We had a chat with Helena, who has been leading groups since the beginning of 2020.
Location: Thomastown, Kilkenny.
What motivated you to become a leader?
Having originally become a member of the Kilkenny group with Charlie, I really enjoyed both the social and exercise aspects of the group, and I felt my own area would certainly benefit from us having a similar group. With Leader Charlie's encouragement I applied for leader training at the beginning of 2020. I believe very much in regular exercise especially outdoors, as I feel it aids both physical and mental health of all ages. I also think when you become part of a group it gives you that sense of belonging, and you will always turn up to a ride once you have committed to it.
Why should I join one of your bike rides?
Someone should join one of my bike rides to meet new people from our area and enjoy the social interaction of being out and about with like-minded people. Also, to gain confidence on your bike, and improve your knowledge of how your bike works and to get the best out of it. Gaining confidence out on the open road, while keeping yourself safe and informed on best practices when we are out there, will allow you to become stronger and fitter on your bike in a safe environment, and you’ll be able to take on longer and more challenging rides.
Why would you encourage other members to become leaders?
I would encourage other members to consider being leaders as I think every small village and town in Ireland needs to have their own leader or leaders. At present we see the rise in bike sales, and people's interest in outdoor exercise, especially with Covid-19 being ever present with us over the past 7 to 8 months. I would especially like to see more female leaders coming forward, and leaders of all ages, as our members are a mix of all ages, and the more leaders we have the more choice there is for members to go with the leader that best suits them.
What has been the highlight for you from your rides to date?
The highlight for me has been the sheer joy that members get from completing the ride, whether it is an easy 10km that they weren't fully sure they could manage as they hadn't been out on the bike for a while, or taking on that steep hill that they always tried to avoid because they thought they would never make it. For others it is the joy of completing a 30 or 40km ride. We all need a ‘sense of worth' in our lives, and if I can, in some small part, contribute to that, it gives me my reason for planning another few group rides.
What advice would you give a new leader?
This advice now comes from all the things I should have done but didn't! But it’s great to learn from it.
Start off with short distances to encourage people just to give one day a try. I started with some of mine being 30km+ and couldn't understand why people were not signing up with me.
Try different days in the first few weeks to see what best suits your area, and from there you can see what distances and times works best for you and your members.
Don't be disappointed at the beginning if you only have one or two signing up, as those are they members that will help you to grow your group, as word of mouth is the best advertisement of all. But above all enjoy yourself on your rides because then your members will also. Happy cycling everyone!
Join our growing community of AXA Community Bike Ride members today.