Have You Ever…?

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Have you ever…
shamelessly ridden a bike about town with two cowbells clanging off the handlebars?
waved excitedly then dashed over to someone a few yards away only to get there and realise they are a complete stranger (if you ever want to ‘disappear’ dress as a cyclist in a group of cyclists)?
had a pro street velodrome cyclist fall at your feet?
watched your daughter’s face burst into joy at getting the desperately hoped for top girl’s place on the rollapaluza scoreboard?
banged the boards?
surpassed your personal goals?
at 37 unexpectedly tasted the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had- in. your. actual. full. life. though?
smiled till your face ached?

We got to do all of these and more at Stockton Cycling Festival this weekend.

And there was food. I don’t know how important this is for you but pretty much all our plans for family activities rest on what catering options are going to be available thereat. We are way too dis-organised for picnics and are fairly consistently hungry. I turned up on Sunday purposefully even hungrier than usual as I knew The Stottie Company was going to be there.

I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager before I was encouraged to have a go at the Stockton Duathlon earlier this year by a really very lovely person. From starting off being filled with horror at the prospect on my first run out, I wound up genuinely sad it was all over and I was cycle-less again at completion. Perfectly timed a women’s 10-week cycling confidence course- where you could get a bike on a payment scheme- was recruiting through Stockton Council (which I think they are again now for another cohort so if you want to get involved you may still be able to!).

Apologies if you had to traverse mountains of shredded nerves all over Stockton those first few weeks as Nicki and Doug our coaches patiently got us all out across the Borough ON THE ROADS. Oh yes. Not just tootling up and down cycle paths for us. Week 1-3 I must have apologised to a dozen motorists for daring to be in their space till about week 4 I thought .. ‘hang on buddy, we’re all just trying to get somewhere here and I’m doing it keeping myself fit and reducing my carbon footprint so stick it right up your exhaust pipe huh?’ – obviously I didn’t say this as I am a hippy-in-training and a responsible new cyclist but really, would you hurl abuse at someone on the pavement in front of you as they were making their own journey their own way? My motto from this is now to always be nice to people on less wheels than me.

As week 10 finished the bold, brave, and possibly most bonkers, of us signed up to do the Sportive, held on the Saturday of the cycling weekend. It was awesome. I cannot tell you how brilliantly amazing it was. Besides the fact they stopped traffic literally for us as we left Stockton (felt like a superstar) it was just gorgeous. Hard work and tough but I was gobsmacked with the scenery up to Kildale, it is completely mind-blowing on a bike, and just being part of something so big in our little team was brilliant.  I think we all felt like heros a little at the end of our 36 miles- and we kind of were.

That Saturday morning was a particular high for me, but so was just being there on Friday night and watching the elite cyclists race through our lovely old town over the crisp new paved sections. Sunday, riding the Sky Ride round the closed off streets and watching the excitement of the Street Velodrome (I was going to have a go till I saw it in real life… the lady from Middlesbrough that did was a star for getting in there) was top-class family time- I got one hug from my daughter right through to my bones at one point and there’s little more you could ever want from a Sunday than that.

We all loved it, so many incredible moments, I hope the whole team that put it together are collectively high fiving themselves. If you didn’t go this time, next time? Just do. Pump your old tyres up and get involved, cheer on a loved one or just watch the elite sportsfolk. This is the most images I dare put in a WordPress slideshow in case it refuses to open on your screen and they still don’t nearly cover half of what was going on. Best of all I have at least ten new family and personal moments from this weekend to add to my list of ‘brilliant things that have happened’ memory files.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got” Mark Twain said; it’s not easy trying something new, it’s even less easy when it may ache, wobble or be embarrassing. That’s probably when you should give it a whirl the most though. The Sky Rides are on-going throughout the summer every Sunday and cover a whole range of abilities.

Stockton Cycling Festival – that’s Real Stockton.