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On your bike!

Posted on 26th August 2020

Judith's life changed thanks to MeCycle and the Big Bike Revival

Most of us enjoy cycling when we are young. Learning to ride a bike is seen as a rite of passage which gave us the freedom to travel further and get out and about with friends and family.

Judith Stewart, like many of us, has many wonderful great memories of riding her bike in her youth, but in 2017 her bike sat dusty and broken in her shed and those memories seemed far off. It was through a Big Bike Revival event that she not only got her bike back to working order, but also found MeCycle and rediscovered a passion that would soon change her life.

Social enterprise MeCycle gives autistic people a supportive place to work and learn new skills. The first time Judith visited MeCycle she was overwhelmed by all the bike shop and café had to offer.

Judith says: “I think it was the welcome that they gave me and seeing all the people working in the café. It made me think about why I hadn’t cycled into the village."

MeCycle opened in Ainsdale in 2014 with a dual purpose to support autistic people and empower local people to get back on their bikes, whilst providing a great place for local people and cyclists alike to come and share experiences. It has been a strong advocate of Cycling UKs Big Bike Revival campaign as Jon Gordon Autism Initiative's Head of Enterprise explains:

"MeCycle are proud to have been involved with Cycling UKs Big Bike Revival since the very beginning and for all of it's 5 years to date. Big Bike Revival continues to be a valuable asset to local people encouraging them to ride and to gain the confidence to progress. MeCycle are delighted to be involved with the work this year supporting Key Workers in local hospitals.”

Judith adds “The place is set up for cyclists, so you don’t need to worry about finding a place to park your bike. It’s worth taking the extra ten minutes and cycling in.”

Judith had caught the cycling bug. She returned to MeCycle to pick up some leaflets about local cycling and walking classes, and then became hooked on local spinning classes.

“I started to go out with friends, going out through the woods for longer rides and then getting the train home.”

She then decided after some research and the new love she found in cycling to take the next step and get herself on a road bike and learn another new skill. Judith used the professionals who worked in MeCycle to gain more information about the different types of road bikes that she could purchase.

“I went back into MeCycle and they gave me some great advice, they explained how it can be difficult to make the change from a standard leisure cycling to a proper road bike. They’d luckily had a road bike donated to them, which was a perfect fit, a great bargain and a great way to donate and support Autism Initiatives ”

“I thought I’d be straight into cleats and become this woman in Lycra! But the staff at MeCycle said not to make this change just yet, but to get used to the bike first. They really got to know me as a cyclist and a person which was very comforting, this made the whole experience very exciting.”

Judith and her bike were gradually transformed with the help from MeCycle. After some much-needed practise, Judith felt comfortable enough to sign up for the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 46 miler, after completing this and enjoyed it so much she entered and completed the 100 mile Prudential London challenge in 2019.

“I’ve gone from riding three or four miles, in and around the woods with no traffic, to feeling confident on the roads, and cycling next to professionals at major events.” says Judith.

“It’s been a slow and steady process, particularly training for events. But with the help and support from MeCycle and my family and friends I have loved every minute of my new hobby.”

Judith’s family and friends have also been inspired to get onto two wheels and see the world from a different view. For her 50th birthday with her school friend Lynne, Judith was able to convince her family to join her on a day cycling trip to visit the silk islands in Cambodia.

“We have always loved cycling as a family, but had lost this as the girls grew up, so to see all of us on bikes in such amazing surroundings was just the experience of a lifetime.” says Judith.

She also cycled across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge on a recent trip to San Franscisco with her School friend Lynne who had not been on a bike since she was 12 years old.

Biking, especially during this year’s lock down, has proven to be a lifeline for Judith, enabling her to get to work, stay fit and remain positive through what has been a challenging time for us all.

“Cycling has given me a way of getting out and clearing my head. I find it helps me to stay calm and is a great way to lift your mood. MeCycle have helped me through lock down too. As an NHS keyworker they have provided me with a free bike MOT and repairs to ensure that I can get to work safely.”

Cycling has also brought Judith much to still look forward to. A cycling trip to Lake Constance and plans to take on the Isle of Man TT circuit in the CC cycling challenge have been postponed due to the global pandemic but remain firmly in Judith’s plans as soon as restrictions allow. She has also just completed the Prudential's 100 mile virtual challenge for charity.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without MeCycle and that initial discovery at a Big Bike Revival event. Judith rhapsodies about the benefits of having such a helpful local bike centre, which anyone can pop into and ask questions about cycling or get help with their own bike.

“There’s still more I’d like to take advantage of at MeCycle – they run these small classes about keeping your bike up-to-date or repairing a puncture. I would recommend finding a local dealer, someone who really understands the trade and sees you in person, just like those in MeCycle.”