It’s hard to imagine a time when bicycles didn’t have tyres. The first bicycle wheels were made entirely of wood, soon progressing to iron, but you can imagine that the comfort of one’s ride on such velocipedes was not great.
Sitting in a café last week, mid-ride, the owner asked how far we were cycling today. I replied nonchalantly: “60 miles”. She smiled and said she could never cycle that far. When I told her she would be surprised how far she could actually cycle if she built up to it to, she replied that she had thought about getting an electric bike (e-bike), but hadn’t pursued this as she thought it was cheating.
When I run a school cycling session I always start the session with a bike safety “M” check – the systematic check follows the line of an “M” from the front wheel to the back.
If only everything in life was as simple as a bike ride.
I have written before about the lack of representation of women cyclists in the media. Professional cycling, and road racing in particular, is no better in its attitude to women's cycling. The women’s equivalent of races such as the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia are haphazard and under-supported by media, sponsorship and by cycling’s governing body, the UCI. Just this year the women’s Tour de France has been cancelled due to race scheduling conflicts.
The differences between mountain bikers and road cyclists are many. For a start, the nouns “biker” and “cyclist” tend to fit more with mountain and road respectively – after all, it’s not often, if at all, you hear of “mountain cyclists”.
We are regularly told that cycling is good for us and the benefits are both physical and psychological and well documented. It is also a selfish activity. It takes up a lot of personal time, time that could be spent with family, or ticking off another item on my dreaded list of chores my wife has prepared for me.
The Youth Tour of Scotland road race returns to Perthshire this weekend for its sixth year. The event is based at Strathallan School and gives young riders a rare opportunity to compete over four stages competing with the best youth riders from across the UK.
Some of my most enjoyable experiences racing on a bike have been at grass track races at highland games. The racing is fast and no-holds-barred when on the track, but off the track the atmosphere is welcoming with a great sense of camaraderie. Many of the riders have being doing the highland games circuit for years.
Part of the fun – quite a big part to be honest – of riding a bike is going downhill. But cycling is an activity that demands payment in effort and sweat before it relinquishes the pleasures of gravity. There are of course ways to cheat the burden of gradient by getting a vehicle to take you to the top, but then as my teachers at school were very fond of saying: “You would only be cheating yourself”.