‘Vivi Stories’ is a series of inspiring tales, thoughts, tips and tricks from real people. From running marathons to cycling 500 miles across Europe, find out what drives people to get fit and what experiences have been the best. This time, we ask Dan Casey about how he got into cycling, what he’s achieved since, and the social benefits from being on the bike.
Vivi: Hi Dan, thanks for joining us. How and why did you get into cycling?
Dan: I knew I needed to get fit and I’ve never been able to enjoy running. Team sports were out of the question due to my minimal levels of fitness. Cycling appeared to be a good option so I bought an entry-level road bike to test the waters. I found cycling to be thrilling from my first ride – it’s motivating to see the distances you cover and my favourite part was simply what you get to see when you cycle. If you choose your routes carefully you can see landmarks and scenery in a totally different way to just driving past it.
Vivi: Any tips for those just starting out?
Dan: Find a cycling group – it’s much more enjoyable as a group exercise.
Vivi: You took part in the Vivi Nation tour of the Netherlands – Why did you decide to do a cycle tour/challenge?
Dan: Cycling around the Netherlands was a fantastic experience and, because the terrain is almost entirely flat, it’s perfect for beginners to attack in bite-size chunks. Our group built great bonds over the week and set ourselves up for the opportunity to tackle more challenges. There was a great sense of pride seeing a complete route map of circa 200 miles after the holiday. The physical and navigation challenges were a unique experience for a holiday.
Vivi: How often did you cycle beforehand, compared to now?
Dan: Before I embarked on the tour I had cycled roughly 60 miles in total; I was utterly unprepared mentally and physically! I was lucky to have a group of friends to guide me through the sporting challenges as well as guide me through a number of mechanical issues. As I was effectively dragging down the average speed of the group I was determined to build my fitness and cycling know-how to not be a burden on the next trip and be able to potentially help others! That inspiration led to me choose to commute four days a week on a bike in addition to two longer cycling days a week. At my peak, I was covering over 100 miles a week. The tour was a huge inspiration and I started joining sportives which were also great fun.
Vivi: How was training for the tour? What did you do?
Dan: I found a cycling group at work and we just cycled together for fun. I certainly didn’t train to break records, just to ensure I had the stamina to tackle the more difficult climbs and achieve respectable times.
Vivi: What has been your best cycling moment? What has been your worst moment?
Dan: My best moment was tackling the South Downs Sportive solo. I felt confident enough in my ability to complete the gruelling challenge without the on-ride encouragement of a friend. It was a big moment and the first time I entered an event where I set targets for time completion. My worst moment was a crash which led to me losing a number of teeth and sustaining leg injuries. A year on, I haven’t cycled too much and it’s a regret that my cycling career has been so hampered by an unfortunate event. Cycling is rewarding and challenging, but you must always be aware of the dangers because complacency can lead to serious injury.
Vivi: Would you do a cycling tour again?
Dan: Absolutely, given time to build appropriate fitness to enjoy the tour rather than spend the time trying to keep up!
Vivi: How would you describe your fitness level?
Dan: At the peak of my cycling activity I was feeling better than I had in a decade. My muscles were toning, and I was able to cycle for 80 miles and smile and have a beer afterwards. Without a doubt, I think cycling is the most accessible fitness building activity available.
Vivi: What is the best thing about cycling? And what is your best experience on a bike?
Dan: The best thing about cycling is that you can embark on journeys and experiences that aren’t about fitness… you can build friendships and travel places. You surprise yourself with the fitness gains you can make without even focusing on them. My best experience on a bike was crossing the finishing line of the London to Brighton BHF ride in 2015 with long-time cycling partner in crime, Tony Rose.