.in praise of cycle touring

When friend of citycycling, and cover designer, Andy Arthur loaned me a copy of a local cycling group's guide to cycling in the city from 1980 I was, naturally, interested to see the contents. To see what had changed, and what we were still clamouring for. However, of more interest was a handwritten letter contained inside, it appears as an offer for publication with the CTC. There was no name claiming penmanship of the article, and I've not yet been able to turn up a copy of the article in published form. But I could not turn down the opportunity to re-print the piece here.

It is in remembering that this must have been written in the late 70s or early 80s that makes it so remarkable, because I'm sure most will agree, this could have been written yesterday.

* * *

The days are lengthening, there is a hint of warmth in the sun; this is a time of anticipation and planning, a time to try new ventuers, a good time to try cycle touring. There is the initial expense of buying a good lightweight touring bike, but maintenance costs are minimal, and once acquired is a cheap form of transport.

Age is no barrier, as I can testify. My cycling experience was limited, indeed non-existent for twenty-five years, but with just a hint of bravado I bought a bike. It was not an instant success; I was tense, nervous and wobbly, I couldn't cope with city traffic, and my husband was anxious, believing that cyclists and cars should not be together on the same roads.

All winter the bike stayed clean and shiny in the hallway. In the spring and early summer I tried a few tentative journeys, but still without confidence. Salvation came in the form of a newspaper advert by the Cyclists' Touring Club (C.T.C.) inviting beginners to take part in a Club Run. A large and motley group of cyclists met at Fairmilehead crossroads at 10am one Sunday morning, and was divided into two sections. I was put with the more experienced group because I had an efficient bike. No-one said how far we would be going, and we set off hopefully in a convoy, two by two, encouraged, corrected and advised by experienced members.

We cycled all day along quiet roads, with a break for a picnic lunch, returning to Edinburgh in the early evening, by which time I was completely exhausted, and could barely climb the steps into the house. Half an hour later, with a cup of tea in my hand I was experiencing a miraculous sense of euphoria and well-being that I hadn't known for many years. A new way of life had opened up for me, and I joined the C.T.C.

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