The bicycle. Whether you ride road, off-road, to get from A to B or just for the love it, the bicycle means something to all of us. We each have our own stories of cycling; why we love it, how we got started and what it means to us.
How We Roll is a new semi-regular feature on BikeRadar in which readers share what inspired them to jump in the saddle and what benefits it’s brought them.
For Sabrina Harris – part of the Crankettes cycling team – riding has opened up a whole new world. It’s transformed her physically and mentally, bringing new experiences, opportunities and a raft of new friends.
Nowadays she rides and races with the Crankettes, with ambitions to complete a sub-25min 10-mile time trial, and complete the full Etape Cymru sportive/gran fondo event in north Wales. But she’ll be the first to admit that things weren’t always this way.
“Ever since I was tiny, I’ve always been overweight. And although I’ve always had loads of friends, being big, children did make fun of me. The shouts in the playground were always aimed at the fat kid – I was an easy target.”
“I’ve also never been a sporty type, shall we say. Although I had a bike when I was little, I wasn’t an avid cyclist – it was more about getting from your mums house to the play park. I wasn’t too bad at hockey, though I was always the goalkeeper because I could put lots of things over my body to cover myself up, and I hated athletics.”
“I never wanted to get any part of my body out. I was ashamed of how big I was, to be honest.”
The turning point for Harris came on a family holiday with her sister and her children. “We’d gone to the pool, and the children really desperately wanted me to go swimming with them. I was so ashamed of myself in a swimming costume that I said no. I remember sitting there by the side of the pool, and I promised myself at that point that I would never miss out on playing with them again. I decided that I couldn’t be overweight any more.”
“So after I got back from the holiday I got to work. I’d always been a big eater; if I was bullied or I’d had a bad day, I’d comfort eat, then feel worse for it. It was a vicious circle, so my diet was the first thing I changed.”
“Then exercise. I found a great lady near my home that ran a small spin class, with about six bikes. By June 2013 I’d lost nearly three stone (19kg) through the spin class and watching what I ate, and I decided I felt confident enough to start cycling to work.”
“I’d loved the spin class, and that’s what got me into the idea of cycling. I bought myself a mountain bike, and started cycling from the park and ride outside of Oxford to my job, which was about five miles. It absolutely killed me on the mountain bike, but the weight really started to drop off.”
“Then in October 2013 I decided to take the plunge and buy a road bike, so I bought one off eBay and found a friend nearby who wanted to cycle at weekends. I gradually increased my mileage from 20 miles to 30 miles to 40 miles. The more I cycled, the more weight I lost, and by this stage I wasn’t really even having to watch what I ate because I was cycling everything off.”
Harris’s passion for cycling grew steadily, but it took a chance ride with the local Cranks Cycling Club to bring her riding to the next level. With her usual riding partner away on holiday, she decided to take the plunge and join a club ride.
“By this stage I was completely obsessed with cycling – there was no way I wanted to go for two weeks without riding, so I decided to see what it was like. I was so nervous – you get the idea cycling club rides are going to be like some kind of cycling team, that you won’t keep up, or that you’ve got the wrong gear – but everyone was lovely! They were really chatty and welcoming, and so that was it; I’ve barely missed a club ride since then.”
“I became part of the Crankettes last year too. I was on a club ride and a couple of the girls wanted to do some time trial practice along a straight piece of road. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll have a go at that’ and followed them as best I could. I actually ended up overtaking a couple of people, and when we pulled in one of the girls said to me, ‘You should really join the team, you’d be great at time trialling with us!’ This year, we have sponsorship and race kit from Alé, and I feel like a fully fledged Crankette!”
With cycling such a major part of her life, it’s perhaps no surprise that she’s inspiring others to take it up.
“It was my niece’s ninth birthday recently, and you know what she wanted more than anything? A road bike so she could be like Aunty Sabrina. That has made every mile I have ridden since my days of being nearly 19 stone in weight worth it. All the hard work, all the tears and wanting to give up melts into nothing just knowing she wants to be like me. I can’t wait to take her cycling.”
“That right there is what cycling means to me; inspiring others and having a positive effect on their lives.”
“Has cycling changed my life? Completely! I’m a different person to the woman I was two years ago. I’m so much happier with myself, I have so many friends – I can’t imagine life without cycling!”