A Dad’s Tale

We’re delighted to welcome to the Love to Ride CityConnect team a brand new cycling ambassador. Since engaging with Love to Ride CityConnect when we launched in 2016, Rich ‘Wozzy’ Warren has been one of our star participants, winning the much-coveted, limited edition Chopper for his incredible effort in encouraging others to ride. Here’s his story:

Everything’s just fine… isn’t it?

Seven years ago, I was obese, but that only came to mind whenever I looked at myself. Daily office (in)activity levels meant I could achieve everything I thought I wanted to do. However, as my son got old enough to walk then pedal a bike, I realised I needed to do more and I could be a much better role model for him.

False Start

I bought a bike through Cyclescheme thinking it would help me lose weight as I reminisced about a childhood of cycling everywhere. It turned out living halfway up a hill really knocks your motivation when you’re overweight and unfit, so the bike very quickly ended up in the garage as a spider playground.IMG_0371

One important point to note that I have only really understood in recent times, is that I when I did ride, lots of people smiled. I used to envisage they were thinking “ha, a fat guy on a bike” but I nowadays realise it’s really “good for you, I want to encourage you because you’re making an effort”.

0 to 6 miles

After a few years I decided to lose the weight through dieting then spruced up the bike and did a few local canal rides before considering riding to work. It probably took a month or more from thinking about commuting by bike to actually riding. It was easier to make an excuse than find out all the details about bike storage/access, changing/showers, clothing storage and probably impinging on existing rider’s space.

Starting with the odd ride to work on nice sunny days through to a first full week probably took about 3 months. If I didn’t ride, I would be in a lovely comfy car, listening to music whilst sat in traffic. However, bit by bit I’d notice cyclists more on the road and how they get to town way quicker. Also, as I became familiar with the route, I enjoyed it more and noticed how much cheaper the journey was – though the difference was soon spent on early-days bike accessories (lights, lock, jacket, shorts, bike upgrades).

After maybe 6 months or more I felt a traitor to be commuting by car so that was reserved for the days when you logistically can’t help it – for me that was getting my son to hospital appointments.

Commute > Leisure > Challenge

IMG_20140908_193416After around 9 months since first getting back to the bike, I decided I needed a road bike to do distance rather than the go-anywhere mountain bike. That changed everything. Within 4 months I did my first century, 9 months I rode London to Paris and 18 months later I was riding 200 miles Leeds – London solo non-stop.

My previous comprehension of distances had totally crumbled and the reality that you can get to places by bike rather than car was born.

The Bigger Picture

A couple of years of self-indulgence was enough for me – I’d used my zero-to-something for supporting charities. People were now getting used to me being ‘a bit odd’ plus the time needed to push further would have conflicted with my family life. Therefore, I switched focus to help others discover the joys of riding while I still remembered and had great empathy for what it takes to get going.

Love to Ride was the first platform I used for that specific purpose – I remember monitoring the encourager, distance, most rides and new rider league tables through Cycle September to try and keep our company near the top. We had a good existing base of cycling at the office so we used that to encourage others to come along.

Following Love to Ride’s Cycle September, as a company we improved/enlarged the bike storage facilities and used prize vouchers to buy tools and other useful bits to support everyone riding in. The company remains one of the stronger ones in the area at each Love to Ride initiative!

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‘Lapsed cyclist’ Becky sets sights on Hopetech Women’s Enduro

Becky Cumberworth still remembers the magical moment when she learned to ride a bike. “I was furious with my mother for letting go!” she said. “But then I realised I was riding on my own… it was a wonderful feeling.”

Despite the great start, like many adults in the UK, by the time Becky started high school cycling had been socially engineered out of her life. None of her friends rode to school, there was no safe cycle infrastructure to ride on and being told she was ‘dangerous’ on her cycling proficiency test massively dented her confidence. And that was that… cycling got ‘locked away’ in the childhood memory bank, possibly for good.

