Isabel Jordan is a nurse in University Hospital Kerry. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, she moved to Ireland in 2006, and has been living in Tralee for the past five years. She is an active member of the AXA Community Bike Rides programme, and we recently caught up with her to find out about her experience of taking part.
How did you hear about AXA Community Bike Rides?
I heard about the programme from my friend Tom Galvin. Tom and I met while hiking in the mountains in Kerry with our local mountaineering club. Tom knew that I love to be involved in the community. I have been involved as a participant and volunteer in other community organisations, both sporting and non-sporting such as ParkRun, as a volunteer and participant, Tralee Mountaineering Club committee member and as coordinator of a Book Club in the local library in Tralee. He sent me the AXA Community Bike Rides link and gave me the business card. Tom even showed me his leader gilet, trying to lure me into becoming a leader! He repeatedly kept doing it until one day I decided to join! He said I know you will like it, as it will suit your personality. He was damn right! It was very easy to register, and I started booking my place on the solo rides from my phone, as it was during the time of the first Covid lockdown. Taking part in these rides became ‘an addiction’, as gyms were closed, and other clubs cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. It turned out to be my mental escape from my daily routine.
Why did you decide to get involved and participate?
I thought cycling in the programme could offer me a new experience, so it seemed a good time to start participating in the solo bike rides around my area. At first, I was doing 10km distances. I would do the same route over and over, as it was my exercise fix for the day, and after that I felt entitled to relax for the rest of the day! During the first lockdown back in April, there were fewer cars on the road which made me feel safer. I would stop sometimes along the way to enjoy the view or lose my thoughts in the distant landscape while taking in the sunshine!
What are the benefits for you in taking part in solo and group rides?
The benefit of solo rides is that I can do them when suits me best. I usually do them around my area, most of the time the same loop. I do them at my own pace and I choose whether to stop or not. Sometimes I repeat the rides that previously I have done with the group, and if one week I cannot do the route they are doing as a group, I check the route description and I do it in my own time. This has helped to sharpen my natural sense of direction, as I can’t always rely on Google maps, and it adds a bit of adventure too. It feels great achieving new goals and I do more strenuous rides when I feel I am ready for them. I would have never imagined there were so many beautiful gems around my local area to be discovered.
Group rides offer me the opportunity to contribute towards a more tight knit community which benefits everyone. It is important to feel connected with the community you live in and expand your social network. Everyone likes to see friendly faces and being able to have a small chat. It is easy to meet people through AXA Community Group Rides because everyone shares the same passion and hobby. We learn from each other, everyone has new ideas and recommendations about routes to develop, routes that most of the time I never knew were there; where to get accessories for your bike; which garments are more comfortable to wear; where to find a good mechanic; how to cycle more comfortably, and so on. I feel grateful to be part of this social support circle. I have gotten so much from them and the bond of friendship is tight. I really enjoy the takeaway cuppa or snack without a trace of guilt! Also, by riding with a group I have learned how to be more respectful of other people, and how to cycle in pairs, and how to envisage dangers on the road.
What does AXA Community Bike Rides mean to you?
For me, it’s an opportunity to be connected and get encouragement from other cycling enthusiasts. I have made new virtual friends through the AXA CBR community on Strava. I love seeing other AXA community cyclist’s photos and routes. They are an inspiration to me. And it makes me feel great when I see they like my rides too! Everybody needs a big clap on the back from time to time, and a virtual ‘well done’! Everything counts! It made me very happy to receive the different rewards in the post; buff and water bottle. I cannot wait until I achieve my 100 rides and get the free t-shirt. AXA Community Bike Rides empowers me to do more exercise and feel physically and mentally healthier.
Why would you encourage others to get involved?
Cycling is a lovely past time. I feel better for doing exercise. Everybody needs to be physically active in order to take care of their physical and mental health. Daily fresh air should be prescribed! I always feel more energetic after a bike ride. It helps me to keep ‘the Covid’ weight gain under control. It prevents me from leading a sedentary lifestyle and it helps my sleep too. Another benefit is that cycling is very unlikely to result in a sports injury because it is a low impact form of exercise. Being involved with AXA Community Bike Rides has provided me with social support, encouragement, and a safe environment to cycle. I think being a cyclist is a win-win with AXA Community Bike Rides, so why not go out and take part in your area! View upcoming AXA Community Bike Rides.