All views the author’s own.

Like most people, the announcement of a national lockdown earlier this year was difficult for me. Normally, I like to get out to the Peak District to go walking, but without a car, being confined to my local area for walks soon got boring. I own a bike, but I hadn’t used it for a couple of years, as most of my cycling experience was on the flat ground of East Yorkshire and Sheffield’s hills had always put me off.

But a couple of months into lockdown, my desire to be able to get back out to the Peak District got the better of me, and I found myself digging my bike out. It was in need of some serious TLC, but luckily one of my housemates was able to help me fix it up. Then all that remained was to find a well-fitting helmet, both to ensure my safety and to give me a bit more confidence whilst cycling, and soon I was ready for my first bike ride.

I knew that getting out to the countryside wouldn’t be something I’d be capable of straight away, so I started small, looking for the flattest routes on Google Maps and using it for short journeys around Sheffield. It was difficult at first: my legs would cramp up if I tried even the smallest of hills, and I frequently found I needed to get off and walk, but I carried on. Slowly I started to get used to it again, and I began to lengthen my journeys. Using the Sheffield Cycling Map I started to plan slightly longer routes, finding off road cycle paths so I could be sure I wouldn’t have to worry about how slow I would be! As the weather was getting warmer I felt able to commit to one longer bike ride a week - starting with the Transpennine Trail, I decided to explore areas of Sheffield that I had never visited before, first going to Shirebrook Nature Reserve, then challenging myself the next week to go as far as Rother Valley Country Park. Not only was I suddenly able to access new bits of the city, but noticing my improvements week on week gave me a real sense of achievement that just added to my joy.

 Eventually, after a few weeks of regular training, I finally managed to cycle out to the Peak District - a feat that wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the lifestyle changes lockdown forced me to make. I’m still not the fastest, and I still struggle with hills, but every week I get a bit stronger. Now that winter’s drawing in, I’ve had to make sure I’ve invested in some good lights and warm gloves, as I’m determined not to let the cold weather stop me from getting out.

If you’d like to start cycling, but need advice, Cycling UK have lots of tips for beginners, and if you need some help with bike maintenance, their Big Bike Revival site is a good place to start getting advice. If you think you’d benefit from more support to get cycling, Pedal Ready Sheffield offer cycling courses, including sessions suitable for complete beginners and for improvers who want to become confident on the road. Remember that safety is tantamount with cycling: be sure to always wear a helmet, and make sure you have lights and something to ensure you’re visible if cycling in the dark.

Wearing a helmet is recommended for people who are learning & developing their cycle skills and people who feel more confident cycling when wearing one. Sheffield Mind recommends doing the national standard Bikeability cycle confidence training provided locally by PedalReady, mentioned by the author above. Outside of lockdown, they run one-to-one, family and group sessions in parks and on the road, depending on learners’ existing skills.  

You may also be interested in this post exploring how cycling has sustained people with mental health challenges, in their own words [written by Janet Paske, our very own Get Set to Go Coordinator.]