Cycling has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember.
A keen sportsman from a young age, I played several sports to a reasonably good level but when I realised I was never going to play rugby for my beloved Wales or walk the fairways of the professional golf circuit, it was cycling that I turned to and it really captured my imagination.
The sport’s history; tales of unbelievable endurance in the early Grand Tours, ‘the classics’; one day races across unforgiving terrain often in atrocious conditions, the majesty of the modern Grand Tours, the riders; Mercx, Anquetil, Poulidor, Bartoli, Pantani and the sport’s numerous other heroes and villains. I loved it.
Cycling was an inspiration. Cycling gave me freedom.
Initially cycling gave me the freedom to explore and that afforded me great independence- there was little need for mum and dad’s taxi in my house. I went everywhere by bike. I don’t know how many miles I rode as a youngster but I’d wager it was many hundreds. Here, there and everywhere.
Then, as I grew older and my mind became cluttered with the concerns and hassles of adulthood, cycling gave me a very different kind of freedom. It was my release valve and it remains so today. I have suffered with bouts of depression since my early 20s and cycling has been an enormous help in keeping those symptoms in check. The physical benefits of cycling are well documented but I have found the mental benefits to be even greater; a regular spin on the bike is a great way to keep the demons at bay.
You are always moving forwards on a bike, rarely standing still and the simplicity of turning the pedals seems to take the strain and stress of life away in an instant. I often use the word ‘escapism’ to explain my love of cycling. It seems to fit perfectly. The moment I clip my feet into the pedals and start to turn my chosen gear the only other choice I need to make is in what direction to ride. It’s really that easy and in an increasingly cluttered and sideways world, the simple things in life make a big difference.
You also get a different view of the world when you’re on two wheels. You see and hear things you miss in a car and you have time to really appreciate where you are.
I am now lucky enough to spend my time cycling in the Pyrénées and this makes the riding experience even richer; the topography, the wildlife, the ancient chateaux, the quaint mountain villages, the shouts of ‘Allez! Allez!’ and ‘Bon Courage!’ as you tackle one of the many Tour de France ‘col’.
There are other benefits too. As I cycle towards the mountains, I make a regular café stop in Foix. Centered around its magnificent chateau and host to a Tour de France stage finish in 2017, Foix is everything I love above the region. The café is situated on a gorgeous square, located off a series of narrow medieval streets, opposite the Church of Saint Volusien. I’ll spend 15 minutes enjoying an espresso and people watching – the simple pleasures.
Exploring the region by bike, I have also cycled upon numerous ‘petits auberges’, set in spectacular locations serving hearty local food and cold refreshing drinks. I have stopped alongside mountain streams and watched in amazement as wild trout fight against currents and dippers bob and weave. I have marvelled at vultures soaring on thermals high above the Pyrénées.
Everywhere I go there is something to take your mind to a better place.
When you’re at The Lodge, where you ride and how you relax is up to you but trust me, you’ll get an abundance of both when you come and stay at Vélo Zero Neuf. It works for me and I am sure it will work for you.
You Ride. You Relax. It really is that simple.
Founder – Vélo Zero Neuf