Sarah Bingham, cycle instructor trainer at BikeRight! and mother-to-be talks about her experience of cycling during pregnancy.
During my first inklings of pregnancy I remember asking Dr Internet, “how do you know if you’re pregnant?” The second question I searched was, “can I still ride my bike?” and there are various degrees of advice out there, mainly positive too.
Ultimately I knew I was going to continue to ride so I selectively read the answers that fitted into my plan. My midwife was also very supportive; her advice was that my body would let me know. However, I had no idea how this new presence was going to affect my daily cycling. Questions swirled around my head. How long would I be able to go for? How hard will it be? And will the saddle cause my waters to break? But as a National Standard trained cyclist and instructor, I never once considered that it would be more 'dangerous’ or 'irresponsible’ for me to continue to join the flows of traffic on the tarmac.
Because I work for BikeRight!, I’m a confident and competent rider; heavy traffic; multi-lane changes and roundabouts rarely faze me. Having the physical equivalent of the ‘Baby on Board’ sign attached to me should make little difference to how other road users share the road. I’ve found most road users share the roads beautifully and it is a rare few who struggle to comprehend. Having a baby on board did however change my perspective of my daily commute.
Aiding baby’s neural roadways
For me one of the first major changes I needed to make was my attitude towards those poor drivers who struggled to share for one reason or another. My days of catching drivers up at lights to educate them are behind me for now. I needed to keep stress to a minimum as well as reduce the possibility of my baby’s first words being w#nk#*. I’m trying now to skilfully just shake my head with a pitying look and calmly wave those on who like to comment on my road positioning. I’m also trying to learn how to distinguish from those drivers who simply make mistakes to the ones who have a lack of understanding.
Cycling has always aided my mental and physical wellbeing. Entertaining the idea of stopping cycling when I needed my brain and body to be well prepared seemed silly. I just had to adapt my style. Now, due to a reduction in speed, I more often than not tend to join the flow of traffic rather than filter up to the front of the queue.
I find myself adding in a few more over the shoulder glances than normal, making a driver give space and slow down. All best practise though. Furthermore, for the niggling ‘what ifs?’ in my head I’ve adopted quieter routes as opposed to some faster sections I was previously using.
Weaning me off the road bike
I’d heard that balance may become an issue, but at 32 weeks, this still hasn’t materialized. The biggest adaption I made was to simply swap the road bike for a more sit-up, step-through bike with panniers. The less bending forward over the bump I did the more comfortable I became. Equipped with a new bike I was off again, only this time slower and more relaxed than the previous heads-down-beat-the-traffic mode. The step-through bike along with its panniers is much heavier, as am I. This affected my time, speed and ultimately the distance I could comfortably achieve, so I kept journeys to less than 6miles each way.
My waterproof jacket is now at its limit of stretchability, but with just eight weeks to go, I’ll happily adopt wearing a cheap poncho come those showers. Other than this I wear my everyday pregnancy clothing and because of my reduction in speed, I don’t sweat… well not as much anyway. My hormones still see to that.
Baby Grow-ing pains
Up until 32 weeks I carried an air of smugness. Other ladies in my Yoga for pregnancy class would complain about back ache, fatigue, varicose veins, stretch marks and the swelling of extremities. I on the other hand suffered with none of the above (apart from being a bit more tired). I attribute this to the fact that I’m getting regular exercise and keeping mobile.
At 32 weeks I developed some pelvic pain which makes me walk and move a little more gingerly than normal, but whilst seated on a bike this pain just doesn’t occur.
So at 32 weeks pregnant I feel as though I can keep on riding my bike; and to the maternity ward if needs be. Each pregnancy though is different, the best advice I got was to listen to my body and drink lots of water. Next I need to work out how to ride with a new baby.
And read BikeRadar's own guide to cycling while pregnant here.