“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” So says the much repeated quote attributed to the great Eddie Merckx. It may seem surprising that such an inspirational quote would come from someone known for riding so aggressively in races that he earned himself the nickname “The Cannibal”, but it’s a phrase we could all do well to remember.

Too often we get so caught up in our everyday busy lives that we find ourselves unable to follow through with the cycling we’ve had planned, too tired or too stressed to actually commit to that training or fitness ride we know full well will actually make us feel better in every way. And so the bike gathers dust and cobwebs and the idea of going out cycling gets more and more daunting.

If we weren’t so obsessed with seeing cycling in terms of medals, titles and a lycra uniform, perhaps more of us would ride bikes, and be healthier and happier just like our European counterparts.

Looking at The Netherlands and Denmark, what I see are people who ride bikes, not “cyclists”. For these people, going about their daily business on two wheels is as natural as brushing their teeth every day. As a result, these are frequently healthier andhappier individuals than many of us who aim to “go out for a bike ride” more often, and yet also fail to do so more often.

I’m of the opinion that the UK is far too entrenched in a fallacious belief that cycling is a Sport. In part, it is a sport, obviously, but I use the capital letter deliberately to differentiate. My point is, cycling goes way beyond just being a sport, and enters into the realms of both lifestyle and transport, depending on the needs of the individual cyclist.

If we weren’t so obsessed with seeing cycling in terms of medals, titles and a lycra uniform, perhaps more of us would ride bikes, and be healthier and happier just like our European counterparts.

Commute - every day or just once a week, all the way or just in one direction, anything is better than no commute by bike.

Using a bike for transport, health and, above all, fun is just as important and valid as average speed and sporting achievement. Not everyone is cut out to be, or indeed, wants to be “a better cyclist”. And that’s 100% OK. 

It’s not only about health, fitness and mental wellbeing, there’s the environmental angle too. The more of us who just ride a bike, instead of taking the car or public transport, the smaller the burden on our planet.

It can take a fundamental mental shift to think about cycling less as a sporting activity and more as something you just do, but it’s worth every pedal stroke thereafter and it can result in truly profound personal changes. It also opens the door for lots of exciting new wardrobe choices, from dedicated commuter gear, to stylish cycling togs that wouldn’t look out of place in a coffee shop and just practical normal clothes that do double duty on the bike.

Here are five ways to get out and ride more without the pressure of a Big Ride.

1.  Sightseeing – preferable in the long hot days of summer, but just as feasible in winter too if you take along a warm layer to pop on while you’re enjoying that on site teashop. Many attractions, including one in six National Trust properties, offer entry discounts to people who have cycled to the location.

2.  Shopping – whilst you may not want to do the weekly shop by bike (unless you fancy the rather excellent solution of a trailer!), those day to day bits and pieces are easily fitted into a rucksack or pannier. It’s particularly satisfying to cycle to the shops in the run-up to Christmas, when you can sail past the gridlocked cars with a smug smirk.

3.  Pub - whilst I wouldn’t recommend an all-evening session that’s likely to have you arrested for being drunk in charge, it’s a great way of enjoying a couple of drinks without the issue of a designated driver or public transport. It encourages moderation, too. An off-road or quiet route home is a good idea.

4.  Commute - every day or just once a week, all the way or just in one direction, anything is better than no commute by bike. It clears the head, gets the blood flowing and it’s cheaper. Plus, once you’ve got home, you’ve already done some decent activity for the day, even without contemplating some Exercise.

5. Just ‘cause - sometimes it’s great just to jump on the bike and go for a ride, with no expectations, no goals and no real plans. Some of the best rides I’ve ever had have been ones where I have no idea how long I’ve been out or how fast I’ve been riding.

Perfect Kit for 'Everyday Life' cycling