Monday, 13 July 2009

Why cycle?

No, not a political manifesto, but some of my personal reasons for cycling.

I've always liked cycling. Not the Tour de France, or any other form of serious competitive cycling, just simply cycling. Sure, I've raced some friends before, and we've challenged one another to do stupid things with our bikes, but I've pretty much always been a social cyclist.

Now as John Lennon said, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, and indeed that happened to me. Somewhere in it all, even long before I got married, I stopped cycling, until a few years ago.

With the kids getting older and having their own bikes, I was itching to go cycling again. A quick browse through my wife's catalogues and a likely steed was selected. For the uninitiated, you DON'T get pro quality bikes from a catalogue. Sandwiched somewhere between baby clothes and fashion accessories will be a few bikes to choose from.

BUT... I love my bike! A £ 3 000-00 bike would be wasted on me as I'm not that good a cyclist. Mine is an honest bike. Officially called a Boss Stealth, it has full suspension on both wheels, and disk brakes front and rear. Throw in a glossy black coat of paint and some mudguards and finish off with some silver stickers and you'll get the idea.

At first I did some short cycle rides, eventually progressing to cycling a circular route from home, around Saltram House and back again. The 1st time took nearly an hour, but over time I got fitter and faster.

The ultimate test was to start commuting to work and back. My route involves climbing from 12 m above sea level to 93 m, in less than a mile. This is just before I get to work and there isn't much in the line of alternative routes!

One day I took the plunge and arrived at work late, and almost incapable of work for the 1st hour! It took about 50 minutes to do the 4 miles and I was shattered, but also very pleased for having made it.

Since then things have improved. Commuting to work now typically takes 30 minutes, and just over 20 minutes back (nett downhill home, you see). Even that last hill is less of a struggle and therefore downgraded from near-impossible to bloody hard.

I've saved a bundle in fuel, improved my health greatly, and I enjoy my commute now, whereas before it was a mixture of racing to try and catch light green, and yelling at other drivers.

In between it all my bike has had some upgrades added: lights, a new rear derailleur as I broke the 1st one (don't ask!) and a handlebar mounted clip-lock plastic container to carry my phone. I'll do a separate blog entry about my phone at some stage, explaining what I use it for. (Surprisingly I sometimes even make or receive calls on it!)