Number of bikes?
What do you do for a living?
Paediatric Physiotherapist at King’s College Hospital.
How did you get into cycling and what made you join Penge CC?
I had been a regular runner for many years and would go out training with a friend. She moved house so was no longer local and it was getting increasingly difficult to motivate myself to go running on my own – I was losing fitness rapidly. I was chatting to a friend who is regular cyclist and he was eulogising about the joys of getting out on a bike, so I decided to investigate.
I Googled cycle clubs and found Penge CC. I borrowed a bike and set off for a gentle pedal around the local streets with a group of around seven other women.
The people I met were friendly and supportive and their obvious love for cycling was infectious. I felt that the club was welcoming to people like me and not just lycra-clad skinny beardy men. I continued with these weekly rides over the summer and was immediately hooked.
I went out and bought myself a hybrid bike very quickly and within weeks was regretting my purchase as I wanted to upgrade to a proper road bike. Within 6 months I signed up to the cycle to work scheme and bought myself a sleek, shiny and what seemed at the time like a very expensive road bike. (I have since discovered that what I spent was peanuts compared to some lunatics in the club!)
How long have you cycled with Penge CC?
My first introduction to Penge CC was around six years ago.
After joining the Sunday rides, I entered the women’s only Cycletta cycling event. After only a few weeks of cycling, I decided to enter the 80km route with a large group of Penge CC ladies. I felt daunted by this but in the event I found it relatively easy and this is probably what got me really hooked on challenging myself more. We had a hilarious day and I got to know people better.
Socialising with a mixed group and stopping for coffee in the sunshine adds to the enjoyment. I have met so many amazing people through the club from all different walks of life. Working in the NHS, I had the opportunity to meet people I would never normally come into contact with – a huge variety including bankers and chief executives, childminders, teachers, people in politics, stained glass window makers, hairdressers, council workers, doctors . . . I love chatting to people, and being able to cycle along side by side on a sunny (or not so sunny!) Sunday morning makes exercising even more enjoyable.
Which group do you cycle with?
I currently cycle with Short 1. I have been leading groups on a regular basis for several years now as I know the routes well.
I used to be fitter than I currently am, but early last year I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, and underwent 6 months of treatment including chemotherapy and radiotherapy to a large mass in my chest. This was an enormous shock and the treatment knocked me sideways. I was unable to work for 9 months, but worst of all I could not cycle during my chemo. I missed this more than anything.
The club members were amazing, I had so many messages of support – and small touches such as my little book of cycling poems which made me cry (in a good way). I did get back on the bike during my radiotherapy and have felt so well supported during my (at times very hard) journey back to fitness, and receiving my award for “inspiring story” at the Christmas party meant so much to me.
I can honestly say that Penge CC was instrumental in my road to recovery. Touch wood I am in remission from the Hodgkin’s but have been left with a slightly dodgy heart from the chemo which restricts how fit I can get again but cannot take away the joy I get from cycling with my amazing Penge CC buddies.
Why do you think Penge CC is a good club for women?
I think compared to other cycling clubs we have a huge proportion of female members. This is no accident: women are not only welcomed but positively encouraged.
They not only cycle with the club but are involved at every level, on the committee, ride leading, competitive cycling and generally being bossy! We have some very hardcore women who compete at the highest level, and other people like me who just want to get out, get fit and socialise.
It is a warm, supportive and very friendly environment for all ages and sexes.
What is your proudest achievement in cycling?
I have cycled many sportives, and the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on two occasions, but I think just getting back out there after illness and losing confidence has been my proudest achievement.
What was the most enjoyable thing you did on a bike this year?
We now hire bikes wherever we are on holiday, and probably some of the most enjoyable cycling has been with my husband in Greece, Turkey and the South of France – challenging cycling in beautiful, hilly surroundings with views of the Mediterranean in glorious sunshine takes some beating. Sipping a cold glass of wine in a sun-dappled Taverna makes for the perfect recovery.
What advice would you give to someone getting into cycling?
Don’t worry what anyone else thinks, just take that first step and you won’t regret it. Start with a ride easier than you think you can manage so you don’t stress yourself. Borrow a bike if you don’t have one – Lewisham Council rent bikes for about £10 for a month to encourage people to get started. But be prepared to be hooked – there is a world of bikes and cycling gadgets out there to drain your bank account.
Which inspirational female sportsperson do you most admire and why?
Nobody famous. just some of the women in the club who all started as normal cyclists in the same group as me and have gone on to achieve amazing things! I find it very inspiring as it makes you feel that you can go on to greater things in the sport of cycling.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done on a bike?
Probably a ‘Bride Ride’ where a group of us cycled to Downe and back in fancy dress to celebrate an up-coming wedding. I was dressed in a giraffe onesie!