ONE of the joys of getting into cycling is that it can literally and metaphorically take you in any direction.

The Pedal Power campaign celebrates the variety of ways people can ride a bike, whether as a hobby, sport or means of transport.

This week we introduce a new Pedal Power Ambassador, who started out cycling to keep fit but now rides hundreds of kilometres and uses it as the perfect way to see the sights of Britain.

Hartford man Derek Heine, who works at The Grange Junior School enjoys long distance bike rides as a member of Audax UK and has spent 13 years cycling through the British Touring Quest list of 402 sites put together by CTC.

"For me it just becomes another challenge, it's a way of pushing yourself in a different direction," he said.

"I love being out in the fresh air and I love exercise and it combines both of those qualities."

Audax UK is an internationally recognised long-distance cycling association which oversees a variety of events across the country.

Derek, a married dad-of-two, found out about it as his recreational miles started to build up to a regular 50 or 60 miles.

His first event was a 150km ride.

"It was further than I had ridden before and I can vividly remember pulling in at a lay-by and thinking 'I'm shattered'," said the 57-year-old.

"I eventually finished and thought 'how on earth does someone do 200km?' – that's the next level up.

"After a bit more riding I thought 'I will find out how people do it because I will do the next one'."

This was around 10 years ago and since then Derek, also a member of Weaver Valley Cycling Club, has built up his mileage to the point where in 2009 he cycled 1,400km from London to Edinburgh and back to London.

In many Audax events riders have to reach manned checkpoints on the route within a certain time period, which imposes a maximum speed and a relaxed minimum speed.

Other events do not take place on a set date and riders just have to make a purchase at set locations and use their receipt as proof of passage.

"The joy of Audax riding is that it's not a race," Derek said.

"I enjoy it because it takes me to places I wouldn't otherwise go to and entry fees are token gestures of between around £5 and £10.

"You have to be a lot more self-sufficient because there's no back-up – you're on your own and have to make provision should you have a major issue."

Some Audax challenges invite the rider to complete a certain set of distances in a time period while others focus on shorter rides with more hill climbing.

Derek's other cycling passion, CTC's British Cycle Quest, was set up to inspire riders to find new routes around the country and visit new places.

There are no time limits to this challenge and riders just have to answer CTC's question about the set point, which cyclists are invited to find their own route to.

"It's an excuse to ride your bike somewhere different," Derek said.

"If you're on your holidays in Devon then there's six places you can go and visit and it tours you round the country."

For more information about Audax visit

For more information about the British Cycle Quest visit


Tips for distance cycling

BEING prepared is key to a successful long-distance ride where you have to be braced for every eventuality.

"I have a saddlebag on the back of my bike rather than a little pouch," Derek said.

"My saddlebag is probably the most equipped in Weaver Valley Cycling Club."

In his saddlebag he keeps tyre levers, three spare inner tubes, a spare tyre, chain tool and split link, spoke key, insulating tape, zip ties and tweezers.

In winter he will also take spare clothing in case of inclement weather.

"The worst incident I had was three punctures on one ride but even with those incidents I still got round in time.

"I take stuff that from my point of view will help me limp round if I need to."

Derek said cyclists ride a variety of bikes on Audax events, from road bikes to mountain bikes, but the majority are on touring bikes, which give the rider a more comfortable posture for long hours in the saddle.

He favours eating as properly as he can on a ride, choosing to stop at cafes for a quick meal like beans on toast rather than fuelling his ride on energy gels.

"Most of our local rides are based on cafes, one at least and possibly two," he said.

"Obviously you carry stuff in case of emergency because if you get hungry you need to eat something.

"I don't particularly like these gels so flapjacks and chocolate bars in the mean time, but I would rather sit and eat beans on toast properly.

"Other people bring their own packed lunch and others like to go quickly, they're your gel riders, but that's what seems to work for me."


Supporrt on the road to recovery

THE cycling community helped Derek to recover after he was pushed off his bike on a ride and suffered a smashed pelvis.

The incident happened in 2010 and left Derek in a wheelchair for three months.

He said: "I was pushed off my bike by a passenger in a car and fundamentally it was the cycling community that got me back going.

"It was the people of Weaver Valley Cycling Club and my long-distance mates who, once I was able to get back on the bike, would stand at the top of hills shivering while I climbed incredibly slowly.

"They were always there to keep me company and get me back.

"Without them and their support it would have been a lot harder to get back to where I am."

The incident never put Derek off cycling.

"It's a chance we all take when we're out on rides but incidents like this are few and far between," he said.

"There are more sensible drivers than stupid ones, like there's more sensible cyclists than stupid ones.

"It's not something I dwell on, I just get on."