If watching the Tour de France has left you dreaming about taking up cycling as your new hobby, you’re probably not alone. Fresh air, exercise, amazingly quick inner-city journey times and fab legs and bum are just a few of the positives of cycling.
You don’t have to be as flush as Bradley Merckx or Eddie Wiggins – and this is Broke in Bristol – so we’re unlikely to suggest spending £20,000 on a funky race bike or kit. What we will say, though, is that summer is the ideal and easiest time to start so there’s no better time to get on yer bike.
If you don’t have a bike to start with ask friends and relatives if they have an old bike they can lend you. You’d be surprised how many are bought and then left to languish in a shed after only a few outings. You can always upgrade at a later date when you’ve had chance to decide whether cycling is definitely for you.
Bike snobs talk of cheap supermarket and sportswear shop bikes as ‘BSOs’, bicycle shaped objects. It looks like a bike, but rides so badly that it will put you off. Avoid these as a lovely second-hand bike can be bought for very little money.
Bristol-based bike shops
Bristol is blessed with some great cycling charities and social enterprises and these offer great workshop facilities, maintenance classes and they also sell refurbished bikes. Try Bristol Bike Project in Stokes Croft, Lifecycle UK or Julian House at J3 in Easton. Failing that, do look on eBay, Gumtree or Trade-It. Only once you have decided cycling is definitely for you, should you spend big money on a bike.
Having the skills to ride is important; Bristol City Council and Life Cycle both offer free cycling lessons. But unless you have ambitions to cycle for miles, don’t get sucked into buying cycling kit straight away. Stout shoes or trainers are ideal for cycling and it’s not a good idea to wear anything that could get caught in wheels or pedals (flares, long scarf). However, I would recommend that you invest in a decent lock, a few tools and a puncture repair kit. You can always buy more stuff at a later date with the money you save on bus fares or petrol.
Getting from A to B…
So, you have the bike, some skills but not a clue where to ride or how to get to places? All is not lost. Even basic smartphones will have mapping apps to help you. There are loads to choose from and many are free such as Map My Ride (for Android) or Map My Ride (iPhone). Sustrans has put in place a network of cycle paths around the country and the best of these is the Bristol to Bath railway path which is really popular for commuting in or out of Bristol from the East of the city.
Whether George Ferguson was great or terrible for Bristol is almost as controversial as Brexit! However, he was pro-cycling which means that Bristol is now a pretty decent place to cycle around. Better by Bike is a great cycling site for the Bristol area and gives loads of handy tips and maps too. Now all you need to do is get off that sofa!