The Road To Birmingham riders are finding their pedals

The Road To Birmingham riders are finding their pedals

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From getting to grips with sat navs, to eating the right diet, find out how the riders are getting on in their training in our rider features.


Emma McNeill’s story

This week my bike and I celebrated our one month anniversary. This has been my first ever one month anniversary with a bike since my last bike, which was swiftly abandoned for ponies aged 12.

This first month has been a ridiculous rollercoaster; long rides, short rides (which I initially thought were long), group rides, solo rides, catch-up rides, getting lost rides (both solo and with others), ending up 30km away from where I thought I was and with no idea how to get home rides. But they’ve all resulted in the same two things: a sore bum and a huge sense of satisfaction.

My only other cycling experience was picking up a mountain bike borrowed from my mum to complete the Pedal for Scotland 2010, again whilst raising money for Alzheimer’s Scotland, I never imagined I would put my bum through that again, but here we go. Throughout my training I have come to really enjoy the freedom of the roads and have found fellow cyclists extraordinarily kind and nice, I love riding past a group on a weekend ride and getting 20 ‘hellos’, or struggling up a hill and suddenly a stranger rides past offering words of encouragement or tips and tricks. 

When I signed up for this challenge I didn’t really think about the cycling and it was all about the charity. Alzheimer’s is something that’s deeply affected myself, my family and a number of my close friends. It is a horrific disease which I have had to see too many people go through and it should be stopped. So far my fundraising is going well, I’ve been pestering my friends and family and post frequent updates and pictures of my training on Facebook and Instagram (charlotteroselowry). I have now moved on to bribing colleagues and flatmates with baked goods and sweet treats. 

I am thrilled to have been selected to take part in this ride for Team Scotland, I am getting ever closer to my fundraising target of £1000 and have found a new hobby which I fully intend on keeping up long after Birmingham.

Happy first month anniversary, bike!!

Follow our the SCOTLAND TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALSCOTLAND

You can support Emma by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.



Sarah Whittaker’s story

I thought it was about cycling!

Do you realise how much more you have to eat when cycling this much??? Don't get me wrong, I love to eat…especially cake and chocolate. So I think I fit in well with a stereotypical cyclist. However, chocolate does not make a suitable snack for a long ride. A lesson I learnt twice because apparently the first time wasn’t lesson enough! 

At the moment I am doing solo rides to make sure the mileage and speed is on target. But having no sense of direction (or memory) I resorted to getting a Sat Nav mobile app to plan the route and dish out directions on the way. I named her Sheila. Sheila and my relationship is a bit hit and miss and sometimes she decides to stop talking to me. Usually at a really important junction where, turn left and go up a massive hill or turn left  for a massive downhill. Either way, a wrong move cause much discord in our relationship. God help anyone driving or cyclist past in ear-shot!

On a serious note, taking part in this event originally was all about the cycling for me. I wanted to get back into the sport I grew up with and loved. But truth be told, it's about much much more. Re-kindling a friendship with KP (Karen, daughter of Teaspoonie whom I dedicate my ride in his memory), raising money for a fantastic cause in Alzheimer's Society and making new friends across the Bank.

I have been over-whelmed with the kind messages of support and donations and can't wait to get stuck in on 25th September. Not to mention meet all of these new friends in Team North dotted across the country!

Follow our the NORTH TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALNORTH

You can support Sarah by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Sarah Whittaker | Cards Operational Manager, Host |

Lee Falcus’ Story

Roughly 3 weeks into my training and although it was a tough start finding the time for the British Cycling plan, I am now starting to find my feet (or pedals) and getting on the bike regularly. The Road to Birmingham route has yet to be confirmed but having viewed the area on the map, I’m pretty certain there are going to be a few hills along the way. With this in mind, I thought ‘What better way to start training than to tackle one of the largest hills in my area’. Bad idea! I made it up but that’s about all, and I found myself at a slow pace for the rest of the ride. A proper plan was needed.

