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Everything You Need To Know About Getting Into Cycling, According To An Olympic Athlete

Macmillan Cycletta ambassador and Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton tells BuzzFeed how to fall in love with cycling, from conquering hills to ignoring those pesky men in Lycra.

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This is Victoria Pendleton – one of Britain's most successful female Olympians and track cyclists.


She is also a World, European and Commonwealth Champion, and after retiring from her professional career as a track cyclist, she is currently working on becoming a personal trainer. She's also an ambassador for the all-female Macmillan Cycletta cycling series, and has given BuzzFeed her top tips for women who just getting into cycling, or are thinking of taking up the sport.

1. If you're nervous about getting into cycling, build up your confidence first.

Victoria Pendleton says:

"Cycle somewhere where you feel comfortable, because a lot of it's to do with confidence. Women can feel a bit unconfident with getting on their bikes, so get on your bike and have a bit of practice some place that feels safe and comfortable for you, [such as] a local cycle path – off the road, maybe – just to get into the flow, privately, in your own time and space."

2. Get the right kit so you're comfortable on your ride.

Victoria says:

"Investing in a pair of cycling shorts is a must – if you're uncomfortable then you won't enjoy it, so having a good windproof or waterproof jacket and a good pair of cycling shorts is quite important. You won't enjoy it if you're wet and cold and uncomfortable."

3. Get your mates involved!


Victoria says:

"The best piece of advice is to rope some pals in to get involved with you. If it's for a good cause and there's a charity theme to what you're doing, like Cycletta with Macmillan Cancer Support, I think women are more likely to go 'Oooh, OK I'll do it!' because they realise it's for a good cause as well as for themselves, and sometimes that's the extra push you need."


4. Make sure you fuel up before your ride.

Victoria says:

"I like to make my own muesli, so at home I make a big batch of muesli every couple of weeks. I put a lot of nuts and seeds in it – a real mix of all the things I love, a little bit of dried fruit – and for me that with almond milk in the morning is a good breakfast. I'll have that with mixed fruit, whatever is seasonally available, a bit of almond milk and a coffee – happy days!"

5. And be sure to stay hydrated and have a balanced recovery meal afterwards.

Victoria says:

'It's really important to rehydrate, especially if you're not someone who is confident in taking your hands off the handlebars and drinking while you're cycling – it can take a bit of practice getting the bottle in and out of the bottle cage. So you need to rehydrate, but definitely have a really balanced meal as soon as possible, so I try to eat as soon as I can afterwords. A good square meal with some source of protein is important to help rebuild the muscles and recover well."

6. Complement your cycle training with an activity like Pilates.

Victoria says:

"I think Pilates is really good. Yoga is great, but it's quite hard work if you're not someone who is really into that holistic kind of approach. You have to buy into yoga in some way, both spiritually and physically. I think Pilates is great – I did Pilates towards the end of my career to manage my core stability and back pain from wear and tear and a long time spent hunched over a bike, and I found it really helpful.

"Matt Pilates, reformer Pilates... I just bought myself a reformer for my garage gym, which makes me super happy. Pilates is excellent because it's a really important to have a strong back and core and support throughout your midsection so you don't get achy shoulders, back, and pelvis, so yeah, Pilates is key."

7. Don't let self-doubt stop you from cycling.

Getty Images/iStockphoto gbh007

Victoria says:

"I think it's confidence more than anything, and self belief. Generally I think women aren't wired to go, 'Yeah, do you know what, I'm good enough and I can do that.' Usually it's like, 'Well, I'm probably not good enough, and maybe I can't.' Self doubt is a very common theme I think women gravitate towards self-consciously.

"Especially if you're a little bit older, trying new things and getting involved in a new sport can be quite daunting and frightening. A little bit of encouragement and support and a little bit of building of confidence from the people around you can go a long way."


