A year or so ago, I read Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder. It’s a book written by cyclist Dave Barter about the world of cycling, celebrating the average cyclist living in a world defined by the pros.
‘The writings include lengthy descriptions of end-to-end rides in Britain and Ireland. Mountain biking, road cycling, classic alpine climbs and all sorts of other cycling events are chronicled along the way.’
I loved the book and felt it resonated perfectly with our brand, so decided to reach out to Dave and get his take on the world of cycling and how/why people should get involved. Here’s how it went:
Me: Hey Dave, how and why did you get into cycling?
Dave: In my late 20’s I began to put on weight as the excesses of my youth began to catch up with me. At one point I was probably 2 stone overweight and caught sight of myself in a mirror, hardly recognising the man staring back. As a result, I turned to sport and became a mildly obsessed runner. Within a short period, all of the weight had gone but the obsession with sport and the outside remained. A football injury ended my running career and it was then that I turned to the bike. Cycling proved the perfect companion to a meniscus tear and also opened my eyes to the potential for adventure and achievement on a much wider/broader scale.
Me: So, having turned to cycling, what made you want to write a book about your experiences?
Dave: I rode Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for a charity that was supporting my Mum who was suffering from cancer at the time. My Mum kept asking me what it was like and so I wrote the trip up from my perspective, trying to get her to see my thought process whilst on the bike. This became a habit – every epic ride ended up in an epic writing session to try and convey why cycling is more than just peddling and pain.
Me: Having done some truly epic cycle rides, what are your top tips for people wanting to get involved?
Dave: Do not be intimidated by anything. Cycling is an incredibly accessible sport/pastime and there is never a valid reason for not having a go. Often, newbies are presented with many barriers and words of caution. Throw them all aside and just get stuck in. My wife rode a 110-mile night ride this year with absolutely no training. Juliana Buhring rode around the world as her first ever cycle tour. I ride with 80-year-old time-triallists and met a 10-year-old lad in the wilds of the Highlands on a 450-mile off-road tour with his Dad. The greatest advice I can ever offer is to simply get stuck in, you will not turn back and you’ll find that all sorts of new avenues suddenly open up for you.
Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the views and make sure you know how to fix a puncture!
Me: You mention barriers and words of caution. What do you believe the biggest barriers are for people wanting to take up cycling?
Dave: The mistaken view that it is dangerous and the roads are unsafe. There are dangerous sections of tarmac upon which I would never venture due to traffic but we have a MASSIVE road network in the UK and the back roads are where all the fun is. Infrastructure for cyclists in our towns and cities does need to improve and is a significant barrier to those who may otherwise consider the bike for transport to work. But, many of us find a way.
A little more tenacity from the British public would go a long way, as the best way to educate drivers is for them to have to actively mix with cyclists and include them in their driving rituals. We need to get out there and mix with the cars. 20mph urban speed limits would do a lot to help this. I am not a believer in absolute segregation as you can guess.
Me: With cycling continuing to grow in popularity, how can it help address rising health concerns in the UK (such as obesity, diabetes, etc) and should the government be putting more emphasis on the promotion of cycling as an active method of transport?
Dave: Doctors should be able to write prescriptions addressed directly to bike shops!
Of course, the government should do more, but the business and motoring lobby has more weight and change from the top will ultimately be slow. Look at history, all the greatest change comes bottom up. We would do more by leading a cycling revolution from grassroots instead of waiting for cumbersome, inefficient government processes to do it for us. We should throw our weight behind organisations such as Sustrans and offer to help. How many of us use the tracks and paths they curate and yet do nothing in return to help nurture them? How many of us look down our noses at an unfit friend instead of coaxing them out on a sunny ride to a pub lunch? The best way to get people into sport is by actively helping and encouraging them, rather than passively shouting at them from a poster.
Me: Finally, what is the best experience you have had on a bike?
Dave: Probably the night ride, called Dunwich Dynamo, with Helen (pictured below). It had everything – no timing, a total cross-spectrum of age and society riding, an epic distance and a great feeling of shared achievement. The emotion at the end was incredible. I saw how much the ride had meant to Helen and how she had become “hooked”.
Photo of Dave Barter and Helen at the start of Dunwich Dynamo
I can’t thank Dave enough for both writing the book and providing us with his thoughts. The team at Vivi, and loads of people we regularly talk to, relate to many of the tales in Dave’s book! For instance, not training enough for challenges, whether a triathlon, sportive or running event, is a common failure of ours!