Having read up on cycling quite a lot over the last few weeks, I’ve found that it’s not all about jumping on a bike and riding as far as possible or, up as steep a hill as possible. There are a lot of ways to train. Over the last week or two, I’ve now been trying to focus on a varied plan, some rides focusing on distance and others, purely focusing on intervals, with the plan being that this will help my recovery following any hills. So far, so good. It’s amazing how quickly the benefits of this has started to pay off and I can already feel the difference when out and about (and also the days after). The only downside to sticking to a plan is that, when it’s not possible to get on to the road, other means have to be found. One of these other means a cycle class down at the local gym, which involves an early alarm to get me to the class before work.

Now the training seems to be getting in to a routine, I could really do with turning my attention to nutrition. I’ve got some SIS packs which make me feel like I’ve got this bit under control, but I’m pretty sure it’s also about healthy meals and snacks throughout the day which, if I’m honest, I struggle with. I know this needs to be my next focus and it was particular emphasized when I looked up some tips for hill climbing. Number 1 was ‘Lose Weight’. Great!

Overall, things are progressing well and I’ve always got to remember the real reason I am undertaking this challenge, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Such a great cause makes everything worthwhile and whilst I might not be able to nail the nutritional side of things, I will be doing my upmost to raise as much as possible.

Follow our the NORTH TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALNORTH

You can support Lee by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Lee Falcus | BRCM Analyst, CMB Head & Middle Office |



Jo McAndrew’s story

I'm Jo McAndrew, I've turned 40 this year and my goal was not to be fat, but fit at 40! 

I've always enjoyed a fitness challenge and have been a keen runner and swimmer on and off over the past 10 years.  I have a lot of friends who cycle and was regularly nagged about when I'll be getting a bike and if I am ever going to do a triathlon then I needed to make the move.

So, I bought a bike about 2 months ago and just after the opportunity came up to apply for the Road to Birmingham, so I applied.  I got the acceptance email a day before I went on annual leave but I then was unable to get on the bike for almost a fortnight so panic set in!

Anyway, I'm back now and with 7 weeks to go my rides are on track at around 30 miles max so far.  I've got a 55 miler planned on Sunday so my focus is time on the bike now. Luckily I have lots of friends who are able to be my cycle buddies and if its really bad weather or no one is free then I use the Watt bike at the gym.

I work as a Customer Experience Manager in Birmingham, but live in Bridgend so the Road to Birmingham will actually enable me to cycle to work (just once)!!!!

My justgiving page is set up and I'll now bore everyone daily through Facebook/Strava and email about my training and polite nudges to sponsor me.

Follow our the WEST TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALWEST

You can support Jo by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Jo McAndrew | Country Customers Experience Manager, RBWM Head Office |

Issac Ward’s story

My main reason I wanted to take part was because of the charity we are fundraising for. I feel like the money I will raise will help make a difference.

My journey so far… I am at the gym a lot and on the bike averaging 16mph. I’m constantly keeping fit by running and playing 5-a-side 2 times a week.

I have bought my road bike which I put in my dining room because I don't trust my mum not to crash into it if its in the garage!

Follow our the WEST TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALWEST

You can support Issac by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Issac Ward | Senior Customer Service Officer, RBWM Central |

Shehzan Dada’s Story

I’m Shehzan Dada. A graduate on HSBC’s graduate scheme. I am a young 25 year old with a 9 month daughter. I have always been an active person and really enjoyed playing all manner of sports but especially football. Since the birth of my daughter, things have gotten a little crazy (as expected) and fitness became very low on my priorities. After all I was battling sleep deprivation at this point!

With the dad bod properly established, I needed a real kick up the backside to get fit again and the opportunity came in the form of Road to Birmingham. I applied and didn’t think I would get picked but here we are.

Now comes the real challenge, I need a bike!

I haven’t cycled since college over 8 years ago and knew next to nothing about cycling. I then queued up as many YouTube videos I couldn’t get my hands on and learnt everything from changing inner tubes, washing your bike and even indexing your gears (Just means making sure you can shift properly).

I searched and bought all the biking equipment and started cycling. The first ride didn’t go to plan. It was 4 miles of pain as only after did I realise my tyres were flat and I chose an A road to cycle down!