8. When building confidence on your bike, make a note of your achievements.

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Victoria says:

"I think it's just getting out there and giving it a go and rewarding yourself from what you've achieved. You know, not saying 'Oh I want to be an Olympic champion' or 'I want to win this' but just realising what you get out of it and aligning your own sense of achievement with what you want to get out of it.

"So just a bit of time and space in the countryside to yourself every day – a bit of you time – or if you do want to achieve a weight or a fitness goal or something like that, rewarding yourself so that you do feel like you're achieving stuff."

9. And make sure to treat yo' self!

Getty Images/iStockphoto darak77

Victoria says:

"If you do anything sports-wise and you consistently repeat it in practice, there's no doubt about it, it can't get any worse – it's quite a simple equation, really. So just reward yourself in any way that may be. So, if you've done a long ride, treat yourself to a nice tea or a takeaway – you don't want to cancel out the good work obviously, but treat yourself!

"Say to yourself: 'I'm going to cycle this many kilometres and it's going to be a challenge, so I'm going to take myself to a spa for the day.' It's about rewording and appreciating your own sense of achievement. Make an effort, plan good stuff in."

10. Ignore the MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) and go at your own pace!

Victoria says:

"So, today [at the Surrey Cycletta ride] I was chilled out having a lovely time, still pushing myself, hard work, quite hilly, which is great, and then I got caught up with a male group of cyclists coming past, and they were very shouty and totally ruined the atmosphere.

"To be honest, I was riding behind them for a while, just a little bit following their pace, and they weren't necessarily the most skillful, shall I say. They didn't strike me as way beyond the ability of the women who were riding, and they were just shouting and barking orders, and I thought, you know what, you're really spoiling the atmosphere, and it got me a bit riled up actually, I'm not going to lie. And I was just like, 'Hey, why don't you just give some encouragement instead? Imagine that!' I don't need that on a Sunday morning ride, come on...

"Nobody wants to be shouted out just because they're going at their own pace. You're out there, you're doing it, you're sharing an interest. A little bit of support and consideration wouldn't go amiss, if you know what I mean."

11. Become queen of the mountain and conquer those hills!

Victoria says:

"The basic physics of hill-climbing: Because you have to carry everything you have up the hills, don't take excess drinks and stuff with you if you want it to be easier. Hill-climbing is mind-over-matter above anything else, and just keeping to a rhythm – your own rhythm. People climb at very different speeds and very different cadences, from novices to experts, and you have to stick to your own pace.

"Cycling faster than you're capable of means you're going to blow, cycling slower than what's comfortable for you will also probably make you blow and make you feel worse than you should. So just go your own pace and focus on a rhythm. It's really important to keep with a real consistent rhythm with your pedalling. Change gears as much as you like, but keep a rhythm – my dad was always saying that's the most important thing."


12. When climbing hills, stay positive. It's OK to get off your bike if you have to.

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Victoria says:

"Just be strong mentally, just think 'I can do this,' and keep looking ahead. Keep looking up and thinking 'I'm nearly there, I'm so nearly there' – it's a positive mental attitude. If you put your feet down, don't beat yourself up, just think, 'Next time I'm going to go a bit further before I do that.'

"I remember plenty of times, growing up, having to stop on hills and push my bike to the top because I couldn't keep up and was doing too much. That's OK. It's totally OK, just go your own pace."

13. Have a look around your local area for a hidden route or secret cycle path.

Getty Images/iStockphoto Hans Broeksteeg

"I really enjoy cycling where I grew up, just because when I go back it's a little bit about reminiscing about the past. It's quite quiet. I live in Bedfordshire so I cycle in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire counties – there are lots of little routes out and about."

14. But the people you cycle with are more important than where you cycle!

Victoria says:

"To be honest, for me who you're cycling is more important than where you're cycling anyway. I've always enjoyed the social side of it – going out with your pals and doing something together and helping each other along the way – so I guess for me that's more significant than where I am."

Macmillan Cycletta, the UK's leading series of women-only bike rides, is back for 2015. Log on to to be the first to hear when new dates are announced.