This is a story about how I came to be a born again cyclist.
Do you remember the first time you rode a bike, that amazing feeling of effortless freedom? If you do you’re not alone because it is such a strong memory. Sadly, for many people cycling remains just that, a childhood memory. Somehow the idea that they might want to ride a bike as an adult seems odd. I certainly remember the first time I rode a bike. My grandfather walking behind and holding the saddle until I suddenly realised that he’d let go and I was actually cycling. I was so excited that I immediately fell off.
Cycling would have remained just a distant memory for me too but for a forced change in circumstances. Back in 1981 I was happily selling ads on a business press magazine with a company car and decent pay when I lost my licence which cost me my job. Fortunately, I managed to get a job on one of the London listings magazines instead, and I didn’t need a car to get around central London. Then by chance one of my advertisers offered me a job selling ads on Bicycle magazine, the first real glossy consumer cycling magazine in the UK,
The best-selling author of Richard’s Bicycle Book, Richard Ballantine, was the editor and we hit it off pretty much straight away. About my first day there, Richard said: “Alan, you need to ride a bike. Take this Dawes Imperial and ride home with it.” I was a bit dubious, but I thought, well, why not? It was a beautiful looking bike, and I took it out into central London and that was it. It felt like I was floating and totally free and I couldn’t believe it.
What had I been missing! I was well and truly on board, and I’ve never looked back. So, I thank my lucky stars that I lost my driving licence, because I had no idea what I had been missing, and it made me determined to reach out to others to get back on a bike.
By 1992 I was co-publishing Encycleopedia, an annual high quality, full colour book that acted as a platform to source unusual products from around the world. Unlike catalogues with their reams of facts and figures, Encycleopedia told the stories about the people behind the products, and it was very popular at the time.
Now, may years later, I need a different approach, after all, you can find just about anything nowadays at the click of a button. Those early Encycleopedias were really preaching to the converted — ready-made enthusiasts who appreciated the uniqueness of content, but how to get to the non-cyclists?
Covid-19 lockdowns have inspired more people to get out on a bike, and the evolution of ebikes has helped, but cycling in the UK is still a minority activity.
This new edition from Encycleopedia, Celebrating Cycling, is different, it’s not really a book about cycling at all.
It’s not going to tell you the best bike, the most suitable bike, the cheapest bike, the most expensive bike, the coolest bike, it is just going to celebrate creative people who have interesting stories and who credit cycling as an inspirational part of their lives.