Why do I ride?

I’m not going to start this with “I love bikes” or “I have an obsession with bikes” – it just isn’t enough to cover how much of my life is filled with bicycles. Since I was 14 I’ve been riding them; they were an excuse to leave the quiet little estate in the back-end of rural Ayrshire and explore the local climbing spots.

I turned 18 and then it was all about lots of suspension and body armour. And injuries. Lots of injuries. When you start to recognise staff in A&E, you know you’re doing something wrong. To say I raced downhill would be being generous, a better description would be “fell down a hill whilst sitting on a bike”.

Into my early twenties and the interest shifted from doing longer rides over as much varied terrain as possible. Which, obviously, meant more bikes – Trek, Gary Fisher, Santa Cruz, Coyote, Iron Horse, Orange, Specialized. And don’t even start me on the components.

All this mileage also saw me switch to the occasional foray in Lycra-clad endurance racing, which definitely wasn’t my strongest look. I did, however, enjoy the challenge of staying on a bike for hours on end and pushing through all kinds of weather and physical barriers.

Oh, and there were also a couple of motorbikes at that point, too. But, that’s another story.

As the years progressed, my fitness increased but I really missed the technicality of downhill racing. As this point, mid-travel full-suspension bikes were starting to make an appearance in the market place. They opened the doors for long days in the saddle with the ability to pick a particularly big hill and throw yourself down it. My perfect bike.

At this point, I even started to look at road bikes. The thought of drop bars and skinny tyres seemed a little alien to me, but I had to give it a bash. Over 5 years, I’ve gone from a £300 alloy beast-of-a-bike to a £3500, carbon-fibre work of art. My distances have also trebled over that time – 30 mile rides just don’t cut it anymore! I now also own more Lycra clothing than one person should.

I’ve ridden in Spain, raced in France and spent many lost weekends exploring and riding all over the UK. I’ve even used my road bike to raise a lot of money for charities in Buckinghamshire. Friends are collected from all over the world and everyone who knows I have a bike will always tell me to bring it along. Inspiration doesn’t come from celebrities, it comes from people I ride with who can clean that line better than me or climb faster than me.

Challenges change, bike technologies develop, inspiration comes from new people and places, but one thing remains – it’s all about bikes.

I left my previous life as an engineer to make a move into the adventure industry 9 years ago, eventually ending up as part of management for a large bike store in Scotland. Six years’ service in and I’m now working for Trek Bicycle UK in Milton Keynes.

I ride every day on road and mountain bikes – commuting, racing, trail riding – it doesn’t matter to me. Weather is never an issue and finding a reason to ride is always there. I do have a reputation as the guy who spends too much time riding bikes on his own, but I don’t care.

Bikes aren’t just that thing to make my life better, they ARE my life.

They keep me fit. They keep me sane. They keep me smiling.

ANDREW

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