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But in 2014, the Tour de France Grand Départ came to Yorkshire and, inspired by the event, Becky knew she had to give it another go. Fortunately for her, a recent upgrade to the local canal towpath by CityConnect provided a safe route to regain her confidence and she soon joined lovetoride.net to stay motivated and encourage others at Leeds City Council where she works.

“When Love to Ride came along, people at the council were suddenly talking more about cycling and sharing stories of people winning prizes for riding and encouraging. It’s great to see this happening in the workplace”, said Becky.

Spurred on by her achievements on the canal, Becky decided she wanted to explore the local hills and attended a Mountain Bike Skills Course for beginners with local provider MTB Cycle Yorkshire. “The course really built my confidence and inspired me to ride more”, said Becky. Even better, she’s now encouraged a neighbour to give it a try and they’ll both be heading up to Gisburn Forest on 14th October to take part in the Hopetech Women’s Enduro (there are still a few places available for those inspired to give it a try!).

“I’ve never ridden an Enduro event before, but I’m really looking forward to meeting and learning from all the other women taking part in this grass roots event which is all about having fun and giving the sport a try in a friendly environment.”

Apart from her mountain bike, which Becky bought from her local bike shop Chevin Cycles in Otley, she hasn’t got any special equipment for the event… in fact she was quite proud to report she’ll be riding it in her running gear!

“Taking part in lovetoride.net has encouraged me to take my cycling to the next level. I’m so glad I took that first step to getting back on the bike and I’d encourage other lapsed riders to give it a try – you never know where it might take you!”

 

Love to Riders Reminisce about Transcontinental Triumph

As registrations opened recently for the 2018 Transcontinental Race, two Love to Ride South Yorkshire members from Sheffield reflected on becoming the first ever women’s pair to finish the 2,500 mile ride from Belgium to Greece.
“It’s probably the most high profile adventure race in the world,” said Ang Walker. “And we wanted to see if we could do it!”
Julie Bullen added: “Women my age in their 50s do doubt themselves, about what they’re capable of. But I’d say don’t limit yourself.”
Unlike other long distance cycle races, the Transcontinental allows no support crew for riders, and provides no official route to follow. So Julie and Ang had to carry all their own equipment from the start in Belgium through Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Macedonia to the finale in Greece, having climbed the equivalent of five and a half mount Everests en route.
Challenges included being chased by dogs in virtually every Romanian town and village, sleeping in fields, and plotting a route to avoid the busy Eastern European roads where drivers had little understanding of long distance cycle riders, and tended to overtake inches away, smiling and waving as they passed.
“We knew we weren’t going to enjoy all of it,” said Ang. “But we wanted to enjoy some of it.”
Highlights included the stretch from Venice to the Dolomites, the German Alps, and passing the monasteries on the rocks of Meteora in Greece. And the many ‘dot watchers’, the cycling fans following each rider’s GPS signal on the online route map, who’d come out to encourage the cyclists along the way.
Both women had cycled long distances before, across Australia and the USA in Julie’s case, while Ang had competed in the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris race in 2015.
The Transcontinental 2017 schedule last summer involved cycling 150 miles or more a day, with around four hours of sleep, and then setting off at 5 am to avoid the traffic and keep as close as possible to the checkpoint timings along the route.
Julie and Ang finally arrived at the finish line in 19 days, 21 hours and 5 minutes. This year they’re taking on the Normandicat race in May, which will involve cycling 560 miles through Normandy over 3 days.
Julie is retired, while Ang is now back working as cycling project manager at Sheffield’s Recycle Bikes, and winning top place and other accolades on South Yorkshire’s Love to Ride programme. “Wherever I am, riding a bike just puts a smile on my face,” she said.
Julie reckons plenty of other women could do what she and Ang achieved. “I think you’re more resilient and more determined as you get older. As long as you do the training, and you’re physically right, you can do something like this.”
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> Registrations for this year’s Transcontinental have just opened: www.transcontinental.cc

Taking cycling seriously at the University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield won Cycle September in 2017 and they’re aiming to replicate their staff’s success with students this year through the DfT-funded Love to Ride/NUS Sustainability project, UniCycle. On Monday the University opened its fantastic new cycling facility.

