By Martin Sigrist
One of the nice things about cycling is that it gives you time to think and recently my thoughts turned to all the other nice things that cycling has to offer.
I came up with ten “reasons to ride” but I am sure I’ve missed some so would be interested to hear find out what those might be.
The list is not exclusive, a single ride might include several from those below. I think the most I have managed at the same time is five. Many of you will have more exotic combinations I’m sure and it would be fun to hear of these too.
So here, in alphabetical order, then are some “reasons to ride”.
Many ride their bikes because it is simply the easiest means of transport. It could be for the purpose of commuting or doing the daily shop. In countries where cycling is a way of life such as The Netherlands bikes, such as that pictured below have evolved to the point where they are capable of being used to carry out the weekly trip to the supermarket or cargo a group of young children to wherever they need to be. “Progress” sometimes takes the form of replacing bikes with automobiles but in some places the wheel may be turning full circle and drivers will become riders again simply because it’s quicker, easier and cheaper than the alternatives.
A bike is one of the most efficient machines invented. Almost all the energy expended gets converted into useful forward motion and that energy is of the old fashioned kind where the worst by-product is sweat. If something can be done via pedal power it will almost certainly be the most environmentally friendly.
There is always something new over the next hill and a bike is one of the best ways to get to see it. You are part of your surroundings not cocooned from them as you are in a car or train. It can be astonishing just how far you can go on a bike in just a few short days, every one of which is completely different. One of my favourite feelings, period, is having breakfast on a bike tour anticipating the day ahead. Often I won’t have a plan, just a direction. Come what may I can be guaranteed by the time I eat in the evening I will have had an adventure.
If the sun is shining then a ride in the countryside can be the perfect way to spend a day. It can be all the more fun if in the company of friends, even more so if you take part in an activity together such as a bike tour in a foreign land or just the local club run with a few sprints to start the weekend.
Riding a bike brings many health benefits both physical and mental and this alone is reason enough to ride. It’s a re-entry point for many, myself included, who throw their leg over a crossbar for the first time in decades with the simple goal of losing a few pounds and discover a passion that can last forever after.
Some make a living out of riding a bike and not all of them are elite riders competing in Grand Tours. Depending on culture they may be many or few but even in the most Westernised of cities it is now not uncommon to see bikes being used for a variety of purposes such as delivering mail and take-outs or as taxis.
Not obvious I know. However a bike is one of those rare things where it is possible for many to aspire to having the very best in the world. This is because what is “best” is subjective, it’s entirely up to the owner. It might be futuristic featuring cutting edge technology, a timeless steel classic whose every weld is a work of art or an off the wall exotic made of bamboo. While paying the price of a small family car for a bicycle could be seen as excessive it pales in comparison with the cost of having the best automobile, boat or house on the planet. Even those with the wealth to contemplate purchasing such would find it hard to have them custom made by an artisan with every detail exactly as they desired such as the examples shown here.
The ultimate custom bicycle will be the purchase of a lifetime but it will last many lifespans, forever a testament to when its original owner rode the machine of their dreams.
At the other end of the extreme from luxury. Most adult riders will have first turned a pedal as a child because there was simply no other option until the fateful day when two wheels are discarded in favour of four.However for many a bike is a lifelong lifeline. A bike’s simplicity, efficiency, affordability and durability make it one of the best bang for bucks investments out there, helping those with most need help themselves. An example is the “Buffalo Bike” which in many ways is everything our road bikes are not. Through charities like World Bicycle Relief these machines provide many with the means to transform their lives and futures.
There are many ways to compete on a bicycle. Against others in a criterium or a road race. Against the clock in a time trial, gran fondo or Strava segment. Against Mother Nature by trying to ride a century or climb a mile or more upwards. Against yourself, trying to become fitter than ever or complete an ultra. All these and more provide goals and these in turn provide the motivation for training which itself has many more performance goals of its own. The great thing about cycling is that pretty much everyone should, if they wish, be able to find some form of challenge against which to measure themselves.
Being honest it is nice to be able, from time to time, to impress others with our tales of bravura on two wheels. It is easier with non cyclists, for some of whom a ride of 50 miles is a real feat of strength. Within cycling both Strava and Everesting are to a great extent driven by the desire to share our pain with others in the hope of receiving kudos. As with performance the great thing about our pastime is that there is something for everyone to chase. One of the paradoxes is that some of the most prestigious of crowns of all are within the scope of many. Ultra endurance events are a great leveller as they test mind more than body. I am a member of Audax (aka Randonneuring) and am regularly astonished by the escapades of some of my fellows, even more senior than I in years. A Strava KOM might be impressive but not quite, in my opinion at least, as cycling the 750 miles from Paris to Brest and back in under 90 hours so “chapeau!” to those reading with this accomplishment under their belts.
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.