Cycling in general has been a big thing for me, well, all my life really… I still have fond memories of my first proper bike, my Raleigh Burner BMX. When was a young teen, my bike provided me with a level of freedom. I could get further away from home with less effort than walking and in less time. I lived a good 6 miles from school and most of my school friends… a bit far to walk, but not too far on my bike.
At 15 I started volunteer coaching at the local gymnastics club where my sister went and I would ride the 4 miles there on a Saturday morning, then meet my buddy Perry afterwards and then ride back from his place later in the evening.
At sixth-form college, I met Alasdair who became a good friend. Ali was a keen road cyclist along with the rest of his family and he introduced me to real road cycling and real road bikes. I discarded my trendy pseudo mountain bike and patched up my Dad’s “gents racing bicycle” in the garage… with it’s drop handlebars and skinny tyres… oh, and safety levers and steel rims!! Tatty it may have been, but it was faster more efficient than anything I’d ridden before. It got me the 14 mile round trip to college for a good while and was provided the means for my first big road trip to Wales for a weekend with Ali. It was a 120 mile round trip, loaded with panniers, tent and camping kit for the night. Great, proper adventure.
Growing up in the predominantly flat Cheshire area, road cycling was the obvious choice and I was quite hooked. There was something great about notching up the miles under your own steam. Enjoying the quiet country roads and blasting through the Cheshire countryside. I saved up and bought my first serious road bike. A second hand Raleigh steel frame with Shimano 105 groupset. I felt I was ready for anything.
Sadly, the new bike lasted less than a fortnight. Just after my 17th birthday, I was involved in a nasty accident with a large truck on the way home from Ali’s place, heading to work. This sent me straight to hospital in the back of an ambulance, meanwhile the bike was delivered home to my parents in the footwell, behind the front seat, of a police car along with the news of the accident.
I miraculously escaped the crash with barely a scratch. I had suffered a nasty neck injury that put me in a collar for two weeks and forced me to miss the family holiday to the Med’. 3 days after the accident, I was hit pretty hard with shock and Post Traumatic Stress. I didn’t say very much and generally wasn’t myself for a good few weeks. Everyone was a little worried. I came out the other end of this just before the start of Autumn term at College. All I wanted was to get back on a bike.
I Sold my beloved hi-fi and picked up another second hand steel road bike to replace my crushed Raleigh. A friend of my Mum’s put me in touch with some roadies she new to ride with and get my confidence back. The guys, in particular a chap called Dave, became good friends and I eventually stopped looking at cycling as a vendetta, seeing getting fit and fast as some way of sticking two fingers up at the lorry driver than nearly ended it all. I rediscovered the joy of the cruising the roads on skinny rubber.
At 18, I moved to Scotland for University, where I found hills… and mountains… and Mountain Bikes Beautiful scenery and twisty singletrack were very enticing. I sold my Cannondale road bike in favour of a Trek hardtail MTB. I missed the skinny tyres much sooner than I thought I would and eventually bought a cheap road bike for a bit of training. Mountain biking was still very much the main-stay of my cycling fun though.
Years later, now living in East Lothian just outside Edinburgh, still very much a mountain biker and enjoying a quiet life with my fantastic wife and beautiful baby daughter. There’s plenty of quiet roads around here to enjoy when a day out with the mountain bike isn’t an option and there’s always been a road bike in the shed for such occasions. But, after a succession of injuries and a year of back problems, I’ve decided that I don’t need to hit big jumps and scary downhills to enjoy cycling. I don’t need to be super fit and super fast on the road. I still love cycling, but just for the sheer freedom it gives me. whether it’s an adventure in the highlands with my mountain bike and good buddy, Mark, a cheeky spin around one of the many man-made trail centres in Scotland, or just notching up the miles on the road bike around east lothian.
On Saturday, I took my new Giant TCR Carbon road bike out for a spin and ended up with 55 miles on the clock. I held a comfortable pace along some lovely quiet roads, I stopped for some malt loaf by the sea in North Berwick and trundled home along the coast all wrapped up in the warmest Lycra I had. Many folk were out shopping, or at home watching telly, not me; I was coasting through the quiet parts of the world to a steady rhythm of 80-rpm, fuelled by bananas and Soreen with the sound of 23mm of rubber rolling on tarmac accompanying the sounds and the scenes of the countryside. I don’t think my head is ever clearer than this.
“Not a care in the world” has always seemed such an odd state of mind to aim for to me. I’ve many cares… in that there are a great deal of things I care about. Sometimes though it’s hard to make sense and order of them all amongst all the little annoyances of everyday life. Road cycling is where I find order, where I put things into perspective, where I make sense of it all. It’s not where I’m most at home, but it’s always carried me back there.