A number of weeks ago, ten middle aged friends met in a restaurant to catch up for an evening. All are well established in their careers. Most have enjoyed a reasonable amount of proficiency in their chosen sports like Hurling, Soccer, Golf, Rugby, etc. None of the group were cyclists. The food came and went as did a couple of bottles of wine. Beginning to feel lethargic, one of the group put it to the others that now they were at an age where it is important to try to stay in shape for health rather than competitive reasons, what was everyone doing to stay in shape?
As the answers came from around the table there was more talk of injuries rather than talk of participation. Then one guy mentioned cycling, from which point the conversation became more animated.
Seven of the ten expressed a real desire to take up the sport. They all knew someone who evangelized cycling with the fervour of a Southern Alabama Gospel preacher on a Pinarello, but they each mentioned obstacles that stood in their way of becoming a lycra clad disciple.
These ‘barriers to entry’ are all easily overcome when provided with the correct answers, and that is what I will try do now :
Barrier 1 : COST
Less than €2 per day
The cycle to work scheme has provided anyone with a faint interest in becoming a cyclist with an opportunity to enter the sport in a very cost effective manner. For €1000 you can get a reasonable bike well capable of carrying you around the 180k Ring of Kerry along with most of the essential cycling gear. Under the cycle to work scheme, as you intend to use it for all or part of your commute reasonably regularly this is how little it will cost ;
€1000 for High rate tax payer = €520 saving leaving an actual cost of €480
Most employers spread this over 52 weeks = €9.23 per week or €1.31 per day
€1000 for Standard rate taxpayer = €300 saving leaving an actual cost of €700
Over 52 weeks = €13.46 per week or €1.92 per day
Barrier 2 : Time
How much time does it take to become reasonably fit as a cyclist ?
1 hour twice per week and 2 – 4 hours at the weekend = 4 – 6 hours from 168 per week.
If you own a television you have time to cycle.
If you get out of bed after 7am you have time to cycle
If you commute to work by car any distance less than 40k, you have time to cycle.
Barrier 3 : Weather
Ireland is not as wet as you imagine.
Speak to any cyclist who is part of a Sunday Morning training group and ask them how often they get wet and you will be surprised by the answer. 10 Sundays per year would be a high figure.
Hi Viz cycling jackets, that are a staple of the cycle to work market are both breathable and waterproof. As a famous cyclist once said : ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’
You will not melt in the rain and as long as you jump straight into the shower when you get home you will not get sick either. If you do find yourself out cycling in the rain, think of it as a water purifying system for the air that you are breathing in. The extra oxygen in the rain filtered air will give you an energy boost for the rest of the day.
Barrier 4 : Safety
A lone cyclist on a busy main road getting buffeted by the tail wash of the trucks speeding past can be a scary sight to behold. That is why most experienced cyclists plan the majority of their routes on quiet back roads away from the traffic. Ireland has an abundance of deserted back roads that are almost greenways throughout the country. It is not uncommon to spend 30 to 40 minutes without meeting a single car or van.
Hi-viz colours like Fluo orange, green or yellow make you stand out and cars can easily see you.
In winter use flashing led lights when its wet or foggy during the day and light up like a Christmas tree if you are cycling at night.
If you do find yourself on a main road, always leave 12 – 18 inches inside of a gap to allow you to move in should a motorist cut you off.
Approaching traffic Islands keep well out. If you keep in tight to the kerb a driver will ‘chance’ passing you. Don’t give them a choice.
Barrier 5 : Family
Time with family is more valuable and precious than ever. Cycling early in the morning at weekends will see you return often before the kids are up and dressed.
Every Sunday I cycle with a group filled with Fathers and Sons or Daughters. It is one of the very few sports that a Grandparent, Parent and Child can all participate in at a similar level together.
Young kids who see a parent heading out training are ingrained with a culture of keeping fit and healthy. It is a real example of ‘Do what I do, not just what I say’
Be an example for your kids and your whole family will benefit.
Barrier 6 : Theft
Bikes are expensive and having one stolen is devastating, but there are things you can do in order to minimise the risk.
Depending upon where you live, always lock your bike at home either indoors or if outdoors in a shed lock it to a totally immovable object or steel eye concreted into the ground.
Always lock your bike if it will be out of your sight when entering a shop or cafe.
Always lock anything that is quick release such as wheels and saddle.
Use privacy settings on mobile phone apps such as Strava or Mapmyride to leave a blank 1km or 5km perimeter around your home or place of work.
If you really want to cycle, and to enjoy the health benefits both physical and mental. If you want to pursue a sporting endeavour that builds strong friendships and creates a common bond between parents and their children. If you want to feel young, free and fully alive, there is really only one barrier standing in your way, yourself !