A blog by Syeda Akther, Cycle Sisters group member.
Growing up as an Asian Muslim girl, cycling wasn’t something that I was introduced to nor encouraged to pursue. My two younger brothers shared a bike and it seemed like a lot of fun and I wanted to be a part of it. I began practising on my brothers’ bike and after a few tumbles and bruises, I managed to balance. The thrill of my first ride without falling off the bike was magical. Sadly, the summer had gone, the boys outgrew their bike and with it my chance to learn to cycle.
All my life, I passed through phases of wanting to ride a bike, run and learn moped riding - never actually managing to pursue any one of them. Then about six months ago, I came across Cycle Sisters (a Muslim women’s cycling organisation) launching in Redbridge, through my social network. I immediately signed up for it because I wanted to get back to cycling and regain my confidence. On my very first ride with the group, I was full of excitement and nervous energy. I met lots of friendly faces who were all mirroring my feelings. We encouraged and supported one another, and my first ride went smoothly without a hiccup. With a renewed desire to learn, I joined the rides week after week, but I wasn’t feeling totally confident yet. So, I decided to take up level-2 training with an instructor following further advice from Sarah, our ride leader. This helped boost my confidence further and I was soon cycling solo.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill. Adapting to the new government guidelines, Cycle Sisters set up a Bike Buddies group so we could find other women to cycle with during the lockdown. This allowed me to tag along with new starters and see them slowly build their confidence and stamina. I feel great supporting the new riders in the group because when I started out, I received tremendous help and encouragement from others. To be able to do the same for others is a very rewarding experience. I have now signed up to train as a Ride Leader for the Cycle Sisters group and even encouraged my daughter to join my buddy groups. Hopefully, she may get the hang of it soon and perhaps one day go on to become a ride leader for the teens.
I am now a much happier, healthier and more positive person. The added bonus is I have made some fantastic new friends. Cycle Sisters gave me the encouragement I needed to regain the confidence I had lost in my cycling skills.