What do you do if you’re female, want to start cycling more often, but your friends have expressed more interest in having all their teeth extracted with a pair of rusty pliers than in going for a bike ride?
You could ride alone (boring).
You could go mountain biking with your boyfriend and his mates and then watch in horror and admiration as they glide nonchalantly down stuff you can barely walk down (disconcerting).
You could go out for a ride without much of a plan, spot a fellow cyclist who is a complete stranger and think ‘he looks like he knows where he’s going, I’ll just follow him’ (weird. I’ve definitely never done it. Well ok, maybe once).
Or you could just sign up for a few Breeze rides.
I can’t remember where I first heard about Breeze, British Cycling’s programme to encourage more women to get out on their bikes, but I signed up for a couple of rides last year and found they were a great way of learning some new routes. Essentially, you get to follow someone around, only with their permission.
I wanted to do more Breeze rides, but often the local rides fell on days I wasn’t free, so I decided to start running my own. I trained to become a Breeze Champion – a volunteer who organises and runs women-only rides - in July, and led my first ride in August.
Today (a grey, drizzly, autumnal Saturday), I’m doing two. First up is an hour-long ride that was set up to keep a group of mums entertained while their kids are doing Go Ride classes. We ride through some local parks and the mums compare their children’s misdemeanours. Apparently mine is the first child in the school to use the f-word!
I can’t remember where I first heard about Breeze but I signed up for a couple of rides and found they were a great way of learning some new routes. Essentially, you get to follow someone around, only with their permission.
In the two hours between rides, I dash home and manage to dry out my soggy jacket, eat a sandwich and even squeeze in a trip to the supermarket. Feeling suitably pleased with myself, I set off for my second ride of the day. This time I’m assisting another Breeze Champion, so I ride at the back and make sure the group stays together.
As I’m fairly new to leading Breeze rides, I’m always happy (and slightly surprised) when anyone turns up on my rides, so it’s a shock (in a good way) to find there are 16 of us riding this afternoon. I’m impressed at the effort people have put into coming along. A couple of regular Breeze riders from Durham have come up to Newcastle just to try something different. Another lady, who has only been riding a few months, has cycled further than the ride itself in order to take part.
Now that I’ve rashly, and somewhat publically, committed to riding some sportives next year, I’ve started to think about how I’m going to train for them over the coming months. So far, my Breeze rides have been quite leisurely. They’re not going to get me ready for a 100km sportive over night, but they certainly motivate me to go out and ride in less than perfect conditions. I reckon any time in the saddle is time well spent, so I’m hoping to persuade some hardy Breeze riders to keep me company on a few chilly rides this winter.