12th April 2019

My Year Cycling

Linda Halden, Domestic Assistant, Warrington.

The link between cycling and mental health has been recognized throughout its history. In 1885 John Kemp Starley introduced the Rover Safety Bicycle, the world’s first commercially successful rear-wheeled, chain driven bicycle. Just 11 years later, a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Scientific American:

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought of anything but the ride you are taking”.

I had always had an ambition to ride my bicycle a little further than my daily commute and expand my keen interest in fitness; health and general wellbeing, which had always been gymnasium based. Finally, aged 53, I approached a local cycling group and on Sunday 25th June 2017 cycled all the way to Beeston Castle. I coped admirably but was ill-equipped, returning home with blisters the size of dinner plates ensuring the complete inability to be seated for the next 48 hours.

The adventure continued; albeit on Sunday’s, for a month or two: Connah’s Quay; Audlum; Tegg’s Nose; Ashurst Beacon, to name a few, and I was smitten. On 15th July I purchased my first road bike.

Cycling is a mindful experience: battling the elements; observing nature; rising to the challenges that lie ahead, and always wanting more. I have progressed to completing 6 centuries; time trials (PB 29:53 for 10 miles) and satisfied one or two sportif’s One in particular, Wild Wales 2018.

After a wonderful summer Wild Wales was a sportif to look forward to. From Bala via Machynlleth this challenge ride of approximately 90 miles takes the rider through beautiful mountainous country with magnificent views and some very difficult climbs, including Bwitch y Gross. 2018 however was extremely memorable as the weather made the occasion all the more challenging. Horizontal rain prevailed for the day; poor visibility; extreme cold and a soaking worse than a cold shower finished off the majority at the first check point. 565 cyclists registered for the event; 244 set off and only 191 finished, of which I was one.

I have had the pleasure of many more experiences and will go on to engage in more. In March this year I was proud when I won my cycle club’s “most improved 2018” and now aged 55 I am anticipating a turn at the Velodrome and a chance to ride a chain gang. Whatever level I choose, I always feel as Sir Arthur did over a century ago every time I clip in and venture into the unknown.