I could never…start cycling

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re missing out? Would this drive you to sulk at home, pretend it’s something you don’t want, or find out how you can join in? Meet Suzanne Perkins, who made it her business to get physical and start cycling so that she could share in the experience that her husband and son had when running marathons.

Suzanne has a back injury and nerve damage to her foot, which means that running is not a possibility. Through physio treatment, she finally asked the question about cycling – and was told that this was something she could do. Cycling is a world away from previous hobbies like quilting and music, and the first step was to buy a bike. This was a hybrid bike with the lowest step through she could find so that, with her back injury she could actually get on the bike.

As is common with new toys, this sat in the garage for a good long while until a casual conversation with friends led to the idea of a group bike ride. Fuelled by the fear of not keeping up, Suzanne got her bike out for some sneaky training.

The group ride, left her feeling a bit disappointed: it was only 6 miles. This was 2014 and it was the start of something. Wanting to put some of her training into practice, Suzanne entered a women’s only sportive. She entered the shortest distance (12 miles that turned out to be 15 miles) and went round the course so fast that her husband hadn’t made it to the finish to see her back in.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. A fall from the bike and a broken leg, which would have put a lot of people off, led to even more determination. This was fully supported by the family: whilst in recovery a Christmas present of entry into the local sportive was received!

This year, in celebration of her 60th birthday, Suzanne will be tackling 100 miles in the Ride London event. Prior to this she’ll be cycling 86 miles in the hilly Welsh countryside and has just returned from a training camp on Dartmoor. Her first celebration was a family trip to the Olympic velodrome: riding on the track, not watching.

Suzanne and family at the velodrome

In our conversation, I posed the question on how a non-sporty, non-outdoorsy lady can transform into a cycling whizz. The main drive is to share the experience: of training, of racing, of recovering – doing and achieving – with her family who are all keen athletes. In particular there’s inspiration and encouragement from her son who wants Mum to be fit and healthy.

Mixing with like-minded people, developing an appreciation for the surroundings and noticing the change in seasons all keep Suzanne focused and out on her bike all year round. In cycling you can go at your own pace and in endurance rides challenge your mind as well as your body. When you want to give up 9 miles into a 50 mile ride, it takes some strength to keep going.

And that’s something that you can take into the rest of life: Suzanne has noticed that she’s braver than she’s ever been and not afraid to have a go at new things.

I can’t wait to hear about what’s coming up next. I know there could be mountain biking involved, because there’s been a recent purchase. But who knows what else?

I asked for some tips for anyone contemplating getting active and she said just try things. Keep going until you find the thing that you love and then it becomes easy.

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