The diversity of cycling

With summer nearly here (or for those lucky to live nearer than equator than me it’s probably been there for a while) it’s that season where I start taking the bike out for test drives and then tweaking the mechanics when I get home. Few things are as inviting to me as getting out on the trails and moving the body. That’s especially true of after a lengthy and cold winter.

In recent months, my main focus has shifted from mountain biking to touring. I’ve been a fan of mountain biking since I started cycling as a child. There’s any number of reasons for why I love mountain biking—the scenery is perhaps my favourite aspect. Very few things in life are more relaxing or wonderful for me than spending time in the mountains. The views alone warrant the, let’s call it suffering, one experiences from the aching muscles of riding one’s bike up the mountain, with legs burning and lungs throbbing. But those burning legs and throbbing are precisely the reasons that an ageing body sometimes longs for something a bit more peaceful.

For a long time I also did a lot of touring. Most of my holidays to Europe were in fact cycling tours. And from a point of experience let me say there’s hardly a better way to see Europe than by bike. With so many cultures and so much subtly and regional distinction even within smaller, Central European countries like Hungary, Slovakia, or Austria, cycling is the perfect way to slowly imbibe the culture and see how people live as opposed to simply standing in front of cathedrals and castles with a selfie-stick. For my money, river trips are the best. The Danube passes through seemingly half the countries in Europe, for anyone who wants to see how cultures morph and blend, or for fans of architecture and beautiful scenery, the Rhein in Germany and the Loire in France make for breathtakingly beautiful journeys.

Trails tend to be well-marked in Europe and thanks to several EU initiatives there are internationally acknowledged bike and foot paths that criss-cross the continent. Getting a map of this highway-like system is very easy too, as they’re found in most bookshops across Europe. But for people who prefer safety in numbers there is a great number of companies that offer guided tours.

I’m still a great fan of tours, but I’m starting to prefer the comfort on my own bed and noticing for days and even weeks the effects of sleeping in a tent. Although I have a short tour (four-days along the Austrian Danube) planned, my goal this summer is bike polo.

Like the traditional sport of polo played on horseback (or elephantback in Nepal!), the sport involves hitting a ball with a stick whilst being on a bicycle. It’s more technical riding than endurance and at this point that’s exactly the sort of cycling challenge that I could use.

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