I always loved cycling.
I started out, aged five, with a red tricycle – a proper one with wheels with spokes and inflatable tyres.
I got my first bicycle when I was eight.
It was a rusty shade of black and had been ‘restored’ by a man in the village who sold it to my mum.
I grew up in a Berkshire village, surrounded by fields and rolling chalk downland and on long summer days, me and my friends would go off on our bikes in the morning and come home around teatime (we didn’t have watches).
A favourite route was a two-mile uphill to some woodland and the downs – good practice.
My mum had a bike too and one hot summer’s day, when I was nine or ten, she and I set out to cycle to the open-air swimming baths eight miles away.
This trip was probably my idea.
The first few miles went well, but then we needed to get up a long, very steep hill (yes, there are some in Berkshire) and my mum cried off, complaining that I obviously had strong legs (‘like your father’) whereas she didn’t.
We turned around and went home. I was bitterly disappointed as I loved the idea of making a proper journey by bike.
In the early ‘80s, still living in Berkshire, I had a single-speed blue and yellow bike with a child seat on the back, which doubled as a rack for carrying boxes of vegetables back from the local market.
At this time I came across ‘Richard’s Bicycle Book’ and it changed my life!
I read the book from cover to cover, absorbing Richard Ballantine’s eclectic mix of cycling lore, technical information and diagrams of bikes and bike parts.
He became my hero. I set about making what adjustments I could to the bike, raising the saddle (I had to buy a junior hacksaw to cut through the rusted bolt) and the handlebars.
I still had the single-speed bike when I moved to Bradford in 1982 and I got around on it (carless) for over a year: I vividly recall cycling up Church Bank in Bradford on it, lungs straining and leg muscles burning.
Then a childhood friend came to visit and said, ‘Anna, you need a better bike!’
A week or so later I received a surprise delivery of a second-hand Falcon 10-speed derailleur drop handlebar women’s road bike which my friend had bought and shipped to me – the best present I ever had.
I did my first ever cycle trip on that bike in 1986 – a solo trip to Malham for a weekend of cycling.
In the late ‘80s, my stepfather sold me his 12-speed road bike for £15.
It had a stronger frame than the Falcon but poorer quality parts, so out came ‘Richard’s Bicycle Book’ again and I set about (with minimal tools) stripping down both bikes and rebuilding the better quality parts onto the stronger frame.
Over the following 10 years, I did thousands of miles on the ‘new’ bike, including trips to Scotland (where I climbed the Bealach Na Ba on a wintry Spring day) and Ireland and cycling the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway.
In the late ‘80s, I joined a local ‘social cycling group’ and became a leisure cyclist.
The rides were always billed as ‘about 20 miles’ but in reality were often 30 or 40 miles, sometimes more.
It was at this time that I learned about backmarking: I was very happy to take on this role – especially if I’d been out the night before!
My cycling highlights
Dorothy, a steel-framed Dawes Galaxy touring bike. My first ever new bike, bought in 2001.
Longest day ride:
The Manchester 100 (miles) in 1998. I did it with no training or preparation (apart from eating a lot of pasta) on a cheap mountain bike that was too small for me.
Training as a Breeze Champion in 2011, on the first West Yorkshire-based training, which took place in Manningham, Bradford. I only discovered the training by chance about 10 days before.
Getting offered training as a Cycle Training Instructor in 2012 (through Breeze) – it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
Lifetime achievement (so far):
Cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats solo in 2015 (to mark being 60). I did this over 14 days, with panniers, doing a daily average of 70 miles (and I kept going after coming off my bike on day 3 and bruising my ribs and my hip).
Most cycling ascent in a day:
Day one of LEJoG, cycling through Cornwall from Land’s End to Polruan – 1,572 metres climbed (I had to get off and push on the last hill of the day).
Longest, hilliest cycling day:
Day 12 of LEJoG from Glencoe to Inverness – 83 miles (including about 10 miles of off-road track) and 878m of ascent.
Being named in the first ‘100 Women in Cycling’ list in 2017 (five local women were named in this list – a testament to all the local projects supporting women’s cycling).
Most favourite route ever:
The last day of LEJog in 2015, cycling along the Strathnaver in the Highlands, from Altnaharra to Bettyhill. Stunning!