HSBC UK Breeze Champion hints and tips

HSBC UK Breeze Champion hints and tips


This Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week we are showcasing the opportunities at Scottish Cycling for women and girls to get involved in cycling. HSCB UK Breeze in Scotland trains women to become ride leaders to organise and lead rides in their local communities, supporting more women to (re)discover the joys of cycling.

We asked our volunteer ride leaders, known as Breeze Champions, for their advice for any women just getting started or who want to get into cycling. Here’s what they had to say:

Diane Maciver, Elgin

B- Begin with short, flat rides to get you used to your bike

R- Relax your upper body when cycling 

E- Enjoy your cycle rides 

E- Encourage your friends and work colleagues to join you on cycles rides

Z - Zealous Is what you will become about cycling very quickly 

E - Eat - always remember to put a coffee stop into your cycle rides

Group of female cyclists, standing behind a row of bikes, all appear to be eating ice cream cones

Photo by: Diane Maciver

Jill Fox, Hawick

Give it a go, we all had to take our first pedal and you will be supported and not left behind. Go for it you'll get headspace, laughs, friends, cake and silly info along the way. 

Pauline Capaldi, Edinburgh

Getting out on your bike is the hard part – once you are out it is so much fun! Even if you only go round the block you are still lapping everyone sitting on their sofa!

There is no shame in walking up hills! Each time you go out on the same hill try to cycle a little bit further – to the next lamppost for example and soon you will be cycling all the way up!

You don’t need lycra or fancy cycling clothes as long as you are comfortable.

Ask other cyclists about great cycling routes and get out with a Breeze group, you will soon know all the best routes including the best coffee and cake stops!

Get to know local sources of information – bike shops are really useful along with your local government website.

Enjoy taking in the lovely scenery, fresh air and the freedom of getting out by bike.

Group of female cyclists in front of a wall at Portobello Beach. Eight women are standing, four women are crouched in front of them. In the background there is sand, sea and sky.

Photo from: Pauline Capaldi

Kirsten Makins, Ross-shire

My top tip is to be confident in the part of the road you cycle on: choose the line of the car wheels - generally smoother, avoids the grates, and still gives you wiggle room if a vehicle gets closer than you want them to. 

Antje Bothin, South Lanarkshire

Find suitable routes close to home, at first traffic-free such as short rides in local parks.

Sheila Scott, Elgin

My tip is about increasing the desire to get out there! When you first start cycling, nothing beats meeting up with like-minded friends, or other cyclists to go for a ride. But if you can't always fit in with their timetables, and have to cycle alone, it can really help to have a destination or a goal to aim for. For most of us, riding to a cafe, or to meet a friend for lunch in the next town, can make it more certain we'll actually get the bike out and set off. Cycling is incredibly social though, and even if you do venture out alone, chances are, you'll meet more cyclists at a cafe or destination, and meet more like-minded friends.

Group of female cyclists, standing in a row, with their bikes. In the background is trees and an overcast sky

Photo from: Sheila Scott

Leanne Farmer, Edinburgh

Don’t worry too much about having ‘all the gear’. You don’t need to be a ‘cyclist’ to enjoy riding your bike. Wear something comfortable and weather appropriate. You don’t need an expensive bike either - just make sure it’s road worthy and learn the basic ‘M’ safety check before you ride each time. (Takes 1 min to do when you know how.) 

Learn a little bit about cycle path etiquette - paths are for all and slowing down when passing pedestrians with a polite ‘morning, just passing’ goes a long way! 

Find a quiet path or residential street to ride on to gain some confidence. A little 10-15 min ride a few times a week will definitely help. Enjoy and relax! Look ahead with a straight back and loosen off your grip on the handlebars. When learning, balance all comes from your head position - it’s the heaviest part of the body - look ahead and try to keep it still. Once you gain in confidence, you’ll be able to look around you. 

When going over bumps on paths/roads try to lift your bottom off the seat slightly by pushing down on the pedals in the ‘flat’ position, ie, 3pm and 9pm on a clock face. Push down and extend legs to a slight standing position.

