In a recent column I quoted JFK: “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”
I was reminded of that last week when I cycled along the Carse of Gowrie in warm sunshine. The wind was behind me, the roads were quiet and I had a big smile on my face.
In terms of emotional wellbeing my body was literally buzzing with endorphins for hours afterwards and nothing was going to bring me down from that exercise-induced high. That night I slept deeply and awoke the next morning ready to do it all again.
Any kind of exercise, of course, can have a positive impact on your mental health and well-being, but the journey that accompanies a bike ride (or walk or run) is one of the key ingredients and an element that is not apparent in many other forms of exercise. For example, I never have the same euphoric feeling after an hour at the gym as I would on a bike ride, even if that gym visit includes a session on a static bike.
My ride along the Carse of Gowrie started in the centre of Dundee and part of the cycle was like a trip back in time. I cycled along Clepington Road, a route that I did every day in my college years as I commuted between Kingoodie and Graham Street College, but hadn’t cycled for nearly 30 years.
As I headed out of town I had the exhilarating descent down Ninewells Avenue and into Invergowrie. I took the low road along the Carse, passing through Kingoodie where I grew up, and on towards Errol and eventually Perth and north again towards Dunkeld. The route changed from quiet country roads to busy streets – at one point I was cycling along paths next to the A90 and A9, but nothing could dampen my spirits. I was in short sleeves, riding a beautiful old, chrome-forked Peugeot from the 1970s and nothing was going to dampen my soul.
By the time I got home, I had cycled 33 miles, but the ride could have only been three miles long; it was the simple pleasure of a bike ride that was the boost that I needed.
Much is made of physical fitness, but mental fitness is often neglected. I find if my mind is in the right place, then I am more inclined to exercise and eat well. After recent trips to big cities I thought about how often many of us spend inside. A lot of us leave our house, jump in a car, work in an office, have lunch at our desk, exercise in a gym and then head home to sit in front of a screen. It is easy and convenient but means we never give our minds a chance to switch off and experience feelings of calm and well-being that come with being outdoors and away from the daily stresses of our lives, even if only for 30 minutes.
Exercise serves as a distraction, allowing us quiet time to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts.
As we head into mid-summer, there really is no excuse not to get your bike out of the shed and give your mind and body a boost. Take the family and a picnic, commute to work, head out on a mountain bike, into the forest with your dogs, even just cycle to the shops for that pint of milk instead of jumping in the car.
You won’t regret it.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
Where to ride:
Strontian to Ardnamurchan Point
Strontian – Ardnamurchan OS Landranger 1:50000 Maps 40 & 47 NM 81438 61662
The lighthouse on Ardnamurchan point is the most westerly point on the British mainland, thus making it a great destination for cyclists and tourists alike. The route follows a narrow and undulating single-track road that, at first hugs the coast along the shore of Loch Sunart, before heading inland towards the centre of what was once a massive volcano. The road ends at the lighthouse which has an exhibition and cafe, and unless you have a lift back, there is only one way back to Strontian.