As both of our Dad’s are self confessed MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra for those unfamiliar with the acronym) I think it’s fair to say we’ve both been a little resistant to the world of cycling. However, having felt the constraints of not being able to leave a walkable radius for weeks on end, the freedom two little wheels can offer has opened both of our eyes to the joys of it.
I’ll speak for myself, heralding from the Yorkshire Dales, studying at Sheffield- a lot of my biking experience has been a hilly affair. However when living in Barcelona for an internship, I found that my often perilous cycle up the ramblas every day was the only feeling of movement I got in between long office hours. The love was ignited. I scrubbed up an old road bike of my dads upon my return to the UK and even accepted the unappealing offer of lycra shorts with a padded bum. Most of my cycling in Milan has been similarly through rickety apps, dodging traffic and peddling rather too quick as i’m frequently running late.
To further my new found bike love, Em recently gifted me her 2 wheels. It’s everything you could ever dream of peddling around the cobbled streets of and Italian city, with a rusty basket on the front, a low dip to allow a long elegant skirt and perfectly curved handlebars. It’s ideal for popping out to the shops, a meander along the canal or a short commute. Without being stuck in the sardine tin of the metro, I can enjoy many more everyday sights from a to b; be it a randomly beautiful architectural design, a quirky new cafe or the sounds of a happy social gathering. Starting the day on a steady pedal sets me off in a great mood.
Where was I?! My latest love affair with bikes got me thinking to how we can all discover our local surroundings on 2 wheels. Unless you’re living in the himalayas, most bike rides are accessible for people of all levels of fitness and can be a great way to see more of your local area. It’s also fantastic for the environment- hidden bonus!
How to start?
Apps- If you don’t have a bike and are living in a larger city, there are often lots of options through apps that allow you to rent a bike for a period of time. They can be a bit rickety and unreliable at times but if you’re after a shorter breeze of wind in your hair, then apps such as Mobike are ideal.
Borrow or Rent- Why not ask a friend or a family member if they’d let you borrow their two wheeled vehicle for a day? Lots of people have bikes that they don’t use all that frequently for a whole range of reasons, you might be surprised what you can find lurking in peoples garages and sheds. Or spare rooms. Equally you could look for a local bike rental, they’ll also be able to give you advice about local bike paths and destinations.
2nd Hand Purchase- If you’re a bit tight on the budget but thinking seriously about getting out more frequently and for longer stints on your bike, there can be some excellent options second hand. Think Facebook Market place, Ebay, Gumtree… there are some real gems that people have fallen out of love with.
Cycling & Sports Shops- As well as second hand options, there are also lots of budget options available on the high street, such as Decathlon. The rise of cycling has similarly seen a lot of governments launch cycle incentive schemes, which might help you to get a foot on the wheel of purchasing a bike.
Where to go?
This is of course unique to each and everyone who lives in a different area. However, canals, rivers and lakes often offer a flat option with scenic views as a starting point. This can be great too if you want to make a day out of the cycling if you take a picnic or aim for a pub/ restaurant/ cafe where you can ease off the legs and enjoy a break.
If you’re wanting a more urban option that perhaps doesn’t take as long, it might be an idea to explore a nearby neighbourhood. Pull out a map, plan a route and see what you find. Avoiding main roads and winding down more residential parts can lead you to whole new discoveries.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, there are plenty of dedicated mountain biking areas, with marked paths, downhill options and clear routes. This is of course to be done with safety in mind and the right equipment.
Now! Going on a bike ride doesn’t have to be a whole day affair. You can pop out for a quick 20 minutes after work, or even combine it with the commute. Why not see if there are some friends who want to join? Or even check out the local cycling groups to have some motivation to get moving. I can accept that being in the snow isn’t so practical but the beauty of the sport is that it can be done all year round, across many landscapes and for a range of reasons.
Have you found anything exciting in your local area on your bike? Just thinking of starting? Let me know, i’m all ears.
Love Zo xx
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