Surrey ladies leading the cycling revolution
PUBLISHED: 17:41 31 August 2014 | UPDATED: 14:26 01 September 2014
Surrey Life journalist and cyclist Adele Mitchell meets the local ladies who are leading Surrey's cycling revolution - and finds out how you can get involved too...
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- Olympic cyclist Joanna Rowsell on why there’s no better place to train than Surrey
- Road cycling in Surrey
- Mountain biking in Surrey
I ride a bicycle nearly every day. Sometimes I ride alone, other times with a group of friends. I’m a member of a local cycling club and occasionally I take part in events (which I never win – doesn’t matter!). I ride natural trails, I ride at trail centres, I ride on the warren of lanes in the Surrey countryside and I ride in traffic (but only if I have to!).
Cycling gives me freedom at the end of a busy day. It’s a chance to get away from it all, to enjoy the open road on my road bike or the twisty, sometimes technical, trails in the Surrey Hills on a mountain bike. It also gives me the fitness to ride to the top of any hill in Surrey – without stopping!
I’m not alone in my passion. British Cycling, the national governing body for the sport, has seen a big increase in female membership with 70% of women members riding at least once a week – and an impressive 40% riding at least three times a week.
Unfortunately, not all women feel as confident: a recent British Cycling survey found that many are put off due to concerns both about safety in traffic and a lack of mechanical skills that could leave them stranded at the side of the road. We also prefer to ride in groups rather than alone.
The good news is that these problems are not insurmountable – and on the following pages we talk to some local cyclists to find out the best ways to get involved.
Kerry Bircher from Cranleigh, road cycling coach and road racer
A qualified coach for both British Cycling and the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC), Kerry Bircher specialises in training women. She also holds a 2nd Category race licence and sits on the board of directors for British Cycling’s south-east region. In addition, Kerry supports children’s coaching via local cycling clubs and Go Ride (a British Cycling initiative to get more young people riding)…
“My coaching work with women involves teaching technical skills such as cornering and descending, and training cyclists who have signed up for a sportive or want to start racing and would like to improve their fitness,” says Kerry. “I also run women-only road ride training camps with hours to fit in around the school run.
“Racing is a great progression from sportives. We have a very healthy – and friendly – racing scene here in Surrey for competitive riders, promoted by The Surrey League (surreyleague.co.uk).
“Events like The Women’s Tour and the Tour Series have really put the sport in the spotlight and participation is growing: there’s been a 44% increase in the number of women-only road races and 61% increase in the number of circuit races in the last year.
“I’d love to see more women racing, but mainly I just want more women to cycle and be efficient and empowered riders.”
• More at revolutioncycling.co.uk
Jackie Roberts from near Chiddingfold, bike shop owner
A passionate cyclist for many years, Jackie Roberts opened Beyond Mountain Bikes at Smithbrook Kilns in Cranleigh in 1997 and sells bikes from entry level through to performance mountain and road bikes. Jackie has raced mountain bikes and won the cross-country national championship in her age category three times. She also runs regular shop rides as well as road rides for Cranleigh Cycling Club, which are enjoyed by both male and female cyclists…
“The most important thing to consider when buying a bike is what sort of riding you are going to do,” says Jackie. “A road bike is designed for riding on tarmac: they’re light, nimble and fast. Mountain bikes have wider, knobbly tyres and suspension for tackling off- road trails.
“Hybrid bikes are a compromise between the two, offering the durability of a mountain bike with some of the speed of a road bike. They are more popular with recreational cyclists and commuters.
“The geometry of a bike designed for women can include narrower handlebars, a wider saddle (though these can also be fitted for optimum comfort!), a smaller reach between the saddle and the handlebars and a higher front end for a more upright position.
“No matter what your budget or what sort of riding you intend to do, it is essential to buy a bike that is the right size for you – too many people end up with bad backs, knees and even numb hands because their bike doesn’t fit them. That’s why we offer everything from basic advice on sizing to a customised bike fit service.”
