Riding out of the dark
Published 4 January 2012
Can’t face that gloomy January bike ride? In our first Breeze Guest Blog, Louise Mullagh remembers how it was cycling at precisely this time of year that helped her get over depression – and start a new business...
Winter isn’t such a great time if you're a cyclist. Heading out on cold, dark and wet days can feel like such an effort. Don’t discount it though, as it was winter riding that helped me to recover and sparked the idea for Patisserie Cyclisme, a website which champions great cafés for cyclists. This time last year I found myself off work with depression. It was debilitating, and there were days when I felt physically and mentally exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to get out on a bike in the cold, wet and dark, but that’s exactly what a friend suggested I do, as exercise really does do your mental state good.
To start with I focussed on just turning the pedals. I'd go out for an hour and end the ride at my favourite café, for coffee and cake in the warm. My goal was to just ride, to forget all about speed, distance and how hard I was pushing myself – it was just me and my bike.
I won’t lie, winter riding isn’t easy at times. There were days when I would be riding with tears streaming down my face, when it took all my energy just to turn the pedals, but going out for short rides helped immeasurably. It was the thought of the café stop, the chance to get warm and collect my thoughts, with the satisfaction of having had fresh air, that got me round during the first few weeks.
As my strength and confidence started to return, I rediscovered my passion for riding. I could push myself that little bit more and, with the wind against my face, started to savour feeling alive. The sense of exhilaration when you reach the top of the climb, and the sheer joy of the descent started to return. It became easier to turn those pedals, even as the rain poured and the wind blew – and there was always the café to look forward to at the end.
It felt so good to be physically tired from exercise, to be able to get out and feel my mind calming down again, and most of all to start getting back out into the world after hiding away in my house.
Cycling really did help me heal. It even sparked the idea for Patisserie Cyclisme, which helped me through the dark winter. At the moment it's a review-based website, but I have plans to expand this year. The aim is to connect even more cyclists and cycling cafés, as well as to feature articles and produce high quality jerseys and cycling gear for all types of rider.
I’m looking forward to the challenge – and the next stage of my cycling journey. Cycling might be a little tougher at this time of year, but just make sure you’re prepared with warm clothes and tools – and never, ever forget your café money!
Louise Mullagh is an art historian and museologist by trade. As well as developing Patisserie Cyclisme, she hopes to study for a PhD in the next couple of years.