Following up from his 0 to 200 article where Joe Fitzpatrick recounted joining the club and setting his stall out to cycle the wicklow200 the following June, Joe tells us about the many adventures and challenges in his first year in Orwell Wheelers

A beginners year with Orwell Leisure

Joe Fitzpatrick

I started with the 3 introductory rides in October 2014 and by the time membership opened I was hooked. The plan was to get out at least twice each month over the Winter and I actually did better than that. I was comfortable on the flat roads, but struggled on the hills. However as the weeks passed I could see the improvement and everybody else didn’t have to wait so long at the top of each climb. I started looking forward to the weekly [Orwell-Leisure] mail to check the route in advance and by January I was confident enough to take a chance on cycling with a “slower” yellow group. Confident, maybe, not necessarily ready, but I figured out it was doable (provided the plan was for a flat route, no major hills, not a windy day, etc. etc).

At the same time, I started going to spin classes once a week, to keep the legs turning and lungs working. I reckon the 1hr "Endura Spin" class at my local gym definitely helped me on Sunday climbs. I also lost quite a bit of weight which didn’t do any harm. There is lot to be said for the guilt free fry on returning from a Winter cycle.

From about March onwards, the Sunday spins got a little longer (“when you say you will be back at 1pm is that a cycling 1pm” is a question my wife now asks).

Joe and Andrew battling the heavy rain in the Reservoir Cog Sportive (photograph with thanks to David R Archery)

Sportives started in April. Again I had a plan which was to do at least one per month, including the Wicklow 200 and the Sean Kelly 160. I ended up doing about nine sportives and got out on my own or with others most weekends. My kilometres on the bike peaked in May (much preparation for the W200 see September was the month with the least amount of cycling.

Joe at the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford (photograph with thanks to Tom Maguire)

To finish out the year I was looking for something different and signed up for the Faceless Monk Audax. This turned out to be an epic cycle journey (in biblical rain) along the backroads and boreens of North Dublin, Meath and Leinster. No real hills and it took 50mins longer that the WW200.

Andrew and Joe at the Reservoir Cog sportive at the end of September (photograph with thanks to Derek Cogs Bennett)

Last Christmas, I thought about upgrading my bike but Im glad I didn’t. One year later I have a much better idea of what I want and what would make a difference if (when) I eventually splash out. For a new bike to save the amount of weight I lost just by enjoying myself on Sunday mornings, I would have to look at getting a fully carbon unicycle.

I have learned loads: how to pace myself, eat a little and often, drink lots, keep smiling. Gears are there to be used, waterproof gloves are not waterproof, keep your knees warm in Winter.

I am getting smarter about identifying which cycling stuff is good value in Aldi/Lidl and what items are worth spending a bit more on. I now have a accounts with Wiggle and ChainReaction but have spent more in local bike shops.

I check in on the forum regularly, read bits from and always look forward to getting out on a Sunday.

In October 2014, Andrew Potts and I stood gasping for air at the Texaco petrol station near Enniskerry. We were on the way home from an early Winter spin and wondering if the garage had a defibrillator. Encouraged by Martin and Sinead on some of the earlier sportives, we completed the WW200 together in under 10 hours (moving). We stood in the sunshine at Mahon falls and discovered challenges like the Cunard climb on the Reservoir Dog. Assisted by my Mr Garmin, we traversed the potholes of Meath from Mellifont to Ashbourne in the dark and are looking forward to this years Winter spins as preparation for 2016.

As for 2016, the plan isn’t set yet. More sportives definitely. A goal to not repeat one from 2015, maybe. Or maybe a couple in each province? Something abroad? An audax 300?

And all because of a run to Greystones for coffee and a scone with an Orwell Leisure beginners group.