My cycling “career”

I have been a keen cyclist since the age of 17 (the age I learnt to ride a bike), and after discovering road bikes several years ago, the kilometres in the saddle have been rising almost incrementally. Most people who know me will probably say that it has developed into more of an obsession than a hobby, and I would probably agree, but my love affair with the bicycle started slowly. The first couple of years I used my sister’s bicycle, as I did not have one of my own. Although enjoyable, I was eager to get one of my own which I finally did during my second year of university. I was so proud of my new Giant mountain bike that I cycled it to the pub that day, only to find someone had pinched the seat upon my return. Yet my enthusiasm could not be dampened and I continued to ride the bike seatless for a further 5 years until I finally made the transition to a road bike which truly opened my eyes and the bicycle purchasing floodgates. Within months I had acquired a further two bicycles, several cycling tops and £200 lights; the purchase of a dozen cycling caps was the icing on the cake, I had become a bicycling geek.

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A bike geek

Enamoured with my new bicycles and splendid outfits, I began to cycle not only as a primary means of transport but for leisure. Throughout my PhD in Nottingham, my commute to work consisted of a no frills ride directly there, while the return leg would incorporate a 30 km detour via Gotham, ending at The Castle bar or Cast for a rehydrating pint of beer. Clocking up a weekly average of 300 km, with the occasional weekend trip to Newark-on-Trent, Lincoln or Skegness, my cycling passion was at its peak when my Nottingham stint came to an end and a move to São Paulo edged ever closer in the autumn of 2012. In my mind, my cycling ‘career’ would continue into the country of samba, football and, to quote Louis McLean, ‘women with arses you can park your bike in’.

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Rehydrating following a cycle

And so it has proven; despite my local friends’ protests that the roads here are too dangerous, I am more than two years into my Brazilian stint and although the dangers of cycling on the roads here are obvious and daily, I continue to ride with the same confidence I had in the UK. Things are of course different; in England the majority of my miles were clocked up on the roads, in São Paulo I simply use them to get from A to B due to the number of cars. Here, the majority of my sweat is lost on the ciclovia Pinheiros (cycle lane beside the river), the ciclofaixa (Sunday bike event where lanes on the road are coned off for cyclists) or round the university campus (which is of similar size to a small town). The sheer number of cars on the road (this is a city whose cumulative traffic jam length can reach up to 300 km) means that I no longer conform to the normal traffic regulations I adhered to back in Nottingham. In the UK, weaving between cars is frowned upon, whereas here it is considered normal if not compulsory; were I to wait patiently behind the never ending sea of traffic in front of me, a 10 minute journey would take 45 minutes on a good day. In fact the cars almost expect you to do this, since they encounter a near endless stream of motorcyclists doing it, although this doesn’t mean to say it’s not incredibly dangerous. Nonetheless, I have found it a thrill slipstreaming motorbikes as we weave our way between the overheating cars containing their sweaty passengers, and despite occasional hazards it doesn’t feel unsafe.

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An accurate illustration of the difference between cycling in France and Brasil

The cycling career continues…