Rob Leslie gets motivation tips from seasoned cyclist Mike Culley
MIKE Culley is by no means the oldest cyclist in North Devon, but few others can match his enduring vocal panache. When he's not racing most of the breathtaking speed trials around the West Country, tough 72-year-old Mike instructs cycling skills to children in many of the local schools.
I accompany Mike homeward to Ilfracombe from his cycling session for pupils of Westmead School in Braunton, to ride around the coastal B3231 Saunton Road to Croyde, before the scenic three-mile ascent through sleepy Georgeham and over Turnpike Cross.
Like myself, Mike gets his kicks as much from the vocal colour of banter riding the roads at leisure, as he does from the adrenalin buzz of competition. Unlike myself, Mike finds the energy to tackle even more sport such as long-distance swimming.
As ex-RAF police patroller Mike leads our charge around Windcutter Hill for the fast descent through Slade, he bawls through the roaring gale that it took knee surgery to eventually prevent him from continuing to instruct karate and run in triathlon races.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"I make the most of my semi-retirement, which is why I'm not interested in people of my age reminiscing about their b******* past glories," said Mike. "Looking to the future, I'm concerned about too many parents allowing children to make do with being entertained by computer games or the showbiz of celebrities, instead of encouraging them to work up a fulfilling sweat themselves."
Mike insists he would never ask a school pupil to do anything on the Bikeability training courses that he wouldn't do himself: "Because too few parents do any outdoor exercise, my veteran form is often the only direct sports inspiration presented to many youngsters beyond the school PE lessons. This is a sad reflection of how soft and lazy society has become."
Behind Mike's gnarly sergeant-major voice is a heart of gold, which I'm certain proves an effective formula for coaching the school kids. And there are no margins for error when leading the Bikeability courses on main roads.
Cycling has more public appeal since Sir Bradley Wiggins CBE won both the Tour de France and Olympic gold last year, influencing many thousands of adults throughout the country to rediscover the euphoria of playing out on the bike. Local hero Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who won the Tour of Britain should enhance the Wiggo effect here since becoming a Sky Pro Cycling teammate.
"I like to think that the Bikeability courses in schools now provide the vital first link for kids to next try out cycling as a sport through their local clubs at the weekends," said club stalwart Mike. Our club, North Devon Wheelers is one where youngsters can sign up for the coaching that is supported by the same British Cycling organisation behind most of the professional racers' success on both the velodrome tracks and roads.
Resting up, seated within the white surgically-inspired decor of Damien Hirst's quayside cafe in Ilfracombe, Mike agrees that the appeal of the gymnasium for clinically-defined fitness has its limitations:
"The great outdoors cannot be beaten for all the extra sensory ingredients it brings to sport," said Mike. "This rugged landscape never fails to transform the chore of my bike training into a pleasure, however many miles I've run up on the body tacho."
The other timeless pleasures of cycling are unashamedly of the material kind, which manifest as £3,000 of hi-tech bike contents on Mike Culley's insurance policy. Readers be warned that whatever your beloved claims is spent on their last bike, at least double it.
The extent to which mostly middle-aged male customers try to cover the tracks of their expenditure on bikes is astounding, according to Bideford-based Cycles Scuderia shop proprietor Malcolm Butler: "Husbands are notorious for cooking the books back home for a pro-spec bike's receipt to resemble little more than the weekly groceries bill. One customer is known to disguise the newness of his frequent bike replacements by burying them in the garden, to bizarrely fast-track an ageing effect."
I am on their side and yours, but I encourage women to do likewise and join the two-wheeled party. There are no age restrictions to this party and entry is of course free to the fantastic venue that is the North Devon countryside.
National triathlon award winner Peggy Crome celebrates a deceptive 70th birthday this year and wants to join Mike Culley on the start line of a new 100-mile time trial race for North Devon. I am certain many cyclists of any age would not dare tackle completing such distance, never mind race it.
While Mike and Peggy make me feel so sportingly inadequate, they also supply the best inspiration to overcome all the wind and rain here for my next two-wheeled fix.
"Experienced cyclists will agree that the biggest training hurdle to overcome is simply wheeling the bike outside and closing the door," quipped Mike, who invites me to a 7am swim in training to attempt the pool equivalent of the English Channel distance.
You're too kind Mike, but sleep management plays a vital role in my own fitness.