British Cycling’s Breeze initiative is one of most successful schemes for encouraging and assisting women to get into cycling. It is the biggest programme ever organised for female cyclists in the UK, and its aim is quite simply to get more women enjoying riding bikes for fun.
We spoke to Charlotte Rashleigh, a Breeze Champion (Ride Leader) for the Coventry and Warwickshire area. Her Thursday evening summer rides depart from Costa Coffee right on central Campus, the next one leaves on Thursday 24 August 6:30pm.
“I joined Breeze as a way of meeting new people in my area and pursuing my interest in cycling both as a sport and a form of transport.”
· What memories do you hold of cycling?
I have cycled for as long as I can remember - I was taught by my dad as a small child on a purple flowery bike with stabilisers. Growing up in Cornwall I got so frustrated with the public transport as a teenager that I'd cycle miles to get around. As a student I had a job as a cycle courier which involved doing a cycle proficiency test. It is great that this seems to be coming back into a lot of schools now. From cycling the 18mile Camel Trail in Cornwall as a child and family cycle trips in the New Forest, to cycling to Paris from Bristol with friends a few years ago, I have some amazing and unforgettable memories because of this sport. You can see so much more of the world by bike. I’d prefer that then being stuck on the motorway anytime.
· What is the most practical thing about cycling?
I think cycling has a lot of practical benefits. You can often do short journeys around the city much quicker by bike than in a car or by public transport. The money you could save on bus fares and petrol in a year could probably get you a brand new bike. It’s also great for your health and the environment of course.
· What do you think holds people off from cycling and what can people do to get around it?
There are of course many cycling clothes you can buy but for short journeys around town. I don't think this is necessary and it often acts as a barrier to people getting on their bikes. I cycle to work in a dress, leggings and a pair of trainers. I use panniers to carry my belongings to avoid getting too hot and take a change of clothes if necessary. It doesn’t have to be complicated: I think people make it that way, and of course brands want to make money off you as well.
I appreciate that our busy roads often put people off cycling but there is always a quiet route that can be taken instead, even if it is a slight detour. I have found going on breeze bike rides and out with other groups has been a great way to get to know the quieter routes. Both Coventry City Councils website and Sustrans have information on routes too.
· There is an imbalance between men and women engaging in sports such as cycling and campaigns such as This Girl Can help to address some of those issues. What do you think?
I think this is changing and Breeze is a big part of this. There are also a lot more female only cycling clubs and events. I hope that once women have been on a few Breeze rides they will gain the confidence to go out in mixed groups, as I don't like the idea of there being men’s cycling and women’s cycling. Cycling is for everyone, it’s just that historically it has been associated with middle aged men wearing too much lycra, but this is definitely changing.
We seem to have a good interest in the Breeze rides we have run so far from both seasoned cyclists and those new to riding their bike. I think it is partly the social aspect of the group, partly being able to get out of the house and getting a break from your normal work-life stuff as well as a great chance to increase your mental health by unwinding and exploring the countryside around you.
Inspired to join? You can become a Breeze Champion (Ride Leader) yourself or you can simply join in on group rides as and when you please. To find your next ride click here:
The journey to becoming a breeze ride leader is easy: sign up and take a training course (Ride Leadership Award – level one) which will cover route planning, risk assessments and developing routes for different level groups, as well as how to use the Let’s Ride website and ideas to promote your own HSBC UK Breeze rides.
For more information on how to become a champion see here: https://www.letsride.co.uk/beachampion