Smiling woman on bike in the hills.

Agnes Illingworth

Agnes rediscovered her love for cycling after retiring, and joined her daughter Nicola in the Bingley Belles.

I have been with the Belles for almost a year now – my first ride with the belles was July 21.

I got my first bike for Christmas at age seven, from first discovering it (hidden) in the upstairs (best room) and riding it back and forth between the landing and the two rooms on either side (we had a big house) I was hooked.

So on Christmas morning (pretending to be oh so surprised, on my older brothers’ instructions) my two older brothers and I set off around the streets to get me ‘properly’ used to riding! I fell off lots but that’s part of it, or so I was told!

During the following days, I learnt to ride my bike with more and more confidence and less and less fall-offs!! 

My brothers were wanting to go farther afield, but my dad wouldn’t allow us to go on the roads until we had passed our cycling proficiency test fortunately (back in the day), during the school holidays the police would set up local CP training weeks followed by ‘The Test’ in local school playgrounds and there was one taking place the next holidays after Christmas.

So at age seven, I was one of the youngest children to pass their CP Test (I was well proud and wore my badge with honour). 

After that the adventures began, during the long summer holidays we would pack up a picnic in the morning and set off on our bikes (not quite the FAMOUS FIVE but there were five of us, no dogs though) and we would be out all day cycling miles and miles out into the countryside.

The one adventure that sticks in my memory was cycling from Halifax to Stoodley Pike along the canals I had only had my bike for six months (oh and it only had three gears).

What I remember most, wasn’t the ride so much as the climb up the last 100 yards or so up a field to the Pike and being terrified of the sheep! They were so huge! And so flipping close! I think that’s why I remember that adventure more than any of the others. I was traumatised!

I carried on riding my bike on and off through the years, the bikes got bigger (but still only had three gears) until I bought myself a top-notch bike (in the late eighties) with drop handlebars, FIVE gears and a derailleur!!!

Man, now I had a super-duper bike and could go anywhere.

This is the bike I rode to work on along the canal from Halifax to Todmorden and this is the bike I landed in the canal with!!! But enough said about that!

Unfortunately, it was stolen soon after that incident and I was without a bike for quite a few years.

My next bike adventures were with my daughter Nicola, she would suggest a ‘little’ bike ride. This would usually end up being around 40-45miles long and considering I was on a bike very little if at all, during these times I was always, always, sore.

So the bike would go away and I wouldn’t ride again until Nicola suggested another ‘little’ ride and because Nicola lived in the North East, these little rides were always months if not years apart!

Then in 2020 I retired and Nicola moved back home to Yorkshire (within five miles of me) and I rediscovered my bike and my love for cycling.

We started to go out more frequently together and then she introduced me to the Belles and, as they say, the rest is history.

Because of the lovely Belles, I am on my bike most days and I have now been back to Stoodley Pike (courtesy of Jeannette Dunning), I had forgotten how steep that ride is, so now I’m doubly proud of having done it at age seven and with only three gears!

I have very recently invested in an eBike which helps me up the hills and gets me home after a ride (I live at the top of a steep hill).

I have to say the eBike is the best. It’s sooo much fun! I can even say I enjoy riding up Five Rise Locks!

I completed my Ride Leader Training on the 18th of this month and so I will be giving a little back by setting up and leading rides to say thank you to the group for all the love and support they have shown in getting me back out there!

I love the Bingley Belles and expect to be riding with you for many years to come (if you’ll let me). 

Agnes Illingworth's favourite ride

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