Claire Elsam

Total Beginner to Confident Sportive Cyclist


FTP Improvement: 39 Watts increase from 2015-2018

Completed 8 Week Progressive Outdoor Njinga Academy Programme Stage 2

First 100 miles in July 2016 only one year on from getting first ever road bike

Completed six day stage race at Giro Sardegna in April 2018


‘Lets do a charity bike ride’ suggested a work colleague to a group of women who had not ridden a bike since school – let’s not mention how many years ago that is!

One trip to the bike shop later and we were all set – me with clipless pedals – they’d improve my efficiency I was told. It was all going so well until 2 weeks before the charity ride I unclipped at some traffic lights and toppled off my bike. My reward, a fractured wrist and disappointingly an end to my charity cycle ride. The biggest consequence of the accident was my confidence on the bike took a huge knock.

After my recovery a friend’s husband suggested we do Ride London and put into practise the fitness I’d built training for the charity ride. With my track record I wasn’t sure it was a sensible idea and I was still working on my confidence, but I applied thinking that the chances of getting a place would be remote.



A few months later I learnt that I’d got a place but he hadn’t! Panic set in. Firstly I couldn’t stay upright on a bike, let alone ride 100 miles. Looking for answers, I talked to my local bike shop where they recommended I try Njinga. I figured indoor cycling would be a safer way to start training; after all I couldn’t fall off!

It was a little daunting at first to be the new girl, and an unfit one at that, but the other riders at Njinga helped me and spurred me on. It was a really friendly, non-threatening place to be.

After increasing my fitness indoors I decided that it was time to try riding outside again, but I did have another topple. I didn’t break anything that time, but I was unsteady on the bike and my confidence was lacking when it came to clipping in and out of the bike and that made me feel unsafe out on the road.

Njinga came to the rescue again and were able to help me through an outdoor 1:1 coaching session – even though I was using a hybrid bike not a road bike. In my quest to stay upright on my bike I joined Togo in Richmond Park for an hour or so.


The session started really well with me providing Togo with an impromptu demonstration on how I end up toppling off my bike! I was soon picked up off the floor and provided with an explanation of what I was doing wrong. My issue was relatively simple; I was unclipping too late and then leaning the wrong way.

Togo’s plan to rectify my mistakes was genius and didn’t involve the bike at all. I had to collect sticks in the park! Believe it or not that was the exercise to learn about unclipping my pedals away from my bike!

When I made it back onto my bike I found myself heading towards Broomfield Hill in Richmond Park. I didn’t believe I was ever going to be able to climb that?!?!?! However, with Togo’s guiding hand on my back and his positive encouragement I made it to the top.

I would like to say from that day onwards I haven’t toppled off, but sadly not. You always needs to stay focused which is what the coaching taught me but alas sometimes I do get distracted!



Due to my growing confidence I was keen to start getting the miles in my legs before Ride London so I joined the Njinga Collective. The Njinga Collective is such a friendly group of people who provide encouragement and friendship and make me want to get out on my bike. They share their experiences and expertise with fellow riders and me. They also educated me on local coffee and cake shops!

With them I’ve climbed many more hills and I have ridden distances I would never have thought possible, including cycling to Kent and down to Brighton.



Ride London was still on the horizon and was still pretty daunting!

Njinga were running a training programme focused on getting fit for Ride London on Monday and Wednesday nights. I became devoted to my training in the lab, with outdoor rides at the weekend. What was my target Togo asked? My answer; ‘Just to finish’. And I did.

I entered again for a second year in 2016 this time I set myself a time goal, however, road closures and accidents unfortunately put paid to that.




The next summer I took part in the Academy Skills Level 2 Programme which enabled me to hone my road cycling skills, now on a fabulous road bike. I’ve learnt about when and how to change gears – not as straight forward as you may think; it’s about feeling it in the legs not what you see ahead of you.

This alone has helped my ability and confidence to climb hills and to do so efficiently. I’ve also learnt the skills of climbing both seated and standing, how to follow the line when descending hills and I’m pretty good at doing the butterfly. In addition I’m now a confident group rider and have mastered many weekend rides with my fellow Njinga Collective riders.

Next up I decided to sign up to ride Giro de Sardegna 2018, my first overseas event. I was a little daunted at the idea but knew with the support of Njinga I would be able to complete it.

Giro D'Sardegna 2018

6 days cycling back to back seemed like a good idea at the time. The most I’d done was 3.

It was a memorable experience in so many ways both physically and mentally. I had a fab group of Njinga girls around me and we kept each other going. It was an adventure of firsts...My first overseas event, my first individual time trial and my first team time trial.

Crossing the finishing line with the Njinga TT girls was a fab experience and I must admit a tear of joy and elation was shed rather than the tears of frustration which had been shed earlier in the Giro.



Days off are now spent out cycling in the Surrey Hills with friends I have met through Njinga. The ride captains are happy to come out and ride with you if they are free, and certainly make you work hard to improve your fitness.

If you haven’t tried it, I would certainly recommend it. From the owners to the instructors, the ride captains to fellow riders, it’s certainly a non-threatening place to learn to ride and improve your fitness.



Claire's journey with Njinga has included:

  • Regular wattbike classes
  • Multiple Njinga Training programmes 
  • Regular Njinga Collective Rider
  • Njinga Academy Level 2
  • Training Camp with Njinga to Mallorca

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