Katie Butler's Top Tips for taking up Cycling

I was on a year traveling Australia in 2014 when I bought my very first road bike.

I don’t really know what made me do it, but I used the savings I had planned to spend on shark cage diving on the brand new Giant Avail. I had no idea how to use the gears and to be honest really struggled on 15km rides. 

At the time I was also around 30kg heavier than I am today. But as soon as I got on that bike I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, I struggled, and sweat (a lot) and hills were always tough. Descending was even worse. But I stuck at it. I used that bike to travel parts of Australia and South East Asia - no more than 60km rides at a time though.

Now four years later, as you can see from the pictures, I have lost a lot of weight and now love endurance riding. My longest ride was just over 407km and I also recently rode Land’s End to John O’Groats and from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I am also getting into racing too and have some 1000km+ rides planned for 2019.

But I had my struggles too, and I actually documented my whole cycling journey on my YouTube channel. So you can see my first 100km, or me trying clipless shoes for the first time (that was fun?!) and also the first time I bonked (ran out of glycogen and felt like the world was ending - there were tears).

I have also documented my weight loss from around 100kg to my current weight of around 67kg.

I went vegan around the same time I started cycling and I found that those factors paired together were the perfect way to drop weight while still eating unlimited calories.

At first I wasn’t a fan of getting my larger body into tight-fitting lycra, but I just embraced it and loved the feeling of pushing myself on the bike. The weight really came off when I stopped caring about it (isn’t that always the case, annoyingly?!) and concentrated on going on adventures on my bike. The bike became my transport to work, a way of socialising (on club rides), and always the perfect way to see new places either on sportives or cycling holidays.

Creating videos about each aspect of my journey has shown that anyone can do what I have done.

I just took each new challenge as it came and kept pushing myself forward. I think having friends who also ride was really important for me. They helped me on the tough rides but also challenged me to push my limits.

I want to show you that if you are wanting to try out cycling or get back into it, you can do it and the rewards are incredible. I honestly never thought I would be doing the types of riding that I am doing now but I absolutely love the freedom and excitement that cycling gives me.

So if you’re thinking of taking up cycling or getting back into it, here are five things I think will help you.

1. Buy a bike that fits you.

I spent a good six months riding my grandad’s mountain bike before I bought my road bike but I never really enjoyed it. This was because it wasn’t my size and wasn’t fitted to me. But when I got my road bike that fit me, it was a game changer. It felt incredible and was a bike I wanted to ride. So it might seem tempting to use your sister’s, dad’s, neighbour’s or colleague’s road bike to save some cash, but unless it fits you perfectly, buy your own. Honestly, it’s worth the investment. The road bike I bought in Australia is still the one I ride today.

2. Try a HSBC UK Breeze ride, or join a club with a women’s section.

Having the support and advice from other cyclists is so valuable. They can help with all the questions you might have and make the learning curve a lot easier.

3. Set yourself small goals.

This might be wanting to commute to work twice a week, or riding a 50km sportive in the summer. Having goals to work towards helps so much with motivation. But also I should note don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage them straight away. Be kind, and above all, be patient. We were all beginners at one point.

4. Always take water and a snack on rides.

Bonking is not fun - so always make sure you are hydrated and have enough fuel in the tank.

5. Have fun!

Riding bikes is meant to be fun so get out there and enjoy yourself.

Written by: Katie Butler

YT - youtube.com/c/KatieKookaburra

INSTA - @katiekookaburra1