When I was asked to write why I ride my bike, I thought, here’s something I’m finally comfortable talking about in blog-form and parked everything else I had on my to-do list.
I initially thought about some of the thought-provoking Ted Talks I’d previously watched on how cycling changes you physically and mentally, and the amazing benefits cycling has to the climate, economy, transport systems and wider public health. But, I assume most people know about those things and I’m not one to try and convince people or to preach.
So, instead I thought maybe I would share some of my adventures…
I’ve ridden up and down mountains in Europe, raised money for the NHS through cycling, failed but had fun at racing, and much more. But again, there’s better people with more exciting stories to share, than me. That failure at racing was one of the best experiences I’ve had and reminded me to think back on my journey as a cyclist and the lessons I’ve learned whilst on the bike, and off it.
I always rode mountain bikes and BMX bikes throughout my childhood and can still remember the first bike my parents fixed up for me as a Christmas present. Spray-painted purple, which I loved - I can remember the feeling of freedom and independence I had as a child out on their bike.
When I was 13, Dave Mirra - an American BMX rider, was my idol. Because of him, I used to ride my BMX before and after school each day… and sometimes when I was even meant to be at school (sorry mum)! That was the first time I felt a sense of community as I met other kids of similar ages but from various backgrounds at the local skatepark. I loved the creativity and culture that overlapped with the sport and was totally consumed.
I started taking cycling seriously though in 2012 and after years of working in an office and feeling unhealthy I decided to sign up for a triathlon. I’d been inspired by the London 2012 Olympics like many others and bought my first ‘proper’ road bike. I was a young parent and realised my sons wouldn’t see any of the benefits of me being a young father if I struggled to run up and down the stairs! I had an old steel road bike that was ‘fixed gear’ for years that I rode from time-to-time before that. I distinctly remember thinking I’d never be seen dead in Lycra (!) and definitely not on one of those road bikes that people ride thinking they’re in the Tour De France. How times have changed. Now my cycling kit has overtaken my normal clothes and silly shaped bikes are just part of my every-day life.
Over the years my fitness improved, and I started to notice other things in my life had changed for the better, without me really trying. My food and drink choices became healthier, my sleep was better, but the biggest change was my mood - it was always lifted. I quickly realised that cycling isn’t just a sport for me, it’s a medicine, it’s escapism, it’s fun, it’s adventure and everything in-between. It’s not just about creating balance in my life either, it’s also helped improve in my career and general outlook. When you can push yourself beyond your limits in one area of your life, it’s easier to feel confident that you can do that in others.
I love reading how athletes are successful - how success is never linear - and I have tried to take that into my career and life. My message to my boys is that in cycling fun comes first and everything else is added value and that’s important to me too.
I’m a very average cyclist, but I’m a better person because of cycling. The simple choice to have two wheels as my main mode of transport for short journeys, as away to exercise around a busy life, and as a way to have fun, is one is one of my better choices.
Oh, I did say I wouldn’t try and convince people to ride a bike but that last bit is trying to a bit, isn’t it. Go one, ride a bike. Ignore angry drivers. You’ll learn to appreciate and love the kit. Have fun, save the world, then thank yourself.
The NHS encourages cycling with the Cycle To Work Scheme and cycling facilities at hospitals across the country. If you're relocating to the UK and want to find out more about the cycling initiatives available, get in touch with us.
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