I was asked to write about my cycling experience for Bingley Belles calendar this month so here goes.
I’ve never ridden a bike, not as a child, nor whilst growing up. That’s not to say I’ve never wanted to. I guess it wasn’t the done thing culturally; “girls don’t ride bikes” and “what will people say?”. To that I say “let them stare and say there she goes!”
I hadn’t heard of Bingley Belles cycling group, nor did I know there were female cycling lessons available to women of all ages, faiths, abilities and backgrounds. A work colleague told me she was learning to ride a bike and seriously recommended that I go. I was apprehensive at first until she said “What do you have to lose, taught and led by women for women and at a pace that works for you?”
That was last October, when my sister and I signed up, donned our jogger’s, gloves and trainers and thought let’s do this. Reflecting back on it, it was a mixture of varying emotions; fear, nerves, giddiness but overwhelmingly it was excitement and the sheer willingness to learn a new skill. The team provided the safety helmets and bike’s at a very small hire fee and showed us little tips and techniques along the way.
Oooh! Am I going to be able to do this?
At first I wouldn’t let my feet off the ground; just the thought of falling off filled me with fear. The staff volunteers were so patient and positive and kept encouraging me to let go. Three cycling lessons later and we were both pedalling several laps around the playing court feeling a great sense of achievement and empowerment. We felt ready to continue with our cycling experience and have further lessons to brush up and put into practice what we had been learning. Come wind or pouring rain we just wanted to keep pedalling and embrace the experience so off we went to Roberts Park on most weekends. The staff volunteers who gave up their time on the weekends were all so friendly and dedicated; continuously giving us the push and encouragement to keep going. As such we paid a small annual fee and became members of the Bingley Belles group and also made a Let’s Ride account.
Going out on my first beginners ride and then further one cake rides onto the canal was just remarkable and breathtaking. Experiencing it as a cyclist and not a walker was just amazing. I’ve always loved going on the canal, loved nature and the scenery along the way but it was a different experience from a cyclist’s perspective. There’s so much more to think about whilst pedalling, like the terrain, other passersby and dogs, especially dogs not on leads or people who don’t give way.
Overall my experience of going out on these short bike rides has been very positive. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, encouraging and patient. Nobody is ever left behind and the ride is always set at the pace of the slowest rider. Through cycling I’ve built confidence in this new skill and a sense of empowerment and freedom. I’m looking forward to better weather so that I can go out on more bike rides, hopefully venture out further and also meet and make new friendships along the way.
I would encourage anyone who wants to learn to cycle or those who haven’t got back on a bike for a while to come along and join the group and ride.
Oh, and most importantly invest in some padded cycling shorts!