“My motto is: feel the fear but do it anyway” – Yvonne

We spoke to Yvonne about her experiences learning to ride a bike, her passion for encouraging others to cycle and her fitness achievements and goals.

Yvonne decided to learn how to ride a bike when she was 45 and has since developed a passion for cycling and encouraging others to get on a bike. Having completed a triathlon on her 51st birthday, she embraces the challenges that come with cycling and has an intense desire to help others overcome barriers to cycling.

How did you get into cycling?

It was 2009 when I learnt to ride, so I was 45, and the year before that I learnt to swim! It was Pam (who Bluebell chatted with in our podcast series) who got me on a bike. I was out walking with a group through Endlciffe Park, when we saw some cyclists and the walk leader Avril, told me about the free cycling sessions in the park. Whilst I was curious, I didn’t feel I had the courage…until I made the decision to gain courage and start learning. I used my nephew’s bike as I had never rode before so didn’t have my own – I’ll never forget the bruises all over my shins from that bike! I later attended 3 sessions at Hillsborough park, but had to stop when I started a new job. However, after a few Saturday sessions, I could stay upright and after a few trips out by myself in my local park, I started feeling like I could cycle.

Thankfully, my sister saw an advertisement at work, a bike for sale, so we drove to Crookes and bought it. Once I had my own bike, I started going out with women only groups, I was so nervous when I first cycled with them but I did it and it was really fun. We went to several places including Old Moor in Barnsley and Rother Valley and my strategy for getting over the hills was to think of the Guinness I was going to get at the other end!  Since then, I’ve introduced other people to the Rother Valley route and take them on it, so they can learn it to.

My old bike has special sentiments of numerous journeys. A few years later I participated in the Sheffield City Council Cycleboost scheme and purchased a new bike.

What does cycling mean to you?

I used to see people cycling and would think ‘I want to do that’ and I am so glad I finally did. Making use of the green space around us is so important, I plan routes that are picturesque and avoid roads, to make sure I have that peace and quiet which gives me the space to really be myself. It also makes me challenge myself by constantly overcoming new barriers. If there were hills that would defeat me, I would work at them until I defeated them. The more I get out on my bike, the more confident I feel. I would like to be able to do more activities with individuals or groups who lack confidence, so I can share my skills and knowledge to help them overcome their barriers.

My motto is: feel the fear but do it anyway – it’s about challenging myself. The most challenging thing I’ve done, is a triathlon! I did the Hathersage Hilly Triathlon on my 51st birthday, and believe me that hill is not for the faint-hearted! The sense of achievement was absolutely amazing. Swimming and cycling have helped me become more outgoing, I get in the pool and swim 25 lengths or get on a bike and cycle 25 miles and I feel great. Another challenge I’ve set myself is to cycle to the Peak District. I am finding that, the older I get, the more determined I am to learn and to express to others that when you learn at an older age, it isn’t about you trying to prove something – it’s about doing it for yourself.

Sharing your passion for cycling is really important to you isn’t it?

Absolutely, it’s all about sharing and encouraging others. I do cycle by myself, but I much prefer to get out there with others. I really encourage my grandchildren to cycle too – I cycled 14 miles with my 8 year old grandson in June during Love to Ride and Move More month! During lockdown, I have made sure my two eldest grandchildren (15 and 13), are equipped with a bike that has been serviced, for them to be able to get out.

Once I had completed my mileage for Ride September, I loaned my bike to a friend who wanted to do 1-1 sessions but didn’t have a bike so that they can improve their skills and get out more. I always try and motivate others to get more active and try new forms of exercise by removing any barriers and highlighting the benefits of the greenery and nature around Sheffield. It’s about having patience with individuals, listening to them, taking things at their pace and understanding people’s limits. When I teach people how to cycle, I take this bitesize approach and people enjoy it, they have fun! The best outcome is when these individuals then go on to encourage more people to cycle – as for me, cycling is about getting out, sharing and supporting.

It’s no surprise then that you’re now an instructor, tell us about that?

2 years ago, I had the opportunity to do my National Standard Instructor training with Pedal Ready, so I’m really excited to be able to put into practice my passion for encouraging others to cycle. The course has also made me appreciate the challenges that people face in developing road confidence, I understand safety so much better now. I can also empathise with people about their concerns and worries about learning to ride a bike, which really aids me when encouraging others. There are so many elements to learning how to ride – the skill, the confidence, the safety and the knowledge of routes.

I really want to say to people – don’t let age be a barrier to achieving your goals. It’s never too late to learn a skill or be active in a sport. We need to take confidence from the fact that age is experience.