Monthly column with Becky Cox of Swindon Cycle Campaign.
As we welcome 2022 I thought that it was a good chance to review the past year of British Cycling’s free Guided Ride Programme in Swindon.
Let’s Ride is a national programme of fun, free and friendly led bike rides supported by Swindon Borough Council, British Cycling and HSBC.
As one of the volunteer ride leaders, I have been leading a series of easy-going and steady rides throughout the year, along with my small co-pilot (two-year old son). These have been designed as confidence-building and social rides where no special equipment is needed, or lycra required. Some of the most popular rides in the summer saw 19 of us set off for an exploration of Swindon’s cycle paths.
Since lockdown restrictions eased in April 2021, the local team of volunteer ride leaders has put on a total of 57 rides covering over 600 miles and resulting in 356 participations. We’ve put on 20 ‘Easy Going’ Rides (traffic-free, short, social rides), 31 ‘Steady’ or ‘Steady Plus’ rides (largely traffic-free and using quiet roads) and 3 Challenging rides. The average distance of the rides was 8.5 miles.
We always receive great feedback at the end of a ride, making all the effort behind the scenes feel truly worthwhile. Over the year, a few participants have taken the time to write to us to say how the Let’s Ride programme has positively influenced their lives:
“Thank you very much for your guidance and support these last weeks. The work you do is remarkable. Also, the introduction you and Becky have given me to the amazing cycling round Swindon has given me everything I need – both the confidence and the local knowledge – to go out there and find my own way. You’ve really taught me how to fish”
It's been fantastic to see how many people have re-discovered the joys of cycling by trying an electric bike. We normally have at least a couple of e-bike riders joining each ride and, on my most recent ride, the four e-bikers outnumbered those on ‘standard’ bicycles! Electric bikes and their riders are very welcome on all our rides. We’ve seen an e-bike rider who started on easy-going rides progress to long challenging rides and sign up to become a ride leader herself in 2022. Here are some words of thanks received from one of my regular senior participants:
“Thank you so much for the wonderful ride today. I really do enjoy these guided rides. In fact, ever since I’ve had my e-bike I have never ridden so much”
I was particularly over the moon to hear of a romance that has developed between a couple who first met on one on my summer rides from Town Gardens to Lydiard Park. It was both riders’ first time with me on a ride. They are now a happy couple and recently went on their first holiday together.
So, if you’d like to cycle more but don’t know where to start then the Let’s Ride Guided Ride Programme could be for you. All you have to do is bring your bike and pedal. We, the Ride Leaders, do the rest. It's easy. It's free. And it's a fantastic day out for the whole family, with friends, or just on your own. You'll meet new people, improve your fitness, and get more confident on your bike.