At an early age I remember crying myself to sleep after I overheard my parents’ conversation about getting me a “push bike”. I wanted a big bike, one on wheels that did not require pushing like a toddlers toy! A lovely real (second hand) bike did arrive complete with blocks on the pedals for my wee legs and so began my cycling history. I have owned a bike for almost 50 years (no longer with blocks) and (if asked) it would be high on the list of possible luxuries to take to a desert island.

My father owned a bike for over 70 years. He never got round to obtaining a driving licence, so the cows were herded by him, his bike and the collie dog. In all his working days I never saw him use a bike with gears or one of a decent size (he was 6ft 3ins). After he was widowed it was tricky to find things to cheer him up but I do recall a short cycle holiday with him. Memorable for several reasons. Firstly, he managed to get up the hills and I didn’t and secondly for the whisky. We had chosen to bike up to deepest Aberdeenshire where his cronies lived and when he decided to do morning visits (he assured me everyone would be at home and up and about by 0730) I assumed we were in for tea and toast – but no, it had to be a dram before getting back on the bikes!

My Dad (right) holding up his bike with my Uncle (left)
My Dad (right) holding up his bike with my Uncle (left)

So when I started earning, a good friend who liked to make up bikes built a large frame size cycle (with gears) customised for Dad. He was delighted. Possibly a bit too pleased actually. It was my cousin who rang to say that dad had written off a car. It took a while to get the gist of the story but essentially he liked to be SEEN on the road and therefore in country roads always rode near the centre white lines, ensuring any overtaking cars would think carefully before bumping his new bike. One motorist just thought he would risk it and lost his car and disrupted several metres of dry stone dyke. Thankfully he was not injured (though it is rumoured he did swear a lot). Latterly, dad used the bike as a very effective zimmer frame to help him get down to the local shop and then carried his shopping home on the handle bars.

My Dad and his bike
My Dad and his bike

I have to confess that I’m not a REAL cyclist – I don’t wear Lycra, like to have a cagoule handy and often cycle in my office shoes. I just really enjoy being on a bike. Student days in Aberdeen, work in Cambridge and weaving with traffic in Glasgow are my sort of adult cycle experiences. These days,because I think I live too far away from work to cycle (>10 miles), I have 20 minute, 40 and 60 minute leisure routes near home . These bike rides often involving visiting friends or checking on brambles, apples, rhubarb, garden escapee fruit bushes, wild garlic and other things you see if you go at my speed. I have to rarely been known to overtake another moving cyclist.

Me...in my younger years!
Me…in my younger years!

The past 12 months have been special cycle months… a bike trip with my sister in her NZ home (she is the one with the skirt in the photo and cycles the same speed as I do!).

My sister (wearing a skirt), third from the left
My sister (wearing a skirt), third from the left
Cycling in NZ
Cycling in NZ (armed with a cagoule)

My daughter did her first triathlon (it did involve lycra)…

My enthusiastic daughter!
My enthusiastic daughter!

…my grandson got his first bike…

A pushbike!
A pushbike!

…and I bought another (second hand) bike to keep at work for lunchtime breaks… though I have yet to get up the Ninewells hill.

The strap line for cancer reduction is “Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting”. The background and review paper on physical activity and cancer reduction is persuasive that getting active is a great. For me, cycling is a really pleasing thing to do and it just happens to add to my physical activity level.

During October, the SCPN is promoting cycling to encourage physical activity as recommended in the recently published European Code Against Cancer. Look out for our Friday, Saturday and Sunday ideas #AboutABike to encourage beginners and those who haven’t cycled for a while to get out with pedals. The @thescpn social media campaign is designed to encourage those who don’t fancy Lycra but might just enjoy biking and increasing activity levels, improving balance and seeing a bit more of the world in low gear. I recommend it!

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– Annie

Professor Annie S Anderson BSc PhD RD FRCP (Edin)
SCPN Co-Director


Thanks to everyone who has helped with “About a Bike” especially

  • John Palfreyman Coupar Angus Cycling HUB 
  • Sheila Fettes Specialist Dietitian, University of Dundee
  • Chris Oliver @cyclingsurgeon
  • Jim Riach and Gillian Lambie Scottish Cycling
  • Subbra Palaniappan, George Mayfield and Morven Lean SCPN Helpers
  • Connor Finlayson SCPN Digital Communications Assistant
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