A cycling revolution is wheeling its way to Swindon – and everyone is invited to take part in a host of free rides this summer.
In the year the Tour de France comes to the UK, Swindon has been selected as one of more than 100 locations across the country to host British Cycling’s Sky Ride Local programme.
Some 35 rides of varying distance taking in the beautiful countryside and open spaces across the Borough will be on offer to brighten up budding cyclists’ Sundays between June and September.
Mum-of-two Vany Mohanraj, aged 33, who lives in the town centre, has already signed up for one of the easy-going level rides, which follows a four-mile route from the Oasis Leisure Centre to Lydiard Park on 8 June.
Vany has only recently rediscovered cycling through the council’s Tri-Active Project, funded by Sport England, which aims to get people into cycling, swimming and running.
She said: “It’s the first time I have ridden a bike in this country, since borrowing my brother’s bike as a young child living in Sri Lanka. I’ve been practising at the Learn to Cycle session at the Country Ground and building up my confidence. I’m looking forward to the Sky Ride because cycling is a very sociable sport and we’ll also hopefully get some sunshine.”
Ranging from three to 30 miles, there’s a Sky Ride suitable for all abilities and each ride is led by an experienced and qualified cycle leader to guide and support riders along the way.
Former engineer turned cycle professional Neil Daycock, from Devizes, will be leading some of the rides and thinks it’s fantastic that Sky Ride initiative, organised by British Cycling and Sky in partnership with the council, is coming to Swindon.
Neil, aged 59, said: “This is great news for cycling and everyone in the Borough. It’s a brilliant opportunity for new and already active cyclists to get on their bikes and join in the fun.”
Neil turned his passion for cycling into a full-time vocation five years ago and now teaches hundreds of children across the Borough how to cycle safely on the road. Through his Swindon-based Cycling Now business he also carries out bike maintenance and leads cycle rides for people of all ages.
His cycling pursuits started as a teenager, when he needed a bike to stay in touch with friends. “I lived out in Highworth, so cycling was a necessity to get around and socialise. I also really enjoyed it and in my 20s joined a British Cycling-affiliated club called Swindon Wheelers, so I could start racing. That took me all over the country, entering 10 to 100 mile time trial races,” Neil said.
“I was never particularly competitive – it was always the social element which really appealed and the opportunity to travel. We would go training in France, Italy and Spain and it’s a wonderful feeling to do a 40-mile ride then relax with a good coffee.”
With his two children having flown the nest, Neil was determined to share his love of cycling with others and left his career in engineering. He said: “I really wanted to give something back. I had been volunteering for years as a cycling proficiency instructor, so took the plunge and went full-time. It’s very rewarding to be able to help people learn or rediscover the pleasure and skill of cycling.”
Neil helped devise the 12 different routes which fall into three categories: easygoing, steady and challenging.
He said: “We put a lot of effort into making the routes as scenic and interesting as possible, no matter what distance you’re covering. So whether you’ve never cycled before or have already got the bike bug, I encourage everyone to give it a go and sign up. That’s the wonderful thing about cycling – you meet lovely people, go to great places and get fitter in the process. The sky really is the limit!”
Registration for the free rides is now open – to sign up or find out more go online at www.goskyride.com
You can also find out more about the Tri-Active Project by going online at www.leisureinswindon.co.uk/tri-active or contacting Ben Humphrey on 01793 465404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org