Van Bikeradar: 5 ways to make your riding fun again

It’s important to remember why we all got into cycling in the first place – because it is fun.

Regardless of the purpose of your riding – whether that’s commuting, cycling to lose weight or training for a big ride – riding your bike should be a joyful experience that brings a smile to your face.

If you’ve found the sheen has worn off your cycling, try out any of these five tips to get your time on two wheels tickling a 10 on the funnometer again.

Got any tips of your own? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

1: No Garmin, no rules

It’s okay to go sans computer from time to time.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

A friend of BikeRadar once quipped that, if they rode without a power meter, they wouldn’t be able to measure how much fun they were having.

Jesting aside, even the least performance-minded cyclist can get caught up obsessing over numbers while riding – it’s difficult to shut out the anxious caveman part of your brain if your average speed drops unexpectedly and a late finish is looming.

By all means, record your ride, but consider pocketing your bike computer the next time you head out.

Rather than fretting over figures, ride at a natural pace that feels right for you, your route and the weather conditions – simply enjoy what’s around you.

Smiles not miles; #nogarminnorules; a Strava detox – whatever you want to call it, we promise you’ll be surprised by how much of a difference it makes to your mood.

2: Ride somewhere new

Why not look online for inspiration, throw a dart at a map or simply take a road you’ve never travelled before?
Jack Luke / Our Media

Tired of the same old local loops? Is every pothole in a 10-mile radius of your home ingrained in your muscle memory?

If that sounds familiar, it’s time to up sticks and lay down tracks somewhere new.

We suggest seeking inspiration through the likes of Komoot Highlights, which recommends roads, trails and landmarks as curated by the app’s community. Strava and other cycling apps feature similar functionality.

Analogue inspiration should not be overlooked.
Jack Luke / Our Media

Alternatively, it’s always worth trying a good guidebook. Many will even include route maps, which will help if you wish to combine a new adventure with some GPS downtime.

Going by public transport can also be a pleasant experience with a bit of pre-planning.

After choosing an area you want to explore, we recommend taking a train (and hey – who doesn’t love a trundle on the ol’ iron horse?) somewhere with a view to riding back home, rather than relying on catching a service at the end of a ride.

With no return leg to worry about, you can in effect double your distance over ground on any given ride, greatly increasing your chances of enjoying new vistas.

That said, we’d still always plan a modest distance as the crow flies to keep a day manageable if all goes pear-shaped – you can always add in a few cheeky wiggles if you fancy a longer excursion.

3: Sleep somewhere new

Even a two-day overnight adventure can really help spice up your riding.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

It’s hard to beat the heady mix of endorphins and smugness brought by starting a big day on the bike after waking up al fresco.

Even the interior gloom of some anonymous plantation forest will take on a new charm with a good day’s ride in the legs and a bowl of porridge in the belly.

While it’s possible to spend an extraordinary amount of money on a fancy bikepacking setup, it’s definitely not a requirement.

When split among willing friends, even the affordable family-friendly camping gear left languishing in your garage can become a manageable load.

If you don’t mind waking up with a slug moustache, a well-pitched tarp can also be almost as comfortable as a tent.

Riding to stay overnight in a bothy is one of the best ways to get into bikepacking.
Katherine Moore

If you are just starting out with snoozing outside and want to invest in the minimum amount of kit, an overnight trip to a bothy – an unmanned free-to-use shelter – will usually only require a sleeping mat and bag.

Hostels can provide a low-stress overnight jolly (and, more importantly, an opportunity to dry out your clothes).
Jack Luke / Our Media

Finally, if you prefer silky sheets to damp down, youth hostels are another affordable (and often family-friendly) option for the itinerant cyclist.

Most will have facilities to lock up your bike and old-school sites will also allow you to cook your own food, bringing down costs.

If you’re shy about sharing with strangers, block-booking a bunk room with friends can make the whole experience more pleasant (just make sure you have friends who don’t snore).

4: Try something new

There’s nothing stopping you from venturing off-road on whatever bike you already own.
Andy Lloyd

Trying something new doesn’t necessarily mean buying a new bike, or taking part in a different racing discipline.

The bike you already own is most likely perfectly suitable for modest adventuring beyond your norm.

For the pebble-phobic road cyclist, you only need to look at the likes of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship to remember that, not so long ago, daring cyclists weren’t afraid to take road bikes into what many would consider wildly inappropriate terrain.

There’s nothing stopping you from following in their footsteps, with modern disc brakes and (comparatively) wider tyres making gentle off-road jaunts a lot more pleasant.

Sure, you might not be able to rattle along gravel roads as fast as you could on a dedicated gravel bike, but even 25mm tyres are perfectly okay on smoother off-road surfaces (you just may want to increase your tyre pressure a little to avoid pinch flats).

If you prefer to keep things paved, less competitive events such as an audax/brevet are a great way to see new places and meet riders.

If you’re a mountain biker and fancy a charmingly old-school challenge, why not try something like Cycle Quest or mountain bike orienteering?

Both will teach you new skills and get you into new places in a low-stress environment.

5: Build a parts bin special

Put your parts bin to good use and build the bike you never knew you needed.
Jack Luke / Our Media

If you’re anything like the component magpies that make up the BikeRadar team, you’ll have a big box of ‘just in case’ parts taking up room in your life.

Putting these neglected and often outmoded components to good use on a new low-effort bike is a great way to make something useful out of your clutter, and up your mechanical skills in the process.

Unless you already have an old frame hanging up in the rafters, we recommend starting with a careful assessment of what you have and considering what would work with this lot, rather than what you would have.

Don’t allow perfect to get in the way of good – let your lot dictate the shape of the build and go from there.

Once done, buckle up and prepare for many nights spent trawling eBay for a used frameset. Be patient, set yourself a hard price limit and try to buy local if possible.

Builds put together in this spirit are some of the most characterful and fun bikes on the BikeRadar team, and we guarantee you’ll enjoy the process just as much as we have.



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