Here’s some things you might be wondering if you are thinking about getting into cycling:
Isn’t it dangerous?
It can be. It is always best to keep the rubber part of the bike down on the road because it can really hurt when you don’t. Here is the thing though: when I started riding in my fifties I was pre-diabetic and morbidly obese. Riding has brought my weight down more than 10kg without even trying. There is a risk every time I jump on my bike, but I think I was more at risk from stroke and heart disease, sitting on my sofa.
What about the war between cyclists and motorists?
Honestly, I don’t see much aggro, really. We mainly stay out of traffic, and the increasing amount of bike paths that keep cyclists and cars safely apart really helps. Our cycling group, the Café Cruisers are waging a ‘charm offensive’: we wave and smile at motorists. Even the sour drivers feel they have to wave back, and I think it dampens their gun powder!
Don’t you get sore?
Yes. Bike seat manufacturers really need to talk things over with whoever designed the human bum because I am sure things could be more comfortable. My experience: cycle pants with padding help immensely. Some cyclists use a secret weapon – stuff called shammy cream (or chamois cream for the more Gallic) with which they lard-up their tender bits.
Another observation – big ‘comfy’ sofa seats get very uncomfortable after a while. All that movement and rubbing. Those serious cyclists on skinny little seats do it for a reason – they are more comfortable.
Is cycling expensive?
It can be. You could buy a decent car for the money some people spend on a high-end racing bike. I have a number of bikes, all of them second-hand and none of them costing me more than a few hundred dollars. Spend your money on getting it well set up by a good bike mechanic so that it ‘fits’ you well.
When I started leisure cycling, I thought Auckland was awful for riding – lots of traffic and hills. I am happy to have been proved wrong: Auckland is full of wonderful rides that are safe, scenic and easy. I just drew up six months of rides for our ‘Café Cruiser’ cycle group with a different ride every weekend – there really is no shortage of paths, parks, and quiet roads.
The really surprising thing is that they are often beautifully scenic. So often we have riders who say things like, “I’ve lived in this suburb for years and I had no idea this was here.” People are amazed when they discover waterfalls in Waterview and Pakuranga, bushy paths weaving through industrial areas, kilometres of wide concrete path through connecting parks in South Auckland.
On your bike you see and hear and smell so much more; you talk to people and you linger if something interests you. Dawdling past cricket games and swimming beaches and through hidden parks, you see a side of a lovely side of Auckland many never know exists.
Another thing about cycling that surprised me: I can ride. Of course I learnt as a child, but stopped when I started to drive and came to see cyclists, ‘serious’ cyclists, as being another species. So I have been intrigued that cycling actually ‘works’ for me. I have not tackled cycling as a programme or a course of exercise – I just started riding when wanted and for as long as I wanted. I have not tried to build up my stamina or fitness but have been very pleased to discover it happens anyway. My first rides of only a few kilometres left me a bit puffed and a little sore but very happy; a few years later I rode 160km around Taupo, and afterwards I was a bit puffed and a little sore and even more happy.