Abi Smith: Why cycling?

A question which nobody ever really asks, not even to yourself.  The simple autonomous answer for all of us is probably… ‘well I just love it’. 

But why? Of all the different sports in the World we could have chosen, what is it about cycling that just hits the spot?

My family are not ‘cyclists’ as such, but have always been the outdoorsy kind. I feel very fortunate that both my brother and I grew up being offered a range of sports. I’m not sure why their rationale deserted them here, but my parents let me do and (bless them) took me to: swimming, athletics, netball, hockey, football, tennis, table tennis, cross country, cycling, triathlon and goodness knows what else – yeah, I was ‘that’ kid at school. Ridiculously competitive and wanting to do absolutely everything on offer. It’s funny that since leaving school both myself and my brother (Nathan Smith, Team Novo Nordisk Development) both ended up choosing bikes in the end, and have both become professional cyclists. 

Why? I reckon it’s ‘cause we love it.

Photo credit: Jered & Ashley Gruber

The first big reason for a lot of people is variety. You can ride any distance, any intensity, any duration, any roads, any off-roads, in any clothes, anyway and anyhow that you like! There are so many versions of ‘riding a bike’, so caters for pretty much everybody, rather than the rigidity of other sports which are pretty set in how it’s done. And who cares right?! If you wanna wear bright pink kit, with matching helmet, bike and shoes, then you go for it  ; )

Organisation, and also freedom of organisation comes under that too – there is flexibility to ride wherever and at whatever time of day you like, but also options to hop on a group ride at a designated time, place and route. And it’s not like you need a team or certain number of people to ‘play’ (although the more the merrier…)

That’s probably what drew me to it in the first place. As nice as it was living in a little village in the middle of rural North Yorkshire, there weren’t always many people readily available to get together, which is naturally why individual sports were easier and more accessible. I would say that I am more introverted than extroverted, which no doubt played into this too. I like to have maybe one or two group rides a week, and that’s a good balance for me personally. Some like to ride with company everyday, and some always like to ride alone – it doesn’t matter. The option is always open whatever kind of person you are, and whatever timetable your life runs on.
You can even ride inside everyday… if you really want to. Joking aside though, being able to ride indoors has huge benefits for those with time restraints, weather restraints or really hate social interactions.

Photo credit: Zac Williams

A big factor is the community that we have in the sport. The cycling world is vast, but has a feeling of unity and common ground, particularly thanks to the racing and media nowadays. Certainly in the UK there are loads of cycling clubs and social activity which really brings that feeling of togetherness and inclusivity. It can be a bit scary to join a club when you first start on the cycling path, but it soon becomes easy and new friends are in abundance. You meet so many like-minded two-wheeled-weirdos that you almost feel like the normal ones…

For my brother and I we’ve always loved the adrenaline rush that you get from going FAST, stemming from back when we were little, and used to fly down the street on our go-karts. That’s definitely what’s most fun about the racing. I’m not the biggest adrenaline junkie out there but oh boy – you know it when the buzz hits you! 

And thinking health-wise, it’s much lower impact on joints and bones than a lot of other sports, so it’s great for all ages too, and I’d say one of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to get fit and active. A few hours can fly by so quickly. And in what other sports do you get to have a coffee and a cake halfway round? Then even more food afterwards too. We’re living the dream I’d say.

Many don’t necessarily do it for pure enjoyment either, but because it’s often the quickest and most eco-friendly mode of transport for commuting about, which makes it a handy tool.

Triathlon was our main sport all through our teens, and at 16 I had to choose if I wanted to go into the GB Triathlon, Mountain Running or Cycling Team. In the end it came down to two factors for me:

1: Which sport has the most growth? Unfortunately Mountain Running just isn’t as big a sport, and not growing in the same way that both cycling and triathlon were and are – the women’s side getting bigger and bigger over the past decade or so has been really inspiring to watch and now be a part of. 

2: Which do you actually want to do – what do you enjoy doing the most? In the end, the freedom, the excitement, and the knowledge that I had so much to learn and strength to gain, to see where I could go was the real pull towards cycling. I was arguably better at triathlon at this point, but I didn’t enjoy swimming so much, and it’s easier to focus on one thing rather than three (I have a lot of respect for triathletes!). For me, a big part of it is time to myself, outside in the fresh open air. It’s my headspace time, to escape everything that’s going on elsewhere and just be in my happy place for a bit.

I’ve been off the bike for a few months now with a knee injury, but hope to return soon for the Summer racing. It’s times like these when you can’t ride your bike, that you most want to! You really appreciate what cycling means to you and how important it is in your life. 

And that, friends, is Why Cycling. 

Keep up to date with my progress over on my Instagram: abijesmith , and I’ll be back soon with another blog for you.

Thanks for reading!

Abi

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