Of the many, many things I love about cycling, one has nothing to do with me. All the same, it never fails to bring a beaming smile to my face. It’s the simple, and no doubt nostalgic, joy of seeing new riders discover the beauty of the bike and fall in love with it, just as I did a decade or so ago, as it slowly but surely transforms their lives.
It’s usually baby steps at first of course, with plenty of newbie trepidation, uncertainty and questionable fashion choices. But like a child riding without training wheels for the very first time, before long the path forward becomes steady enough, as the arms of cycling begin to cradle and guide them on a journey that begins to transcend their lives, bringing with it a sequence of deeply positive physical, emotional and social changes. Losing weight. Gaining confidence. Repairing ailing bodies and, yes, often minds. Learning new skills. Meeting new people. Discovering new places. There are several folks I’m riding with right now who are currently on this remarkable journey of two-wheeled transformation. I have no doubt there will be many more and it’s just brilliant to watch. Every. Single. Time.
It actually reminds me of a chat I had with Cadel Evans back in 2014, not long before he retired. When I asked about the impact his Tour de France victory had delivered in inspiring thousands of Aussies to get out on their bikes, he positively lit up. Seeing more and more ‘ordinary’ people, young and old, just outside enjoying riding bikes filled him tremendous pride and satisfaction – not so much because his personal achievements sparked them to do it, but because they’d discovered the pleasure of riding he too had discovered two decades earlier.
Cycling isn’t just a sport. It’s an all-consuming way of life that, in most cases, we love more deeply than most outsiders can truly understand. Yet we’re also hugely inclusive, always ready and willing to welcome newcomers into the fold to transform their lives for the better, just as it did – and still does – for ours. Long may it continue.