Fozia Naseem is Managing Director at Hop On, who deliver fun and social rides for families of all abilities in West Yorkshire including cycling skills to build confidence to ride on the roads. Hop On rely on donations of bikes to deliver these activities and spread the love of cycling to people who have never had the opportunity to experience it due to barriers of either not having a bike or the lack of confidence. On International Women’s Day, Fozia tells us why she loves to ride.
Having been through many challenges in life from a very young age and having to overcome them alone wasn’t easy. I went through most of my childhood feeling worthless, unloved and lost as if I had no roots or grounding that made me feel secure. Through adulthood it continued. I made bad choices because of not feeling worthy of anything good and by the age of 32, I really wasn’t in a good place.
During this time, the one thing that I did find was stability whilst on my bike. I saw the world from a difference perspective. I connected with nature and found it grounded me and gave me a sense of belonging. It was on my bike that I felt at peace and was reminded how grateful I was that I had my health and a body that served me well. Riding gave me self-respect and allowed me the space to make positive changes to flourish and grow into the woman I am today.
Having been on my own journey to self-respect and independence, I wanted to help other people gain confidence too. I realised there was an opportunity to use my love of cycling to do this and started running cycling sessions with South Asian ladies who wanted to learn to ride a bike.
Many of them had the physical ability to do it, but we found that they had a psychological block or self-doubt that held them back through the internal language they were using. It was only when we brought their attention to this internal language that they would feel challenged as they had never actually tuned in to it. It was here that they discovered what was going on and accepted something had to change.
It would occasionally turn out that we would have to take some time out away from cycling with some of the ladies to deal with what was going on with them internally before they could move forward. Once they got back on the bike, it was transformational. It was a massive achievement through cycling, but more importantly, it was the psychological benefits unlocked by riding that really made them evolve into the amazing women they are today.
We wanted to create a change in others where it mattered and where it was close to our hearts. To ignite the same passion of challenging, discovering and evolving and here it just presented itself.
We now all ride together and have so much fun as we mix with all communities from around Yorkshire – and the best part is we are keeping fit and healthy as a result. Our groups are more like families. The only difference is when our members are with us they don’t have a role to play, like a mother, daughter or wife. They are their true selves and they are given a safe environment to express themselves freely from which they grow.
The wealth we have got from cycling isn’t so much about the money we save by commuting by bike, for us it’s how rich our lives are now from being part of a community who cycle together and share amazing stories.