Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock up at Cragside or buried on the beach at Embleton for the last three years, you can’t help but know about Lance Armstrong’s dramatic fall from grace.
The one-time God of Cycling finally admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had cheated his way to all seven of his Tour de France victories. It hit the cycling fraternity particularly hard after two decades of scandal after scandal as one big name after another was caught taking all manner of banned substances.
If you are a pedalling novice now unsure whether anything good comes out of being a cyclist – fear not. Cycling is about more than winning competitions, so there is no reason to avoid heading for the beautiful vistas that accompany the Coast to Coast Cycle Route (NCN Route 7) or The Sandstone Way between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham.
To prove our point, we’d like to dispel a few more of those myths that hang around pedal power like a bad smell…
Cyclists have to wear lycra
If you are at the peak of your sport where marginal gains and the extra 1% advantage over a competitor is crucial then, yes, lycra should be an essential part of your kit.
If you are taking up bike riding as part of your commute or just for a bit of recreational fun, however, then you shouldn’t feel the need to empty out your wardrobe and fill it full of new skinsuits.
It is important to dress for the conditions (cycling in the rain at speed is particularly cold and miserable, so always wear a waterproof layer), but beyond this, you really shouldn’t worry about looking the part. Simply wear something that is comfortable, practical and appropriate for the effort you plan on putting in to your exercise.
Cycling is the most dangerous form of transport
Last year saw 1 death per 29 million miles cycled on UK roads. That is a figure that motorized vehicle users can only dream of. There were 109 deaths related to cycle accidents in 2013, compared to an estimated 1700 from car accidents.
As British cycling legend Chris Boardman explains, you are statistically more likely to injure yourself in the bathroom than you are on a bike.
That being said, there are a disproportionate number of cycling accidents on rural roads suggesting that if you like to venture out into the less populated, poorly lit parts of the region – where roads are windier and speed limits less restricted – you should take extra precautions such as high visibility clothing and lights, regardless of whether it is light or dark outside.
Alternatively, try the Alnmouth/Warkworth Loop, which is 50% quiet lanes, and 50% cycle path off the road.
Cyclists don’t pay road tax so shouldn’t be clogging up the roads
Pay closer attention to how taxation works in Britain and you will realize that the maintenance of roads is funded by general taxation rather than that accrued through car tax.
In actual fact, road tax is set in line with emissions – and by that token bicycles fall under the same category as electric and hybrid vehicles, which are considered to be more “green”.
Alternatively, check out off-road mountain biking tracks, such as the 26 mile Lakeside Way at Kielder Water & Forest Park.
Cyclists are always driving side-by-side illegally
In actual fact it is not against the law to ride two abreast with another cyclist. If anything, the safety in numbers helps to ensure that you and your riding partner are visible on the road.
If you are embarking on a long ride – say, from Newcastle to Alnwick – it may also be necessary to communicate with your fellow cyclists. It can actually be more dangerous for riders to have to turn round to speak clearly to another rider.
While cyclists should make an effort to avoid holding up large queues of traffic and ride single file on narrow, windy roads, riding two abreast is perfectly acceptable where there are regular passing opportunities.
Cycling is too much like hard work
Like any activity from walking to rowing, swimming to team sports, cycling can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it. The majority of commutes to work are within easy cycling distance of no more than 5 miles in the UK, meaning that even those new to cycling can do so in relative comfort.
Of course, if you fancy taking on an adventure up to the Cheviots and back then that’s great, too!