Cycling in a City: My new found love of cycling in Cardiff

cardiff_cycling_penelope

One of my earliest memories is getting a tricycle for my birthday, it was red, blue and yellow and I loved it. I would take it up Skewen park and ride for hours and my friends would take turns too.

Fast forward a few years to a bike with stabilisers and my Grampa. One day he encouraged me to have a go without the stabilisers, I could feel him holding the back as I wibble wobbled my way down the path, suddenly I looked back and he wasn’t there, he was just shouting encouragement at me to keep going.

I would ride my bike with reckless abandon, take it to country parks, wheel it to town and not have a care about falling off or hurting myself which I did more than once. I’d spend hours with friends pedalling faster to catch them, and go on epic adventures.

Vintage bike adoration

cycling_cardiff

At 24 I realised I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 16 and saw the most gorgeous bike at Cardiff Cycle Workshop, an incredible social enterprise that fixes up old and used bikes to resell. They also help to upskill people from all backgrounds. Help people to ride, do bike maintenance and much more, I adore them.

It was a red Krone fold up bike with a dynamo on the back. Bulky, impractical and beyond pretty. I barely used it. Four years ago I moved back to Cardiff and decided to bring the bike with me and ‘tootle’ down the Bay which I adored, it was a ride of leisure than of fitness.

Where do you put that cream?

My husband is a lycra clad, jelly bottom shorted, hard core road cyclist with terrible tan lines – cycling is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. When I started going out with him I was transported in to a world I had never been aware of – Ajax Cycling Club, shaved legs, bum cream, tall, lanky men, training and competitions. I was in awe, his dedication was impressive as were his thighs and after watching him at a few races I kind of got it.

Ajax members would ask me if I had ‘the bug yet’ and all I could do was shake my head, nope, not in me. I had become a bit afraid of my bicycle, roads are busy in Cardiff, and are rabid taxi drivers who appear to love accelerating towards cyclists.

Penelope

I decided that these tootles would need a better bike and with heavy heart I went back to Cycle Training Wales and gave my little vintage in and came out with a Peugeot ‘Tahiti’ bike that I named Penelope.

PenelopeAlas, Penelope barely tootled, more stagnated in a bike rack outside my then flat… what a let down for all involved.

Just before I became freelance in 2017 something stirred in me, I wanted to cycle with Matt more and really liked the idea of becoming less car reliant and greener.

I almost passed out at the till when I bought a decent D lock and helmet, but felt it would push me in the right direction to get on the road.

Penelope and I didn’t have a bond then, more an appreciation from afar, but I can now confirm we are best of friends.

With Matt’s help I wibble wobbled to the Bay from Roath using roads and being safe, he taught me a bit around road positioning and basically not to be an arsehole on the road.

I am a cyclist?!

I am happy to report that I am now a cyclist, I use my bike at least four times a week to power myself around the city to work, meetings, events and anything in-between. I’m still getting used to the roads, they still scare me; buses coming alongside me are terrifying but manageable.

I have fallen off twice – one scar on my knee and bruises on the other. I’ve bought LED lights and wear my helmet all the time now as I hadn’t been, which was stupid.

I make mistakes and learn constantly but the rush from feeling the breeze in my hair and the happiness I feel when I take each pedal stroke makes me feel more connected to myself and the city I live in. Please try it!

Tips to get yourself started:

Next Bike – unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have seen the Next bike stations around the city, rent one and take a safe tootle in the many green spaces that Cardiff has to offer.

Cardiff City Council – they offer free cycle training for adults and kids, whatever your level of cycling. I’m going to book on!

I want to ride my bike café – a cute cafe on Park Place, maintenance, weekly rides, events, workshops and more run by the lovely Jonathan.

Gweithdy – independent bike workshop, services and maintenance by the highly experienced and lovely Dan based in Printhaus in Canton. He’s my go to for Penelope.

Sundays – try going out on the bike on Sunday evenings, there’s hardly any traffic or people about and I can tell you going across the barrage as the sun sets is amazing!

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