Julie, one of Scottish Cycling’s Club Development Managers, caught up with Megan Sproul from Dundee Dynamo Cycling Club, to get her personal insights into #BikeAndBlether.
Megan is one of the Mental Wellbeing Champions currently engaging with the training being delivered by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). When asked why she became involved in the #BikeAndBlether project and training to become a Mental Wellbeing Champion, Megan’s passion for being able to give back to her community, build social networks and encourage her starter group shines through.
Megan is keen to introduce rides that are low stress, low anxiety and for all abilities, explaining she had not been on a bike since her university days. Originally from the United States, Megan moved to a new country as an adult and wanted to actively build a social group in her new city, Dundee. Her husband is also a keen cyclist, and his social group are cyclists, so Megan felt the best way to build her own social group was to join her husband and take up cycling. In Scotland, especially during the winter, it is not always the easiest to get outside, but going cycling helped Megan to address this with the added benefit of increasing physical health.
Megan’s focus has been overcoming barriers to entering cycling and encouraging others at the start of their journey too. She found that when she started being the voice, talking about her own physical limitations on the bike and recognising her own ability and fear, then other people wanted to join her, on what were initially badged as beginner rides. Working as a teacher, Megan describes how she constantly thinks about identity and social labels.
Megan didn’t feel right calling it a beginner group, and felt this connotation was quite negative, because ‘the group won’t always be beginners’. When invited to join the #BikeAndBlether project, Megan felt this really helped to remove the beginner label. The focus is on group rides that are easy paced and social, where no one gets left behind. The reframing of the group’s name, with members affectionately known as the ‘Bletherers’, ensures they are inclusive of everyone.
Megan describes how the distance of the rides can often be a barrier to people who are new or getting into cycling, however the club’s weekly #BikeAndBlether rides aim to be back by lunchtime, but always include a café stop as everyone wants to chat! The group meet up each Saturday with hopes of encouraging others to get involved through their weekly write-ups, blog posts, and photos. Megan is committed to making cycling more accessible, both for her own self-esteem and personal motivation, but also to help provide an entry point where anyone can join in and then access other rides when they feel ready.
Dundee Dynamo Cycling Club cater for cyclists of all ages and abilities. The club offers something for everyone, across many disciplines, with road rides, gravel, cyclo-cross and mountain biking. Club members engage in weekend club rides at a range of different distances and average speeds and also participate in competitive cycling events.
Megan’s club mate, Kenny, who helped to start the club’s beginner rides, now leads the ‘Inbetweeners’, who go out at a slighter faster average pace. The social element of both groups is very important; they always meet up at a café during their rides for a blether and finish together. Everyone is supporting each other in a safe environment and the aim is for these rides to be quite fluid, where anyone can move between rides at any time, allowing for growth.
Scottish Cycling’s #BikeAndBlether project aims to break down barriers and reduce the stigma of having conversations about mental wellbeing, creating a culture of inclusivity in cycling clubs. Megan feels that by actively modelling and communicating her own fear and self-doubt this opens the space for others and reduces their fear and anxiety about things.
The club’s #BikeAndBlether rides don’t focus specifically on having mental health conversations, however they offer a safe space for others to share and be supported. When asked about the SAMH training, Megan says this is really good. The training has helped her to think about the key indicators in mental health and wellbeing, the benefit in being open with communication and allowing people to decompress. Many people have stressful jobs and home lives, and Megan recognises that sometimes a bike ride is the only time you can “blether it all out and release”.
From her own personal experience, it is sometimes hard to find motivation, but as soon as you start the ride and are five minutes in, everyone feels so happy to go and feels so much better for going. Riding with a group is great for getting problems off your back and having people listen to you and problem solve with you. Despite everyone in the group being very different, Megan feels they can all relate to each other and share problems. Being in a group that is supportive, where people have your back, is how Megan describes the wonderful part of her club’s #BikeAndBlether rides.
We would like to thank Megan for taking the time to chat about her own experience of the #BikeAndBlether project. If you would like to learn more about the project or become involved as a Mental Wellbeing Champion, please contact the Scottish Cycling Club Development Team via email@example.com