Why I love cycling
From the outside looking in, cycling can almost seem like a faith. But it’s not all lycra and wrap-around sunglasses. Whether it’s longer weekend rides or just making better use of your commute to work, cycling can help to solve common problems, like cutting down on petrol costs, being able to find a park, and improving your health without even really trying. 37-year-old PAUL O’BRIEN from Melbourne explains why he and cycling just click.
I got into cycling when I was about 30. I had a housemate who was obsessed with bikes and I decided I wanted one. It mainly came out of a frustration with driving, especially because my commute to work was quite short. I thought it would be a better use of my time and energy to ride there, especially when it came to things like parking and petrol costs.
I really enjoyed how riding felt. I loved the freedom that came with cycling. Instead of sitting in my car in the morning, getting stressed and being frustrated by how long it took, I would get up, ride my bike, and get energised on the way to work. It made me feel like I was ready to start my day.
My interest in cycling was incremental. Riding was hard at first, but I got used to it so quickly when I started doing it every day. I enjoyed my commute so much that I decided to invest in a second bike – a nicer one – for doing longer rides around the city. The furthest I’ve done is about 80 kms in three hours – Brunswick to Mordialloc. I’ve done it a few times now, it’s always fun.
It was more of a social thing at the time. A bunch of my friends were also into cycling and would go on longer weekend rides together, so I started to tag along. Riding with a bunch of friends is great because you move faster when you’re all in a group – that’s why they do it on the Tour de France (which, obviously, I watch religiously). It’s also just nice way to hang out socially without drinking. I even bought some lycra, which was a pretty funny day. It’s alright, though, when everyone in the group is wearing it.
I’m what I can an ‘antisocial social cyclist’. I do like riding with other people, but I think I actually prefer riding alone. It gives me time and space to unwind and just be with my own thoughts. It’s really therapeutic in that way. It feels nice to know there’s nowhere else you have to be – like you’re taking time out just for yourself.
I do worry about cars sometimes. Especially after any close calls. I’ve almost been hit or car-doored a few times, and I’ve had lots of friends who have injured themselves on a bike. I think it’s all about mutual respect between cars, bikes and pedestrians. It’s important to be considerate and slow down when you need to.
I still commute by bike every single day. Rain, hail, sleet, or wind (my least favourite weather condition, especially when riding into a headwind on the way home). Even when I feel unmotivated, it just helps to pretend there is no other form of transport and just get on with it. I always feel better after my ride, anyway.
People always tell me they want to start riding. I say, ‘Why not?’ You don’t need all of the gear to start commuting – just a decent bike that’s serviced and looked after so it’s safe, a helmet, some lights and a lock. And if you already cycle but want to get into doing longer rides for fitness, lots of cycling stores have organised rides through different routes on different nights of the week that you can tag along on.
I can’t imagine my life without cycling. I try and get in a longer ride or two per week, but my commute is a fair bit longer now, about half an hour each way. I love that I’m incidentally getting an hour of active movement in five times a week, and it’s something I really enjoy. I much prefer riding to sitting in traffic or trying to pack myself onto a train with hundreds of other people. I’d rather be outside, getting fresh air.
(As told to Taryn Stenvei)
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