Let’s Ride!

On Sunday 9th June, the roads of Birmingham were closed to traffic for a free annual cycling festival, Let’s Ride Birmingham.

In Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook The Active Wellbeing Society have been supporting Neighbourhood News Online to gather stories from around the neighbourhood. Those who joined the led rides from Calthorpe Park and Clifton Road share some of their stories…

I lead the Women Wellbeing Hub for Sparkbrook. We do quite a lot of sports activities for local women. This is one of our partners. So we coordinate some of the activities and this is the main hub.

We feel a lot more comfortable in a bigger group. There’s a lot of peer support within the group so the more experienced cyclists always make the others feel more confident and keep an eye on them so no one ever feels left out. Even if somebody does have a bit of a stumble it’s not really a big issue because there’s always someone there to assist that person and to have a little meet up point slightly ahead. Everybody looks after each other’s needs. So even if you’re at variant levels everybody is accommodated and it’s a really nice social group.

Also people know other people’s areas of development. So if they know a rider is quite slow they will accommodate that. Or if they’re quite new so they don’t feel as comfortable speeding down the road. So everyone learns about each rider as they’re developing themselves, which is a really good skill and builds confidence. Sometimes people naturally go into a leader role.

Gulamabbas with Balsall Heath Cycling Club

My name is Gulamabbas.  I’m one of the founders of Balsall Heath Cycling Club.  I was thinking, can I cycle at my age?  I thought ‘no’.  But there were about seven of us, this was a small group that we started with.

We wondered, would the community ladies also be interested? Vanessa from Cycling UK, she gave us a boost and said not to worry, will try and provide you with some free bicycles.  So, they provided us with ten bicycles.  This was exactly two years back.

We started with seven members, today we are over 150 members in our cycling club.  [There is] a lot of community spirit. A lot of community women have started participating in cycling rides, every Saturday, 10am-12noon, from Clifton Mosque overflow carpark where our hub is.

Every Saturday at 10am we teach everybody to learn to ride for free of charge with the help of British Cycling.  One person from British Cycling comes and with me being qualified, I am also part of it.  We teach ‘Learn to Ride’ 10am-11am and from 11am those people who are confident, we take them on the road for a one hour ride.

When I started, I could not even ride for one and half miles, because of my medical condition.  But then from one and a half miles, I went onto three miles, from three miles I went onto seven miles and then from seven miles we did a Coventry ride, 40 miles.  We said, while we are doing this, why don’t we make it a Charity ride?  So, we did that, which benefitted a lot of orphans and widows.  The Mosque gave us permission to use the premises, so we did something for them as well.

Gulamabbas – Ride leader, Balsall Heath Cycling Club

I’m one of the ride leaders here. We’re going to lead of Lets Ride Birmingham to Millennium Point. Everyone’s really excited about it. It’s a family ride. We’ve got quite a few children. The good thing is that roads are going to be closed. We’ve got a cycle route we can follow so there’re no worries. It happens every year. It’s brilliant for new riders.

We’re part of Cycling UK, community cycling clubs.

We formed a few years ago. Lots of women were wanting to ride but were not able to ride. Birmingham City Council had the Hub, here. We started doing Learn to Ride, together in a group. Cycling UK took over and allowed us to become Ride Leaders and Instructors.

In this group there are about 8 Ride Leaders and we do rides on a regular basis. We find routes and we just go off. Usually our route is through Canon Hill, the Rea Valley, all the way to Bourneville. Sometimes we stop off at Cadburys and have coffee and come back. It’s a really lovely social ride. Making it really social rather than it being an exercise. Just to socialise and looking at nature and sometimes blackberry picking when it’s the right time. We really want to encourage people to enjoy nature and enjoy the ride as well as exercise obviously. Anybody can join.

If they can’t ride, we do Learn to Ride.

