And after a reassuring chat with Leigh, I signed up for Njinga's eight-week Ride London group indoor training programme, and I haven't looked back!
What I really liked about the indoor training sessions was riding to my numbers in a structured way to achieve an objective. Although starting from a pretty low level, and firmly rooted to the bottom of the leaderboard, the support and encouragement from Togo, Josh, and all the riders in the programme was fantastic, and I was hooked.
Riding Ride London 100
Eight weeks later, I successfully completed the 92-mile version of Ride London. Incidents on the road meant that Leith Hill was off-limits, but, nevertheless, it was the farthest I'd ridden, and soon afterwards I was back on the wattbike, keen to at least maintain my new levels of fitness.If I hadn't joined the eight week programme, I honestly doubt whether I'd have made it around Ride London within the time limit.Wattbike & yoga classes, group programmes & four kilos lost
Since then, I've been a wattbike class and group programme regular and I've lost over four kilograms in weight which wasn't planned at all but has made a massive difference to my power-to-weight ratio. One of the other unexpected benefits has been an improvement in my flexibility thanks to the post-ride stretches and yoga classes. I've always enjoyed yoga, but Sam's positivity, warmth, and focus on the key areas for cyclists is great.
Outdoor riding with the Njinga Collective
The other great aspect of Njinga is the outdoor cycling. The Njinga Collective is their not-for-profit outdoor cycling club and in 2016, they introduced the Mbidzi group for newer riders.
However, after a couple of Mbidzi rides, I realised that with my new fitness levels, I'd already outgrown them! I went on to join the Njati (meaning buffalo) group for my first full Collective ride. It was tough, but the ride captains and all the riders were incredibly supportive and never let me feel that I was holding them back which was great for my confidence.I've done a few more rides with Njati and I can't speak highly enough of the captains for their helpfulness, handy tips, and support.
It really does make me feel part of an incredible cycling community.The cherry on top: the Academy basic skills programmes
The final aspect of Njinga that has been pushed me as a cyclist has been the Academy (yup, the Njinga Cycling Academy before it became their main brand!). The level one programme takes you through the basic cycling skills
and builds on them. The advice on gear selection has made such a difference, particularly to my climbing, and I've become much more confident riding in a group.
I'm midway through the level two programme, my pedalling is held up by Togo as a paragon of smoothness and my Strava times are coming down.