that would take me over an hour to complete. Any slight incline and I was struggling seriously, despite the very low gearing on the bike. Stephen was very sympathetic and very patient, going round again and again so he could get a workout while I was labouring up a hill. However this all paid off, and we managed to increase my distance to 17 to 20 miles, albeit with at least one pub stop along the way, and visit some of the local villages on our bicycles.

We decided I'd be better off with a road bike, so in September 2004, I bought a Trek 2000 WSD which was a revelation - I immediately increased my speed and distance, and managed some serious hills that before would have left me walking. I joined some internet cycling forums and my goal became getting good enough to ride with fit people who were used to longer rides without holding them up too much.

A lot of cycling miles on the Trek during 2005, despite serious illness, left me fit enough to ride with and keep up with other cycling enthusiasts (they still needed to wait a bit), and I achieved a 13mph average on a ride for the first time. In 2006 I bought a Mercian Velocita as a retirement present, and my cycling went from strength to strength - completing a 50k audax ride before the final checkpoint opened, and completing a 100k audax route well within the allowed time. I was regularly achieving averages of over 14mph and managed 14.7mph for one 40 mile ride. Speed and distance were becoming better and better, and this helped me to improve fitness after a couple of years of serious illness. I even rode up to watch the Tour of Britain with an IV line in my arm, and we went pretty fast too!

It was noticeable at the end of 2006 just how much my fitness had improved when I was skiing - I was much less breathless than in previous years and able to carry my own skis despite being at high altitude.

So, cycling is a wonderful sport. I have enjoyed an increase in my fitness thanks to cycling such that I can now enjoy other sports much more than I did before. My lung function has gradually improved, something that "never" happens in people with CF, and I am now training to be an aerobics instructor - something that requires excellent levels of fitness and something I could not have contemplated before.

There is a difference between illness and fitness - I am very frequently ill, and even a part-time job is beyond my capacity to cope with illness. However by improving my fitness (my ability to use oxygen to make my muscles do work), I am able to enjoy activities that otherwise would be denied me. Cycling has played a huge part in developing that fitness.

Rides I have been on

I don't have many pictures of my cycle rides - I always seem to forget my camera. However here are a few snaps of some of the rides I went on, and of some of our cycling friends.

There are pictures of the ACF Forum ride in June 2006 here and of us spectating on the Tour of Britain 2006 here
And photos of my first metric Century (100 km) ride on 16th September 2006 here.



Copyright © 2004 Dr Sarah Walters
Last updated May 4, 2007