Don’t own a bike? That’s no excuse not to cycle, either. Even if you haven’t got the cash to invest in your own bike, you can use the Cycle to Work Scheme if you’re an employee. Just ask your employer to sign up to the Government scheme (if they haven’t already) and you can get up to £1,000 of cycling equipment tax-free through a salary-sacrifice scheme where you pay in monthly instalments. Or try new initiative, Free2cycle, where you pledge to cycle a certain number of miles a week and your sponsoring company pays 20p plus VAT per mile. Break your pledge and you pay for the shortfall – good incentive not to hop on the bus when it rains! See free2cycle.com for more details on how it works. A shiny new bike could soon be yours! If you do have to fork out for a new bike, you’ll soon save a heap of money by not paying for public transport, petrol for the car and the like – an adult annual travelcard for zones one and two in London costs £1,364, for example. You could get a pretty nice bike plus kit for that!
How To Shrug Off The Fear Of Hitting The Roads, And Transform Your Life And Your Health As You Go Photo Gallery
Once you’ve sorted the kit, a great first step on your cycling journey is to sign up for a course (that’s often free) with an organisation such as Cycle Confident (cycleconfident.com) – choose to learn basic, urban or advanced cycle skills, or work your way through all of them. Check out bikeability.org.uk for UK-wide courses that cost a small fee at most, or betterbybike.info, a useful resource for those in the west of England, for example. OK, now you’re ready to venture out. Prefer to do it with a group? Try HSBC UK Breeze (letsride.co.uk/breeze), which offers fun, free bike rides with loads of friendly support, not to mention plenty of inspiration, for women of all abilities across the UK. It’s well equipped to help you, with more than 2,000 trained volunteer Breeze Champions organising and leading the rides. This amazing initiative is part of British Cycling’s ambition to get one million more women on their bikes by 2020. Simply type in your postcode and discover a whole new group of friends.
CHOOSING YOUR ROUTES
You can also find your own cycling-friendly routes at sustrans.org.uk. Over half of the UK population lives within a mile of their nearest National Cycle Network route, so there’s a good chance there’s one round the corner from you. It’s a network of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes. The 14,000 miles criss-cross the country, linking up villages, towns and cities, and often going into town centres. Over 85 per cent of people who use the Network say they feel fitter as a result, while more than 50 per cent feel it helps them save money – so what are you waiting for? London dwellers shouldn’t forget the Cycle Superhighways, either – don’t be put off by their motorway-sounding name – they’re not meant for going superfast, but they should help you get you to your destination quicker than the bus. Check out tfl.gov.uk for routes around town. Lastly, but importantly, once you start cycling, you can relax knowing you’re doing your bit for the environment, not to mention appreciate your toned thighs and fitter, healthier body. According to British Cycling (britishcycling.org.uk), studies show that regular cyclists enjoy the health of someone approximately 10 years younger. We’ll see you out there then!
BRIDGET PEACOCK, 48, BEDFORDSHIRE
‘I’ve loved cycling since I had a little yellow tricycle as a child! I then got cycle training at primary school, and my bike became a source of freedom for me as my family lived in the countryside. I was about 12 when I saved up for my first proper bike by fruit picking in the summer. When I moved to London as an adult, I commuted the 10 miles from Hackney to South Kensington and back again by bike – it was the fastest, cheapest and most brilliant door-to-door transport. Now, I’m either on my Brompton if I’m in London, or bikepacking somewhere as wild as possible – I’m trying to cycle Shetland to the Scilly Isles in stages when I get the time at the moment. I’d encourage everyone to get out and try cycling – in a quiet environment and with friends to gain confidence. Many areas offer free cycle training, which is brilliant. Having a bike that’s a good fit (and serviced) makes such a difference. The volume of traffic in towns can seem intimidating, but you’re often travelling faster than the rest of it, and there are brilliant apps to find cycle routes and quietways. Cycling to me is freedom, and sometimes almost a dance.’
HANNAH HONDERBRINK, 36, LONDON
‘I have three young children (aged 7, 5 and 3) and moved to London from rural Scotland last year. We live a mile and a half from school and I didn’t want to drive in the morning rush hour. My youngest kids were just learning to cycle, so I jogged along with the older one on the pavement as she got her balance and the littler ones scooted along with us. One by one, I got their confidence up on the bikes in this way, then I hopped on my bike too – I now go on the road and the kids cycle on the pavement and they love it. It’s quick and they like the sense of adventure and freedom it gives. I hadn’t been on a bike since school before I had kids. Then I tried with a kiddie seat on the back of my bike. It took a lot of practice in quiet places till I got my confidence. But, if you start small with a little challenge and build up from there, it quickly becomes normal. I’d love to join a cycling club as I’ve heard cycling’s a very sociable sport, but I just need to find one during school hours on week days. I’m also looking forward to getting into the great outdoors as a family at the weekends, cycling together on our bikes.’
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