How I became a serious cyclist

Cycling enthusiast Noel McFarlane grew up in rural country towns where riding a bike was the only option. He didn’t buy his first car until he was 30 and today, riding bikes is still a daily activity. “We’ve only got one life. I don’t want to spend mine sitting around watching TV,” enthuses this adventurer.

Becoming a cycling enthusiast
When Noel moved to Sydney for university, he bought a bike. Then after finishing his Masters in Economics, he went to his first riding festival in Canberra, which steered him towards the lifestyle he maintains today. “Within a year I was off on a bike ride to Cairns, then another one to Perth,” he adds excitedly.

Soon he was travelling all around the world on his bike in exciting locations such as Turkey, Germany, Japan, Sri Lanka and South America. After returning from his first overseas bike tour to India, he was convinced this would be his life’s passion and worked in the mines to save enough money to open a bike shop in inner Sydney. Today, Noel owns a small portion of his previous business, now a long distance touring bike brand called Vivente Bikes and earlier this year he went on a trip involving cycling 1,300km through the South of India. The next challenge? A trip to Europe cycling from Hamburg to Brussels.

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Image: Noel McFarlene and friends (1978)

Working remotely
Noel says the key to running his business remotely is using his Macbook Air whilst on the road and in this case he has, “trained my customers to communicate with me on email.”  To clock up such a phenomenal amount of cycling kilometres in Sydney, Noel cycles every day from his home in Neutral Bay to his work in Marrickville: a round trip of 26km, which he says takes the same time as a car, is much faster (and cheaper) than public transport. When he travels to his property in Tasmania, Noel cycles the 100km trip from the airport to the farm. If he needs to go 5km to the nearest shop, he simply hops on his bike. His next planned trip to Europe will involve an impressive 2,500km of cycling.

Preparing for a long distance bike tour
Noel packs his bike into a bike carton and brings a small bag of necessities. He flies with Emirates or Singapore airlines (as these airlines allow 30kg for his bicycle). Upon reaching the destination airport, he will ride into the city centre, stay for a night to prepare and then head off on his bike on a pre-planned route through the stunning countryside.

He stresses this is a great way to experience the world and believes that anyone is capable of doing these trips with the right preparation. “If you had never ridden a bike more than 1 kilometre but you were average health, you could still do it,” he says.

If you were training for a trip, Noel says you could ride 1km a few times and by the end of the first week be able to ride 25km. It may sound like a challenge however, he is adamant that within a fortnight, anyone, with average health and fitness, would be able to ride 100km. “Those muscles just develop. So anybody who’s got that anxiety that they physically couldn’t do it would very quickly conquer that.” On the logistical side of it Noel jokingly adds, “anybody who can make a Christmas cake can put their bike together.”

Package deal or do-it-yourself?
Although group bike tours seem simpler and more comprehensive, Noel is a strong ‘do it yourself’ advocate. He believes that having the flexibility to change your trip due to weather or on a whim makes the trip more enjoyable. “When you get the whole package - the bikes and the accommodation - it means regardless of the weather, you’ll ride every day. But it often doesn’t work out like that. You can play it by ear a lot more if you have your own bikes.” Noel also advises to use your own bicycle which has been adjusted to fit you and that you trained with.

Noel On Bike

How to get started
For anyone wishing to get involved in the biking community Noel recommends you start making connections with the world the world of long distance bike touring through forums and websites. He believes that cycling is the perfect exercise as it is relatively low impact. “We’ve got to stay active and the bicycle is the easiest way of doing that.”

For more information on cycling in Australia visit this website or google your local bike club to get started.

Feeling inspired to start your own new adventure? An easy way to start today is to join a local sports club. Find out how here.

Do you like to cycle? What is your favourite sport to do to stay fit? Join our conversation below…