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Local Cyclists Share Their Stories.

In connection with this year's National Cycle to Work Day we're taking a look at the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling in general. We have spoken to 3 local cyclists; Rachel Hogarth, Iain Gibbons and Robert Meadows about what benefits they are seeing from getting out on the bike. We share our knowledge on how Pilates can really help 'Power Up Your Cycling' and help prevent injuries.

Rachel's Story

In the beginning of my 20s when I got my first job, I didn't have a car, so I got myself a bike and I cycled to work everyday and it became my method of transport for some time. Eventually I got a car and years later when I moved back to Ilkley from Cheshire, I took up my physiotherapist's advice on trying cycling to strengthen my knees after 35 years of playing hockey.

I thought the best way of getting into cycling would be to set myself a challenge. I found out about 'Fat Lad At The Back', a cycling clothing brand founded by Richard and Lynn Bye in Ilkley. Every year in May they run a Sportive called the Big Fat Bike Ride, which is a 50 mile ride in the Yorkshire Dales and I set myself the challenge of taking part in this fun ride in May 2017.

I still had the same old bike and wasn't sure it would see me through the challenge. I contacted Richard to ask him for advice; he took me out for a bike ride and afterwards he said: "get yourself a new bike and start training". I joined their social ride group FLAB Ilkley and that was it. I managed to do the challenge and I have since then done other challenges here in the UK as well as in Austria and Corsica. FLAB Ilkley meet Monday evenings at The Commute Cafe and go out on a social ride. We have a great community. I am also a member of Ilkley Cycling Club. Lately I have not be able to go out so often due to my job but I'm looking forward to getting back on my bike.

What is the best thing about cycling for you?

For me the beauty of cycling is the freedom, the adventures, the fresh air and seeing the countryside from a different angle. There is a lot of camaraderie and I have made great friends. The rides are not a race they are for pleasure but equally you can push yourself if you want. As well as the physical benefits it gives me, it is also great for my mental wellbeing. I know that doing core strength exercises is great for complimenting the cardiovascular workout cycling gives me.

Do you have a favourite ride?

If I was to choose a favourite, local ride, going up to Askwith through Blubberhouses to Timble and around the reservoirs would definitely be on my list.

Rachel pictured after doing her longest ride, August 2019, 85 miles starting in Knutsford and going into hilly Derbyshire. It was training for a holiday to Corsica with her closest friend, where they had an amazing adventure, cycling through mountainous Corsican 'bandit country' for a week, often climbing, (and descending,) many thousands of feet in one day. 

Rachel believes that if she can do things like this, anyone can, no matter what your age, shape or size and maintains that getting out on your bike is a positive experience and definitely worth trying! 

Iain's Story

I am a fell runner and I participate in various races and events throughout the year. I have

been into cycling, mainly mountain biking, all my life but I started properly again in adulthood to help cross train and to have a balance to racing. I do a mixture of mountain and road biking as well as cyclo cross. I cycle purely for enjoyment and I love going out with friends in a sociable manner as well as riding solo to enjoy the peace and quiet and relax my mind.

A few of my friends and myself have formed a 'Dads & Lads' group where we go out for rides with our sons together. We have fun and excitement, real bonding time, creating memories that will last forever, whilst getting good exercise.

What is the best thing about cycling for you?

It's gives me a sense of freedom and I feel like I'm exploring, anything is possible - I'm able 'to get lost' in the enjoyment which must mean my mind really relaxes. So, mentally it gives me a real boost of 'vitamins'. I see the countryside from a different angel and it feels good to reconnect with myself and nature after a day's work. I often bring my bike to work and go out in my lunch break to switch off and get some fresh air. I have been known to cycle to visit sites as well during my working day.

It's hard to describe the satisfaction it gives me as it's very much part of my lifestyle and in my DNA to run, cycle, workout and be outside as much as possible, whatever the weather. People often ask me; 'why do you do it?' and the simple answer is; 'because it makes me happy.' So, I guess it's my bit of 'accidental mindfulness'.

Do you have a favourite ride?

I love going up to Swaledale and Coverdale, it's a beautiful ride up the valley with breathtaking countryside, rolling hills and dry stone walls. Equally I enjoy the ride from Ilkley to Burnsall very much. I have great memories from several Coast to Coast rides with my friend, where we explore the countryside and stop and sleep in different places underway.

A good tip for planning a safe trip is to use Sustran. It's a National Cycle Network, a UK-wide network of signed paths and routes for walking, cycling and exploring outdoors. It gives you access to maps and routes all over the country, we often use it to plan our trips.

Iain with pictured with his friend, Lee Morley at 'high street' above Ullswater, Patterdale in the Lake District.

Iain says: "It was a 5 hour epic ride with 5000 ft of ascent. It was literally all downhill from there for about 5 miles. We laughed all the way down."

Robert's Story

I started cycling when I was about 14 with my friends and I joined the local cycle club in Clitheroe. There was a nice mix of people with some older lads who we looked up to. When I went to university I carried on cycling, it's a great way of meeting people.

I also run and swim and have done quite a few triathlons over the years and 3 Ironman races (albeit slowly!). As family came along and I have got involved with coaching football on Saturday mornings, my time is more limited and I now go out cycling once or twice a week.

I occasionally cycle to work in Otley from Addingham, where I take the quick road route there in the morning, but then go up over Blubberhouses and take the hilly and more scenic route back home in the end of the day.

What is the best thing about cycling for you?

I guess it's the fitness and the feeling of preparing for something, like when I used to train for an Iron Man or Triathlon. I like the camaraderie and the friendships you create. If I didn't do it, I think I would feel like I was going 'stale'. I have a Turbo Trainer in the garage which has been my saviour through lockdown. I use Zwift, an indoor cycling app, and I have a big screen on the wall where I can race with friends from all over the world. It has been great through this period.

Do you have a favourite ride?

A default route is going up to Burnsall, it's a beautiful and varied ride and it's nice to stop by the cafe in Bolton Abbey on the way back when they're open. I have fond memories going back to when I was at school and we used to go on long cycling camping trips. Ilkley Cycling Club does the White Rose Classic Sportive starting in Ilkley with routes in the Yorkshire Dales, I really enjoy participating in those, they are challenging and take you through the amazing scenery.

How can Pilates benefit cyclists?

Cycling requires great strength in the back, core and hips as well as the glutes and quads and this is where adding a Pilates routine to your exercise schedule can really benefit your cycling.

Pilates is a low impact form of exercise which focuses on precision and control whilst developing strength, flexibility and balance.

In order to prevent injury it is particularly important for cyclists to strengthen their back and hip stability and improve their postural alignment. Simply making sure that you are hinging forward from your hips and not hunching your back and rounding your shoulders will help with muscle fatigue and make your cycling all the more enjoyable!

Over the next few weeks we will be showing you some Pilates exercises that you can do at home, so follow us on Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don't miss out.

You can book our classes online here:

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