“People want to cycle,” said Darren Hardwick, the University of Sheffield’s Sustainable Travel Manager. “And we hope that our new Cycle Hub will attract a wider cross section of people to cycle to the University this year.”

The new facility will provide secure indoor parking for 168 bicycles, along with shower facilities and 80 lockers for kit. “It shows students and staff that we take cycling seriously,” said Darren.

The University has been awarded the ‘most cycle-friendly workplace in the UK’ accolade in recent years, and last year won the national Cycle September title for large employers for the number of cycling trips made, and encouragement of new cyclists.

Around 10% of University staff cycle to work regularly, a figure comparable to many progressive companies in London where increased government funding has seen cycling rates increase rapidly over recent years, and the University have liaised with cycling staff about new routes and facilities around University sites.

Security is an ongoing issue for commuter cyclists, with reports that owners of more expensive bikes are being repeatedly targeted, sometimes by thieves monitoring phone apps like Strava.

The new facility is one response to the issue, said Darren, along with working with South Yorkshire Police and even equipping the University’s own security staff with bicycles to travel around the campus.

“Helping cyclists is one of the things we look at as a good employer,” he added. “I’d say to local companies of any size, talk to your employees to see what they need to help them cycle more. And if you’re interested in improving your cycle security, get in touch if you want to come here and take a look.”

Darren showing colleagues around the new Cycle Hub
Darren showing colleagues around the new Cycle Hub

How to be a Champion for Cycling

This post gives some advice about how to be an effective Cycling Champion at your workplace and shares some insights from one of our successful Champions in 2017, Ross from the Open University in Milton Keynes.

The Love to Ride programme of events is designed to help you help your colleagues ride more often and for transport. First up is Ride to Work Week (save the dates! 12-18 March), which is a great opportunity for regular bike commuters to help their colleagues try riding to work. It’s a good idea to organise a low-key Bike Breakfast (tips here) in February; this will be a good rehearsal for a bigger event during Ride to Work Week and an opportunity to tell existing bike commuters about it and enlist their help. People already commuting to work might be able to buddy new or occasional riders to help them ride in, or help you to organise social rides or other events to help foster a cycling community and build colleagues’ confidence.

Check out our post here to find out how riding to work can make you happier, healthier and wealthier – and how it can benefit your employer – so that you can articulate the benefits clearly to management and colleagues. If you can clearly communicate these benefits throughout the year via email, intranet and other channels, you will recruit more riders and spread the love more effectively! We also recommend finding out about adult cycle training in your area – this is often free or heavily subsidised and is a fantastic way to give new and returning riders the confidence they need to ride for transportation.

Ride to Work Week (March) and Bike Week in June are also great opportunities to build your team for our main event, Cycle September, when you can win organisation prizes.

Ross, a winning Love to Ride Champion in 2017, has some great insights to help you succeed as a Champ in 2018:

I targeted the cycling club as I thought that the sense of competition would appeal to them. The number of miles they were putting in pushed us up the leaderboard and when I could name specific organisations who we were jostling with, that made for some compelling posts on our intranet, Yammer and the noticeboard that attracted others. I think that competitive angle was what made the biggest difference.

We recently received our framed certificates, and they were very happily received, particularly for the department which came 3rd in MK for their size category. I feel sure they will be trying even harder next time around.

My advice to other champions would be to really focus on people who already cycle a bit, but perhaps not to work, or not very often. There’s nothing wrong with getting regular cyclists either – I was one and it still encouraged me on wet windy mornings. 

Why would Ross urge other organisations to sign up to Love to Ride?

Reduce your parking problems, ease congestion, boost your green credentials, improve staff health, fitness and alertness, have fun, win prizes. Why wouldn’t you want to sign up? 

We couldn’t put the reasons to ride better ourselves! Please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions about how to be an awesome Champion for Cycling.

Find out more and register at lovetoride.net

 

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