The Thrill of the Road in the Comfort of Lycra

Most people know how to ride a bicycle. It was a rite of passage as a kid to duct tape some pillows to your body and learn how to ride a bike. Then you go exploring with your friends. As a parent, it’s also a rite of passage to pass that skill along.

Like everything else, a lot has changed in the cycling world. There’s a huge selection of bikes for different types of terrain and task, but the basics are still the same; two wheels and pedals powering yourself down the road. A bike can instill that feeling of freedom, and occasionally the thrill of speed experienced when you were first learning to ride. You get that same feeling riding along a dirt path behind your house or up a mountain road in Europe. But one aspect of cycling most people don’t try is road racing.

Cycling is an old sport. While in the past it was more popular in Europe, it’s becoming very popular in North America and is actually much bigger here in Saskatchewan than you might think.

Two cyclists racing on a paved road in Saskatchewan.

One of the largest women’s cycling clubs in North America, Spoke n’ Hot Women’s Cycling, is in Regina. Spoke n’ Hot’s aim is to promote women’s cycling in a safe, friendly and encouraging environment. While not specifically about racing, many members graduate to road racing and/or triathlon.

There are many other clubs in the province including the Regina Cycle Club, dedicated to learning and participating in racing on paved roads, gravel or through the parks during Cyclocross season. In Saskatoon, there’s the Cycledelia Road Racing Club. There’s also the East Qu’Appelle Cartel based in Esterhazy offering many types of cycling including mountain biking.

Of course, with so many riders in the province, you need a few bike shops to drool over bikes and keep them running smoothly. And we have some of the best local shops in Canada.

Dutch Cycle and Western Cycle in Regina have you covered in any aspect of cycling. Their local knowledge and friendly service make it a very pleasant experience to visit their shops. The Bike Doctor and Bruce’s Cycle Works are just two of several great shops that service the Saskatoon area.

While you might think a dedicated cycling shop is more expensive than Walmart, it’s really about the quality and after-purchase service. When you’re spending a lot of time on your own bike, or your kid is cruising the bike paths, it’s important you have a safe, reliable bike that fits well. All the local shops are professionals when it comes to fitting you properly, and they only carry quality bike brands. Any bike from a local, devoted cycling shop will last much longer and have less issues than a cheaper bike from a big box store. And just try getting a flat fixed at Walmart or an adjustment to your gears at Costco. You buy a bike to ride not to have it serviced over and over. That’s how the cost of a cheap bike quickly becomes more than a quality bike.

If you get riding and do decide to race, here’s a warning; it’s addictive. It’s not only a great workout. There are team tactics and strategy, keeping yourself out of the wind while drafting another rider, super high-tech bikes and gear and then the socializing.

Over time, as your fitness and bike-handling skills improve, and you can cruise along at 35km/hour in your skin-tight, comfortable, lycra jersey and shorts in a close group of riders rotating through on the front, you will feel amazing. When the racing is done, you head to the local pub for a beer and talk about the race. It doesn’t get much better…

-Andrew Clarke is an avid cyclist and the Vice-President of Brand, Digital Platforms & Technology at Directwest.