As an overweight 51 year old, I’m exactly the type of person who I imagine Cycling Plus, BikeRadar and B’Twin had in mind when they came up with the idea to Get Britain Riding!
For me, though, riding a bike isn’t just about losing some weight. For the past three years I have been suffering with mental health issues that mean I find it hard to get out and meet people, and have led to hospitalisation.
On bad days, I can’t even leave my house, but last year my cousin lent me an old bike and I started riding the lanes around my home in Kent. On a good day, I can cycle for miles, and I’m building the courage to get out and about more regularly.
I’ve noticed that when I’m on the bike I am too busy cycling to get stuck in my own head, when I get passed by other cyclists I say "Hi" and I’ve even been able to hold a conversation with a complete stranger when I stop for a cuppa. For most people these are ordinary things, but for people like me they are big wins.
I would really like your readers to help people to get cycling for their sanity. If they know someone with mental health issues, the encouragement to get them on a bike could literally save their life. People like me are not only dealing with the day to day problems of a mental health issue but are statistically more likely to suffer with other health problems.
So what’s next for me? I have seen teams of local riders out training and wonder what it would be like to join them. I see bike events advertised and dream about training to take part. One day I want to ride a 100-mile sportive — it’s a big dream, but it’s the first time I have thought about anything except just making it through the week.
Like so many cyclists I’ve now joined Strava to track my progress and have set myself a weekly target of 100km a week, I’m targeting getting out on the bike at least three time a week, increased my time in the saddle from 30 minutes to 1hr 30 minutes per ride, increased my mileage from 10km up to 30–50 km and gone from walking scary hills to not letting them beat me. I also say hello to every cyclist I pass!
I’ve also decided that I want to get five riders signed up to Get Britain Riding. I started by telling my Vocational Support Worker about GBR and she’s going to check out her employer’s cycle-to-work scheme.
I’d like to encourage interested readers to speak to their local mental health charities to find a buddy to take riding. Part of recovering is getting past the fear that being honest about your mental health is weak and Get Britain Riding sounds like a brilliant way for people to build emotional resilience, take on a challenge and get fit!
And if you see a lone cyclist puffing his way around the lanes of Kent give him a wave and a smile!
UK readers: Can you help us get more people on bikes? Whether you’re a keen cyclist or a complete beginner, we’d love you to get involved in our Get Britain Riding campaign, in association with B’Twin. Click here to sign up!