A few weeks ago I had the pleasure in taking part in a canal bike ride organized by Val from Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum and Saheli. For me at least, it was not a pleasant start to the morning: I forgot that the clocks had changed overnight. Halfway through my toast realization dawned, cue frantic cycling and confusion due to not checking where I was meant to be going. Oopps.
I was just about in time to help with some seat post adjustments and dérailleur tweeks, and then we were off. We split into groups to account for differing pace and experience; the group I was in was joined at Fazeley Street by another party cycling from the Midlands Arts Centre and we continued on together, enjoying the old-industrial beauty of Birmingham’s canal network. Interrupted only by a puncture, repaired at lightning speed by Rob, we made our way smoothly into Salford Park (I almost fell off my bike but I don’t think too many people noticed).
The two groups re-joined, and after a yummy lunch courtesy of the organisers, it was back on to the canals. As all 30 riders cycled the final stages together the sun finally came out and there was that great care-free balmy Sunday feeling in the air. It felt really excellent to be cycling in a big group away from all the pressures of traffic, and to be cycling for the pleasure of it rather than to get somewhere on time.
So, big thanks to Val and Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum, and Saheli – who actually provided a lot of the bikes used on the ride. It's so great to learn about a women's organisation that is doing such important work and sees cycling as a part of this. It made me really happy that so many women were out on the ride, especially those who weren't regulars on two wheels. It's really enjoyable seeing others making the transition from cycling being something that is scary and hard work to something that they can feel confident about and enjoy.
Also, a heartfelt thank you to the lady who leant me a pair of gloves!