This summer, British Cycling are working closely with Halton Borough Council to Get Halton Cycling.
With a packed calendar of activities, there are plenty of opportunities for local people to jump on their bikes and pick up new skills, join led rides and get to grips with cycle maintenance.
Cycling has already made its mark on the borough however, with a strong presence of commuting, leisure and competitive cyclists. Right at the top of this scale is Lucy Martin, a professional road and track cyclist who grew up in Widnes. We caught up with Lucy to talk about her impressive career to date and how cycling can have a positive impact in Halton.
Having competed at the London 2012 Olympics in the women’s road race as one of Britain’s top cycling talents, Lucy first started her journey in cycling through her school:
“I started cycling when I was 15 after British Cycling Talent Team scouts came to my secondary school and tested me on the school field and saw potential. From there I was basically fast tracked into the sport and soon began training and racing alongside top British cyclists.
Being in the professional British cycling set up really helped me to develop quickly along with support from my friends and family. My local council (Halton) sports development scheme always backed me as a junior rider when I began to compete internationally.”
Though Lucy rides as a professional and is currently a member of the Matrix Pro Cycling Team, she still treats cycling as a way to get from A to B, riding whenever she can “even if it’s just going down to the shops.” In built up areas Lucy often beats the traffic and uses cycling as her main mode of transport to save on parking fees. These are just some of the benefits that confidence on a bike can result in, but Lucy encourages fellow Halton residents to get involved in the free sessions to pick up basic skills and ensure that cycling – no matter which level you ride at – is a fun and enjoyable experience:
“You never know what it may bring you. That's exactly how I started cycling; I had hardly been on a bike before British Cycling came to my school, but I jumped on that mountain bike and it turned out I was actually not too bad. It has changed my life so much since then! Cycling isn't just about riding; it's about the lifestyle, the people you meet, the various rides, places you get to go... it really is a freedom sport.”
Beyond cycling sessions and led rides, the next step for many is to get out and explore their local area while gaining further experience. Growing up in the borough, Lucy knows the many trails and fields around Halton well and describes exploring them by bike as “a great way to have a day out as a family.” The trails are especially good for steady group riding as you don’t need a specialist bike and there are plenty of routes to follow.
Riding on the road can present new challenges and is unlikely to be something that every cyclist wants – or needs – to do, but the best way to approach it is through initial training and local practice. The Confident Commuter sessions as part of the Get Halton Cycling programme are run by experienced British Cycling instructors and aimed at those who want to, or already ride to work – though the skills provided are useful for anyone cycling on the road.
Ultimately, cycling means many different things to many different people and the range of disciplines available makes for an incredibly varied sport. Speaking about first getting into cycling, Lucy said:
“Simply try and try and try. Some people will be naturally good at certain things compared to others, so it's good to test them all. I used to be useless starting off; I fell off so many times but it just takes a bit of practice and riding lots until all of a sudden you can handle a bike easily. It's second nature to me now and it's such a good feeling.
“Until I starting cycling I had no idea how scenic it can be around Halton, with all the small roads I would never have been down. Cycling is really growing and Britain is becoming a cycling nation so it's the perfect time to start and see why so many people get hooked. After all, you can still free-wheel and roll downhill – and you can't do that running!”
With activity sessions taking place through the summer, there is plenty for the family to get involved with. More information can be found on the Get Halton Cycling page.