Rapha Manuals: The Sport With Surprises

From treadmills to tennis courts, the pitch to the pool, exercise of any kind presents a challenge and prompts an endorphin rush but adventure? That’s reserved for the cyclists.

25 July 2018
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
- Ernest Hemingway

The physical and mental boons of exercise are universally acknowledged; from treadmills to tennis courts, the pitch to the pool, millions of us chase endorphins and adrenaline every day, swapping effort for reward, endeavour for achievement. There are few sports, though, that offer the same sense of exploration, adventure and discovery afforded by movement on two wheels.

“Cycling lets you go where you want, there are no limits,” explains Emily Chappell, a bicycle courier turned long-distance rider. “When I was just starting out I didn’t have any planned routes so I would simply ride in one direction and find my way back. Being a little lost is part of the fun sometimes – consider it an adventure, not a disaster.”

As with any sport that considers distance a marker of accomplishment, road cycling can be daunting. Whether it’s 25 kilometres or 200 miles, fear of the unknown can prove the biggest barrier to participation. “There’s a thrill to not knowing what’s around the next corner or over the next hill,” Chappell says. “You never know what you’re going to see on any given ride and I find I’m often rewarded with little random moments. A few weeks ago, a little bird joined me for part of my ride, fluttering along beside me, dipping in and out of sight behind a hedge. It felt as though we were riding together for a few moments.”

Tales of adventure have a tendency to focus on the extreme, and cycling is no exception. Stories of cross-country voyages or epic feats of endurance are impressive, but most cyclist will explain even the shortest rides can promise a touch of adventure.

Chappell has been riding her local roads in Wales for years but they still hold surprises. “Cycling is so much more varied than anything else,” she says. “Even a short loop from my house might take me high up onto bare golden hills before swooping through leafy river valleys and rolling farmland. It’s a safe bet that I’ll see plenty of sheep but also the odd red kite soaring above me and, if I’m lucky, maybe even a fox or a badger.”

But exploration by bike doesn’t need epic wilderness or rolling countryside. The sense of discovery can be found just as easily in a city or town that has been home for years. Geoff Mcfetridge, the renowned artist, has long called Los Angeles his home, but it is by bike that he best explores the sprawling space. “LA is a place that takes a long time to figure out,” he says. “You have to get through that first layer of Los Angeles before you get to what is awesome about the city. It’s a texture. It’s a collage. The bicycle is like a cross-fader; it is a way to travel between these things. LA is an amazing city for cycling.”

The distances may be short. The ride may be a commute or to run errands or to find a few endorphins at the end of a busy day. But the sense of adventure, the chance to see something new, or to see something old in a new light, is never diminished. That’s hard to come by on a treadmill.

Ride With Us

For advice on how best to explore your city and the roads that surround it, Rapha Clubhouses around the world are filled with passionate cyclists happy to share the best and quietest routes. With more than 350 rides a week, there is always an upcoming chance for a little exploration.

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Rapha Handbook 01 Getting Started in Road Cycling

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