When Stephen Jordan first started cycling three years ago, it was a way to save the bus fare on his way to work. But besides helping his finances, the 30-year-old from Woodhall Park has also boosted his health, helped raise money for good causes and shed three stone to boot.
And the barista’s new-found passion has been good for business too because he now runs a weekly cycle group from his workplace, the Darkroom Expresso Coffee Shop in Faringdon Road.
Stephen said: “Cycling has transformed me in so many ways and it’s one of the things I most enjoy in life. I went from being one of the most unsporty people imaginable to cycling between 100 and 200 miles every week. People who haven’t seen me in a while ask what’s my secret and I say it’s simple – ‘I got on a bike.’”
What started as Stephen, his friend Chris Fox and a few others, has grown to a group of up to 30 cyclists taking part on the weekly rides which take in the rolling countryside and reach destinations such as Tetbury, Kemble and Marlborough.
The Darkroom Expresso Cycling Club, renowned for its friendly and laidback atmosphere, has also gained a reputation for supporting good causes and helping people train to complete charity rides. Stephen’s first big ride was the Macmillan Castles Bike Ride, which he was inspired to sign up for following his mum Allyson being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
He said: “At first I just borrowed a bike and my mum was the one who encouraged me to stick at it when I was getting out of breath after only a few minutes of cycling. So I was determined to do something positive when she became ill. It was absolutely exhausting because I had no experience of doing long bike rides, let alone 30 miles off-road. But finishing was such an amazing feeling and I raised more than £400 in the process.”
As word of his achievement spread, Stephen’s enthusiasm was called on to prepare others for their own charitable feats.
He said: “I’ve encouraged people of all ages – there was someone who wanted to regain their fitness and has been following some of the Tour de France routes in the Pyrenees. A girl was raising money to help teach orphans in Kenya and I mapped out a special 100km ride in the Cotwolds to support an outreach project in India. It’s brilliant how cycling brings people together and inspires people to not only help themselves but also others.”
Anyone can join in the Darkroom Expresso Coffee Shop rides, which are suitable for all abilities.
Stephen said: “I am committed to removing all the barriers to cycling – so you can turn up on any kind of bike, wear what you like and also be reassured that no one will go racing off leaving you behind. We’re totally inclusive and focus on making it a pleasurable experience. Although cycling has definitely got me fit and I look a whole lot better these days, the biggest benefit is the joy it gives and I just want to share that with anyone else who wants to give it a try.”
Cycling is a good form of cardiovascular exercise and counts towards the recommended two and a half hours of weekly physical activity recommended for adults.
Cllr Brian Ford, Cabinet Member for Adults’ Health and Social Care, said: “Stephen’s story is truly inspiring and an example of what great results can be achieved when you stick at something. What is most impressive is his determination to share his enthusiasm and expertise with others, so they can also experience the many benefits of cycling. We’re very fortunate in Swindon to have well-established cycle networks and I encourage everyone to give it a try, whether it’s just for fun or a healthy, cost-effective way to get to work. I sometimes cycle to council meetings and enjoy it.”
You can register for the Darkroom rides, along with a host of other free bike rides in Swindon, by going online at www.goskyride.com/swindon
If you don’t have a bike, but want to give cycling a whirl this summer you can also borrow a bike to see if it’s for you. To find out more about the free six week loan scheme, visit www.swindontravelchoices.co.uk
If you can’t ride a bike or feel a bit rusty, there are also various weekly sessions held at the Swindon County Ground Athletics track and some of these are suitable for people with health conditions and disabilities. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (01793) 465404.