As a follow on to the ‘Getting back into cycling at 50′ article this one is going to talk about how I think/hope I’ve managed to make cycling ‘stick.’
So cycling was back on the radar and I’m now at the stage where if I don’t get out a couple of times a week I get a little bit antsy and will look for any excuse to grab an hour out on the bike. That’s the good habit you’re looking for, I didn’t think it’d ever happen to me but…
The eternal problem is finding the time. The long Scottish summer nights help but in the winter, it’s pretty much dark when you go into the office and dark when you get home. That only leaves the weekend unless you can commute to work. My office is too far and on busy roads with few cycle lanes. I do it occasionally during the summer but don’t enjoy the traffic and it does make for longish days. As my old gran used to say, “if you stop enjoying it, you’ll stop doing it!”
I live just outside Falkirk and the area is riddled with shared use paths (good job Falkirk Council!) and with the roads reasonably quiet outside rush hour, getting to these off road paths is relatively easy. Accessibility like that goes a long way to getting people back in the saddle and should definitely be encouraged and supported. Regardless of the Council, you should be able to find something near you – a quick search for ‘YourTown Cycle Lanes’ led me to a great map to start planning some routes. Sustrans, GPS-routes, and cycle-route.com all have some good info wherever you are. My local bike shop also gave me a couple of great ideas for local routes so well worth asking them too.
I started with relatively short rides under 5 miles, maybe half an hour’s riding (and then the same recovering) but this quickly got up to between 8 and 12 miles which is now my usual distance. Falkirk is blessed with being hilly if you head north and south but pretty flat if you pedal east and west. I prefer east and west! I’m not a big fan of hills or pedalling into the wind but with some thoughtful route planning you can avoid both. The hardcore roadies will be shaking their heads at this point: “Look at the resistance training you’re missing…” Nutters!
As an example, my favourite route is a loop from home, along the canal and then back home again. This loop can be in either direction depending on the wind – the canal runs east/west-ish so you can usually get the wind at your back outbound and then sneak back via some woodland. I can also vary the distance and take in the Antonine Wall, Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies in really short order. It’s pretty much a perfect set of routes which are even lit at nights!
I’ve been trying night rides, which I found to be a whole new bundle of fun. Seriously, get yourself some good lights and give it a go, it makes a familiar route seem brand new and the lights these days are amazing.
Doing these routes for a time gave me the confidence (and stamina) to do bigger distances albeit on the road bike. 25 mile loops from home to Stirling and back; the 45 mile ‘Tour de Bridges’ Kincardine to Forth Road bridge loop; and one appalling (but strangely satisfying!) wet and windy 50+ miler down to Glasgow Kelvingrove and back. The stamina seems to be there but the recovery does get a little harder when you’re older.
So get out there, find some info and get planning a route. Make it ‘your’ route. Find one that is sheltered to start with but that can grow as your ability quickly increases. Dodge the wind and hills to start with, but some day you’ll get the route wrong and be in for a headwind slog that’ll leave you tired but happy and eventually you will find yourself tackling hills without giving it a thought.
Thanks for reading this far folks, next instalment is on what kit works for me and the stuff I don’t leave home without.