Kilkenny group member leads the way


Brian Fennelly is one of our newest recruits as a leader and we’re delighted to have seen him progress from regularly participating in group rides, to stepping forward and becoming another active leader in the Kilkenny area. Here’s his story…

I have enjoyed leisure cycling all my life, although never a member of a formal cycling club. I used my old steel hybrid to get me to the shops and take me to my local tennis club. There were occasional leisure rides on holidays. We did nothing too strenuous but enjoyed the activity. You could say my wife Cathy and I pottered about on bikes.

The catalyst for my increased interest in cycling came a few years ago when Cathy and I bought better quality bikes on the Bike to Work scheme. These lighter and livelier bikes allowed us to increase our distance and range of cycling activities. However, we still lacked a social outlet as we rode together or alone. As we are involved in other sports, we felt joining a competitive cycling club would be too much of a commitment and too serious for our requirements.

Through our local bike shop we heard of a new leisure cycling initiative and a local leader called Charlie Parsons. This was the start of our involvement with AXA Community Bike Rides.

These group rides provided exactly what Cathy and I were looking for. Firstly, it gave us access to a like-minded group of leisure cyclists. Secondly, Charlie as leader proved very helpful to everyone who took part. The group rides provided a variety of achievable goals along with routes of varying distance and difficulty. These included short town cycles and longer distances throughout County Kilkenny. Finally, the coffee stops allowed us to make new friends in a very relaxed atmosphere.

Brian and Cathy on an AXA Community Bike Ride in Kilkenny. Brian and Cathy on an AXA Community Bike Ride in Kilkenny.

I was very impressed by the ethos of these group rides. They allowed time for conversation as we tootled along. Also a few stops along the way allowed us to admire the views and refuel. Nobody in our group was trying to reach “personal bests” or break speed records. The main objective was to have a good time and arrive safely with our group intact.

This prompted me to register my interest as a leader and sign up for the free training, so I could share the enjoyment with others. I first applied for the Ride Leader training course in February 2020. Courses are held all around the country. But as Covid intervened, it was the Autumn before I had the opportunity to attend. 

The one-day course, which had a range of attendees from beginner cyclists to more confident riders, covered the planning and risk assessment needed to facilitate safe and enjoyable group rides. It was facilitated by a Cycling Ireland tutor, who also explained how to use the website to create and promote our rides, and how to record everyone’s’ attendance so their accounts would be credited, and they could continue to earn rewards for participating.

I found the course very informative, and I would recommend it to any aspiring leader out there, as it really gave me the confidence to take a group out on a ride.

I finally got my Leader career started in December 2020 and managed to lead three rides before our most recent lockdown! These rides proved most enjoyable for me and I was delighted to be able to provide the opportunity for others to participate.

Now that restrictions have finally eased, I am delighted to be offering group rides again. During lockdown, I explored many routes in a solo capacity. I have used Strava and local discovery maps to explore my local county. It has become my habit to tuck a map into my gilet to enhance my cycle. This has led me to discover a lot about my local area both historically and culturally.

With cafes re-opening and fine weather on the horizon, I look forward to sharing all of this with our AXA Community Bike Rides members over the next few months. Roll on lots more group rides!