The zen of cycling
12 October, 2007
If I were to be asked what one material thing improves my quality of life I would have to reply my bicycle. Sure computers and the TV can bring forth copious amounts of entertainment and information on a previously unparalleled scale but I can‘t honestly say they bring me happiness. As ever there will be a rational scientific explanation. The moderate exercise of riding a bicycle releases endorphins in the brain can’t explain everything though, as even the more perceptive scientists are game to admit. Riding a bicycle is an act of rebellion against a car orientated society. Cycling is great but cycling past cars stuck in a jam is even better.
I got on a bicycle for the first time in a couple of years earlier this summer. It did not go well despite the idyllic and largely flat location of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath. The chain came off after the first two hundred meters which put my rudimentary to say the least bicycle repair skills to the test. A little further along and I proceed to faint, obviously the excitement of the occasion had got to me. Persistence pays off though last weekend and the weekend before last I did a 42 miler. The lard arse’s guide to cycling what I have learnt so far:
Commute on the bike – Commuting is rubbish but cycling is great fun. It also means if you do it most days that you end up with a serious amount of miles under your belt
Build up gradually – don’t try to be a hero cyclist because your not. You can’t go from 10miles to 100 miles in no time at all. It is doable. After all it was only a few months ago that I could manage a whole half a mile before fainting and now I can do over 40 without wanting the world to end but don’t be afraid to take the time to adjust your body to the major demands that you want to put on it. Stretching yourself is fine but what is the point is in breaking yourself? You’ll just more time off the bike with sore muscles and you’ll turn what should be a joy (well most of the time)
Find off road cycling routes especially to start with. Your cycling skills may be rusty or non existent so best not to start of weaving in and out of convoys of HGV’s. Personally I detest cycling on busy roads with fast moving traffic. Busy A routes aren’t really made for cyclists and there are always alternatives. The national cycle network is an unvalued but brilliant national institution.
Vary between flat slow long distance and fast high energy sessions. Hills are brilliant for this. Going fast builds up your speed and the long rides on the weekend build up the endurance. If you want to be able to do both you have to train for both,
When going on long rides you need to get your nutrition and hydration right.
Both are important but probably to more important is the hydration. If you get dehydrated your performance will suffer really rapidly. In the last 42 miler I did. I had porridge for breakfast with a pint of water, another pint of water a bit later before I set off. I took 2.5 litres with me on the bike and brought another 2 litres half way. So overall I consumed 4.5 litres of water on the ride, 2 banana’s, a large tub of grapes along the journey and a generous helping of the incredibly gorgeous Lovingtons ice cream at the half way café. The ice cream probably isn’t to be recommended from a nutritional point of view but it sure tasted wonderful.