Everyone loves a winner. Like many Brits, the sight of Bradley Wiggins then Chris Froome tasting success in the Tour de France, the inexorable rise of Team Sky and British track triumphs at the London Olympics have piqued my interest in cycling over the last few years.
An overly enthusiastic tour fan (my father) pushing road cycling's merits has gradually had a grinding down effect too. Slipping on Eurosport with its Tour coverage as soon as my eyes were turned, working Lance Armstrong into the conversation at any opportunity and lecturing about the great competition that is LeTour – brainwashing? Gah, framewashing more like. His preaching I detested but it must have had an effect. (Don't you hate preachers trying to spread their fervour by pseudo-enlightenments?)
And so with five-a-side football injuries taking their toll on my nobbled knees I recently decided that I wanted to get into road cycling, see what it's all about, to get out climbing hills on nice sunny days, looking dreadful in overly tight clothing, beating off dehydration, a million flying insects and grumpy drivers in equal measure.
Last week I got my bike. I've been looking at various models over the last few weeks. Should I step straight up to a carbon? Could I push the budget that little bit more? Which is a good beginner's bike, but good enough to handle the occasional sportive? Many questions, little cash. (See our tips on what to consider if you're looking to buy a road bike yourself.)
From what I read and the advice given to me it was what I planned to do that would be the decisive factor.
My aim: get out at the weekend regularly and do a few hours, stopping for a refreshing (single) cider at a good vantage point should the opportunity arise (that's what Wiggo does, right?), ultimately building up to doing one sportive this summer and aiming to do longer distances next year. Think long term... put off the pain for a bit.
Except that last week I finally got out there and I'm smitten. I used to ride to school regularly as a youngster and then later to my first employment, and this brought back how much I enjoyed being out there on two wheels: the wind rushing past... drivers beeping in annoyance... hurled insults from a bunch of youths hanging out on the corner... It felt liberating and I'm itching to get out there again, despite kissing the concrete due to clipless pedal malfunction/heel release delay, resulting in the well-known painful drop to the ground sideways that many beginner road cyclists experience. Timber!
After weeks of consideration I plumped for a Giant Defy 4 (though the Felt Z95, Boardman Road Sport and Triban 5 dared to make me dream too – the reviews on BikeRadar were my starting point, but the 2014 Defy, with its upgraded fork, sealed the deal for me). It seemed like a good bet for some decent road cycling, wouldn't cost me the Earth and might be able to handle one easy sportive a year. However, I can see a day when maybe, just maybe, I wish to upgrade to carbon, start aiming for ludicrous miles and splash out on that pro kit that costs so much more for being the weight of a gnat's willy lighter. We'll see.
So I've rediscovered my love for being on a bike. An epiphany. And I've already started preaching its merits to mates to try to get them to join me on a ride.