IF you want to know the benefits of heading out on a cycling trip along the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal, just have a chat with Claudio Pia
Better known locally as Dr Bike, Claudio runs Lambhill Active and quickly lists the rewards of a couple of hours in the saddle: fresh air, exercise, meeting new people, seeing wildlife and lovely scenery. Need he go on?
The 29-year-old waxes lyrical about outdoor activities along the canal and he is not alone. Over the past few years he has built up a steady following, of all ages, who join him for cycling trips and canoeing expeditions along the water.
“It started off initially as bike repairs, then we did bike rides and added canoeing. Now we are involved in the John Muir Award scheme,” he says after coming back from a cycling trip with local schoolchildren.
“Everyone who comes along loves it, many say they didn’t realise the canal was here and how far it goes. The canal is right at the back door of many people who come along but hardly any of them have been on it.”
Routes are planned according to the age and ability of those who come along, a flat route out to Kirkintilloch is good for children, while other cycle paths along the canal can lead off to Kelvingrove, Spiers Wharf, or as far as Clydebank.
“We are trying to break down barriers – to let people see that it can be a safe place to visit, and it is such a good link to get around the city,” says Claudio.
There is no booking system for Saturday cycling and Tuesday canoeing sessions that operate on a first come, first served basis and anyone is welcome.
Just wear appropriate clothing and bring something to eat for when the group stops for a break, Claudio can supply helmets and bikes for everyone aged eight and upwards.
“The canal can become an outdoor gym, it’s a fantastic resource,” says Claudio. “When I was younger I did a lot of cycling but as you get older and learn to drive you get lazy. When I got this job I started doing more cycling and realised how good it was: it’s a viable means of transport, you save a fortune on petrol, you get fresh air and improve your fitness at the same time.
“You also see a lot of different things you wouldn’t if you were in a car – the scenery and the wildlife.”
Claudio and his team of volunteers also take out local groups, including Phoenix Futures which offers help to those who have suffered from addiction problems, as well as Abercorn Secondary School, a special needs school in Cowcaddens.
Look out for Claudio’s Dr Bike repair service at open days around the Lambhill area and at Lambhill Stables. He can offer help and advice as well as a comprehensive repairs service.
The Forth and Clyde Canal offers a fantastic venue for leisure and exercise, says Alasdair Smart, waterway manager at Scottish Canals.
“The Commonwealth Games may be over, but now is a great time for the people of Glasgow to make the most of their legacy and take some simple, easy steps to get active.
“The Evening Times’ Active 2014 campaign shows just how many ways there are to keep fit and healthy in our great city and how even the smallest change in activity and lifestyle can make a huge difference. Scottish Canals is proud to support the campaign and we hope to see the people of Glasgow following Claudio’s lead, engaging their pedal or paddle power and tackling the towpaths and waters of the Forth and Clyde Canal.”