“You’ve had a baby, your priorities will change!” They definitely did for me. Sitting on the turbo trainer is a distant memory and there are a lot less spontaneous meals out than there used to be. But one new priority that has emerged is to teach my son never to question whether a woman should or could do anything she wants to do.

Having ridden and loved the 2017 edition of Grinduro Scotland, I’d had my heart set on returning as soon as possible. I hadn’t anticipated loving riding a drop bar bike on technical terrain quite so much, it was a brilliant experience and I couldn’t wait to get back to the stunning scenery of Arran for some more bone shaking riding and general hilarity. I gave Grinduro 2018 a miss, giving birth two weeks later to the coolest, most chilled little man to ever enter the world (biased much?). 2019 was to see my much-anticipated return to the hipster world of gravel, and I was excited!

Just like a million new sporting mums before me and a billion more to come, I wasn’t going to let my baby stand between me and fitness. I was going to manage my time efficiently and maintain my identity as a strong, fit woman who can keep up with the lads. There are incredible women who breastfeed while running ultra marathons. If they can do it, surely so can I. But, I admit, perhaps it’s a little harder than it seems. Perhaps every training session needs to be organised in advance but is still liable to be cancelled by tears. Perhaps fitting the food shopping in with nap time takes up most of the day. Perhaps nights of broken sleep have dulled your enthusiasm and maybe spending time as a family seems more important than clocking up the miles. You’ll have heard it said out loud, but perhaps your priorities will change.

One new priority that has emerged is to teach my son never to question whether a woman should or could do anything.

It’s important to me that my child sees both of his parents as healthy, happy individuals, striving to achieve goals that are important to each of us. We all know that kids need both male and female role models and being that role model is something that drives me to make time for my weekly evening bike ride, or forgoing chores to throw myself into the swimming pool for a session whenever the opportunity arises. Far from feeling guilty about leaving my boy to play with his dad while I get out for a spin, I tell myself it’s good for him to see his mamma being active. Society never questions whether a man will get back to competition after becoming a father, but there seem to be fewer women with young children still involved.

For all this talk, as I mentioned, it’s not always that easy! So, here I am at Grinduro, an 84 km race with 1700 m of climbing. As race day approached, I scanned back through my last 18 months on Strava to see if I’ve clocked up even a third of that distance and no, not once. Rather than spending the weeks leading up to the event thinking about race fuelling and peaking at the right time, I’d been getting myself in a pickle about whether I had suncream for Brook. Thinking instead about whether I would remember to pack the reusable wipes just before we leave and what he would eat on race day. Heading out for a day of racing would likely be the most stress free part of the week.

After performing my new pre-race ritual which includes breastfeeding, nappy changing, wrestling the boy into clothes while keeping him still long enough to eat breakfast, I head out on a brief search for coffee. Successful, I throw my kit on and ram snacks into my pockets five minutes before the compulsory race briefing. I’m ready to go, I think. My riding buddy, a friend with a baby a month older than mine, is waiting. We hand over our babies to their waiting fathers and turn to the matter at hand: a day of getting grubby in the hills of Arran… If we were worried about not knowing anyone else riding, we needn’t have been. Our Canyon Grail CF’s caught the eye of every gravel aficionado we encountered and the dual height handlebar meant they couldn’t ride past without a quick chat about ride comfort and hand position.

What a day it was! The sun shone and we spun our legs as we climbed and descended over beautiful terrain. It was all so simple again; there was only one thing to think about, to keep reeling in the kilometres under the blue sky. The relaxed pace of the day was punctuated with the frenetic activity of the timed sections, opportunities to clear your mind and see nothing but the finish line up ahead. Thoughts of infant developmental stages and concern over veggie intake vanished as the hill took control of our hearts and minds, spitting us out at the top as panting, red-faced cyclists. Not mums, just cyclists.

Helmet Giro Synthe MIPS | Glasses Oakley Jawbreaker PRIZM | Jersey VOID Ride | Bib-Shorts VOID Leaf | Socks VOID | Shoes LIV Salita

Being Brook’s mum will be the largest part of who I am for many years to come, but it’s important to remember that it’s not all that I am.

We rolled back into race HQ with the sound of bagpipes filling the air and the best support team awaiting our return. Hugs, high-fives and sticky fingers pawing at sunglasses was the best welcome fanfare we could have asked for. With a certain degree of strength, fitness and general stubbornness, I never really doubted I could get around this course, but getting around it smiling would be a bigger challenge. I needn’t have worried though.

The support team and I stopped to watch the podiums and support the race organisers and competitors and… I came third in my category! What an unexpected bonus and an honour to take my little man up to celebrate. But the real win for me was feeling normal again. Being able to recapture my identity that had become blurred in parenthood. Being Brook’s mum will be the largest part of who I am for many years to come, but it’s important to remember that’s not all that I am. Spreading my wings and having time being who I used to be helps me love the person that I am now all the more.

A mums view on the Canyon Grail CF

I would never claim to be a technical journalist, just a lover of bikes and the places that they take us. That said, I know what I like, and I know what works. The Canyon Grail CF will always be an attention seeker with its unique cockpit but despite its flashiness, it is a stable, fun and fast bike. For me, the geometry works and makes for a comfortable ride. Especially after not having done much preparation on a drop bar bike.

We tested the Canyon Grail CF SLX in our gravel bike group test.

I was expecting to have a stiff back after a day of riding but I was surprised to find no issues at all. The dual height handlebars promise increased compliance and comfort when you’re cruising with hands on the top deck and more stability and stiffness when you engage race mode and get in the drops. We suffered from no arm discomfort from the trail buzz and despite a slightly modified hand position on the drops, no fatigue after some quite technical descents. When the time came to put in some power and sprint for the line, the bike didn’t flex or wander, just delivered the goods when they were needed most.

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Words: Catherine Worsey Photos: Trevor Worsey