In a nutshell:
What: Free, beginners bike riding group in Stockton
Where: The Hub, 17 Bridge Road, Stockton, TS18 3AA
When: Tuesdays, meet at 10.45am for 11am start, back for 2pm
Distance: 5 to 8 miles, with cafe stop
Cost: FREE. Bikes and helmets available to borrow at no cost.
For: Anyone wanting to get back in to cycling or regain confidence, but not sure where to go. Safe routes for beginners led by qualified ride leaders.
What is Easy Riders?
On a glorious Tuesday morning in November, there's quite a buzz at The Hub in Stockton. It is 10.45am and the Easy Riders cycling group is gearing up for its weekly ride starting at 11am.
This free group bike ride is aimed at people returning to cycling, or those wanting to build their confidence on two wheels. It starts at the The Hub on Bridge Road, and takes in one of a number of gentle 5 to 8 mile routes around the area. It is a very relaxed, friendly group, no-one is too slow and no-one gets left behind. There's even a cafe stop to recharge the batteries. When I arrived, I was immediately made to feel very welcome by the ride leaders and other riders, who are always happy to see a new face join the group.
After getting quickly set up on a bike I was borrowing from the Hub, we gathered outside for the off. And what a sight we must have made! A line of around 30 cyclists heading down to the riverside path, radiating with day-glo and a lust for life. The pace is slow but steady, everyone is chatting and enjoying the mild weather. There's a bigger group than usual this week, as more people are making the most of the November sunshine.
What sort of people go on the rides?
Anybody and everyone is welcome, no matter your age or ability. As long as you can (just about) stay upright, this ride is for you.
Chatting to Dave, I learn that he found out about the Easy Riders when he saw a relative out with the group a couple of years ago. He decided to try it, after 40 years of not cycling, and hasn't looked back. "It's amazing how many places you find that you never knew existed", he tells me. "Being with a group means you are taken on routes that you'd never know about, and you know it's safe and you're not going to get lost."
I ride along next to Nichola, a nurse and mother of two, whose husband is a very, very keen cyclist. Like 'Tour de France at the weekend' kind of keen. Nichola hasn't been on a bike for about seven years and while she's not planning any 50-milers with Stuart just yet, she would like to cycle to work occasionally or go out on a gentle ride with family or friends. This is her first time with the Easy Riders and she's hoping to regain her balance and her confidence on a bike.
"I was nervous at the start" she admits, "but I am already feeling more confident even after an hour or so." We've stopped at a cafe for refreshments and I am with a group of ladies who are sharing their own experiences and offering Nichola some sage advice. Conversation ranges from how to hold the handlebars for gradual braking to what padding is necessary for maximum comfort. Everyone has started in the same boat as Nichola - cautious but wanting to give it go, and very glad that they did.
Back on the ride, I hang back to talk to Judith. This is also her first time with the Easy Riders group, after having completed the Back in the Saddle course for those wanting to relearn the basics of riding a bike. She isn't used to such a large cohort, so she's staying at the back of the ride with a marshal where she has a little more space to manoeuvre. She's thrilled that she's able to take part in the ride, and is rightly very proud of how far she's come. "I couldn't even ride when I first started, and now look at me!" she enthuses, while taking a swooping turn to the right. She is still nervous about other road users around her, but she is doing what she can to overcome her fears.
What do you get out of it?
Time after time I hear stories of nervous starts and wobbles, goals and achievements, and friendships made along the way. The ride leaders are great at instilling confidence within the riders, ushering them across roads, offering guidance and advice and keeping everyone safe and sound.
Easy Riders is a fantastic first step to traveling by bike regularly. Everyone goes at their own pace, and no-one is made to feel they're slowing everyone else down. If you don't have a bike, they can lend you one, as well as a helmet. If you would like to find out more about The Hub and what they do, visit their website at https://thehubstockton.wordpress.com/.
What are active travel hubs?
Active travel hubs are a great way to find out more about cycling in your area. They offer advice on how and where to cycle, as well as running group rides from beginners to more advanced levels. Many also offer maintenance courses, Dr Bike sessions and can even sell you a refurbished bike at a fraction of a cost of a new bike. They are located in Stockton, Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland.
By Georgina at 13 Nov 2018, 16:29 PM