Kate Allan is a competitive time trial cyclist for Team Bottrill and founder of Compete PR, who also looks after endurance sports brand Sundried.
“Cycling started off as a real means of adventure – exploring beautiful country roads and discovering new places; there really is something special about getting out on two wheels.”
What was your route into cycling?
I actually got into cycling pretty late – it was only in 2011 when my now-husband bought me a road bike for my birthday. I was running marathons at the time and seeking some variety in my training. Triathlon seemed like the natural progression from this.
It took me a while to get used to it through, getting out of my new clipless pedals found me toppling over at many a traffic light – and slow gear changing meant that I found myself walking up many a steep climb, having stopped and been unable to start again. But it’s safe to say, despite it taking a bit of getting used to – I was instantly hooked!
What does cycling give you?
Cycling started off as a real means of adventure – exploring beautiful country roads and discovering new places. There really is something special about getting out on two wheels to that end. But through competing as a triathlete, I found that I was able to race time trials pretty well, and so in a way, it now gives me something quite different to that in the early days.
I love competing and thrive on pushing my body as far as it’ll go. It’s a stress release and an endorphin rush rolled into one! I now work in the industry and am so pretty absorbed in the sport – it’s a lifestyle change, and I’ve met some really great friends and colleagues too as part of this ‘journey’.
Did you face any hurdles when first getting into cycling?
For me, the biggest hurdle was simply a case of confidence. Having run all my life, I was not used to busy roads, and my only experience of riding a bike was on a chunky mountain bike as a child.
I feared getting into any sort of mechanical trouble and had to really get to grips with how to change a tyre through practice. So it took a little bit of time to get used to in those early days, but I found it came relatively quickly, and I was soon cycling at speed as if I’d done it all my life.
What achievement are you most proud of?
My proudest achievement was winning my age group (and being second age grouper overall) at the 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote – only six months after having my son, Finlay.
I was able to ride a really strong bike segment (which made up for my distinct lack of training for swim/run!). I was still breastfeeding at the time, and Finlay was not sleeping through the night, so it felt like a really remarkable achievement and is certainly my proudest memory to date.
What’s been your toughest challenge?
My toughest challenge has actually been fairly recent – as in April 2020, I managed to get pneumonia off the back of a suspected case of COVID. I was unable to ride my bike properly for a number of months, and when I did ease back into a training programme, it took a good deal of time to build my form back up, with repeated setback/relapses and lots of accompanying frustration.
I took the pressure off myself and invested my energies into my work instead – and when I did start riding again, I saw each session as a bonus, rather than focusing on the negatives, such as how my form had slipped and my cardio output was far from what I knew it had been.
What would you say to encourage women who are nervous about getting into cycling?
Absolutely DO IT! I’ve met some truly wonderful people since I started cycling, and it’s got me into the best shape of my life. It can be slightly intimidating from the off, but all you really need is a bike, helmet and a working light, and you’re off!
I’d recommend getting in touch with a local cycling club; it’s a great way to get started (in non-COVID times). They most commonly organise group rides on a weekend in which all riders go out as a group, typically organised by speed/distance so that everyone, of all levels, is well looked after.
It means that you meet others, learn some good local routes, and can ask questions about all things cycling to build upon your knowledge and learn more about the things you need to know.