Cycling is a great way to free your mind, keep fit and make friends, two cyclists tell Veronica Stivala.
Marco has been cycling ever since he was a young boy, when he would ride in the fields in Balzan’s environs. As he grew older he would go on bike activities with his fellow scouts. In the past three years he has been cycling as a leisure activity.
“I enjoy cycling mostly because it’s a great opportunity to socialise,” notes Marco.
He particularly enjoys the coffee breaks that form part of his cycling activities.
Naturally he is quick to point out the health benefits of cycling too. “Cycling helps me get my mind off work, which is very important for a healthy mind,” he says.
On noticing the evident positive effect Marco’s hobby was having on him, his wife took on the sport a few months ago too.
“Cycling has become a good source of quality time for my wife and I,” he explains.
Sporting a tan, this cyclist speaks enthusiastically about his recent trek up Mount Etna. Cycling non-stop for three hours, 20 kilometres uphill was certainly no mean feat but this is Marco’s most memorable, and longest ever uphill ride to date.
Although Marco insists that cycling is a relaxing hobby for him and he never races, he does note that such challenges are highlights for him. The fact that he cycles in a team is a big plus as the members help and offer each other support, pushing each other to go that extra mile.
In the winter months, Marco cycles two to three times a week, mostly during weekends. However, the warmer months are a treat as this means Marco can go on riveting night rides.
Aged 51, though not looking it (and this writer was not paid to say that), Marco waxes lyrical on the benefits of cycling including how it helps with breathing. He also notes how there are no age limits to cycling.
How easy is it to cycle in Malta?
“If you know how to ride,” says Marco, “it’s not difficult at all”. That said, he echoes Miriam’s concerns about the lack of awareness for cyclists in Malta and laments the abysmal cycling lanes: there are hardly any and the few that there are, are disastrous. More spokes in local cyclists’ wheels is the lack of bicycle parking racks.
This is a pity as one of the plusses about cycling is that it is eco-friendly and a cheap way of travelling. When the weather is fine Marco even finds it convenient to run his errands by bicycle.
With some more attention towards the local cycling scene, more people will surely be encouraged to take up this healthy, environmentally- and pocket-friendly means of travel.
Miriam Abela Orland
Miriam has been cycling for 13 months and has seen a complete change for the better in her lifestyle and even her body and health.
“Although I was always into sports and went to the gym and did aerobics, cycling has opened the doors to making new friends and has even helped get rid of digestive problems,” she explains.
Miriam had a Chopper bicycle as a child but decided to pick up the two wheels again recently. After three months of solo training, it was by chance that she met a fellow cyclist and the two decided that riding together would be more fun.
In the space of a few months, what started out as two friends cycling together eventually grew into a group of some 100 active members of a group they have called the South Cranks.
“Being part of a group is important as it helps motivate you to keep up the sport and pushes you to achieve new goals such as travelling longer distances.”
It is important for Miriam that the group has many female members and that women play an important role in it.
Remembering her cycling salad days, Miriam makes it a point to pick up green cyclists from home as hitting the road for the first time can be a bit daunting.
She admits that although some Maltese drivers are very considerate of cyclists, others are not and she has had her fair share of accidents including being pushed and turned around by a van as well as falling off her bike because a car didn’t stop for her when she had right of way. Not to mention the string of insults and obscenities that are thrown her way.
“It boils down to awareness and education,” notes Miriam. “Motorists think they own the road, but they don’t. They own their car, not the road.”
Despite admitting that she finds herself praying for a safe journey before she starts cycling, and thanking God that she’s fine after a trip, Miriam has nothing but good things to say about cycling.
“Cycling helps keep you young and free your mind. What’s more, it’s a fun and social activity and helps you discover places you’d never have been to before.”
This keen cyclist rides six days a week and has already invested in a lighter bike for a better experience.
“It’s a relatively cheap sport too,” says Miriam.
Although it is imperative to invest in cycling pants, bicycles start from a few hundred euro and it doesn’t cost much to maintain them.