I have since learnt and hitting over 20 miles on the weekends followed by static training in the week. I am truly excited for the challenge and have my Just giving page set up. The charity means so much to me as me and my family have been affected by dementia and it is heartbreaking to see our loved ones go through this incurable disease. I want to be able to make a difference and help others as well as help the charity find a cure!

Please sponsor me if you can as I push myself to the limit and undertake the biggest challenge of my life.

Follow our the WEST TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALWEST

You can support Shezan by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Shehzan Dada | Graduate Management Trainee, RBWM Central |



Louise Crookshank’s story

The “Road To Birmingham” is paved with many a challenge. The first of which was the underworld of Cambridge City: my bike was stolen on day 2. After feeling sorry for myself for a good day or so I hopped on a bus and bought myself a nice, new shiny bike from a veritable Alibaba’s Cave of bike shops (University Cycles).

This bike is my new best buddy and much more comfortable than my original one, blessings in disguise. I am the sort of person that likes to stick to a plan and so I am keenly sticking to the British Cycling Road to Birmingham training plan. This is proving to be challenge no 2, that and cycling 55km before work on a Saturday. There is something quite special about being up and out of the door before your 20 month old usually wakes you at 5h15. My branch thinks I have gone mad, that and they keep plying me full of food throughout the Saturday.

We are now half way through week 4 (or 5 on the actual training program) and I have started to hit a bit of a mental wall and a physical one. My muscles are taking longer to recover and I am starting to creak so it’s back to the drawing board with regards to nutrition. I want to avoid gels and stick to “foods” where possible. I now have a cupboard full of fig rolls and mini pittas and more jars of peanut butter than is sensible.

My next mountain is the 60km tomorrow. I will climb it and the next one, this cause is far too important not to.

Follow our the SOUTH TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALSOUTH

You can support Louise by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Louise Crookshank | Senior Customer Service Officer, RBWM Central |

John Wallbank’s story

Training is going well. The real challenge for me is to actually getting the time to get on the bike and ride. It’s great when I am on the bike, I really enjoy riding especially as it has little impact on the body compared to when I play 5 a side football. I am now increasing the distances that I cover. I am have now ridden 38 miles without a break.  Stephen, my Son has helped me put an Odometer on my bike which is great as I can keep a track of mileage, average speed etc. I am planning to ride 60 miles on Sunday and will rope my eldest Son, Jonathan to come with me, he thinks he’s fit, we will see on Sunday.

I am very lucky that my fitness levels are good as my legs haven’t hurt following the rides, it’s only my backside that gives me the grief!

As to sponsorship, I am actively sending emails and texts to staff, friends and family. The donations are growing day by day. Posters up in all the branches I cover and will be asking my customers to support me when I have face to face meetings with them.

Follow our the SOUTH TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALSOUTH

You can support John by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

John Wallbank | Premier Retail Manager, RBWM Central |

Benjamin Steele’s story

Cycling – The fear of falling.

I have this reoccurring nightmare that I’m unable to unclip my cycle cleats from the pedal when coming to a stop on my new road bike causing me to awake at the very moment I hit the ground! And to be honest, it wasn’t something I’d really thought about before taking on this challenge! I must say however, luckily I have yet to fall, but I’ve been told it will happen at least once so I am looking forward to that.

Currently I’m well into my training plan and gearing to ramp this up again next week! With the weather on the turn it’s becoming quite difficult however, I keep reminding myself of the worthy cause and to keep paying gratitude to the people who have supported me this far.

Given that I’m new to road cycling the experience has been fun and enjoyable, but also quite uncomfortable. It has however given me the bug to keep going and possibly seek further opportunities when this has all finished (one thing at a time though!)

Onto the challenge, I’m genuinely excited to be taking part in this challenge with my team and getting started. I do hope however that I’ve had my ‘one fall’ by then otherwise it could end up being quite embarrassing.

Follow our the SOUTH TEAM story on Instagram @BIGPEDALSOUTH

You can support Benjamin by donating to the Alzheimer’s Society here.

Ben Steele | Invoice Finance Business Development Manager, CMB London |