Journals Riders

James Jenkins journal: a not-so-bleak winter

Rider journals 2021: James Jenkins #1/February

James Jenkins and nine other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental in 2021. Talented 22-year-old James Jenkins rides for the Richardsons-Trek team and juggles racing with study and work. In his first journal entry, he reflects on a not-so-bad off season…

The winter months are never something I look forward to, but when I finished my off season back in October I worried that this winter could have been even more bleak than usual.

I am a fairly realistic person and so I quickly admitted to myself that there was probably not going to be any racing until at least May or June (even after the release of an optimistic-looking National Road Series calendar with no actual direction as to how this programme was going to be executed to keep the riders and helpers safe).

I just continued to try to become a stronger and more complete cyclist so that when racing commences I will be in a position to  fine tune

April was probably the last time I trained specifically for anything so when these  latest restrictions came into place I just continued to try to become a stronger and more complete cyclist so that when racing commences I will be in a position to  fine tune. Having no goal to focus on has been challenging but I have tried to combat this through a regular programme of Zwift racing and exploring the lanes of Essex.

Image: Zwift

Firstly, Zwift. Purists are quick to judge those that race on Zwift and even more so for those that take it seriously, but I would argue that they are clueless and stuck in the past. If my 50-, going on 80-, year-old DS Andy Lyons can embrace it anyone can!

I captain a team, The Plastic Cockneys, and we have been working on gaining promotion to the Zwift Racing League’s top division. Regular racing every Tuesday evening, alternating between team time trials and road races, has done wonders for morale. We will be in almost daily communication during the week, talking about the races and taking the piss out of each other. It has been like being back to normal. During the race we warm up chatting on Discord, then take it relatively seriously during, then back to chatting after.

I missed hanging out with my mates, whether it be in car parks before National Bs, driving across the country to Prems, or day tripping to Belgium

Of course, I missed racing my bike last year, but equally I missed hanging out with my mates, whether it be in car parks before National Bs, driving across the country to Prems, or day tripping to Belgium.

I often think about how cycling, in general, joins together the most unlikely groups and cycling teams are no different. A group of young adults are thrown together with totally different lifestyles, but for the most part they seem to get on. On my team there are people in sixth form, others in university, some working full time, and people who mysteriously seem to have no occupation other than cycling. It’d be fair to expect calls to the authorities seeing school boys walk into service stations with dodgy looking men in their thirties, forties, or even fifties. But for us, it is our ‘normal’. Racing on Tuesday evenings has opened the door, however slightly, ajar back to these happier times.

I do struggle to ride any more than about ten minutes without some sort of external stimulus. This is not to say I cannot do it, but I just find time passes far quicker when watching TV (on the turbo only of course!) or listening to podcasts. Spending 10-20 hours a week on the bike has gifted me access to a plethora of time to listen to podcasts that I simply would not have the time to listen to in my daily life. A few favourites are No Such Thing as a Fish, a fact podcast presented by the IQ ‘elves’, You’re Dead to Me, a history podcast which focuses on a different event or person each episode, and Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, a multi-series show written by George the Poet giving a take on his life through music and poetry. These are just a handful, but since they are things I want to listen to, I can engage with them and almost forget I’m cycling. The session flies by.

James at the 2019 National Road Race Championships. Photo: Nathaniel Rosa

My training on the road has always been dictated by having a tight schedule to juggle studying and work. Therefore I tend to do most of my training by myself  so there has not been the largest of differences under the latest guidelines. However, I did miss being able to go on group rides when returning home over Christmas. 

I can forget about everything else that needs to be done when I get home and just focus on turning the cranks over

For anyone, endurance riding can be dull, but I enjoy the mindfulness. Usually I am rushing to get out of the door and fit my ride into a small window, but as soon as I start my Wahoo and begin pedalling, I can relax. I can forget about everything else that needs to be done when I get home and just focus on turning the cranks over.

When lockdown hit last year, I got quickly bored of riding the same roads every day so set myself the target of adding a previously unridden road to every endurance ride I went on. Sometimes it was harder than others and I’d end up in the middle of a field that my GPS unit was telling me was a road. But in most cases it would result in discovering something new that had been right under my nose for years. This was a challenge that for the most part I managed to succeed in, and I have taken that with me back to university. Although most of my training is in Essex whether I am at home or at university, it is on different sides of the county. It has been great to explore more of what is undisputably the best county in England. 

Featured photo: Keith Rotchelle

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1 comment on “James Jenkins journal: a not-so-bleak winter

  1. Bernadette Gibbons

    What a positive outlook in challenging times. Well done.

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