Can I just emphasise, Anybody can learn to ride! I’m in my fifties and I only starting learning to ride 4 or 5 years ago. If I can learn to ride and become a ride leader then anybody can ride.

I always wanted to ride because my children rode and their father could ride and he would teach them. I tried, but I kept falling and hurting.  But really here, it’s so, so easy to learn. We’ve got some fantastic instructors. Within a couple of sessions you can ride! Honestly, I can’t emphasise how good it is physically and for your mental health. Just being out and getting fresh air and being one with nature is beautiful.

We never give up. We rode in rain, in snow. The instructor is here every single session. It’s lovely riding in the rain.  Don’t give up because of the weather, because the weather here!

Kheira – Cycle Leader, Calthorpe Park
Hasnain at ‘Let’s Ride’

I used to cycle when I was younger, 12 or 13, but that was in Bahrain.  When I came here I played a lot of football, I had a recent knee injury, so stopped playing sports.

Then I heard about cycling, so I started cycling last year.  I really, really enjoyed it, I loved the freedom, the community spirit whilst you’ve doing it.  I enjoyed it that much that I took the Ride Leader course – now I’m starting to do the rides on early Saturday and Sunday morning.  I take the guys for a short road or long ride, depending on what they want to do.  It’s all from Clifton Road Mosque.  I just love it.

There have been people who have had recent operations and the doctor has recommended cycling.  It helps.  People over 60 are coming for rides and they are doing well.  I’m thinking, it’s amazing, it’s really liberating for people.

Hasnain – Ride Leader, Balsall Heath Cycling Club

I’m a qualified Cycling Community Club Led Bike Rider

I first got involved about 2 years ago with my local community. I just happen to walk through the Calthorpe park one day and saw a hub full of bikes so I enquired and because I love riding I wanted to help and get involved. I was encouraged to do the bikeability https://bikeability.org.uk/how/  course, which I did and soon became a bikeability instructor and taught people of all ages to ride within local schools and with my local community.  I do led rides whenever I can 🙂

The changes I notice in people who join the Club Rides are firstly the joy and excitement that emanates from their faces, also how social, their conversations are -very positive up beat and relaxed. No real negativity, just up-beat and edifying.

A personal experience from groups and individuals are smiles from ear to ear on faces from everyone. The great appreciation shown, by being led out safely where they can escape for a while from their worries, burdens and daily challenges of life, they can all be left behind and forgotten while they are reminded what life is really all about, out on a wonderful bike ride.

Family and friends are happy I have such an interesting, responsible and, at times, busy role in the community. They have shared how generally I’m more positive as an

Everyone should get involved no matter what their background ability or disability, whether a great long time elite experienced rider or someone who has never rode and can’t ride, there’s a place for everyone, no exceptions.  It’s more than just riding, biking is a great reminder and experience, every time anyone rides, of the joy and fullness of life and living.

And lastly, one of the greatest joys of riding is meeting so many new, unique and  wonderful people, who become great, great friends.

Yasmin – Ride Leader from Saheli Hub

I’m taking part in the cycling festival today. I’m excited. I’ve got two kids with us. We’ve got child’s seats on our bikes. My daughter will be with me -she’s one – and my son will be with my husband. He’s three. There are quite a lot of bikes at The Hub but we’ve brought our own bikes today.

The festival happens every year but last year I couldn’t take part. This year I decided to bring the kids.

You get a sense of freedom whilst doing some exercise.

I didn’t know how to cycle. I learnt at the age of 23. I went to the Saheli club at Ward End. Luckily, after one and a half sessions I caught on. Now, with my husband, I’ve been on an eight and half mile ride along the canals. I’m looking forward to seeing how many kids there are today.

Hopefully when my kids grow up we’ll put them on a bike as well. When I told them this morning they were going on a bike they were so excited. They were jumping up and down and clapping their hands.

Hopefully we’re going to do more of this now.  Hopefully we’ll do this weekly in the summer months.

Sakina – participant on Let’s Ride

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