Suze Elmore, BREEZE
I'd wanted to get into cycling for years, but was tipped into action after a chance meeting with a friend in July 2013 who was pushing her shiny new bike home. This made my crazy plan to ride seem plausible rather than reckless, and I'd ordered my bike within days. I took my new bike to a quiet road and practiced where no one could see me. Memories of my childhood came flooding back. Traffic levels had changed since then, and now I had my own kids' safety to consider too.
My children's swim teacher signposted me to Sky Ride and I started attending with my 2 children. I felt safe on Sky Ride as the rides were led by experienced ride leaders on quiet country roads. What initially started off as a family activity led to some me time, and I started riding further and further alone. Sometime later, the swimming teacher saw me in a car park, and let me know about the Breeze rides which were now happening locally. I joined BREEZE (female specific led cycle rides); I was not expecting the fantastic social element that came with BREEZE spending time with other women with similar interests, it felt like we had our own mini community. The other women have been so supportive and we have been able to help each other through challenges that life throws up.
After about 4-5 months of taking part in the BREEZE rides the opportunity came up to train as a BREEZE Ride Leader. I really wanted to share my love of cycling, engage people and help women to become or keep active.
As part of the BREEZE team I lead rides across North Lincolnshire (and we always manage to include a coffee and a cake). There is no such thing as a typical BREEZE ride due to the diversity of our riders (we have women of all ages, sizes and fitness levels) and the different level of rides that we offer. Rides are of varying lengths from Mellow Yellow at a 7-9 mile an hour pace right up to Pacey Purples at 14+ mile an hour pace. Regardless of the advertised speed, we are committed to ride at the pace of the slowest rider, and to leave no rider behind – these are very social rides, so we stick together.
I typically lead 2 rides a month, attend a few other and assist where necessary. The great thing about signing up to both lead and attend rides (and of course the social element that goes with this) is that I feel committed enough to turn up, where as if I was just going out on my own I might be distracted by bad weather or another one of life distractions.
I really enjoy being a ride leader, the camaraderie between ride leaders, the friendship, and the socialness of it all is fantastic! I get to kill two birds one stone, exercise and social time. Being able to share my love of cycling is great and getting women who don't think they can do it, to realise they absolutely can and that cycling is for them. The amount of people who return to ride with us phenomenal. And seeing women buddy up for other rides because they've enjoyed it give me great satisfaction.
I am now a level 2 champion which means I can lead rides over 50 miles. I intend to work on building my own fitness up to a level where I can lead those rides comfortably. The additional training has also given me more confidence for the 40-50 mile rides.