Graham Carter says get on your bike - you won’t regret it. In his first article he tackles urban cycling, the benefits and different types of bicycles on offer to get us started

Welcome to probably the only series of articles promoting cycling that comes with a promise not to go on and on about fitness.

If you haven’t grasped the obvious health benefits by now, you probably never will, so let’s leave it.

Over the coming weeks I will be writing about getting on two wheels in Swindon – not just to get from A to B, and not anything as serious as racing, but rather how to improve your life through what I call ‘urban cycling’.

I admit that when I took it up, a few years ago, on entering my fifties, it was to get me fit and thin, but nobody ever stuck with any kind of exercise if it had nothing else going for it.

Cycling has plenty – all of which becomes so obvious in the first few minutes in the saddle that you’ll wonder why somebody like me had to spell it out.

It’s great fun, it’s cheap, it’s safer than you think, and – if you live or work in Swindon – it’s easy.

I have cycled in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona and beyond, and I can’t think of a better place to do it than here.

Cycle paths stretch all over town, spaghetti-like, or else quiet roads act like bolognese, binding it all together, and this network sometimes also takes you out to surrounding towns and villages.

It means you can spend hours peddling around, close to home, rarely sharing your space with anything that has an engine, in a way that is impossible in most towns and cities.

Most Swindonians don’t even have to tackle proper hills if they don’t want to (although, trust me, you probably will soon want to).

And now is the ideal time – with the worst of the winter hopefully behind us, and spring around the corner – to give it a try.

There are basically five types of bikes, and three of them don’t concern urban cyclists like us. These are the sit-up-and-beg type that you will soon find impractical for regular cycling; mountain bikes with big tyres and dozens of gears, which are too crude for us; and road bikes (what some people still call ‘racing bikes’), which we might aspire to, in the long run.

To become an urban cyclist you’ll probably either want a hybrid, which combines all of the most useful aspects of the other types, and won’t break the bank, or go for a (not-so-cheap) electric-assisted one.

If you want to buy new, locally there is a branch of a national chain, specialist shops and a few old-fashioned small or family-run shops, all with immense knowledge they are happy to share.

Or you could buy secondhand.

Recycles, a Salvation Army-led social enterprise in Princes Street (currently open 10am-4pm, Wednesday to Saturday, but soon to open on Tuesdays as well), refurbishes old bikes to a high standard at amazingly low cost, and they will make sure you get the bike that suits you, or help you get that old one out of the shed and back on the road.

Next time, we will start to look at routes across town and how they join up.

So be prepared to be amazed – and I promise this is the last time I’ll mention it – that it’s possible to get fit without really trying.