Q&A: Bike the UK with Becky Gribble

Becky Gribble is a cyclist from the University of Bath who will be cycling the UK (John O’Groats to Land’s End) to support the fight against MS. In our Q&A, Becky shares her cycling journey as well as discusses getting more women into cycling, training tips for strength and endurance, and her more on her Bike the UK challenge. Read on below.

The interview

Hey Becky, please introduce yourself.

My name is Becky Gribble, I’m a 21-year-old swimmer turned cyclist. Raised abroad, in Qatar and Kuwait, I was provided with unique opportunities which helped me find my love for the sport. Building on this love, I pursued a swimming scholarship as a boarding student at Plymouth College, where I was able to train with some of the best swimmers in the country. Fast forward to now and I’m happy to say that I’m in my fourth and final year at the University of Bath.

How did you get into cycling? And why?

Originally, cycling was simply another form of training for times when another pool session was too demanding on injuries, or it was to get out and explore the areas around me. Like I’ve mentioned, the love for sport was discovered early on and that passion extended to all forms of sport, including cycling. However, after an unexpected personal incident, swimming was advised against. Having already been cycling for some years I took the plunge and jumped in headfirst to the cycling world. And if you want to know how that’s working out… my social media just about covers that!

How inclusive have you found the cycling community to be? 

Honestly, the cyclists themselves have been so kind to me! Initially, I was riding with my teammates at the time and was lucky enough to be given advice and guidance by a few of the riders. I started to build up so many connections in the cycling community and almost everyone I’ve come into contact to has been very welcoming and supportive.

How can we encourage more women into sport?

In my experience, the women I have been riding with have all had to reach out in one way or another to make an all-female ride happen, or have had to search for local female riders. I think encouraging more women onto bikes and providing a supportive and social set up is always a good start. Especially in grassroots levels, sometimes all we need is a confidence boost and reassurance that we all started at the beginning at some point in our lives.

What does a healthy lifestyle mean to you? 

A healthy lifestyle to me is having a good balance for my physical and mental wellbeing. As much as I love smashing a hard session and eating the best foods to help me recover and perform again and again, I know it is important to have rest days where it is okay to sit with your feet up. Equally, I believe that every now and then, having a movie day with a range of snack and surrounded by friends/family can be just as important. Our bodies and minds need to be listened to and I’m finally starting to fine-tune that in order to live my healthy lifestyle.

What are your top tips for building strength and endurance?

Personally, I find that having set gym sessions really helps both my injury prevention and endurance. By having off-bike sessions it allows me to recover and focus on strength. Endurance wise I find that long rides where you can enjoy the environment around you and go at a steady pace helps endurance. A decent 3 hour ride on a Sunday with a cafe stop or two does wonders for me.

What role does turbo training play in your overall training routine?

While I am lucky enough to have a great turbo set-up for whenever I may need it, I prefer being out on the roads. Not only does it give you fresh air but can provide a great space to clear your head and work off any stress. Obviously, in the UK’s winter months, we see a lot of windy weather, and this is usually the only reason I’d opt for a turbo session. This year has been a strange one for us all with Covid-19, which meant cyclists across the world took to Zwift in order to train and race, and this was a common practice for me this year alongside many of my team.

How important was exercise to you during lockdown?

Lockdown was the perfect opportunity to get on top of any university work, personal goals and to crack on with training. I used exercise and the great weather to get used to the local area around me and find new training routes. With quiet roads, I was wanting to spend longer and longer out exercising, regardless of if that was cycling, running, surfing or even walking the dogs. Exercise remained an important part of my life as it added a slice of routine to the lockdown days which slowly all started to merge.

Tell us about your Bike the UK cycle challenge. 

Bike the UK for MS is a phenomenal challenge that involves riding the length of the UK. Commonly known as LEJOG or the reverse JOGLE, it refers to the start and finish points of the ride. In the summer of 2020, I was due to cycle from John o’Groats to Lands End, covering 1020 miles whilst climbing over 57,592m of elevation. This challenge was unfortunately postponed due to Covid-19, however, is due to happen in 2021. The way I have chosen to complete this challenge supports individuals with MS by raising money and awareness via MS Society Groups. I can’t wait to not only ride the country but to help such an awesome cause.

What inspires you when the going gets tough?

Seeing my friends, teammates and other athletes smashing their training and hitting their goals always inspires me. Luckily for me, they are all incredibly supportive and help get me on my feet. The community we have is based around supporting each other and providing a motivating environment. It is truly an essential part of keeping me going and I’m so lucky to have found that finally in my team for 2021 and the individuals that have been there since day one.

What would you say to other women reading this who want to get into cycling but don’t know where to start?

It is easier than you may think! Not only are there many cyclists like myself who would be happy to take you out cycling or talk it over with you, but British Cycling also offers some great advice and programs. For example, the Breeze cycling set up is there to provide a safe environment where knowledgeable cyclists take groups of other cyclists (of all abilities) out for rides. This is set up across the UK and your closest Breeze rider can be found on the British Cycling website when you search for your local Breeze rides. Either way, making contact with a female cyclist or with Breeze can be the perfect judgement-free start to your cycling journey!

What’s your best ‘fitness’ experience to date?

I love a bit of alternative training and knowing I’m still training/keeping my fitness up can be so psychologically boosting. Over the lockdown period and due to where I live, it was possible to surf throughout the months as we can easily walk to the beach. During this time not only did we have incredible weather, but more often than not we had near-perfect waves. On one evening while I was paddling out the back just as the sun was setting the few surfers that were in the water were joined by a seal that stayed around once the sun had gone down and was playing in the surf with us. Not only is a sunset surf dreamy, but having hardly anyone in the water and having nature thrive around you is a humbling experience.

Thank you Becky! You can follow her adventures via her Instagram account here. Photography by Alex Coleborn.