It is Bike Week (10th to 18th June) and across social media we are being urged to sign up for one of the hundreds of fun and friendly Bike Week events across Scotland and you might be wondering just why you should get back on your bike?
For me, it was almost a necessity. Knee and hip problems made running a painful experience and I wanted to continue being active without having to spend too much time in a gym (no offence to gym goers, but I do prefer being outside).
But why should YOU look out that old bike in the garage or shed or even consider parting with some hard earned cash to buy a new one?
When thinking about cycling, it is easy to picture the gruelling mountain climbs of the Tour de France or the exciting Velodrome action of the Commonwealth and Olympic Games and possibly think that cycling is something for really fit people and not necessarily you.
You possibly have not cycled in years; it always seems to be raining (in Glasgow, at least) and the roads are a mess.
I hear you and I have been you.
It took me several months to make the transition from walking proudly and determinedly out of Evan’s Cycles shop with my new hybrid (not a mountain bike and a not a road bike) to actually taking my first ride out of my front door.
I shared all the above fears and being rather large (i.e. fat), I was not sure about my fitness nor my abilities. Every day, I hesitated and I procrastinated. I came up with every excuse that has ever been used and then invented some new ones.
But what if I told you that it was as easy as riding a bike?
You sling your leg over the bike (even that was difficult for me at first with my dodgy hip), settle down into the saddle and pedal away. Yes, you might want to check that the brakes still work; that the tyres are inflated and the chain is still intact, but hopefully you catch my drift (unless we are in a triathlon when drifting is a no-no).
You will not need long to recover your confidence and your fitness will improve. Soon you will be thinking about long countryside rides, joining a club (I really ought to do this) and you might even contemplate signing up for a challenging event such as Pedal For Scotland (what was I thinking?).
Since starting cycling I have lost weight, became stronger and fitter and I have also become happier. Almost every journey I take is now on a bike and even though I am still relatively slow and even though I still don’t suit lycra (I will fit into my Pearl Izumi Champion Team kit soon), I genuinely love being on my bike.
There is something both exhilarating and therapeutic about cycling along the roads and through parks. There is something wondrous about feeling the wind flowing through my helmet and coursing around my body and there is even something strangely nice about cycling in the rain (with proper clothing, tyres and mudguard, that is). And yes, I have found myself aiming for puddles and revelling in mini Moses moments when the water is parted by my presence and my wheels (taking the spiritual benefits too far, possibly).
Cycling has made me smile again.
But please do not just take my word for it. People much smarter than myself have researched the benefits of cycling and the results had me bunnyhopping with joy. I could cite lots of published papers, but this is not one of my sports medicine blogs for the BMJ or FSEM so instead I will convey evidence of all the benefits of cycling in a couple of pictures.
The first is this brilliant infographic stolen from Doc Andrew Murray (who no doubt stole it from the Victorian Government) and I can personally testify to having experienced all of these (well, maybe not the improved coordination. I am still rather awkward and I am always getting lost).
The second was taken just a few days ago. Since signing up for the Big Belter at Pedal for Scotland, I have been on a mission. To get bike fit and to fit into my new cycling jerseys and bibs. I am still some way away from looking good in lycra (is that an oxymoron?) but the pounds are falling off steadily and I have managed to zip up one of my less form fitting jerseys.
I really cannot express enough how much cycling is improving my life. Yes, I have managed through my blog and my role as a physical activity activist to gain some brilliant partnerships ( I do love being a Pearl Izumi Champion) but cycling almost every day (even for a short distance) has become a way of life and as much as I love and miss running, I reckon that cycling has become my new love (it certainly appeals to my “all the gear, no idea” mentality).
So why not have a look at Bike Week and make this the week that you get back in the saddle or, if you are in Glasgow, the week that you use the brilliant (and also free) Dr Bike service from the Bike Station to get your week back in working order? Nationally, you can also take your bike to your nearest Halfords for a free check as part of Bike Week.
It is 13 weeks until Pedal for Scotland and I would love to see you join me at the back of the pack, although please feel free to leave me in your tracks (especially if I am on a hybrid). It is never too late (I hope).
I might even have a few entries to give away in a few weeks, so look out for my next blogs about my cycling adventures (and also misadventures) as I train and prepare for Pedal for Scotland’s Big Belter. And don’t forget to follow Bike Week updates on twitter using #BikeWeekScot