When non-cyclists hear that I happily ride 60, 80, 100 kilometres, just for the sheer pleasure of the ride, they are often amazed. I'm too old to look young and sporty and it seems that for 'non-cyclists' such a 'feat' is beyond imagination - so how is it that we cyclists become so addicted to the sport in the first place?
The first problem is that of 'getting started'. You need to actually have a bike and some clothes to cycle in before you can even give it a go, which is pretty expensive before you even know if you will enjoy something.
But most of us have some kind of memory of cycling happily as children, or perhaps enjoy using the bike in the gym, or get fed up of looking in the mirror and seeing someone overweight and over-indulging looking back at us...or maybe just get caught up in watching the Tour de France and fancy our chances of doing the same.
Whatever the reason, we hopefully find ourselves at home with a bike (borrowed, bought, or dragged from a dusty shed) and ready to go.
The pain will pass...
Unfortunately challenge number 2 is also waiting for new cyclist to come along. If you read through the article and comments at 'your first few rides' (one of our most popular articles) you will see that most people start cycling only to find that they are struggling to cycle a few miles, have great difficulty on hills, are cycling much slower than expected...and feel pretty exhausted after half an hour on the bike.
This is the most challenging time: the only real solution is to stick with it despite the difficulty. Happily this passes within a few weeks and suddenly, motivated by your great leaps in perofrmance, you will find you can cycle further and faster, and you actually want to get out cycling as often as possible.
One of our main goals in life here on road-bike.co.uk is to get as many people as possible passed these two first 'tough' stages as quickly as possible so that they can start enjoying themselves, by convincing you that the eventual pleasure justifies the initial suffering.
...and the fun will start!
After these first few weeks of course, there is still a great deal of progress to be made through improved techniques, nutrition and training but as long as you are passed the first two challenges all these later steps are part of the fun rather than a gruelling experience to get through.
I can't begin to explain the pleasures and benefits of cycling - not just the fun of cycling downhill (non-cyclists often imagine this is the only fun part) but every aspect - cycling through great scenery, overcoming the challenges of cycling up a difficult hill, increasing your personal best times all bring great satisfaction. Not to mention getting fitter and losing weight, feeling good about your self, meeting new people...
Last thought is for older 'potential cyclists'. Don't be put off starting to cycle if you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s...I know cyclists of all ages, some who have been cycling for 30 years and others who are new to cycling, but I am not aware of anyone who wants to stop just because they have reached a certain age. as I say, once you are a cyclist you will want to carry on as long as you can.
It is true that after a couple of years the challenge for older cyclists might be to maintain cycling performance from year to year rather than to improve in leaps and bounds - but who cares, most of us are cycling for the pleasure, not to win the next Tour of Britain.
Aside: our house is on the daily route of one of our neighbours - well into his 70's he cycles about 10 miles a day, not especially fast and no longer with drop handlebars, but in practically all weather he is out every day - and always with a big happy smile for anyone who passes by.
Just do it!
So if you are sat quietly at home wondering whether cycling is the sport for you I highly recommend you buy, borrow or steal a bike (but not mine!) and give it a go - just don't have great expectations of the first couple of rides, especially if you haven't done sport for a long time, are significantly overweight, smoke heavily and drink a bit much...and in no time at all you will have discovered the greatest sport on earth!