Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Need some inspiration?

I don't know about you, but I've got quite a few cycling heroes. They range from friends who've ridden in amazing places to friends who've overcome things and carried on riding to proper famous people who just really kick bottom on a bike.

Then about a month and a half ago, a new hero appeared on my radar.

I was making plans to head over to Ireland for the Singlespeed World Champs (more of which another day) and a friend of mine dropped me an e-mail to say that Dervla Murphy lived really near where the race was and wouldn't it be great if we could meet her?

Well, I have to fess up, I didn't know who Dervla Murphy was, so I started doing a wee bit of research before I replied to Jacquie. Oh my! Am I glad I started to investigate!

For those of you who don't know, Dervla is an 80-odd year old Irish lady who, in the 60's when she was in her early 30's, decided to cycle from Ireland to India...on her own...on a singlespeed (she took the gears off because of concerns about being able to get replacement parts).

Then she wrote a book about it and the adventures she had along the way called Full Tilt; Ireland to India with a Bicycle. I won't give the story away, but suffice to say, it is an epic tale and is more than just a little bit inspiring!

Dervla has since gone on lots more cycling adventures to all sorts of places like Cuba, South Africa and Russia (in her 70's!) and has written about her trips.

So, feeling duely awestruck, I replied to Jacquie saying, yes, it would be amazing if we were able to meet Dervla whilst we were in Ireland and I volunteered to contact her publishers to find out if it was possible.

I really didn't expect any response at all, but within 24 hours, I got an e-mail back saying that Dervla would be around on the 25th and 26th of August if either of those dates suited.

So on Friday the 26th Jacquie and I took a roadtrip through County Waterford to meet up with Dervla. We were like a pair of giggly little girls as we went to the address we'd been given to find that not only had Dervla agreed to meet us, but she'd invited us to her home!

I'm not quite sure if Dervla knew what had hit her when Jacquie and I turned up (we're about as opposite as two Jac's can be, but somehow it works), but she treated us like two old friends.

Try as I might to act cool and not like an awestruck fan, I was desperate to find out some things about her riding experiences. So I asked whether, at 82, she still manages to get out on her bike....Not really, after a hip replacement, it's a bit difficult to get on the bike, so she's on the lookout for a step-through frame to get going again. She does however swim in the local river every morning...more than I'm brave enough to do at less than half her age!

Hearing Dervla speak so passionately about experiencing and exploring different places by bicycle was truely inspirational and the fact that she does it with a fraction of the fuss I make about a 24 hour race (forget your high tech lycra shorts and jerseys (sorry Debbie!) try a pair of gabardine slacks, a Viyella shirt and woollen undies!) made me appreciate that riding a bike shouldn't be a complicated thing. Dervla was never a racer, she was never a sponsored rider, she didn't do tonnes of training, she was, and still is, a regular girl who just gets out there and rides her bike to see places and things and have fun.

I think Dervla is proof that we girls really can do anything we set our minds to on a bike, whether it's riding the trails in the woods that we've always shied away from or riding across that country we've always fancied, any of us can do it if we really want to. I know I've now got lots of plans to just do those rides I've thought might be too challenging - Thank you Granny Dervla!

Please read her books (Full Tilt is a great place to start) and let me know what challenges she inspires you to have a go at!



Julbags said...

Wow! I read Full Tilt a few years ago and it was an amazing and inspiring read. I did feel a bit spoiled with all my modern kit after the description of her bicycle (stupidly heavy if I remember rightly) and clothes and I still whinge about riding in a bit of wind and rain.

Just about to see what I can find in my local library catalog.

Livvy said...

I found a dusty copy of this book on my mum's shelves some years ago and was instantly gripped. What a woman! What a ride! So brave and so determined.