There are lots of ways to stay fit and healthy this new year. Toby Dalton, director and co-owner of Wheelbase, the UK’S largest cycle store, will be jumping onto one of his ever-growing collection of bikes and heading for the hills. He explains the attraction of the hugely popular sport

Why do you cycle?

I ride bikes first and foremost because they are fun, but they’re also a great way to keep fit and active. Cycling helps you de-clutter your mind, I have some of my best business ideas when I’m out on the bike.

Bikes are exciting when racing at speed, awesome when clearing a challenging descent or exploring new roads and trails. They’re also hugely social – riding in a group is great fun, which is why cycling clubs are so popular. Wind resistance drops by 20 per cent, the miles fly by and you can chat away while travelling along. Mountain biking as a group is great, too. There’s always plenty of craic on the trails and at every gate stop. Plus, every ride – road, mountain, gravel or eBike – needs to finish in the café or pub!

How long have you been a MAMIL?

I’ve always ridden a bike, from knocking around the Yorkshire Dales as a kid to racing mountain bikes semi-professionally as a junior. And now I work in the industry and live in the heart of the Lake District, surrounded by awesome trails and roads.

So to answer your question, I guess I was a MAMIL before the term was invented. I’ve grown up in Lycra, but always wearing the right kit for the right application – it’s never too cold or too wet to train, you just need the right gear.

Two items I couldn’t be without are my Castelli Idro jacket with the latest Gore Shakedry technology. This is a seriously high-tech jacket. You are essentially just wearing the Gore Tex waterproof and breathable membrane – that’s it. No face fabric or fancy features, just Gore Tex. The breathability is insane, but it’s not a jacket to mountain bike in.

My second must-have is an MIPS equipped helmet, the Giro Synthe. MIPS is a Swedish patented cage which is being licensed to be fitted in helmets from lots of different of manufacturers. MIPS essentially slows the rotation of your brain in an impact. The cage also makes the helmet a snug fit, meaning that it will be there when you need it, not rolling off the back of your head.

How many miles do you clock up on the average week?

Like most ‘MAMILs’, the challenges of running a business, a professional bike race team and family life mean I don’t get to spend nearly as much time on the bike as I would like. However, through the summer months I aim to ride 100 miles a week on the road bike and get at least one mountain bike ride in the Lakes.

I recently invested in a virtual reality indoor trainer – a Tacx Neo for those who are interested. This is an awesome piece of kit. I can race hundreds of people around the streets of London in real time one evening and ride up Mont Ventoux the next. It’s essentially indoor spinning meets video gaming, all from the comfort of home. It’s a practical and safe way of keeping fit over the cold, dark winter months.

What kind of cyclist are you?

I’d like to say I’m an all-rounder – I just enjoy riding bikes. Whether that is mountain, road, gravel or blasting around on an eMountain bike, they’re all great fun in their own way.

My cycling hero would be the America John Tomac. He was there at the start of the sport of mountain biking. He came from the era of road bike riding of Lance’s Motorola and was winner of the first World Mountain Bike Championship in Mammoth Mountain, USA, in 1988 with a disc rear wheel and drop bars – seriously cool.

How many bikes have you got?

Here’s my current list, though owning a big bike shop means there’s always the temptation for something else – there’s always a need for another bike! Cyclists call it N+1 – where ‘N’ is the number of bikes you currently own.

The race bike: Cannondale Hi Mod Super Six HiMod Disc Dura Ace

The everyday bike: Cannondale CAAD 12 Ultegra Di2

The Winter bike: Genesis Equilibrium Titanium, electronic gears, disc brakes and full mudguards

The Gravel bike: Specialised Diverge carbon

The hardtail: Kona Honzo trail 29er

The full suspension – to be confirmed!

Oh, and of course the pump track BMX for playing around with my son: GT Pro

What’s the most difficult ride you do?

To try and do my best to keep on top of the middle-aged spread, I ride the Fred Whitton Challenge each year in May. It’s known as the UK’s toughest sportive (a sportive is a non-competitive mass participation ride). The 112 gruelling miles take in all six of the major Lakeland passes – Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Wrynose and Hardknott Pass – not to mention many more unclassified hills along its route. It’s a beast of a course with the 30 per cent climb of Hardknott coming after 90 miles – I hate it and love it in equal measure. It keeps you fit and suffering on the road bike, which in some strange way seems enjoyable… if only after the event when you have a pint and a pie in your hand!

Do you have a cycling goal for 2018?

I’ll be doing the Fred Whitton again and would like to do one of the Haute events (a mini three-day stage race in either the Alps, Pyrenees or Dolomites where amateurs get the opportunity to essentially live and ride like a professional bike rider for three days). Other long-term goals would be to ride in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and shred the Andes Pacifico enduro trail, racing from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean.

Have you cycled from your store in the Lakes to your Darlington store yet?

Not yet, but the plan is to ride over in the summer. It’s around 80 miles crossing over an area called ‘Hard Hills’ and Bowes Moor, but there is also an awesome-looking gravel bike route via the Tan Hill pub.

Gravel bikes are a new phenomenon; they are essentially a beefed-up road bike with wide, mixed use tyres, strong wheels and comfort engineered into the frame – a real go-anywhere fast adventure bike.

Wheelbase, 100 Bondgate,

Darlington, DL3 7LB