About 6 and a half years ago, I cycled around 350 miles in 5 days across Beijing, China. I didn’t do all this cycling for fun or for a holiday: I cycled this distance along with over 100 other women to raise money for Women V Cancer.
Before heading to Beijing in September 2014, I trained intensely for around 9 months. To be honest, I didn’t give myself much time to train considering what I was to face in not just distance, but also elevation climbed. I didn’t particularly enjoy the training. If anything, it was a burden to my everyday life on top of having a full-time job.
My Mum also took part in the cycling challenge. We decided to sign up together after being inspired by a TV show where Peter Andre did a similar thing. It looked really adventurous, fun, and rewarding. We hadn’t done much cycling before, only on family holidays or around the house to get out into the fresh air. We thought to ourselves, ‘how hard can it be?’
We soon discovered it was rather challenging and definitely no walk in the park. For starters, I was using my Dad’s 20-year-old bike. On top of this, we lived at the time in the highest village in Wales, U.K. Whenever we left our home, no matter which direction we headed, our cycle always began with a decent and ended with an incredibly tedious uphill climb.
The rain never stopped us, and neither did our arguments. It was a great bonding experience now that we look back, but at the time, we seemed to enjoy winding each other up, losing our tempers and cycling off in fits of rage. The rain, the hills, and erratic vehicle drivers definitely affected our mood on most cycles. There were good days too, though. Flat cycles in the sun with our music playing enjoying each other’s company.
Before we knew it, we were in Beijing cycling through mountain ranges with women all around us who were dressed top to bottom in pink. Our view of cycling very quickly changed. It really did become fun, adventurous, and rewarding. We would climb for what felt like hours up mountain faces and then be rewarded by flying down at high speeds on the other side. We passed through many villages and towns, came across many people and animals and we also appreciated the different smells of food and fields.
It was within these 5 days that I decided cycling was the best way to travel. If you’re wanting to cover a great distance, walking is too slow. Sitting in a car doesn’t allow you to experience sounds or smells. Within a coach or van, you’re also secluded and separated from the outside world. Cycling ticked all the boxes. You could travel at your own pace, carry your stuff on your bike, stop whenever you wanted, and take in all of the sounds, sights and smells. You could even make eye contact with people and really get a feel for the place you were passing through.
Once I returned to the U.K., I soon forgot the exhilarating feel of riding a bike. Although I had planned to take part in other cycling challenges, I never got around to it and life just got in the way. I didn’t then use a bike until just recently when I went on a bike ride with my mum.
Arriving at her home on a sunny afternoon, we couldn’t quite believe how long it had been since we last cycled together. We got changed, pumped up our tires, and left for a 17km bike ride around some of the best hills North Wales had to offer. Suddenly, cycling brought back all of my thoughts and feelings I had in China. I loved it. I climbed up hills, flew down others, smelled the fresh country air, appreciated the local countryside and saw the road from a whole new perspective. I told myself I just had to keep this up.
Two months ago, I moved to Vancouver, Canada. One of the first things I wanted to do when I arrived was to get my hands on a bicycle, and I did. I now use my bike almost every day—whether to run errands, do the weekly food shop, get some exercise, or just for the fun of it. I have now even reconsidered following up on those old dreams of again taking part in more cycling challenges.
It’s incredible really how doing something can give you so much joy and pleasure and yet how easily you can forget and leave it in the past. I now think about other things I picked up when I was younger, enjoyed but never followed through on. I cast my mind back because I feel it’s never too late to start again. I am now excited to embark on other new hobbies like ice skating, rollerblading and dance classes. We’re never too old or too busy to start doing things we once loved, or to try something new, and find a new love.
Do what you love.
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Photo: Anna Ashbarry