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Guardian's Gina has a passion for pedalling
PEDAL Power is a campaign that aims to inspire everyone to have a go at cycling.
It isn’t about going the furthest or the fastest, doing the most extreme BMX tricks or riding the hairiest mountain bike trail, it’s just about finding a type of cycling you enjoy, which may well be any of the above, and giving it a try.
Over the weeks we aim to bring our readers articles about the different types of cycling, hints on getting started and inspiring stories about people, who we like to call our Pedal Power Ambassadors, that can help spread the word about Pedal Power.
This week, Guardian chief reporter Gina Bebbington explains how she fell into a new hobby and found that it soon becomes a lifestyle.
I NEVER intended to be a cycling enthusiast and yet here I am, running a campaign in the Northwich Guardian to share this unexpected and unlooked for enthusiasm with anyone who will take notice.
And since Pedal Power started, at the beginning of November, I have found there’s an enormous appetite out there for cycling, greater than I could ever have imagined.
I wonder what it is about cycling that does this to people? What makes us so passionate about these odd machines that don’t protect you from the weather, are a nightmare to get up hills and put you right in the firing line for mickey-taking and incredulity from all your motoring friends?
As a child I was more bookish than sporty, with no clues that I’d develop this surprising interest.
I loved my Raleigh Bluebell bicycle but only really rode it up and down Elmwood Road, in Barnton, where I grew up.
As I got a bit older I was given what I remember as a beautifully elegant road bike, or racer as we called it then, for Christmas.
This looked lovely and grown up, with gears as well as curly handlebars, but vanquished any burgeoning cycling confidence I may have had had due to the chain’s unfortunate habit of slipping every time I bravely attempted to change gear.
Needless to say this, combined with being a teenager, put me right off cycling for years and I never thought about it again.
But then in 2011, at the landmark age of 30, I was offered a media place on Cycletta, a women-only 40km cycling event at Tatton Park, and I said yes.
To this day I don’t know why – I didn’t even own a bike!
Cue mild panic as I realised I should probably find one from somewhere and get into training – but I didn’t want to part with cash if I was only going to cycle until the end of the event and then never again.
So I decided to ask around to see if anyone had a bike I could borrow, and I was in luck – one of my friends’ husbands had a mountain bike from his youth sitting dusty and unused in a shed.
And that’s how I got started – wobbling nervously up and down the traffic free Marbury Lane on a borrowed man’s mountain bike that was too big for me.
And I loved it.
I loved the exhiliration of travelling under my own steam, I loved how fast you feel when you’re not cocooned in a car and I absolutely loved the downhills.
As I grew in confidence I ventured in to the country lanes around Barnton, Antrobus and Comberbach and discovered that a bike was a fantastic way to explore.
I like keeping fit and active and have always enjoyed walking, but fitting in a decent hike is tricky in a busy lifestyle.
However, you only need an hour or two to enjoy a good bike ride and you’d be surprised at how far you can get in that time.
And I soon felt fitter and much more toned, it really does give you a good work out.
No doubt about it I was hooked.
Training for Cycletta gave me chance to try riding on trails and on roads and learn which I preferred, so after the event when I decided to invest in a bike I knew a road bike would be for me.
I still didn’t fork out a lot though, finding an excellent quality second-hand bike on eBay and cheaper cycling gear from Northwich’s budget supermarket.
I try to get out as often as I can, though it’s trickier in the winter months, and still enjoy the simple feeling that I’ve done something worthwhile in the fresh air after stagnating in an office all week.
Who wouldn’t want to share that with the world?
My tips for getting started:
• Borrow a bike to see if you enjoy cycling before you spend a fortune. I doesn’t matter what kind of bike you start off on – it’s about finding out whether you like cycling and if you can fit it into your lifestyle.
• If you’re nervous about traffic, as I was, start off somewhere like Marbury Country Park, which is traffic free, then when you’re confident on your bike you can attempt country lanes where there aren’t too many cars.
• Talk to other cyclists – they tend to be an enthusiastic bunch who are friendly and keen to help and advise.