IN the warm-up area of the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, James McCallum is showing me a photograph of his 15-year-old self in the bath.

"Aileen McGlynn brought it in," he says, gesturing to the double Paralympic gold medallist on a nearby physio's table. "It's from a training camp when we were teenagers. Of all the people to have a picture like this, I didn't imagine it would be Aileen . . ."

It's a moment that succinctly captures the essence of McCallum, a gregarious and likeable character affectionately nicknamed "Jimmy Mac" and "The King of Scotland" among his peers.

Much has passed in the intervening 18 years from the wide-eyed, fresh-faced teenager in the photograph to the man who sits before me now. There are a few faint lines, a couple of creases around the eyes, but that cheeky twinkle endures.

Now less than 500 days – give or take a few – remain of his cycling career. Next summer McCallum, 33, will be aiming to ride in his fourth and final Commonwealth Games. Asked if it feels strange to put a number on it, he shakes his head. "It's given me a focus," he says. "It's about relishing the days I have left. I don't want to leave the sport with any regrets or thinking I haven't given it 100%. I like having a deadline." For McCallum, the reigning Scottish road race champion and now in his third season for Rapha-Condor-JLT, success in Glasgow would be a fitting conclusion to a career that has already spanned two decades.

"Usually you only get two Commonwealth Games cycles, but I'm privileged to have four," he says. "I was lucky enough to go the first time when I was still quite young, just 23 – now I'm like the grandaddy of the team. I'll be 35 by the time the Games come around. I feel proud that, if I do go, I'll be one of Scotland's most-capped endurance cyclists."

Having described the 2010 Commonwealth Games as "sterile", "soulless" and with "spectators in cages", McCallum is looking forward to the prospect of competing in Glasgow, only a handful of miles from the Uddingston home where he grew up.

"It will seem like a nightclub compared to Delhi," he laughs. "I got a feel for it when I competed in the Revolution Series in February. It was one of the coolest moments of my career. The crowd was amazing. It was phenomenal."

His goal is to compete in both road and track disciplines including the points and scratch races, in the latter of which McCallum won bronze at Melbourne in 2006. "Glasgow is going to be super special – I don't think people realise how much," he says, gazing around the velodrome. "This is where we are going to be racing. The good thing is it takes away all the excuses. Our surroundings will be familiar, the home advantage will be there."

Riding through the city streets in the road race, meanwhile, brings its own appeal, not least given cycling's burgeoning popularity on the back of last summer's Tour De France and Olympic Games. "I have come from cycling being a black art where you met at a corner and no-one knew much about it to the sport being mainstream with household names," he jokes. "That's been incredible to see."

The selection process is still ongoing but McCallum reckons a Scottish road race squad comprising himself, David Millar, Andy Fenn, Evan Oliphant, Michael Nicolson and a sixth member – possibly Ross Edgar – could be in with a fighting chance against a world-class field.

"The Aussies, England and Wales will be our biggest rivals. New Zealand are up there, too," he says. "The UK are a superpower in cycling now. To win a British championship, you are racing against some of the best guys in the world. It's so hard these days, it's ridiculous."

Getting the team right, says McCallum, is crucial. "Racing is a constant state of flux, you have to be willing to put your own goals aside for the greater good," he says. "If Dave Millar asks you to ride on the front for 5km, then only last for 2km that ain't going to cut the beef.

"Everyone needs to be on the same page. All it takes is one person being selfish or over-zealous and it ruins the whole dynamic. You spend five minutes arguing and next thing you have missed the race-winning move. That can't happen in Glasgow."

Before he turned pro in 2007, McCallum famously used to cycle the 100-mile round trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh for his shifts as a nurse. "I don't miss that," he muses. "There was some pretty horrible days. It could take upwards of three hours if there was a headwind."

Now based in Edinburgh, McCallum, married to Pamela, 30, an accountant, has already begun to look to life beyond cycling. It's his hope to carve out a coaching career after he retires from competing. "Having 20-odd years of experience, it would be silly to squander that," he says. "I'm already working on bits and bobs. The good and bad thing about being a pro cyclist is you have to be able to do several things at once to pay the mortgage."

His more immediate goals will include the Tour Series starting in May, British National Road Race Championships in Glasgow this June and the Tour of Britain in mid-September. He may claim not to subscribe to the romanticism often attributed to cycling – "You have two arms, two legs and get on with it. The romance has been tarnished. The sport will heal itself, but that will take time," he says – but McCallum isn't averse to a poetic turn of phrase himself.

"Life is all about recovery," he says. "Be it upsets in races, efforts in training, crashes, psychological issues: you are in a constant state of recovery. There is always something that hurts: dull aches, bones out of place, things needing cracked and popped. It's a weird way of living – as a cyclist you exist in a perpetual world of sensation.

"I'm just a normal person," he adds. "I just want to get on and do things with the least amount of fuss and stress. I get paid to ride my bike and, like anyone, I have to get up and go to the office. If you do a desk job, you have to get on the bus and walk in the rain – even on the days you don't want to do it. The same goes for me."