Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sky Ride

Doing my Gold Challenge, I am discovering more and more that it's very easy to get involved in sports and exercising. And it doesn't have to be boring slogging away on your own at the gym either. There are lots of initiatives to get involved in your own community, with like-minded individuals, of all abilities, ages, fitness level and motivation. And it's fun too!

My latest discovery, which I came across via Boris Johnson's Twitter account is Sky Ride. This is a national campaign from Sky and British Cycling created to inspire and help everyone, whatever their age or ability, to get on their bikes and have fun.

Cycling is one of my sports in the Gold Challenge, both on its own right and as part of Triathlon. I have never been an enthusiastic cyclist, where I come from on the Alps you need lungs of steel to ride anywhere and I absolutely loath commuting on a bike in Cambridge where I live (despite it being a very bike friendly place, apparently), finding the experience of sharing the road with the morning traffic positively terryfing.

Yet, committed to have a proper go at my challenge, a while back I bought a third-hand Italian (of course!) road bike and set off on newly discovered cycle routes. It's been an absolute revelation. Out, on my own, in the countryside, I was mesmerised by the gently rolling hills, the wind-swept wheat fields, the sun kissed glory of a late summer sunset, the genteel sleepiness of villages and the pastoral hush of country parishes, the unhurried progression of wispy white clouds on the horizon.

But my solitary explorations of England's green and pleasant land brought their own concerns: unfamiliar with country roads I lost count of the number of times I got lost, I managed to have disastrous falls off my bike, helpless mechanical breakdowns in the middle of no-where and frightfully close encounters with fast-travelling cars on busy A roads. I needed to ride with other people for confidence and comfort.

But I am not fast or fit enough to join my fellow triathletes at the club's weekly outing. I needed something more recreational. Which is where Sky Ride came in. Among the activities promoted by the initiative, there are Sky Ride Local rides: fun, friendly and free community bike rides led by a British Cycling trained ride leader to help you get out and explore your local area. There are rides for all abilities and for all tastes: from city rides to countryside strolls. You sign up online, check out the route, show up on the day and away you go, for up to a couple of hours, sharing the ride with a group of people also out to enjoy themselves on their bikes.

I really liked the concept. The closest city to run the scheme is Ipswich, so this morning I set off to join the Sky Ride there, taking in a tour of Suffolk villages. I truly enjoyed cycling in a group. The pace was perhaps a bit slower than my usual, but I certainly enjoyed the chit-chat, and the feel of security and comfort of being led by experienced and friendly guides. I discovered a new corner of countryside without any concerns of getting lost for hours. The weather was benign, the scenery very pleasing, the company delightful. All in all a great success and a great idea. I would whole-heartedly recommend a Sky Ride to anyone. Give it a go!

I just can't imagine any nicer way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. So, what are you waiting for, where will your bike take you?

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