At AXA Community Bike Rides, we take pride in being an initiative that holds inclusiveness close to its heart. No matter your age or fitness level, we aim to ensure that every person who wants to take part, can take part. With this in mind, we caught up with Kerry based member Sean Lyons. Sean tells us his opinion on the inclusive nature of AXA Community Bike Rides, along with some other fascinating insights from a varied and adventurous life.
Born in Castlebar, County Mayo, Sean trained as an English teacher before, by his own admission, ‘wandering off’ the education path. His hunger for exploration and adventure took him across the globe, working in a myriad of countries at different jobs. “In Zambia, I taught English in a secondary school, I sold vacuum cleaners in Australia, pulled pints on Cape Cod, and ran a pirate radio station in Mayo”. Having experienced a variety of cultures and tried his hand several professions, Sean made his way south, settling in the beautiful County Kerry.
Now at home in The Kingdom, Sean further utilised his knowledge of the English language by self-publishing the novel ‘Past Connection’. In his own words, the book “rose into obscurity” but that didn’t stop him from self-publishing two more books filled with humorous poetry, both of which have raised thousands of euro for charity.
In more recent times, Sean’s sense of adventure has focused on his local area, and there are few more scenic counties in Ireland than County Kerry. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic gave Sean an opportunity to explore more, and with the encouragement of his family, coupled with an encounter with an AXA Community Bike Rides Facebook advertisement, he got the wheels turning again. “I took my bike from the shed for the first time in over a year. The pandemic had arrived, and the importance was being stressed of exercise as a means of fighting the virus.”
Now, almost a year on from his inaugural AXA Community Bike Ride, Sean is eager to express his appreciation for the programme that got him cycling again and he specifically wishes to highlight its inclusive nature. “I appreciate the inclusive ethos of the initiative. I am always impressed by the word 'community' in the title. The initiative caters for the older 10-15kms participants like myself and on through the spectrum of fitness and commitment to those who can take on 100kms before breakfast!”. This accessibility for participants of any age is demonstrated when you look at the stats, with a large proportion of our members at either end of the age spectrum.
Sean is also keen to portray the personal benefits that can come from cycling and indeed from the AXA Community Bike Rides Programme. He highlights the physical, social, emotional, and psychological advantages that can be experienced by participating. “There are several benefits to be gained from AXA Community Bike Rides. The improved fitness becomes obvious within weeks. Rewards are offered for completion of ten, fifty etc rides. I am delighted, and a bit surprised, to be within shouting distance of 100. The time on the bike is a time to think and plan. I compose poetry, some of which will never make it to the page. I have gotten to know people through stopping off at several horse box coffee shops along the way. I have gotten to know parts of the environs of Tralee by exploring different routes. My self-confidence has increased, particularly when I have managed to achieve a personal best in distance. This stands at 27 kms at the moment! I am involved in several groups, including the Kerry Mental Health Fest committee and physical exercise is one of the recognised strategies for improved mental health. Like so many, I struggled at times during lockdown. Committing myself to regular bike rides was a very positive action for me.”
On top of those tangible benefits, Sean’s loved ones have also seen a seasonal benefit of his participation with AXA Community Bike Rides. “I tend to be a difficult person to buy gifts for. Family members, and Santa Claus, are delighted that I now accept and appreciate cycling accessories” explains Sean.
Looking ahead to 2022 and the trials and tribulations that will come with it, Sean has one final message for leaders, members, and potential members in particular. “As we emerge, hopefully, from these troubled times, we need to rebuild our sense of community. Initiatives like AXA Community Bike Rides are important parts of that process. For those considering joining, I would encourage them to give it a go. It is an inexpensive, accessible scheme. It is important to have a bike in good condition. A helmet is a must. The benefits of the exercise become apparent quickly. I began as a novice. The sense of achievement as I extended the run, even slightly, was immense. So, make the decision, set your goals, be careful and enjoy.”