Cycling changes Dean's life after heart attack
When Dean Porter celebrated his 50th birthday in May 2018 with friends and family, he had no idea it would end with him in hospital with a suspected heart attack. But it was the wake-up call he needed to turn his back on an unhealthy lifestyle and start a cycling revolution in his home town of Thornaby.
Following his major health scare, Dean, now 52, decided it was time to take action and not let his lifestyle lead him to an early grave. His wife said he'd never be able to cycle, and never one to shy away from a challenge, Dean borrowed his son's bike and cycled around the block. It was tough but he did it, and the next day he went around twice.
It was the beginning of a love affair with the bike, and the life-changing benefits cycling could bring. He tells us:
"This photo was taken on my 50th birthday, which really scared me and I decided to do something about my weight of 18 stone. I lost three stone in three months by cycling and eating healthier, and by going out daily on my bike, building up my strength and keeping fit.
Now two years on, I feel fit, but with Covid-19 and the dark nights now creeping in, this is the time to still get out, full lights on my bike, because I don't want to be the Dean of 2018 again."
He saw other people struggling with their health and fitness, and knowing much he had got out of cycling, decided to share his passion with others, and with his friend Eddy, set up the Thornaby Funriders Group, a 'grass-roots', free cycling group for people wanting to start riding a bike for their health and to meet other local people.
The group now has over 500 members and until very recently were meeting several times a week in small groups to go on rides as short at 10 miles and as long as 50 miles. People can choose their level of ride and the ride leaders will always go at the pace that best suits the group.
The club has gone from strength to strength and together, the Funriders have created a training ground in Thornaby on the disused tennis courts in Thornaby, where complete beginners can learn to ride in a safe and friendly environment. Many members started as complete beginners or returning to cycling having not ridden a bike for many years and now cycle confidently for fun, fitness and to travel to work.
Although times are difficult at the moment, Dean hopes members of the group will continue to cycle as individuals or meet up with one another, complying with the new regulations at all times, during the latest lockdown period.
When asked what he would say to anyone thinking about giving cycling a go, he replies:
Just do it! Cycling makes you feel you're not in a rut and everyone feels in a rut these days. If you think you haven't got time to ride, make the time.
Dean is looking forward to meeting up with his fellow Funriders as soon as regulations allow.
If you are interested in joining Dean in the future, check out the Thornaby Funriders Group Facebook page. Everyone is welcome!