‘I am utterly clueless when it comes to cycling’: How The Personal Cyclist helped me conquer my fear
Last updated May 20, 2022
Kate Auld, owner of The Personal Cyclist.

I consider myself a pretty active person and I have given pretty much everything a go – from climbing and surfing to running and roller skating.

But for some reason, I have always been intimidated by cycling.

I’m fine with a stationary bike at the gym. I used to love a bit of spinning and I don’t mind a BikeErg.

But when it comes to letting me loose on the road, the confidence just isn’t there. I have no idea what bike I would get, what size, what equipment I would need. I am utterly clueless when it comes to cycling.

So when I was invited to an event collaboration between The Personal Cyclist, Sweaty Betty, Hustle & Co and the Electric Bike Shop, I snapped up the opportunity. It is about time I conquered my cycling demons.

The Personal Cyclist

I met Kate Auld, owner of The Personal Cyclist, outside Sweaty Betty. Her passion for cycling is truly infectious.

She said:

“The weekend is all about empowering women in particular to feel more confident on bikes. By taking this experience out of a bike shop, it makes it less intimidating. The number of women who ride bikes is really low.

“Harrogate has got such an amazing cycling heritage and it’s a fantastic town to be in the great outdoors, so why wouldn’t you want to try it?”

Kate said the cycling event had revealed that women in particular are nervous of the roads or unsure what to do.

Cycling

She said:

“It is all about confidence and practice, and that can be learned.

“I’ve seen women of all different ages, experiences and bikes. The one thing they have all got in common is a spirit of adventure to try something new.

“With lockdown, a lot of our worlds have become quite small. So just doing this with your hand held a little bit is getting people off to the right start.”


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I was given a shiny blue Raleigh e-bike to ride from the Electric Bike Shop, which opened a store on Harrogate’s Leeds Road earlier this year.

My first thought was it looked far too big for my small stature, but it turns out it’s the battery that makes it look intimidating.

Getting kitted out with an e-bike.

I put on my helmet, which Kate explained needed to fit snugly with space for two fingers between my eyebrows and the base.

We walked the bikes through town to Beech Grove, which was closed to through traffic in February to encourage walking and cycling.

Like riding a bike

I then had a go at actually riding the bike under Kate’s watchful gaze and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it came back to me. It was like riding a bike…

I actually thought an e-bike was like an electric scooter, in that you pressed a button and it moved. But it actually just gives you more pedal power – perfect for those hilly commutes to work.

I practised gear changes, turns and the all-important breaking, and actually felt pretty steady. I also learned how to stop, come out of the saddle and prepare myself to set off again at traffic lights.

It was actually quite a freeing feeling, empowering almost, and I can see how people get hooked on cycling.

Kate said:

“I don’t want people to feel intimidated. When I first started riding, which wasn’t until my 30s, I didn’t know where to go to get a bike.

“Going into a bike shop can be pretty scary. So actually if I can help people to have a positive experience, it’s great.”

Bike2Work scheme

As efforts continue to combat climate change and also tackle obesity, Kate said she had been approached by companies who wanted to encourage their employees to ride more.

She said:

“The government Bike2Work scheme is fantastic for getting hold of bikes.

“Some of my clients say, ‘I don’t want to use my car as much. It’s costing me an arm or a leg to run the car. I only live a mile from town. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to get in and out of town and navigate the traffic. What do I need? What if it’s pouring with rain?’, and there’s not really necessarily someone to ask.

“I want to help people make that a reality and say, ‘this is what you need, here are some routes’.

“Now one of my ladies, who hadn’t ever ridden a bike, is now doing all her errands on a bike and takes the kids.”

I told Kate that I wanted to get out on a bike with my kids and also to escape from my kids.

Hybrid

She said:

“If you’re sporty and active and you have a sense of adventure, that’s a great head start.

“I would recommend a hybrid. This can be ridden through town and you can ride it on the trails, so it’s great for family bike rides.”

When I rode the bike back to Sweaty Betty – using some of my new stopping-at-traffic-lights skills – Kate analysed my technique. Apparently my head position was great, but I needed to work on the positioning of my feet.

Memories of my cycling proficiency test at primary school started to come flooding back…

Kate’s top tips on buying a first bike:

  • Find out if your company is part of the Bike to Work scheme. This way, you only pay a fraction of what bike is worth. If not, try one of Harrogate’s fantastic bike shops like Prologue, Chevin Cycles, Specialized, and the Electric Bike Shop. Alternatively look at second hand options, including Resurrection Bikes. Or you could borrow a friend’s bike and try it. I would advise against buying one online for a first time bike rider. You certainly need to go into the bike shops and have a chat and find out what size you are.
  • Think about what you are going to use the bike for. Family errands into town? Big hills? For the Dales I’d take a road bike or gravel bike. For an all-rounder you can’t go wrong with a hybrid.
  • You can get your bike tweaked so it’s right for you. Sometimes you overthink these things. You just want to get something that feels comfortable. What you don’t want is to get something you feel wobbly on as you won’t enjoy it.
  • Look at things like gear shifters – what type do you need? Look at cycling clothing – the idea you need loads of gear is a myth. You will need a helmet, a puncture repair kit and I would recommend a little pouch with plastic gloves for if your chain comes off.  It’s as expensive as you like. I’d also recommend a Buff, a drinks holder, a rack and pannier if you’re out with the kids, and a waterproof rain jacket.

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