Melanie Carrol, has cycled for most of her life, but after a long break from cycling she returned to it in 2011. Her love of cycling led her to from using her bike as a practical solution for travel, to taking training to lead others of all ages and abilities fun social cycle rides and then from there into teaching people how to ride a bike from scratch and gain the skills they need to commute to work, school, town on a bike themselves.
She is currently a BC & Cycling UK Ride Leader, Cycling UK Trustee & Cycling UK Lincs Campaigns Officer, Cycle Advocacy Network Regional Coordinator – North East, York, Lincs & East Mids. British Cycling HSBC Breeze Area Coordinator (Lincolnshire) and Sustrans Volunteer Ranger.
Read about why she loves cycling, the benefits it can bring and her advice on getting started below.
“I travel pretty much everywhere by cycle. I have previously driven, but for me the freedom and pace of riding a cycle (mostly slow in my case, but usually faster than by car for in town and local journeys) just makes more sense.
I can see more, feel more and not only am I helping my health (physical and mental) but I’m helping the environment too.
I ride an E-bike (no its not cheating, or lazy, and yes it is still really good exercise-wise) as it doesn’t tax my dodgy hip or knee, and handles hills better than I can alone, and by utilising the basket on the front and the panniers on the back I can use it for shopping and all things in between thus meaning I get to ride it purposefully, practically and happily pretty much everywhere.
I’ve cycled most of my life, but took a long break from it for a good few years but took it back up back in 2011 when both parking and bus tickets went up in a way that made me realise I could save some money and maybe lose some weight just by riding that cobwebbed bike I had in the garage to and from work…
The first week was torture, the second week better and two years later saw me take up training that enabled me to lead others of all ages and abilities on short to longish fun social cycle rides (usually involving a coffee stop), and then from there into teaching people how to ride a bike from scratch and gain the skills they needed to commute to work, school, town on a bike themselves.
What benefits does cycling have on your life?
Cycling helps me feel good, both mentally and physically, and adds to the smiles in my life with every mile I ride.
I have a whole new group of friends thanks to the Breeze Rides, Guided Rides, Cycling UK & Sustrans groups I cycle with, and though I’m not thin (I have a spare tyre that’s no good if I get a puncture!) I’m a little lighter than I might otherwise be and most of all I know I feel better than I did when I didn’t cycle. Fresh air, sun and even rain all help me feel good in a way that’s hard to explain until you experience it I guess.
What advice and tips would you give to people thinking about taking up cycling?
Do it! – you don’t need fancy clothes or a super new bike, you don’t need to do it for sport (unless you want to). I ride in my everyday clothes but I do have a waterproof coat (not cycling specific) and some waterproof over trousers for rainy days – if you aren’t going fast then you’re not likely to build up a mad sweat (well not after the first few weeks when everything seems like hard work – but honestly that does pass after the first 2 weeks!).
Those first two weeks are the hardest, keep going, yes the saddle is an instrument of torture (a bit like new shoes are) – persevere, it’s worth it.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, this is your ride so enjoy it…
And if doing it alone is not quite working for you then find some friends and go on a social ride with them maybe for a while until you feel more confident to get out on your own.
Bike lights and a good lock are your two non-negotiables so get them at the start and don’t leave them at home. But above all just take the time to enjoy the ride.