The unlikely story of how I started cycling


I was reluctant to start cycling years ago. There little that drew me to the sport: a sore backside, chaffing clothes in sensitive areas, burning muscles (though to which sport doesn’t that one apply?), profuse sweating, a hefty amount of equipment I would need to buy. And for what? All for a being able to move through the landscape faster than walking, but slower than driving in a car. Didn’t sound like my cup of tea.

Of course I knew had to ride a bicycle, and was no stranger to it. When I fell in love with biking, it was not as though I had never been on a bicycle before. But there was something about it that time that made a difference.

Near where I live there is a small wood. It’s the usual temperate woodland—a pine, some birch, a couple a beeches scattered here and there, nothing too special—that is divided by a small brook. After crossing that natural barrier one enters into a flat meadow that sprawls out, rising over a hill, just high enough to block the village on the opposite side.

I even had a bike at the time (admittedly that made it easier to start riding), though I just couldn’t be bothered to take it out. All it took however, was a friend’s persistence to get me out and I was hooked. Few things felt more tedious to me, but after being proverbially pulled out of bed through a hangover and popped in the saddle of my old, rickety, and truth-be-told even rusted thing, something that day and I fell in love.

Whatever the science behind the phenomenon, a great many people place stock in the belief that sweating out alcohol is a cure for a hangover. I’m not entirely convinced but it certainly worked that day. Sweating as I rode through the wood I was thankful for the leafy cover to block the sun. And I was well-tempted to turn back an have a pizza in bed.

As soon as I broke through the edge of the wood, over the brook, I was hit with a gust of wind that smelled as if it had come off the sea and I was hooked. That moment alone sold me on the sport. I’ve often thought about why, considering how opposed I was to it, it had that effect on me.

In sport, regardless of what we’re doing, the main activities is moving the body. In football one runs and kicks a ball, hoping to score a goal. The arbitrary rules of a game aside, the physical actions are not unprecedented. However, in the sport of cycling one is moving at a rate far faster than what would otherwise be humanly possible, and therein lies the fascination. The ability to do something that was biologically impossible for the entirety of human existence save the last hundred years, is too good an opportunity to pass up on.