I live in the middle of a cycling kingdom here in Ludlow and I admit to having cycle envy whenever I see a passing cyclist.
The thing that everyone says is as easy as…is difficult for me. With each passing day that I don’t cycle, I feel my fear will solidify into an all-out phobia.
According to Cycling UK, around 71% of people never get on a bike. I bet a percentage of those people, like me, have gotten on a bike and fallen off a bike and therefore refuse to get back on a bike ever again. However, when I see people cycling, they look like they’re having fun and I get curious all over again.
Every year is the year I will begin cycling and that’s as far as the thought goes because fear and all sorts of reasons prevent me going any further.
This year, I have pulled my bike determinedly from the back of the shed to the front of it. Major step. I dusted the thing off and the intent is to set off while actually sitting on it.
This time is different because I’ve found a cycle champion. I met Suzanne Boak, an operations manager at Ludlow-based Islabikes at a Women in Rural Enterprise (WIRE) group meeting. I regaled her with my woeful tale of repeated attempts to cycle, the bad falls and lost confidence.
Suzanne is gently supportive and encouraging. She was very empathetic and understood my fears because she had been in a similar position not too long ago. Suzanne conquered her nerves with lots of help and support from Isla herself and moved from a fear of cycling to taking her bike out regularly. She cycles to and from work and has participated in long cycle rides.
I told Suzanne about my wish to cycle and to have fun while doing it. Without hesitation, Suzanne offered to accompany me while I rode. Thankfully, her support is light touch and patient. On our first attempt, she discovered my bicycle wasn’t quite fit to ride. Instead she gave me a biking 101 introductory course, in simple language.
I learned to ride much later in life so the whole setting up a bike thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m still grappling with the concept of gears! Suzanne was positively heroic swooping in and getting me on my bike.
She also rides with a local group called Salopian Tubes. It’s an informal group of women helping each other to get out and have fun while cycling. The group stays together and rides at the level of the least confident/skilled in the group. Suzanne suggested I could build up my cycling confidence with this group.
Recently, I had my first jaunt outdoors with Suzanne and a couple of other members from the group and it was exhilarating. The ladies were patient, calmed any nerves, answered my questions; nothing was too stupid and I got the point of gears whilst climbing some of those seemingly monstrous peaks in Mortimer Forest. When I become more practiced, I’ll refer to them as hills!
Whenever I needed a pause, we all stopped as a group. I was encouraged and congratulated and I kept going. The paths were slushy with mud, I wobbled a few times, my legs were on fire at points but it was so much fun!
At the end of my first ride, I got high fives all around. It’s just the beginning of a long journey I’m embarking on, one little cycle step at a time.