Local Sports Heroes - Big Boys Bicycle Club
Riding a bike is fun.
You probably remember that feeling of freewheeling down a hill aged 3, the first time your dad took the stabilisers off your bike, grinning from ear to ear. Shortly after, you probably crashed into a ditch. And then a day later got back on again. For many people though, this is where their cycling life starts and ends. Riding a bike can seem exclusive, dangerous and even expensive. The reality though is the complete opposite.
Bicycles are the ultimate symbol of freedom. All at once a means of transportation, fitness and pleasure, they empower us to move independently and experience the joy of being active and outside. That quote is stolen from Apidura, but I’ve never seen it better put elsewhere. It’s not about going fast or far, nor how fit you are or what your background is, riding a bike boils down to being fun, both in itself, and when you compare it to what it replaces, be that a drive, walk, public transport or simply sitting on the sofa.
For me, the three greatest benefits of owning and using a bike come down to how social it is, how it allows you to escape the realities of day to day life and the opportunities the bike and your new found fitness afford you.
Coffee, Cake and Laps
Year round, our group of friends will cycle before and after work several times a week. This tends to be heading for one of London’s parks, Regent’s being the most popular. Here we will do around an hour and a half of riding, usually pretty chilled, sometimes a bit faster, chatting most of the time, before heading for a coffee and pastry and going off to our various places of work. London pre 7am is a world away from the polluted, congested and hectic place it becomes later in the day, and seeing it before everyone else turns up never gets tiring. In a place like Regent’s there’s hundreds of other like minded riders in the morning, and groups form, merge and split again across most rides, hoovering up individuals who want to get involved and sharing the work with other clubs or bunches on the same schedule. The fact that so many people come here every day is evidence in itself of how enjoyable a way to start the day this is.
Fitness Facilitates Fun
The benefit of riding a lot is that your fitness goes up. Fitness is akin to wealth: the more you have of it, the more opportunities it affords you, opening doors to places and experiences you couldn’t previously access. I don’t have much wealth, but the experiences I’ve had on a bike in the past few years are genuinely priceless. These doors at first were a long ride, something like 50 miles which is inconceivably far when you first get on a bike, becoming a first race, a Strava KOM, a first mountain, week long holidays in the Alps or a tour across a country. Riding a bike up a mountain is more fun than it sounds, I promise. However, it’s not just the time on the bike which is important, any ride up an Alp should be shortly followed by some salty frites, a cold coca cola or beer and a spectacular descent to a picturesque lake where you dive in to cool off. Possessing fitness allows you to enjoy an endless spectrum of places, people and rides.
Get Out Of Town
In a metropolis like London, I certainly have a constant urge to get the hell out of here, quite a lot of the time. Just 45 minutes on a bike out of central London you can be surrounded by rolling green hills, country pubs and empty lanes on pretty much all sides, with Kent, Surrey, , Berkshire, Essex and Hertfordshire all easily accessible. This for me was one of those things that you never realise that you actually need until you have experienced it. Being able to get out of the intensity of urban life is liberating for the mind, allowing you to escape, either on your own or with your mates. I love a solo ride with a podcast or the radio for company every now and again, with no worries about where to go, when to stop, how fast to ride or how many ice creams to have on the route. Sean Sako has been pushing the phrase “I’m not anti-social, I’m just pro-solitude” for several years. I didn’t understand what he meant until recently, but he is totally right. Solitude is important for all humans, and being on a silent bike on an empty lane with a big blue sky and nothing else to worry about will 100% make you feel better. Even if you felt great before. It’s much like mindfulness. I think.
But how do you get into this world? I caught the bug by taking a Boris Bike in summer 2011 from Central London down towards Clapham, instead of the tube as the sun was out and I was curious. And that was that. All bikes are great in their own way, jump on one and see if it puts a smile on your face, you never know where it might take you.
Why We Ride
Before I wrote this I asked a few people why they liked to ride their bike, to check I wasn’t off in my own little world. Some of the best responses to that are below, these are a mix of male and female, youngish and oldish, new to cycling and seasoned veterans.
Getting out into the countryside. Living in a city can feel claustrophobic so being able to get into the couyside on the weekend is a real release.
The feeling of total freedom
Getting out into the countryside to new places
Getting photos for the gram
Getting exercise while being outdoors chatting and hanging out with mates. What’s better than that?
The freedom and honesty of it
Social, helps keep fit and see parts of the world you wouldn't normally see.
Eating amazing cake in beautiful places. The fast fitness progression. The social aspect of meeting like minded individuals. Being able to eat LOADS and not get large!
It’s all about the gram
The stash and the gear
The social community.
Going on spontaneous adventures.
Aaaaaaand The coffee/pub stops.
It builds up my confidence. The progress in cycling is quicker than any other sports!