By Becci Curtis

Five years ago, I was perfectly fine with walking everywhere. I had absolutely no desire to ride a bike. Seeing cyclists whizz over Magdalen Bridge and pootle around the City Centre, did not captivate my interest one bit. Cycling was for cyclists and I was definitely not one of those.

Last month, I cycled seven stages of the Tour de France, in seven days: that’s upwards of 730 miles, over an elevation profile the equivalent of 4.3 times the height of Everest. I celebrated turning 32 by spending the day riding more than 120 miles. I finished at the top of a mountain, in the cold and dark - with only the cows for company - and I loved every exhausting minute of it.

So, what changed?

Three simple and serendipitous things:

1. My clapped out Peugeot 106 gave up the ghost and I couldn’t afford to replace it

2. My partner (one of those ‘cyclists’) lived an hour bus journey away, or a 20 min bike ride

3. My housemate gave me a bike (that was so old and rusty, she had been given it for free).

I started riding a bike out of convenience and necessity. I wasn’t immediately converted, in fact, it was a trial to begin with; I was slow, wobbly, sweaty, and hated being rained on. Getting my bike in and out of the garage felt like more effort than it was worth, but with some patience, advice and a friendly wheel to follow, things began to get easier.

Even better, I started to get everywhere much quicker and enjoyed not worrying about where to park my car, or having to factor in a walk to and from the bus stop. At some point, I even stopped worrying about the rain.

I started commuting (on the rust bucket) and invested in a better bike through my employer’s ride to work scheme. I started cycling for leisure at the weekends. I bought a mid-range road bike with the idea that it would be easier to sell-on at a reasonable price when - after all - I decided this cycling-business had been a mistake.

I was encouraged to take part in the Cowley Road Condors Women’s Sessions. I joined the club. I became the club’s Women’s Officer. I am now the Coordinator for Oxford’s cycle campaign: Cyclox. No-one is more surprised by all of this, than me: the reluctant cyclist.

Reluctant cyclists:

Say “I would like to try cycling” out loud (you don’t have to believe it, just yet). Borrow a bike. Find someone to ride it with. Try it more than once.


Encourage your friends, family, colleagues; anyone you overhear say “I’m not sure cycling is for me”. Share advice and show them how. Offer to ride with them.