The other day when driving home we spotted two old (I mean old) Raleigh bikes that someone had dumped outside their house. Obviously as we need more bike ahem, we asked if we could take them. Nick was over the moon as I have my old Raleigh called Gertie, he wanted one to go with it and now had one from 1986 called Walter.
With the Tour De France currently en route it is the perfect opportunity to embrace two wheels and get cycling. It isn’t as scary as you may think, but if you’re nervous get to grips with local cycle paths, quiet roads and maybe find a local SkyRide to give you that extra confidence boost.
I used to think cycling was either one extreme or the other. The Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish people of the world who whizz about in lycra, or old Doris or Derek who pushes off the floor in order to get the bike going before pottering down to the local shops. I have discovered there is something past these stereotypes. Cycling can be quite fashionable especially with these lust of vintage frames to make a cracking beer bike or simply for an eye catching ride… not to mention it’s great for fitness too!
What do I suggest you need for cycling…
1. A Bike
Always a good start when cycling otherwise the rest may be a little tricky! With this you need to decide what kind of bike? Road bike, mountain bike, hybrid bike, e-bike, bmx bike, foldaway bike, vintage bike… there is a lot more than just two wheels as the possibilities are endless. If it’s a simple back and forth, start with something cheap and build from there, bikes can get super pricey so make sure you enjoy it before you start cleaning out your bank account. Have a look on Gumtree, eBay, freecycle and local news bulletin boards, many people will be doing clear outs and you may get a free one. If you want a new one Decathlon do some good models for reasonable prices too, but shop about first before diving in.
2. A Helmet
I’ve got into numerous twitter arguments about this, many stating that it doesn’t make a difference if you wear one or not. That’s pure crap, always wear a helmet. I lose a lot of respect for anyone cycling without a helmet. I know it crushes your hair but between that and getting your head crushed with out one… I know what I’d prefer. You don’t have to just get the boring ones, if you have a vintage style bike you can get some vintage style helmets too.
3. Road Safety
As I mentioned you may be a bit nervous about cycling on the road, so start with local cycle paths but please don’t just use any old pedestrian path. It is frustrating for people walking along it, but as a cyclist it is extremely frustrating seeing a grown adult weaving their way around people when the road is nice and quiet. I know there are some bad cyclist out there who, for example ride with headphones in, don’t have a helmet, ride in the middle of the road or my biggest pet peeve is getting to a red light going up the pavement then down the other side. How are you ever going to be respected? On the flipside drivers can be bad too. I have been cut up and nearly knocked off a few times due to silly mistakes by car drivers. One of my biggest suggestions is when you come to a corner, move yourself into the middle of the road as a lot of drivers try to overtake on a corner. We both know you shouldn’t do that but some people are just idiots. So basically be alert, be aware and take care.
You will need some bits on hand to maintain your bike. You can’t expect your bike to be fine if you don’t check the tires or give it a polish every so often can you? These bits can be bought in packs at relatively cheap prices from places like Halford or even Home Bargains. Next thing I believe is an absolute must and that’s a bike carrier, reason is because it allows you to find some fantastic rides off the beaten track. I took my mountain bike with me camping recently and found a beautiful reservoir to cycle around. We only have a little car so you can get a good bike carrier that fixes onto the back of the car, you can get a variety from places like Tesco Direct so you don’t need one to fix onto the roof if you don’t want it to.
Cycling shorts are nobodies best friend but after cycling for a significant amount of time, those padded shorts will be your best friend. I hate my thighs with a passion but after rebelling twice on long rides I quickly got to the point of not caring what I looked like… as long as my tush wasn’t suffering from saddle sore I was all about those cycling shorts! You can get some amazing cycle sets but many of them will cost you. I don’t like spending loads on them so I always watch out when Aldi have their cycle related offers, you can get a set for under £20 which I’ve recently done and it’s amazing.
If you’re looking to get out on two wheels my advice is to play it safe and stick to cycle paths then gradually head onto roads from there. I will say it would make me a better driver if I could drive still (later life epilepsy) so you are very aware of your surroundings. I adore cycling and love nothing more than zipping about on my bike… so get out there and get on ya bike!
p.s any locals who fancy a leisurely bike ride with a coffee and cake stop get in touch!