Check out your local Breeze rides and the many free resources available in your area on social media. In addition to Breeze rides, there are many organisations offering ‘buddy rides’ or ‘beginners group rides’. These can be so helpful and social if you’re starting to ride by yourself, giving you confidence and learning little tips from others.

Above all - enjoy! Riding a bike gives enormous pleasure and freedom and try not to get too bogged down in the endless research on kit and equipment or the ‘right bike for…’ 

Group of female cyclists on a bridge, with their bikes, smiling for the camera. In the background are trees in full bloom

Photo by: Leanne Farmer

Kirsten McMullen, Glasgow

When cycling on the road, remember, you're allowed to be there! Sometimes it's tempting to try to shrink yourself into the side of the road, but you're much safer where traffic can see you and pass safely.

Carole Muir, Stirling

My top tip is to believe how much it will change your life. If I had known this, I would have started cycling on a regular basis much sooner. Not only will it improve your health and provide you with a stronger body. Cycling will strengthen your mind and build your confidence to help you overcome personal challenges and stress with much more ease.

Also, there’s no such thing as bad weather. With the right clothing you can continue to enjoy being out on the bike as the temperatures cool over the winter months and you’ll be glad you did. There’s nothing better than coming back from an invigorating bike ride to a lovely bubble bath and hot chocolate. Just don’t drown in all the endorphins …

Angie Sword, Dunblane

Don’t shy away from hills but don’t expect to get up them all without stopping. Pick somewhere where it is safe and easy to get started again and plan to stop there whether you need to or not. The next time pick somewhere further up the hill. That way you always achieve what you set out to do.

Always include a coffee and cake stop. You will generally find other cyclist there happy to chat and share top tips and ideas of nice routes (and also recommend the best cake!)

Wear what you are comfortable in and have, we all wear different things to walk around the supermarket or walk the dog so why should riding our bikes be any different. Be warm, dry and no flappy trouser legs however!

This is one from the poster on my wall ‘it doesn’t matter how slow you go you are still lapping everyone on the couch’

Amanda Tweedie, Aberdeenshire

Get yourself measured for a saddle, comfort is key! And invest in padded shorts (and don’t wear knickers with them)! 

Avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.

Don’t forget to look at the views when you’re out, you will go some stunning places on your two wheels, so embrace them!

Everything really does feel better after a bike ride!! 

Join a Breeze group, or a ladies ride with your local club, guaranteed banter ….. and cakes!! 

Put yourself out there, you’ll meet some great folk who share your passion – I’ve always found clubs really welcoming. 

Carry two inner tubes, canister/pump, spare chain links, multi-tool (ideally with a chain breaker), snacks, spare layer for potential weather changes and any medication you may need.

Eat real food on rides - avoid gels.

Practise the basic mechanics so you can look after yourself if you’re out solo - you can always ask your local bike shop if they’ve any old wheels you can use if you’re worried about using your own initially. Likewise for chain parts to practise breaking a chain and using quick links. 

Enjoy the ride!!

Group of female cyclists gathered together by the side of a road, smiling for the camera. In the foreground the photographer is captured in a 'selfie' pose

Photo by: Amanda Tweedie

Debbie Simmons, Thurso

Link up with a group or a friend- with a set day and time I felt committed to go out and it was also great fun chatting whilst cycling together. 

Don't feel each cycle has to be a long one. Use the bike to visit friends or pop to the corner shops – it will become a habit rather than a once-a week novelty.  

Get clothes, gloves, warm socks, water bottle in fridge and snack set out the night before and have tyres pumped. I have rushed on the day of a planned ride and forgotten my gloves or a snack. Once I had the ‘bonk’, which means experiencing low blood glucose levels and is not nice! 

Buy the best gloves, jacket and gear you can afford as it will last a long time and make cycling more enjoyable as you won't get too cold or wet with the correct gear. I asked for cycling gear as a birthday or Christmas present and built up from there. 

Layer up as you can take layers off. 

Group of female cyclists, jumping in the air, in the background is a lighthouse building

Photo by: Debbie Simmons

For more top tips in getting started in cycling, check out our #SCWomenTalk panel discussion ‘Getting Started in Cycling’ here.

Find a Breeze ride near you and join one of our Breeze Champions leading rides across Scotland every week.