Pedal Power – an introduction
My new book, Pedal Power, will be published on 13th April by Summersdale. It’s a collection of stories from all aspects cycling, from professional riders to stuntmen to long-haulers to those who use the bicycle as a form of rehab. It’s available to pre-order here, and below is a taster from the opening of the book.
Pedal Power: Introduction
I recently taught a ten-year-old girl how to ride a bicycle. Older than most of the children I teach, she had passed that stage of innocent abandon, when the stabilisers come off and just a push and some encouragement will do. The feeling of pressure was growing; she felt embarrassed to admit to her friends that she wouldn’t go to the park with them because she couldn’t ride a bike. It was such a simple yet significant thing. In our lesson she was determined and focussed, persevering even though it was hard work and the saddle was uncomfortable and she kept losing her balance. Her smile when she pedalled independently for the first time was incredible. She made me a card saying, ‘Thank you for teaching me to ride a bike. It was the best day of my life. I will never forget it.’
Most people can remember when they learned to ride a bike; I can vaguely recall my own first tentative attempt, wobbling down next door’s drive. Riding a bicycle means freedom. And it’s that freedom that can take us anywhere: to the park with friends, to school, to university or work, to the shops, to the countryside, on holiday. It can take us further afield, following in the footsteps of adventurers such as Dervla Murphy and Alastair Humphreys. It can lead to the world of sport – where speed, strength and skill are nurtured – through road racing, track racing or BMX, finding inspiration in such masters as Eddy Merckx and Laura Trott. It can be used as a way back to health from injury, a respite from mental health problems, or as an adrenaline rush for those who seek the thrill of downhill mountain biking, difficult terrain or extreme height.
The bicycle has huge historical importance, from the women who used it as a symbol of independence in their fight for liberation, to the workers who had a means of escaping to the countryside for the weekend, and the ‘Good Roads’ campaigners who literally paved the way for the road networks of today.
For me, the bicycle has always been important. It was a passport to exploration when I was a child, an independent means of getting to school as I got a bit older and a cheap way of travelling when I was a cash-strapped student. As an adult, it was a way of keeping fit on the way to work and it eventually became my work when I began teaching cycling for a living. It has also been my gateway to adventure: in 2011 I cycled 4,000 miles around the coast of the UK, documented in my book Eat, Sleep, Cycle: a bike ride around the coast of Britain. Through cycling I have met many people and made many friends. I have been on protest rides and leisure rides, I have joined groups who use the bicycle as a tool for social change, and I have raised awareness as well as money.
This is what this book is all about: a collection of stories from every aspect of cycling that have inspired me and many others throughout the ages, and which will continue to inspire people for a long time to come. I hope you too will be inspired.
‘Pedal Power’ will be published on 13th April 2017. Pre-order your copy here.