Meet Down Leader - Jeff Aiken


We had a chat with Jeff, who is passionate about sharing his cycling experience with others.

Location: North Down.

What motivated you to become a leader?

I've always been involved in sport and believe you should do what you can to fully participate in your chosen activity. The opportunity to become a cycling leader was a chance to meet other like-minded people, learn from them and allow me to share my passion for cycling with others. I love to see people develop their skill sets, build confidence and get more enjoyment from their sport and being a leader lets me see this on our AXA Community Bike Rides.

Why should I join one of your bike rides?

My bike rides take place at a leisurely pace where no participant will feel any pressure to go faster than they wish. I always plan my route to cover a beautiful scenic path, and of course with a tried and trusted coffee stop where I can be sure we will get good service, coffee and cake! On all my rides, I spend time with each cyclist. My aim is to build the confidence of each person, build camaraderie within the group and do my best to ensure it is a pleasurable experience, and one the participant wants to repeat.

Why would you encourage other members to become leaders?

Being a leader brings responsibility to ensure participants stay safe, have a good experience and want to come again. When you hear participants talk about the fun they had, and that they want to come again it gives you a buzz to know that you facilitated that. I have a number of regular participants who have become friends of mine and I look forward to my weekly AXA Community Bike Rides with them. I have been able to see cyclists grow in confidence, become more assured on their bikes and develop good cycling etiquette and to know you have played a big part in that is very satisfying.

What has been the highlight for you from your rides to date?

Without doubt it is the people I have met, many of whom have become friends. When participants came along at the start, they were a little nervous and apprehensive but to be able to put them at ease and over a number of weeks watch their confidence levels and bicycle skills improve has been a real highlight. In addition, a number have decided to join local cycling clubs and I can see their enthusiasm for the sport growing and to know you have played a small part in that is very satisfying. Taking cyclists from my locality along routes past beautiful scenery they had not seen before has also been great.

What advice would you give a new leader?

New participants need reassurance and I`ve found that the best way to do that is to confirm with them you will be the slowest rider and you will be at the back. From the back you can observe all the riders and give early warning of vehicles coming up behind the group. For many cyclists the fear of speed and vehicles was an inhibiter so if you can put them at ease on these aspects you will find they will be more relaxed and enjoy the ride.

Take time at the start to answer any questions participants have, plan plenty of stops along the way and frequently check in with everyone to see that they are comfortable with all aspects of the ride.

At the end I always ask if the ride met their expectations and look for feedback so that I can make it even better next time!