With the promise of buns ahead, Gill South takes to the Te Atatu Peninsula on two wheels

Well, I'm fighting the desperate desire to have a nap. I put it down to my active morning, meeting my friend, Belinda, cyclist extraordinaire, to ride out to Te Atatu Peninsula and going along the cycle path which goes parallel to the NorthWest motorway from Mt Albert.

I have agreed to this ride on the proviso that we can have muffins and tea out at Te Atatu Peninsula. After my family's cycle in Arrowtown along the Arrow River recently, we had sticky buns at Provisions cafe, sitting in the beautiful garden outside. So I now associate cycling with sticky buns. Ooh, I can hear personal trainers all around Auckland shrieking with horror!

Well it's not the Arrow River but we do go past the sea and mangroves on the way out to Te Atatu. I'm a bit wobbly when I lose my concentration so when Belinda calls out, "Look at the heron!" or "What a lovely view," I grip my handlebars harder and look determinedly straight ahead. "Yes, great," I say, without a sidewards glance.

The cafe stop, I have to say, is extremely pleasant. We pull up at the Luscious Food Store and enjoy some heavenly date brioches. They let us take our bikes to the back garden so we don't have to worry about them being stolen.


The real revelation of this bike ride is finally understanding how to use my gears. I surge up the uphill bits with far more ease than I ever have before. And I do like riding on the cycle track rather than having to worry about road rules. I find when I'm on the road I'm constantly going to look for my rear vision mirror and it's just not there, obviously. We come across a few cyclists on the ride. As soon as I see someone coming near my space I wobble a bit. They grin and give me a wide berth. Wise people.

Nearing the end, I feel a pressing need to get off my bike and give my behind a rest. I had asked to borrow my husband's cycling shorts the night before, thinking some padding might be a good idea but the look of horror and revulsion on his face said it all really. He's never been a good sharer.

I feel a real sense of pride when we get back home - we've covered more than 20km this morning.

I have a chat with cycling enthusiast and personal trainer Armin Auerhammer, of PTC Consulting. The German, who has a Masters in Sports Science, says riding is a whole-body workout. You need your arm, chest, shoulder and back strength/muscles to hold on to the handle and keep your balance.

It's a good workout for strengthening the lower back he says, particularly if you stay seated when going up hills.

He says I may have felt sleepy afterwards because I have been breathing in more oxygen than usual on the ride. Neck issues can happen afterwards depending on how my bike has been set up.My bike should be set up for my arm length. To be fair I've borrowed a friend's bike, her hubby has lowered the seat and off I've gone.

Maybe I should put a bike on my Christmas list. A bike ride, a swim and a tennis session every week over the summer would see me in pretty good shape, Armin reckons.

Next week: It's December 15 and school's out in my house on Monday so it's full-on kids and I'm in Christmas shopping overdrive. How do I stay sane at this time of year? I consult some professional help.