Bike right for free

ECHO’s resident fitness freak has been back out in the area again looking for more people and places offering health and fitness alternatives for you. This time, they’ve been learning about a new scheme offering free cycling lessons to anyone in the Midlands over the age of 16 who wants to develop their skills and technique.

I’ve never been a keen cyclist; other road users (mainly drivers) scare me. But, it being the New Year and all, I thought I’d try and find out whether there was anything in the area for new or inexperienced cyclists to boost my confidence a bit and see if I could find that “joy of cycling” I hear so much about.

I did a quick search online and found a number of initiatives but there were two that caught my eye and, luckily for me, there was a strong link. The Earlsdon Wheelers is a local group for enthusiastic cyclists of varying degrees of ability and BikeRight West Midlands is a new scheme aimed at giving cyclists a better understanding of the skills and techniques required to ride in a safe and responsible manner. The link? George Matthew.

Earlsdon resident George Matthew is a keen cyclist. He started the Earlsdon Wheelers with two friends about five years ago as a way for local cyclists to enjoy leisure rides and to extend their knowledge of suitable routes to avoid busy traffic. He is now also a qualified BikeRight instructor.

“I love cycling and I do it a lot in my spare time so I got involved with BikeRight because it’s really rewarding to help cyclists progress through the different training courses,” he explains. “It’s great to see their confidence improving so they can use their bike for short journeys, commuting to work and cycling with Earlsdon Wheelers on a weekend leisure ride.” Seeing that I was a little sceptical, George put me in touch with Ian Halsey, a local cyclist who had discovered BikeRight when he wanted to get back out on his bike after an accident.

He explains: “Back in August 2012 I went back to cycling after a 30+ years gap at the age of 56. Things were going fine until June 2013 when I fell off and broke my collarbone. By November 2013 I had decided to give it another go but my confidence had been knocked so I started to look around for some training. I found out about the BikeRight scheme through the Coventry City Council website, applied online and the communication with BikeRight was quick and easy. I was offered a choice of dates and venues in Coventry.

“I did both the intermediate and advanced courses. One was held at Moathouse Leisure Centre in Bell Green and the second one at XCel Leisure Centre in Canley. Both courses were on a one to one basis and, over the 3 hour duration, consisted of a series of rides on roads introducing junctions and traffic conditions of varying complexity. The instructor would ride behind you and every now and then he would ask you to pull up so you could discuss how you were coping. I certainly learned a lot, especially about how to position myself on the road for maximum safety and smooth progress. The course did my confidence no end of good and I tackled roads that previously I may have avoided.”

So, if you feel like you could do with a bit of a confidence boost to get you back out on the roads, you can call the BikeRight team on 0121 200 2266, email them or visit the website.

If you are already a confident cyclist and you’re looking for a group to share your passion with, why not get yourself to the City Arms one Saturday morning and join the Wheelers on one of their leisure rides. “Any cyclist who is fairly fit can join Earlsdon Wheelers, starting with short rides and then progressing to longer rides once they have developed their cycling legs. First timers shouldn’t be worried about keeping up with the group because someone will always stay with them” George said.