About the website
Cycle Your Own Roads is a collection of writing that has arisen from time spent in the saddle. I find cycling to be a wonderfully reflective pastime – each turn of the pedal seems to loosen another thought. Eventually, as the revolutions accumulate, they tumble out onto the page as ideas and observations.
A narrative, I hope, that will resonate with you, afflicted (as I know you are) by the same need in me to take to the roads with my two-wheeled companion. To get “out there” on my bike.
Every cyclist has to start somewhere. These tales offer a chronicle of a rider’s development, as much as anything else. I still learn something new every time I ride (even if it’s something I really should know better). For this reason I have noted the year of writing or riding where possible, as a point of reference.
You might find yourself at a similar point as you cycle your own roads to the destination you have chosen, be that based on a location, a fitness goal, or simply a degree of experience.
If there was but one thing I could tell you, one all-encompassing lesson that I have learned, it would be this: if in doubt, ride your bike. Over the years, I have found this to work on so many levels.
Cycling. Simply the best pastime there is.
About the road I have cycled
Although I’ve always had a bike in active service, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started undertaking increasingly ambitious two-wheeled projects. These tended to consist of an annual week or two away on a ridiculously over-geared, over-burdened bike, taking aim for the steepest, longest or highest hills I could find that lay between one youth hostel and another.
I’d come back completely broken, and it would take almost a year for the horror of the trip to recede, at which point I’d step the planning up a notch. (Initially, I think my primary motivation for documenting these travels was a vain attempt to prevent me from doing it all again the following year.)
Having topped out on the biggest climb in the UK, I started to look further afield. Photos of childhood European holidays, coupled with the vaguest memories of watching Robert Millar & Stephen Roche on Channel 4, had me wondering idly if I could ever manage to ride over an Alp…
…which somewhere along the way snowballed into a four month, solo expedition from Leeds to Istanbul and back, riding 4,300 miles through 12 countries and hauling 40-odd kilos of bike and luggage over nearly 175,000ft of mountain passes.
I joined a club for the first time, and started riding Audax, thinking I’d found my niche: long, hilly rides with a bit of competition. But I often found myself waiting (then being gently berated) at checkpoints, and when I arrived back from one 200km ride more than an hour in advance of the next rider home, I knew I’d have to find another way to test my legs.
I happened upon the Fred Whitton Challenge. I don’t think they were even called “sportives” back then, it was simply “a tour of all the Lakeland passes” (sounds quite genteel on paper, doesn’t it)?
The reality was 9 hours of mountainous savagery: wind, rain and gradients brutal enough to put hairs on your chest. All of it hammered out in the company of a thousand other like-minded souls. I was hooked!
Eventually my burgeoning fitness and the need for competition led me to road racing and time trialling, although it must be said I “enjoy” the former rather more than the latter. The highlight of my palmares to date was a solo breakaway win at the 2nd Cat Tour of the Wrekin.
But, truly, my heart lies in the mountains (doesn’t every cyclist’s?) and if I am not actually riding the cols of France, Spain or Italy, then you can guarantee I’m certainly thinking about it.
In life, as on two wheels, I have cycled my own roads. I spent 13 years training as a doctor, then as a surgeon (orthopaedics), before deciding I really wasn’t getting out enough.
I now divide my time between designing clinical information systems for hospitals, riding & writing for Cycling Plus magazine, and speaking & writing about career change. I’m a BCF (Level 2) and an ABCC (Level 3) qualified cycle coach.
I live in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, in Wales, UK.
The cycling is just fantastic!