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“Bikes make me happy”

When I was three years old my parents got me a wonderful, metallic-green trike. It had red stickers dotted on either side and big black handlebars, wide enough for me to wedge my teddy bear between. You couldn’t separate me from it, though it wasn’t long before I had my eye on my older sister’s BMX. I knew I wanted one just like it, and when I did get one, aged seven, I was of riding around the estate we lived on – I’m still there – in Newham, East London. Just me and my friends out exploring and having fun. Then, when I was about 18, I just… stopped.

As I got older, I started to feel like something was missing, and it was relecting on those happy childhood memories that made me realise it was freedom. A freedom I got from cycling. At the same time, I also wanted to feel healthier, mentally and physically, so, aged 28, I signed up for my employer’s cycle to work scheme [which provides tax incentives to make buying a bike for commuting more afordable] and bought a Pashley Princess – a traditional bike with a big basket. The idea was to use it for a gentle commute to work; go on social rides with my partner, Ian, who’s into cycling; and visit some of my favourite places around London. But the Pashley would take me on a quite diferent journey – starting a successful blog, taking part in road-cycling events, becoming an activist and even riding around a velodrome. Back then, I had a typical sedentary lifestyle, and the irst few times I went out were tough. I felt like my lungs were going to burst, even though I wasn’t pushing myself especially hard, and if I went uphill, I’d really feel it in my legs and chest. But I soon found a pace I was comfortable with and noticed improvements to my itness. I’ve had asthma since I was seven but that started to ease, and my pace and stamina increased. There were changes beyond itness, too. I live with anxiety and depression, which can make me introverted, but cycling brought me out of my shell. It was a combination of being able to ride out my thoughts, and how easy it was to make new friends and socialise when you’re out on a bike – especially at the cycling cafés. You have this thing in common, a conversation starts and the next thing, you’re making plans to meet for a ride. Things got more serious, and a positive, butterly efect happened.

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Healthy Magazine
August 2019

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