Cyclists. This word alone for me conjures up images of men and women dressed head to toe in neon lycra, curved sunglasses with a mirror sheen reflecting the traffic and moody faces of pedestrians, whilst they whizz at lightning speed through the streets looking as fit and healthy as a person can look on a London commute. The slow amble of a cyclist in a long flowing skirt and a wicker basket at the front filled with groceries has all but gone in this world of speed and competition (and safety), yet if I were to consider myself as a ‘cyclist’ the latter is the type that I would be.
Having only cycled a little bit as a child and then even less when abroad in places such as southern Ireland and northern Chile (and having fallen off on one of these occasions and given up on the other!) I could safely say that I wasn’t a cyclist and the thought of buying a bike to use for a commute to London was alien to me. Just four months ago however, I did just that and bought a bike, and two months after that, went on a cycling trip to Portugal, biking 260km in a matter of days. I wasn’t the most confident on this two-wheeled mode of transport, but actually loved my trip, and if I can do it, anyone can! Here are some of my tips for those beginner cyclists who are thinking of embarking on a cycling trip.
Practise before you go
By practise before you go, I don’t mean cycle 50km a day and climb a mountain or two, I just mean get on your bike, cycle a couple of times a week to get used to it, and get a tiny bit of training in. It will be that little bit more worth it if you have gotten ‘cycle-ready’ in the weeks leading up to your trip.
Take padded cycling shorts
After the first day, your bum will hurt, so wear padding – and I say this having a bit of natural padding myself! Wearing good cycling shorts with padding in them will definitely help, and after the first couple of days you won’t feel the discomfort from sitting for hours on a tiny saddle at all.
Take short rather than long breaks
The cycles might seem more tiring to you than to a seasoned cyclist, and you will definitely need to take breaks, but don’t take too long a break or you might find it hard to get back on your bike! I found that taking regular (but not too regular) breaks really did me well, and this way you can appreciate the scenery properly. One of our breaks included rescuing a kid (baby goat, not a child!) that had become separated from its mother, and it was nice to stop off and help the local farm animals when no one else was around.
Have a positive attitude
You are likely to run into snags in the road (or complete gaps as I did in Portugal one time and had to wade through a part of a river!) but having a positive outlook before you set off each morning can really make a difference. Your cycle will feel much easier and will be more fun if you relax and think optimistically about each day.
Just go for it!
The beauty of a cycling trip as opposed to any other is that you can cover much more distance than walking, and see so much more than driving. It really is the perfect way to discover off the beaten tracks, local restaurants and to immerse yourself in scenery that needs to be seen properly instead of through a car window. It might be challenging at the start, but when you get home you will just want to go back and do another!