From total beginner to confident sportive cyclist.
+ 39 watts from 2015 to 2018.
Completed eight-week progressive outdoor Njinga Academy programme.
In July 2016: only one year on from getting first-ever road bike.
Completed the Giro Sardegna in April 2018.
A work colleague of mine suggested we – her, another group of work colleagues, and I – do a charity cycle. All of us hadn't ridden a bike since our school days, but for some reason, we all said yes anyway.
One trip to the bike shop later and I was very smartly set up with a hybrid bike and a set of clipless pedals which would, I was told, improve my efficiency on the bike, which they did until 2 weeks before the charity cycle: I unclipped at some traffic lights and toppled off my bike. My reward was a fractured wrist and, disappointingly, an end to my charity cycle. The biggest consequence of my fall was that my confidence on the bike took a huge knock.
After my recovery, a friend's husband suggested we do Ride London and put into practice the fitness I'd built in training for the charity cycle. With my track record, I wasn't sure it was a sensible idea. I was still working on my confidence, after all. But I applied anyway, thinking that the chance of me actually getting a place was slim.
Yep, you guessed it: I had a place in Ride London. But – cue: panic! – my friend hadn't. I didn't take this well. Firstly, I couldn't stay upright on a bike, let alone ride 100 miles.
Looking for answers, I talked to my local bike shop where they recommended I try Njinga. And why not? I figured, at the very least, indoor cycling would be a safer way to start training again. A stationary bike would be a hard one to fall off!
It was a little daunting at first to be the new girl – and an unfit one at that! – but the other riders at Njinga helped and spurred me on. It was the best place to be: really friendly and non-threatening, from beginning to end.
Claire on a Njinga training camp in Mallorca.
Claire cycling with her fellow Njinga riders on our training camp in Mallorca.
Claire refuelling with fellow Njinga riders after a long day on the bike at our Mallorca training camp
Claire completing the 100 mile Ride London sportive.
Claire on a cycle ride with her fellow Njinga riders.
Claire's Ride London finisher's medal.
Summer 2017: Njinga's Road Cycling Skills programme
The next summer, I took part in Njinga's Road Cycling Skills (Level 2) programme and learned so much, including when and how to change gears. It's not as straight-forward as you may think: it's about the feeling in the legs, not what you see ahead of you.
This programme alone helped with my ability and confidence to climb hills and do so efficiently.
I've also learned the skills of climbing – both seated and standing; how to follow the line when descending hills; and I'm pretty good at doing the butterfly! I'm also now a confident group rider, and I've mastered many weekend rides with my fellow Njinga Collective riders.
Giro de Sardegna 2018: An adventure of firsts
Next up, I decided to sign up to ride Giro de Sardegna 2018, my first overseas event. Six days cycling back-to-back seemed like a good idea at the time (the most I'd done at that point was three days).
Claire with fellow Njinga riders at the start of Giro de Sardegna.
Claire in the start pen for a Giro de Sardegna race.
Claire at Giro de Sardegna.
It was a memorable experience in so many ways, both physically and mentally.
I had an incredible group of Njinga women around me and we kept each other going. It was an adventure of firsts: my first overseas event, my first individual time trial, and my first team time trial.
An Njinga Rider for life
Nowadays, my days off are spent cycling in the Surrey Hills with friends I've met through Njinga.
If you haven't tried any service with Njinga, I'd certainly recommend it.
From the owners to the instructors, from the ride captains to fellow riders, it's by far the best place to learn to ride and improve your fitness.
Claire and fellow Njinga riders in the start pen at the Giro de Sardegna.
Claire with her Njinga riders after completing her first Team Time Trial at the Giro de Sardegna.
Claire in Sardinia for a 6 day stage race.