Discovering a love for cycling can happen at any stage of life, but if you miss out on the experience of learning to ride in childhood, you may think that cycling is not for you. However, we think everyone should have an opportunity to cycle, and that it is never too late!
We spoke to Linda from the Scottish Borders, who discovered a love for cycling later in life. At first assisted by her husband, she developed her confidence, skills and experience by attending Breeze rides, and this year took on the challenge of her first sportive event, the Midsummer Breeze Sportive, organised by volunteers from the Hawick Belles Breeze group.
I’d never ridden as a child or had any interest in cycling despite my husband being a keen mountain biker. I became interested in cycling in 2012 after Sir Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and the golden summer of cycling at the London Olympics. I started following professional cycling, got more interested, went to a few races, and became a total fan! Eventually I wanted to know what it felt like to ride a bike myself; I think participating in any sport, even at a low level, helps you better appreciate the elite performances.
In 2019 I bought my first bike, a hybrid model, and learned to cycle. At first with my husband holding the back of the bike to help with balance, and then cycling back and forwards along rural lanes, with my husband cycling behind me, instructing me on when and how to change gear. By the next summer I’d got the hang of basic riding and using the gears, cycling around 5 - 10 miles.
In 2021 we moved to the Scottish Borders, and I got in touch with my local Breeze group, the Kelso Breezers. The organiser, Laura Nisbet, was very warm and welcoming, and she encouraged me to join. I cycled on weekend and evening led rides, and attended a course on road positioning and signalling, which I found very helpful. Soon I was happily riding 20 miles with the group.
I feel totally safe and supported riding with the group. The ‘no one is left behind’ principle is never a burden; our rides accommodate different abilities, and there is always a nice cafe stop. I have met new people and discovered different routes suitable for cycling. I think Breeze is a fabulous initiative helping women to improve their riding ability and confidence, whilst gaining new experiences.
My first sportive
I’ve always wanted to do a sportive, but most seemed too long. Then this year I saw the Breeze Midsummer Sportive advertised on Facebook; it offered two routes, one of 25 miles. It was also women-only, organised by Breeze Champions, and fairly local; it felt perfect for me, and I immediately signed up.
Laura encouraged others in our group to sign up too and it felt reassuring to know a few of the other participants. I’d planned to increase my mileage to help me prepare, however a head cold at the beginning of June kept me off the bike for a couple of weeks. Laura again was very supportive, assuring me that my legs would not have lost too much fitness. During the event she cycled alongside me throughout the entire route, even though she would have managed a much faster pace. I can’t thank her enough for her encouragement.
In addition to the challenge of cycling 25 miles, it was very windy on the day, and I found it pretty tough. However, we kept going and by the end our cycling computers indicated we had cycled 27 miles, the longest ride I had ever done! I felt okay afterwards, which made me think perhaps I could have pedalled faster – next time!
The event itself was very well organised, well sign-posted and marshalled. There was a magical moment when we toiled up a hill to find a pipe band playing for us at the top! I feel proud at having completed it, and thankful for all the support from Laura.
I’m so happy I decided to learn to ride a bike, I just love the feeling of pedalling along in the countryside. I’m so much more confident now thanks to riding with the Kelso Breezers and I’ve achieved my goal of completing a sportive event.
Information on how Breeze rides are classified and find out which level of Breeze ride is best for you here
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