Fun up your ride!
Getting a few good sportive finishes under your belt, commuting by bike every day of the week, improving your time trial results… all these things can fire up your riding and just make you want more. On the other hand, it can all become a bit humdrum. If your riding feels more like a wet weekend in a tent than a sunny getaway on a tropical island, it’s time to shake things up a little. Here’s how…
1 Go Touring
Take a few days off work, pack your panniers and get out on the open road. This doesn’t need to be expensive. You can easily convert your road bike into a tourer by swapping your regular tyres for a tougher, puncture-resistant pair such as Schwalbe Duranos, and fitting a seatpost rack such as Topeak’s QR Beam Rack if your bike doesn’t have dedicated mounts.
You can camp or stay at B&Bs (check out www.bedsforcyclists.co.uk), head off on your own or take a break with a companion. Either way you will be guaranteed some bonding time with the bike and the chance to experience something new. The Cyclists’ Touring Club offers information for anyone wanting to try touring, as well as route maps and guidelines and the option to sign up for touring holidays across the world.
Former cycling-around-the-world record holder, Vin Cox, knows a few things about touring. “You never know what sights you’ll see or characters you’ll meet during a day’s touring,” says Cox, “but you can be certain that you will see new and beautiful sights, and meet interesting strangers. So while you’re doing great things for your body, your mind is learning what a beautiful world we live in and how nice people can be.”
Less is more
When touring, don’t overpack and carry more than you need, or underpack and leave behind essential kit. Here’s our guide to the stuff you really need in your panniers:
- 2 x wicking T-shirts/jerseys
- 2 x cycling shorts/longs
- 2 x socks and underwear
- trousers to wear in the evening
- breathable waterproof jacket and trousers
- hat and gloves
- padded mitts
- sunglasses and cream
- Packtowel, basic toiletries
- 2 x spare inner tubes, patch kit and pump
- mobile phone (and charger)
- bike lock
- front and rear lights
- lightweight tent (if you are camping)
2 Get into photography
You’re out in the countryside with some amazing scenery, so why not take your camera with you and take some amazing pictures too? It’s a great way to ensure that you actually start looking at the world around you instead of just seeing a hazy blur of green and blue as you whizz by. This ties in perfectly with ‘slowing down your ride’ (see below), as you won’t be able to gaze around searching for the perfect shot like you’re the next David Bailey if you’re churning out intervals, focusing on the road to avoid potholes and traffic.
Nphoto magazine’s Sian Lewis advises on how to capture the perfect picture…
“If you have a decent camera there’s nothing stopping you from taking hundreds of photos, which is the best way to learn what looks good and what doesn’t. If you need a little help figuring out what makes a nicely arranged shot, though, here are some quick tips.”
Rule of thirds
Mentally split your photo into nine sections, with two vertical and two horizontal lines, and then position people, objects or horizons along the lines for a picture that looks visually pleasing.
A road snaking through a mountain, a line of trees, benches, even a line of people – they draw the eye into the centre of the picture and so keep interest for longer.
Arches, trees, buildings or windows – border your subject or landscape with them for an attractive frame effect, which, like the leading lines, draws the eye into the photo and encourages it to stay there for longer.
While these are good pointers, it’s useful to remember that rules are made to be broken and you shouldn’t let them constrain you – take inspiration from what surrounds you and experiment with new angles or unusual subjects and see what happens.
3 Go slow
“There are many reasons to cycle, and getting fit is just one of them,” says Cycling Plus columnist Rob Penn. “Not every ride has to be a training ride. I’m a great believer that if you spend all your time looking down at your Garmin you are missing the point. If you don’t look around you might just as well be on the turbo.”
Sometimes, we should all slow down and enjoy the view.
“The beauty of the bike is that you can stop at any point to peer over a gate or watch leaves fall from a tree. You get the chance to see the seasons change,” says Penn. Stopping also provides you with the chance to recover, by giving your body time to rest, and to eat and drink.
Admittedly, slow cycling takes longer, but if your riding time is constrained by family commitments, this is a way of combining the two. “I love cycling with my boy,” says Penn. “It forces me to slow down and take in the scenery and enjoy the ride at his pace. And there is no greater pleasure in the world than watching the enjoyment on your son’s face as he freewheels down a hill. And then following him down yourself…”
There are a number of books available that share details of routes to be savoured:
Clare Balding’s Britain By Bike
Adapting the cycling routes that, 60 years ago, Harold Briercliffe wrote about, Balding introduces you to lovely rides across the UK.
Matt Carroll’s Escape Routes
Carroll intends every one of his 50 rides to be experienced at a leisurely pace, allowing you to stop and take in the views and create your own adventures.
Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes
The pictures in this are enough to make you want to soak in every second of your ride. The ‘rides at a glance’ page lets you compare distances, locations and ascent totals to help you pick the best ride for you.