As an avid cyclist, Mark saw AXA Community Bike Rides as a great way to empower others. We spoke to him about his motivation for getting involved and the secret to a great cycle.
Location: Mallow, Cork.
What motivated you to become a leader?
I thought I should get involved, as AXA Community Bike Rides essentially promotes and empowers adults to get out, cycle, explore the countryside and meet other people. When I came across the initiative late last year, I thought I have the experience, qualifications, and love of cycling, so why not share this with people and give them the confidence and support to get on a bike!
Why should I join one of your bike rides?
Since I started leading bike rides, I have developed a following of a great bunch of people, my ‘regulars’, as I refer to them. We have all got to know and enjoy each other’s company and have terrific chat, banter and craic! I vary the routes as much as I can, so far, to within 70km from where I live with varying start/finish points from North Cork to East Cork. This broadens the catchment area giving everyone a choice and opportunity to come along. And it's always nice to have someone new joining as it keeps the group and the experience fresh. I try, to the best of my ability, to make the bike rides interesting. We have explored greenways, crossed on the ferry (for free!) to Cobh, been provided free food, visited Doneraile Court and Ballymaloe courtyard.
The amount of goodwill we have come across is amazing as we also make a point of interacting with people along the way. And most importantly, I only stop where the coffee is good!
Why would you encourage other members to become leaders?
I would encourage anyone to become a leader if they have good cycling ability, confidence, and people skills. I have already convinced one of my ‘regulars’, and he is now on the list for the next bike leader course in Cork. Personally, I get immense satisfaction and a genuine feel good factor from leading a bike ride and witnessing people's confidence and skills improve and the joy which they get from cycling and interacting with the group. Plus I always have a great craic along the way!
What has been the highlight for you from your rides to date?
There have definitely been a few…I encouraged one of my regulars to join a ‘Couch to 50km’. She was initially reluctant but went on to complete the programme; participants who started at 10km, now completing 30km; seeing the participants develop friendships in a new social setting; supporting someone on the road to becoming a leader. These are all highlights and all of equal importance to me.
What advice would you give a new leader?
My advice to a new leader would be to vary your routes and distances. Give everyone a chance and bring them along. You will have to break the ice with everyone to get them to interact and get to know each other. Always make time to take turns cycling alongside each one. Give them tips and have a friendly chat. This also creates the situation where they begin to chat amongst themselves. Introduce humour early on, a bit of laughter works wonders and….always have a good coffee stop!