Picture this…you’re cycling down a quiet country road with the wind whistling through your hair, the sun shining on your face and your lungs filling up with fresh air. Well, some cyclists in Ireland would relate to that feeling but some would say that sounds too good to be true. For some it’s all about busy suburban and city roads, where they meet traffic chaos every day on their way into work as they dodge man-hole covers which become lethal in the rain.
Fortunately in Ireland we have the best of both worlds and yet many bicycle “owners” in this country have never had either of the experiences above. The Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme has proved so popular in Ireland in the last five years with hundreds of thousands of bikes being bought by savvy employees.
Let’s get back to the basics of why people cycle. There are two main reasons: fun and function. See the way “fun” is already embedded in the word “function”? That’s because riding your bike for any function can be fun. A lot of people don’t know this but fun is a fundamental part of function when it comes to cycling. You can even have more fun by leaving the car at home and cycling to a social function. Anyway, I digress. What I love about cycling is the enjoyment I get from it.
I started cycling when I was a child and I haven’t stopped since. You’d think I would be tired by now cycling all this time but I’m not! I cycled regularly to the park and around to friends’ houses when I was a kid, then I became a teenager and decided cycling was no longer “cool”. When I went to college I soon took it up again to save on bus fare – I was your typical broke student. I got my first proper job and cycled into work some days, mostly when the weather was fine. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve actually got into cycling properly. When I say properly, I mean wearing the padded shorts and all that jazz. I’ve been known to cycle from Dublin to the Cavan border and back (135k!) in a day for the craic. Mad I know, but since I’ve discovered cycling for fun I’ve been hooked. My point is though; you can easily dip in and out of cycling at any stage of life once you have a bike.
I got back into cycling recently through the An Post Cycle Series. These are events which are run in five different locations around Ireland during the summer months – Sligo, Clare, Meath, Waterford and Cork. They have four different distances that you can cycle – 10k, 60k, 100k and 160k.
In my first year I did a 60k cycle in Sligo. This was probably the hardest challenge I had ever taken on. Looking back at it now, I think it was the thoughts of the 60k cycle that proved most challenging. I actually had no idea what 60k on a bike felt like. Before I took part I really thought I wouldn’t be able to finish it. During the cycle I didn’t think my backside would survive – I hadn’t discovered the luxury of padded shorts at that stage! However, aside from being a bit tired and saddle sore I was grand! I couldn’t actually believe I got through it no problem. One thing I noticed was there weren’t as many women as men on the 60k cycle so I felt fairly proud of myself for finishing it. There were a good few fellow newbies on the cycle and we all got on really well, encouraging each other through the pain of the bumps in the road – I don’t think any of us had discovered padded shorts yet. We had such banter all day – before, during and after the cycle.
I have Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership to thank for my renewed love of cycling. The event was such great fun and we had a smashing day for it – the sun shone all day long. We started and finished at Sligo Institute of Technology and one of the highlights of the day was getting sandwiches, cake and a lovely cup of coffee afterwards – I was starving getting off the bike (despite being fed half way round at one of the food stops). That’s one thing about cycling – you burn so much energy (and calories!) on the bike but it does increase your appetite! One thing that everyone says about the An Post Cycle Series events is that the food stops are excellent.
If you’d like to try one of the An Post Cycle Series events, log on to http://www.anpost.ie/cycling
Why not get a group of your friends to sign up with you so you don’t have to take the plunge on your own!
The dates for this year are:
Sligo: An Post Tour of Sligo – Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th May 2014
Clare: An Post Tour de Burren – Saturday 21st June 2014
Meath: An Post Meath Heritage Cycle Tour – Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July 2014
Waterford: Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th August 2014
Cork: An Post Rebel Tour – Saturday 13th September 2014
Gillian Costelloe – Sports Partnerships Executive