When you think about cycling one of the first images that usually comes to mind is someone like Sir Chris Hoy powering around a cycle track on a high-tech sports cycle. Now that’s a great image but we often forget that cycling is one of the most enjoyable outdoor recreational pursuits. The great thing about cycling is that it can be enjoyed in a wide range of ways by a wide range of people. It can be a solitary pursuit or a social activity in that you can choose to cycle by yourself, with friends and family and even with new acquaintances in a cycling club.
Cycling for all
Cycling is one of those sports which really does cater for just about everyone because there are no real skills required and you can pick and choose your activity and intensity levels. With cycling you’re in the driving seat – pardon the pun. You pick your route, how far you want to cycle and at what speed you want to cycle. So as you can see there are multiple variations of how you can set your activity levels. And the one thing that sets it apart from many other forms of exercise is that it’s never boring as there’s always new places to see and there’s always a multitude of things going on round about you.
The cycling bug
Once you get started it really gets a hold of you. Cycling is just such a great thing to do and must be one of the most satisfying ways to exercise and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. For many recreational cyclists it is just that, a recreational, and often leisurely, activity. However many catch the cycling bug and they step their activity levels and indeed their enjoyment levels up to a much higher level altogether. They upgrade their bike, keep detailed records of their weekly mileage, record their times and even measure their speeds in differing wind conditions. Some even plan road trips to different cities and different countries.
Range of activities
There is now a wide range of cycling pursuits and planned activities to get involved in. You can cycle on your own and pick and choose to what extent you want to participate. There are informal groups of friends and associates who organise their cycling activities together and there are many excellent cycling clubs with organised group cycles and planned events.
With the now numerous mountain bike runs and trails throughout the country there is always a range of enjoyable events for both experienced bikers and recreational bikers.
Another activity that continues to increase in popularity is cycling holidays and this relates both to the UK and abroad. There are many specialist operators ranging from budget breaks to luxury guided cycling tours. A word of caution on this point is to always make sure you are dealing with a reputable company and that any travel company you use is fully bonded through an approved bonding scheme such as ABTA or ATOL. There have been many instances over the years with travel companies going bankrupt and causing problems for many holiday makers in the process. So take care at the initial planning stage and vet the companies in advance.
We would also advise against borrowing to finance your planned trip or holiday or getting into debt to fund it. This is a practice than can seem like a good idea at the time but which can lead to overspending and financial difficulties after trip is over. Finance for this type of activity can be expensive and therefore difficult to pay off. It has resulted for some in debt problems and even the requirement for formal debt management solutions that include the likes of an IVA in England or a Scottish Trust Deed north of the border.
So it is all about being sensible, planning activities well in advance and using tried and tested methods which you can get advice on through most cycling clubs. If you do plan to go it alone then be safe and use established and reputable firms who operate through approved bonding schemes.
Cycle and save
When you’re hooked on cycling you will want more and if it’s possible in your area then cycling to work is a great idea. More and more people are now getting to work on two wheels and it has many advantages. For a start there’s the fitness issue as you can transform wasted commuting time into a keep-fit session by cycling to work and getting fit. You can also save money as you pay no transport fares or cash for fuel. That way a bike can pay for itself many times over. Plus think of the money you save in gym fees. Another advantage is that commuting by bike means that you don’t get caught in traffic jams or get stuck on trains when they break down or when there’s leaves on the tracks.
Get on your bike
So our advice is to get peddling. It can open you up to a whole new world and lifestyle. There are also social cycling groups and clubs where you can meet like-minded people and share your experiences. There are even online social networks and apps for cyclists where you can pick up lots of information and tips and see what the rest of the cycling community is getting up to. Cycling just has so much going for it and is certainly something we would recommend to all.
We caught up with Cannondale-Garmin mechanic, Alan Butler, at the Giro d’Italia to find out the tools he uses to keep the team’s bikes running smoothly.
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After the riders, the pro team mechanics have one of the most important jobs at races like the Giro and the Tour. The mechanics are the guys who keep the riders on the road. Working on top-end bikes day in, day out means that they have to come up with some clever ways of fixing things and their toolboxes often contain homemade tools built up over the years as bike tech changes.
There’s some gold in Alan’s toolbox. You may even head to your local builders merchant to find one of the tools that he uses. Actually, you don’t quite need to do that… After 10 minutes of Googling, here’s the pipe deburring tool that Alan uses for cleaning carbon tubes after he cuts them: http://gcn.eu/1H9xIbo
Music: Kowalski – Get Back (Instr): http://gcn.eu/17z2I77
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The Global Cycling Network puts you in the centre of the action: from the iconic climbs of Alpe D’Huez and Mont Ventoux to the cobbles of Flanders, everywhere there is road or pavé, world-class racing and pro riders, we will be there bringing you action, analysis and unparalleled access every week, every month, and every year. We show you how to be a better cyclist with our bike maintenance videos, tips for improving your cycling, cycling top tens, and not forgetting the weekly GCN Show. Join us on YouTube’s biggest and best cycling channel to get closer to the action and improve your riding!
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