• For more information, visit beyondmountainbikes.com
Suzy Stevens from Reigate, cycling instructor for Surrey County Council
A cycling instructor for Surrey County Council’s Bikeability scheme, which offers subsidised courses for all levels, Suzy Stevens provides customised training for everyone from complete beginners to those returning to cycling to advanced skills for cyclists wanting to negotiate busy traffic conditions. She also provides family cycle training to help parents guide their children on road safety…
“Bikeability is essential ‘cycling proficiency’ for the 21st century, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on today’s roads,” says Suzy. “Women returning to cycling often come to me lacking confidence. They may start off slowly and hesitantly, unsure about road positioning in particular, and can get nervous in traffic. But with training and reassurance, they quickly feel more assertive cycling on the road and soon begin to relax and enjoy it.
“Many are also embarrassed about their lack of technical bike knowledge – fixing a puncture or good use of gears for efficient cycling, for instance. However, our training allows them to ask questions and cover the skills they are unsure about.
“We are so lucky in Surrey to have such fantastic places to cycle, whether it’s riding off road on the many trails, testing your stamina on Box Hill by road or simply cycling with your family round the lanes. It’s a great way to make the most of the countryside, get fitter, be environmentally friendly and set a good example to kids – but most of all it’s a great way to have some fun!”
• Surrey County Council is currently offering a special rate of three hours cycling training for £20. Find out more on their Travel SMART website at travelsmartsurrey.info/cycling/training
Adrienne Horne from Horley, Breeze ride coordinator
A British Cycling initiative, the ‘Breeze’ scheme was set up to get more women into riding bikes for fun. Local Breeze ride leaders organise free, local social road rides and in 2013 over 23,000 women joined in. Adrienne Horne is the Breeze area coordinator for Surrey and the south-east and, as a result, during the last year alone, she has cycled to Paris, ridden Box Hill with Sir Chris Hoy and met Sir David Brailsford, Victoria Pendleton and Prime Minister David Cameron…
“I started cycling in 2010 for fitness and as a challenge and loved it,” says Adrienne. “When Breeze started in 2011, I joined as a ride leader and my involvement has built from there.
“As well as my coordinator role, I currently lead two rides a week, and ride with all sorts of women, from complete beginners to those who can manage 50 miles with ease. I’m absolutely passionate about cycling. It brings women of all ages and backgrounds together – I have cyclists of 17 and 60 on the same rides!
“A fear of traffic and not being able to fix the bike does put some women off. However, I’m also a Bikeability instructor so I’m always happy to pass on safety tips to help build confidence and all Breeze ride leaders are able to help you fix your bike if you have problems during the ride. We also run women-only bike maintenance courses to help them build independence and confidence.”
• For more information, send an e-mail to Adrienne Horne at breezenetworkeastsurrey @gmail.com or, alternatively, pay a visit to their website at goskyride.com/breeze
Lisa Greer from Cobham, founder of the Ride Cobham indoor cycling studio
While indoor cycling may not offer the opportunity to feel the sun on your back, the training intensity is a fantastic way to build fitness in preparation for returning to cycling or for an event, or to maintain your fitness when the weather is against you. It’s also a practical way to keep fitness levels up if you’re concerned about riding alone. Widely available at most local leisure centres and gyms, indoor cycling is also available at specialist studios such as Ride Cobham, which was set up by Lisa Greer 18 months ago…
“Here at Ride Cobham, we have 25 indoor bikes, 20 classes per week and an 80% female client base,” says Lisa. “We’re the go-to for Cobham’s yummy mummies who do their school drop-off and then come to me to burn some calories.
“Most of my clients do two to three sessions a week and so it’s very chatty and friendly, with everyone getting to know each other. Some are here because they are training for an event, while others are here to get fit and lose weight.
“Indoor cycling is a really effective cardio workout: it not only burns fat but it’s fun too. We have great playlists to help inspire our riders as well as workouts that mimic climbing, sprinting and flat road riding – all on a stationary bike.
“I also combine hand weights into my classes because I know my clients only have so much time for workouts in a week.”
• See ridestudiocobham.com
GET IN TOUCH:
Have you got a favourite cycle trail in Surrey? Or maybe you run a club and you’d like to welcome some new members. Get in touch by joining our online community at facebook.com/SurreyLife and twitter.com/SurreyLife or at the usual address