Clare Parkinson in Team GB jersey in Albi, 2017.

Interview with Clare Parkinson

Number of bikes?

I have three bikes: a Merida Scultura road bike, a Specialised hybrid, and – new acquisition – a second-hand Ecosmo folding bike that I bought as the only option for a specific once-a-week commute.

What do you do for a living?

I’m retired now, but for over 30 years I worked as a freelance copy-editor and proofreader for a number of publishing houses.

How did you get into cycling and what made you join Penge CC?

I got into cycling by accident, really. I’d done a few touring rides over the years, but it wasn’t something I was particularly drawn to. Running was my thing. I was a keen runner for many years, but I had to give it up because of recurring back problems. I didn’t know what to do to replace it; then, after marshalling at the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 in 2015, I decided on a whim to apply for a ballot place. And I was ‘lucky’ enough to get a place, though my initial reaction was fear rather than joy. That was when I realised that I needed to get serious about cycling.

I’d heard about Penge CC years earlier, from Winnie, who owns SE20 Cycles. I’d gone to the shop soon after he opened it – just to ask for advice – and came out having bought my first decent bike. But I didn’t join the club until a few days after the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 envelope arrived, in February 2016.

Which group do you cycle with?

On Sundays I like to do one of the longer rides, and usually join Long 2.  

What do you like about riding with Penge?

What I like about riding with the club rather than on my own is the camaraderie, the shared experience, the chance to meet a whole variety of people who’ve come together for a single purpose.

The help with mechanicals, the advice, the encouragement when you feel you’re struggling – all of it comes with club riding. And what’s special about Penge is that absolutely everyone is welcome; no one is ever left behind; there’s help for you to improve, if that’s what you want, but freedom to just enjoy getting out on a bike, if that’s what you prefer.

There’s never any pressure to push yourself harder or further than you want to go.

Why do you think Penge is a good club for women?

I think Penge is a particularly good club for women for all those reasons.

What is your proudest achievement in cycling?

Well, that would have to be wearing a GB shirt and taking part in the World Championships in Albi in 2017.

What was the most enjoyable thing you did on a bike this year?

What I’ve really enjoyed this year is simply getting back on the bike after a particularly bizarre accident, and sensing my fitness improve as the months have gone by.  

What advice would you give to someone getting into cycling?

I’d say, ‘Join a club as soon as you can.’ It’s the best way to get the most out of yourself and your cycling.