Rosie Tharp: cycle touring experience

There is no better way to see and discover a place than on a bike

I got my first bike when I was about 5. It was called Le Bike and was red, blue and yellow and the love of my life! My mum used to cycle a bit and I can remember the excitement of being on a child’s seat on the back of my dad’s bike.

When I was a kid one of the main ways my friends and I used to keep ourselves occupied was to set up obstacle courses for our bikes, cycle until we got lost and then race to see who would get home first or tie a skateboard to the back of a bike with a skipping rope and have team races with a person sat on the skateboard (probably not entirely safe but definitely good fun).

Since leaving school I have pretty much always had a bike and found myself gravitating towards working in the cycle industry. I worked for Darwin’s Deli as a sandwich delivery person. I also worked as a cycle courier one summer.

Now I work as part of LCC’s community cycling team promoting cycling to people who have not had access to bikes. It is amazing to see what a difference a bike can make to an individual’s life, particularly if the person has been affected by poor mental health, social exclusion, disability or other issues. 

The main reason that I ride a bike is that it feels great, and there is no better way to see and discover a place than on a bike. In 2007 I quit my job and went cycling in Portugal and Spain. I cycled with two friends for just over a week and then hit the road solo. The distance that you can cover in 4 or 5 hours cycling is impressive but you don’t feel like you are rushing and you have time to enjoy your surroundings. And you can stop whenever you want, so you feel you have a real sense of autonomy.

There were times when I wondered what I was doing. I got my bike serviced in Santiago de Compostela, and then a day or two later half-way up a Galician mountain I got a puncture. The bike shop had done the bolts on the wheel up so tight that I was physically unable to undo them. I tried everything and was beginning to despair being about 3 hours away from the closest town let alone a bike shop. Eventually I undid the wheel, fixed my puncture and was back on the road with an enormous sense of achievement.

People are really intrigued when they see a girl cycling on her own. You get a lot of encouragement, even if people are sometimes bemused or baffled by you! And it is a great conversation starter, which is brilliant when you are travelling on your own.