This month, I’m celebrating my 14th anniversary of road cycling so I’m sharing the 14 most important things I’ve learnt about road cycling. When I decided to sign-up for a charity road bike 14 years ago I had no idea where it would lead me, and continues to lead me. Every time I think I’ve got enough riding mates I find some more, and they (particularly Sarah) challenge me to try different things and make the most of the joy of riding.
Riding makes me fit
The past 14 years have been my fittest ever. Before I took up riding I tried various forms of exercise like gym membership, aerobics classes, jogging and power walking but it wasn’t until I started riding a road bike regularly that I could truly claim to be fit for an entire 14 years. My fitness levels have gone up and down over those years but overall I’ve had my fittest years yet.
Riding helps me connect socially
In 14 years I’ve met hundreds of cyclists, many of whom are now my closest friends. These hundreds of people live in my local area but I’ve also found new friends around Australia and overseas. Cycling is a great leveller, it enables people of different backgrounds to come together and focus on the common love of riding. I’ve read many articles that espouse the benefits of social connections for both physical and mental health and cycling delivers social connections in spades.
Riding gives me confidence
I grew up without any confidence in my physical ability so taking up cycling 10 years ago has given me something I lacked for many years. That confidence has had some wonderful knock-on benefits and made me a more confident person in all aspects of my life. It’s made me realise that I am capable of much more than I ever imagined.
It’s really fun to ride fast
A road bike is the ultimate and speediest bicycle you can buy, and I never thought I would say this but it’s really fun to ride fast. Riding a bike gives me a sense of freedom, it makes me feel young and carefree. It’s just loads of fun.
Riding is great for my mental health
There’s lots of great research and studies that detail the many health benefits of cycling including mental health. I always come home from a bike ride in a good mood and I never regret going out for a ride. This can be partly attributed to the good endorphins that are released when you exercise but I think it goes beyond that because road cycling is just so much fun as well.
Riding is amazing for my physical health
Like mental health, the physical benefits of road cycling are numerous. I have regular health check-ups and my GP always congratulates me on my physical health. I’ve written about it many times but in short, it’s great for my fitness, heart health, brain health and much more.
Riding an expensive bike is awesome
I started out 14 years ago on a basic aluminium-framed road bike which I really loved at the time. I’ve since upgraded three times and now ride a beautiful bike that is just amazing to ride. And I can honestly say that my road bike is a dream machine.
Spending money on quality gear is essential
Buying fewer high-quality items is worth all the money. I started with cheap gear – helmet, shoes, clothes, gloves, sunglasses, etc. Unsurprisingly all that original gear has now been replaced with quality equipment that has lasted many years. It looks and feels good and makes me want to get out and ride my bike more often.
Learning bike skills is necessary
When I started riding a road bike I thought I knew how to ride. After all, I could stay upright and convey the slick machine down the road. I was so wrong. There are so many skills that road cyclists need to learn like cornering, pedalling technique, climbing, descending and more. And unfortunately, it takes time and practice.
Car drivers can be really considerate
There are lots of considerate, thoughtful drivers on the road who will give you their right of way, wait patiently until it’s safe to pass, and generally look after others. They are my favourite drivers and I try to emulate this behaviour when I drive my car.
Car drivers can be really horrible
I live in the city of Sydney and there are a lot of aggressive drivers around who appear to be mortally offended at the mere sight of a group of cyclists. Some of them seem to be able to dehumanise cyclists and actually set out to literally frighten you off the road!!
Never underestimate yourself
For me, the most important lesson is that I should never underestimate myself. I can do far more on the bike than I ever thought possible. I can ride up big hills, I can ride long distances, I can descend with confidence and I can always improve.
Sign up for an event to provide a goal
I learnt this one early on when I signed up for the Spring Cycle and Gong Ride in my first couple of months of riding. It threw me in the deep end but it got me on track and I’ve used rides like that as training goals ever since.
Try new things regularly
It’s really easy just to repeat the same things over and over and over again but it’s fun to try new ones. In the past year, I’ve done my first real gravel ride (despite having owned a gravel bike since 2015!), and I’m definitely going to enjoy more. It’s also great to ride to new places which I did last weekend. It gets me out of my comfort zone.