My husband goes cycling every weekend. Sometimes he goes with a friend and sometimes he goes on his own. I have noticed more and more people cycling on our roads in the last few years. Many people cycle to work and others cycle competitively or for leisure. There has also been an increase in the number of cycling clubs in our area.
This weekend London has hosted a RideLondon bike race that has seen thousands of people taking part in the bike race.
Inspired by this event, I decided to interview my husband about his journey into cycling and what it is he especially loves about the sport. I’d like to share this interview with you here.
When did you start cycling?
I took up cycling three years ago at the age of 52 as a way to lose weight and get fit. When I was a teenager, I used to cycle around my neighbourhood and really enjoyed it. However, I stopped cycling and over the years I developed severe knee problems so much so that I had two operations on both knees. I really didn’t think I would be able to cycle again.
So what made the difference?
An electric bike. I was advised by my personal trainer to get an electric bike. The bike is pedal assist which means that it helps you tackle difficult hills without your own power. With an electric bike, you pedal normally and when you have too much of an ascent, you can engage the pedal assist and it boosts your pedalling power.
For me it was wonderful as it took the pressure off my knees and I was able to cycle again.
The electric bike has a battery at the back which is very heavy. You need take into account the battery life as the last thing you want is to be miles away from home, run out of battery and have to pedal back an extremely heavy bike. They are normally 15kg heavier than a regular bike!
Wow! That is heavy! How long was it before you moved from the electric bike to a ‘normal’ bike?
After about 18 to 20 months. I had built enough muscles in my knees and felt strong enough to move to a fast road bike which is the bike below the racing bike.
Could you tell me what are the different bikes on the road?
There are the road bicycles that are used everyday on paved roads, the mountain bikes are used for on and off road cycling and can handle rough terrain.
There is the fast road bike which is what I have. The wheels of a fast road bike are slightly thicker than a racing bike that you would see on the Tour de France, and because they are wider the bike would go at a slower speed than a racing bike, say around 15 miles per hour (24 km per hour) slower which is quite significant.
You don’t realise how significant the speed is until you are cycling flat out with your fast road bike and you see the racing bikes whizzing past you at speed, you realise how fast their bikes can go.
What equipment do you need on your cycle rides in terms of clothing and accessories?
You must wear a helmet. It’s essential. I would also recommend wearing protective racing glasses or goggles. The glasses will protect your eyes from insects such as wasps and bees. It would be extremely dangerous if a wasp or bee stung you so glasses are vital.
Protective gloves are important as well. If you are unfortunate enough to come off your bike, the chances are that you will fall on your hands as they will try to break your fall. Landing on your palms will cause the skin to tear so wearing protective gloves with padding over the palm would be advisable.
In terms of clothing, I wear lycra shorts with padding that will give me some cushion on the saddle of the bike. I wear a jersey that has three pockets on the back which you can use to keep your phone, keys and puncture equipment and a new inner tube.
You need to take your pump in case of a puncture and last but not least, you must have back and front lights. Regardless of whether it is day or night, you should always have your lights on and preferably red and flashing so that you are visible to motorists. You should also wear brightly-coloured clothing.
Thank you for these tips. Now to the most important question. What do you love most about cycling?
I have quite a stressful job in a tough industry, but when I get on to my bike and head off I leave all that stress behind.
I feel free and relaxed. The tension goes from my shoulders and neck and even though I need to be vigilant on the roads avoiding potholes, other objects on the road and approaching vehicles I am still able to daydream about all sorts of things.
The other thing I absolutely love is discovering for the first the most incredible things along roads that I’ve driven on for years but failed to notice when I was in a car. Suddenly, on my bicycle I actually notice things that I never knew were there like beautiful houses, majestic trees, breathtaking views and lush fields.
I once came across a deer on a quiet country road. It was eating grass in a field. It didn’t hear me as I was on my bicycle. Had I been in my car it would have heard the engine and run off. Instead, I was able to get quite close to it before it realised I was there and ran off. You get to see rabbits, foxes, pheasants and other wildlife. You’re not a car and therefore not a threat to them.
I sometimes go cycling with a friend and the company is great as we have chats and catch up on each other’s news. We also help each other by encouraging each other especially on the difficult climbs. Sometimes it’s good to have some company but it’s also good to be on one’s own as it allows you to be with your own thoughts.
After the cycle, you feel exhausted but very good. I have an app that I use to record my times and distances. After each cycle ride, I check my app and look back at what I’ve done and it gives me a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement.
What has cycling given you?
It has given me good health; made me look and feel younger; allowed me to develop a deeper appreciation and love of the countryside and it has helped me to relax.
What is next on your cycling journey?
I’d like to do the London to Brighton bike ride which is a 54 mile (87 km) ride next year. Hopefully, if I train well I can cycle there and back in the day!
That would be wonderful. Good luck with that and thank you very much for talking to me.
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Ciao for now