Why Cycle in (and around) Dumfries: Sally’s Story

In the run up to our bike breakfast we’re sharing stories of people in Dumfries who use their bikes to get around, whether they’re new riders or old hands. Here’s Sally Hinchcliffe’s story:

Sally Hinchcliffe

Sally Hinchcliffe, co-founder and Co-ordinator of Cycling Dumfries. Portrait (c) Alison Boyes

When we first moved up to Dumfries and Galloway from London, I was expecting I’d have to spend a lot more time driving. Having walked, cycled or taken public transport to get everywhere in London, where we didn’t even own a car, we were moving to a house eight miles from Dumfries, a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop and five miles away from the nearest shop. I was determined to limit our car use as much as possible, if only because fuel prices were shooting up at the time, but I suspected I’d soon succumb to gdriving for most trips.

Fortunately, we had (without realising it at the time) moved to an area with some of the best rural cycling in the country. While conditions for cycling in Dumfries itself could definitely be improved (it’s why I started Cycling Dumfries), the quiet rural back roads surrounding it are a delight to cycle on as there are so few cars. Even though it’s eight miles to town, it’s a pleasant stress-free ride and not too hilly and if I take it fairly steadily it isn’t any more tiring than walking. It isn’t as quick as driving but I wouldn’t swap my bike for a second car for the world – it gets me out in the fresh air (sometimes *very* fresh), I can enjoy the glorious scenery, the wildlife (I’ve been swooped at by buzzards, followed sparrowhawks and hares, been blown away by the glorious scent of the hedgerow in May and can stop to pick blackberries or hazelnuts whenever I spot them at this time of the year) and spend a little precious time away from the computer. Not running a second car saves us a lot of money (only some of which gets spent on bikes!), I can eat what I like and not gain weight, and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been – and no need to get up early and drag myself out for a run.

Riding to Mabie last year

With cycling like this, why would you travel any other way?

Eight years later, I’m still cycling everywhere as my primary means of transport and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We moved home recently and top of my wish list was ‘cycling distance from Dumfries’ on quiet back roads and I hope I’ll be cycling to and from our new house as long as I can still turn a pedal.

If you live rurally, cycling to and from work might seem like a bit of a stretch so my advice would be:

– Don’t jump in and try and do it all at once. Maybe pick one day a week to commute or drive half way and then cycle the rest. This is brilliant if you have to cross town as it saves you getting stuck in traffic and can be faster than cycling the whole way. As you get fitter you can build it up.

– I have a folding bike so I can combine it with public transport for longer journeys

– Stick to the unclassified roads if you can – anything without a white line down the middle is usually fine for cycling on as there is less traffic and the cars tend to be slower. West of Dumfries there’s an excellent network of quiet singletrack roads which are well worth exploring by bike whether you live in the area or not

– The weather can be a challenge but needn’t stop you! You don’t need to dress up in special gear unless you’re aiming to go fast (I pootle along at 11mph in my ordinary clothes but good waterproofs (hillwalking or cycling ones) are a godsend. Some people prefer to wear Lycra and change on arrival. Either way, invest in a rack and a pannier bag (and remember to bring a spare pair of gloves on wet days as putting one wet ones for the ride home is a misery).

– As you get more and more hooked on the bike, you can start to invest in kit that keeps you riding year round. I have dynamo lights for long dark rides in winter, and spiked ice tyres for un-gritted rural roads.

– Consider an e-bike – they can make the difference between a longer distance commute being possible or too slow or tiring for every day.

– Every time you go somewhere using your bike instead of your car for a trip, put a pound in a jar and see how the savings add up. Then blow it all on cake (you’ve earned it) or put it towards your next bicycle!

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