by Luke Dicicco, Project Manager for Choose Cumbria
I love cycling – but I didn’t always. Like most children, I tried to seriously damage myself by hurtling down steep slopes in the local park at uncontrollable speed without any protection to speak of. Years later and cycling lost its appeal, largely due to living in an urban area where it was less about the joy of pushing at pedals and more about battling through congestion, petrol and diesel fumes. Of course, there were parks and nature reserves nearby, but they were a decent drive away. It was a hassle. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
When I landed in Cumbria almost 13 years ago, this changed and I really caught the cycling bug. It was easy – really easy – to get out. Moving to Kendal meant I was minutes away from some of the best mountain biking in the UK. As a newcomer to the area, I was also determined to get out and see as much as possible, and a bike seemed an ideal way to do this. I soon found it didn’t take long at all to travel from town centre to fell top – in the middle of nowhere, no one around, fresh air and with great trails to conquer.
Troutbeck and Windermere from Garburn Pass – a classic Lakeland mountain bike trail
I’ve spent a decade exploring, mainly around South Cumbria, but I’m still drawn back to my favourite rides around Kentmere and Longsleddale. The exhilaration of climbing and descending is only amplified by the stunning views you get – whether going up or down these two special valleys. Cycling there is just as good for my mind and soul, as well as my body.
Superb view across to Longsleddale heading over the fell to Kentmere
I appreciate it even more when I see and meet people who have travelled from across the UK, spending a lot of time and money getting here no doubt; to experience something I can do pretty much whenever I want. That makes it feel just as special.
Yes, it rains, it can be windy and sometimes snows (I’ve not just got fitter since moving to Cumbria, I’m now a lot hardier!). But those challenging times melt away with the warmer weather and longer days. Nothing quite beats finishing work, throwing on your kit and cycling off for a few hours. I just can’t imagine having the enthusiasm to do that after a long day in a city or town, battling the rush hour traffic. I genuinely feel sorry for people stuck in traffic jams on the way to the gym to use an exercise bike.
Over the years, I have gradually invested in better bikes and what started as a hobby became a passion. I’ve recently ventured in to road biking after years of vowing I wouldn’t. Lycra and shaved legs just wasn’t me, but I buckled, just when it came to the Lycra I hasten to add!
It has certainly bought another perspective to exploring Cumbria, extending the range of the rides, and being able to conquer challenges such as Kirkstone Pass in a morning. My eyes have opened even further and I’m itching to get out and cycle more. Despite a more than a decade of cycling, it is clear I have barely scratched the surface of what Cumbria has to offer and I can see many more years of exploration before me.
While I may be a bit of a loner on my bike there are plenty of clubs out there open to members of all ages and abilities, such as Kendal Cycle Club and Lakes Road Club. Plus you have sociable sportives, such as the Tour de Staveley (July 15), 3 Counties Challenge Kendal Sportive (August 13) and Tour de Furness (September 10) to name a few, but not forgetting the gruelling Fred Whitton Challenge. A warm welcome is just another reason to fall in love with cycling in Cumbria.
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