The gift of cycling….
I cycled from an early age – but the earliest bike I can remember having was an old Pathfinder- my childhood memory remembers a Metallic purple finish with a slight sparkle in the paint and an orange bar motif on the top tube ….I thought it was a Halfords bike but could be wrong , may be a Raleigh? Online checks have proved rubbish – as I have not found any record similar to it after some cursory searching. It would have been around the late 70’s – 1978, 79, and I will obviously need to do some further research.
Whatever it was, I loved that bike – I really, really did. Not so much because I loved “cycling” as such, it was just because it was an easy means of transport, which granted me the ability to go mucking about with my friends and have my first real taste of independence, striking out on my own to “go explore” – I loved just cycling around (very often on my own) to see what I could see. Getting to places that I couldn’t go with Mum and Dad in the car, mainly because they had better things to do than “follow that trail to the farm on the hill” or “check out the spooky castle next to the old railway line” etc etc . I actually travelled quite far afield, but didn’t tell my mum, in case she worried.
A scavenged bike…
Next thing that strikes me in my cycling memory was coming across an old racer frame in someones back yard and enquiring if I could have it. At the age of around 15, I was sanding down the frame (roughly) by hand, and spray painting it (and a good portion of the pavement beneath it) a solid matt black ( the “Stealth” look ). I re-cabled it, chained it and etc. and got some chrome rimmed wheels from another pal. Presto! – My black beauty was born. I pottered about on that bike for years and years and years ….I remember my brother getting a peugot race bike (brand new and shiny it was) and thinking how cool it looked, but still loved my bike because it was mine – I had made it, crafted it, new every nut and bolt. It wasn’t perfect, it was basic, but it was mine.
I never got into cycle racing, I never followed the sport (wish I had…. I think I could have made a good wee racer boy when I was slim and young.) I never really thought of cycling as anything other than a great way to go explore and to get around…..
To infinity…and beyond!!
30+ years on and I still do. OK… I admit I got distracted from cycling by growing up a bit, going to university, getting a degree, becoming an architect, falling for a lovely girl , (who I’m proud to call my wife), starting a family, working hard, travelling the length and breadth of the country,moving house several times, bringing up kids, working hard, becoming an associate director, working hard. Di I mention working hard?
My eureka moment came about 7 years ago, when I realised I was working my balls off, wasn’t enjoying my work anymore, was missing my wife and kids growing up and just generally having a shit time. This wasn’t directly cycling related, it was just how life was. Was it a mid life crisis? No – not really. More of a sense of a creeping realisation that my life work balance was immensely skewed.
I quit my job, stepped back, got another job elsewhere and focused more on home life. The life balance needed to be redressed. During this process, however, the opportunity came up to join a corporate charity event cycling from Coast to Coast along the C2C cycle route – I didn’t even have a bike at the point but I signed up, as I realised that cycling had been so embedded in my life as a kid and as a teenager, so taken for granted even, that I really longed for that same sense of setting out on an adventure on my bike, just because I could. That sense of lets roll and go see what the day brings ….you really can’t beat it you know. You really can’t.
7 years on and I’m still mucking about WITH the bikes almost as much as I am mucking about ON the bikes that I now have. To get on the C2C event I went out and bought myself a relatively cheap but new hybrid bike – a Ridgeback Velocity. You would not believe how excited I felt bringing it back home – I really was the hyper excited kid who just couldn’t get the wrappings off the christmas pressies quickly enough – though I stoically tried not to show it.
The C2C challenge involved climbing steep hills in the lake district…I wasn’t really fit for it, had too much body mass from years of working without looking after myself and I was therefore dead slow and often at the back of the cycling group. Crucially however, I loved it. I loved being back on the bike. I loved watching, smelling and feeling the scenery going past. I loved the sense of achievement of cresting the hill that had seemed so daunting earlier when viewed from below down in the valley. I loved the sense of stoicism that when the weather was poor, you buttoned up a bit more, put a cap on under your cycling helmet and hunkered down a bit more against the wind. I proved too myself over and over that I could do much more than I ever initially thought Icould….. I travelled from one side of the Uk to the other in 3 days and – loved – every – minute – of – it……
Cycling on the continent
The next challenge a year later was an open road trip from London to Amsterdam in 3 days – 2 days were over 120 miles in a day. My response was characteristic – buy a second hand road bike and rebuild it with some new, some borrowed and some other used parts. An original 1969 Claud Butler 531 reynold steel frame Sports Coureur touring bike in a pleasing aquamarine colour…. I’m very pleased to say that it got me from London to Amsterdam in one piece …and didn’t come apart from the bone shaking cobble and setts in the roads in Belgium. Again, I loved it. Loved going places, loved the beautifully smooth continental roads, loved the cycle centric Amsterdam (I’d move there in a heartbeat), loved the continental acceptance of cyclist on the roads with people waving as I went past. You can see my Claud Butler revamp in https://ezpcgoescycling.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/my-new-old-road-bike-claud-butler-super-coureur/
Fast forward more time, and I’m now an avid cyclist, and a proud MAMIL. Yes I do the lycra thing and frankly I don’t care if you find it unfashionable – the technical advances in material technology is just so much more comfortable when your doing long distances or are putting in a lot of effort on the bike. I now have multiple bikes (much to my wives curiosity, amazement and sometimes disdain – she can’t understand why one isn’t enough). I am insured, and an accredited assistant cycle leader for British Cycling. I have gone through levels 1 and 2 Bikability teaching training to help train others and have led out others on Sky rides in my area. I have recently joined up with an online cycling group called the Lothian Cyclists (http://www.meetup.com/Lothian-Cyclists/), who are a great bunch of people from all walks of life, who just enjoy getting out on their bikes…same as me.
I admit that I’m now obsessing slightly about challenging hill climbs to go do or cycling holidays abroad that involve cycling
You can learn a bit more about these exploits here….
So why am I telling you all of this I hear you ask?
Well simply put, I never thought that I’d be looking back and seeing such a progression into cycling. I never thought that I’d end up dong any of these things…..but I can tell you that I love it.
At this time of year, I have got into the habit of summarising what I have planned for the year, as I have got myself booked up for various sportives and etc and I have now completed my list for 2015, with the exception of a bit of a gap in Feb / March and July.
SO here goes……
I’ll post up more details about these lovely things later……