Knowing I had a passion for sports, a friend of mine forwarded an advertisement from the Birmingham Road safety team which put a call out to recruit and train the first team of cycling instructors for Birmingham. I instantly thought I want to do this, but I didn’t own a bike and the last time I had been on one was when I was 16. I called the organiser and explained this and he encouraged me to still come along and that he will take care of the rest. I turned up and fell off my bike! The end, no- my journey had just begun…
I started off as a Bikeability Instructor 13 years ago teaching Level 2-3 National Standards in primary and secondary schools across the city, which was very rewarding, but my passion was to increase women’s participation in cycling. I went on to run several groups with the local authority, until I met Saheli. I found that they shared my passion of providing activities at grassroots level, and I’ve been with them since. I am now one of the lead instructors and after setting up the Club, I am also the Club Secretary.
Currently I help plan and co-ordinate cycling activities; I recruit, train and mentor new Ride Leaders and Cycling Instructors; I also run groups with Saheli of Learn to Ride and led rides for women and men at Ward End Park. I continue to train and recruit women from within the communities of the sessions we deliver; this means those participants have a role model that they can relate to and can access for advice and guidance.
Saheli offers sessions for all abilities. We have varied groups depending on ability and confidence levels on the bike. The participants can choose to stay within the enclosed area of the Learn to Ride sessions or join us on a 20-mile Club ride. We are there to support the individuals, and help develop their skills, but leave it up to them to decide when to move to another group within the framework. Saheli Cycling Club currently runs across three sites. The highlight always is teaching someone to cycle for the first time, especially when they never thought they could. I don’t think that will ever change for me and continues to motivate me to do more.
As someone who fell off her bike in her training, I went on follow my passion of wanting to make cycling accessible for all. I have taught over 2,000 women how to cycle with Saheli and several hundred more with other organisations. The ladies have gone on to cycle around the country and even taken part in cycling sportives – some have even gone onto set up their own cycling clubs.
As long as you have the enthusiasm and determination anything is achievable. My journey was only possible by meeting the right trainers and mentors who believed in me along the way. Naseem has been a great friend, mentor and manager to me (not forgetting all the other ladies within the Saheli team who are so inspiring). I aim to pass this onto everyone I teach and train and I am always encouraging people to try it once. Practice may not make you perfect, but it will certainly make you better. I teach women how to ride, build their confidence and skills to continue riding for leisure, health and wellbeing or commuting. If you are inspired, find a local group who will provide you with a bike and a helmet and turn up. As I say to the ladies: READY, STEADY, PEDAL!