Throughout her life, the opportunity to learn to ride a bicycle didn’t present itself until at age 67, Ivis finally learned how to cycle with the help of a coach.
Growing up in the Caribbean, Ivis didn’t have her own bike. When she’d been able to borrow one and had someone helping her, Ivis would fall off as soon as she realised her helper had let go. This happened repeatedly, and after one too many falls Ivis decided cycling wasn’t for her: “I got so many grazes and cuts that I decided I couldn’t be bothered”.
It wasn’t until she retired from nursing that Ivis started to look for ways to stay physically active. The long and unpredictable hours of being a midwife had meant any form of exercise other than walking were not possible due to time and sheer exhaustion.
“The job was so demanding that I couldn’t do any other exercise. My feet were so tired,” says Ivis. “So once I retired I knew I would need to take up some other activities for my physical health and wellbeing.”
So, when her friend Angela told her she could learn to ride at her local community centre, with free access to bikes and taught by a professional Sustrans trainer, Ivis decided it was now or never and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
The first session with her trainer, Donna, was certainly eventful. Ivis had not long purchased a pair of expensive glasses. On her first cycling lesson she applied too much pressure to the brakes and promptly flew over the handlebars and scratched up the bike and her brand new glasses. Undeterred, she declared to herself: “I’m not going to scratch up me glasses for no reason. I must carry on now and learn to cycle”.
Donna also helped her learn to balance, which Ivis feels had been the issue as a child. Once Ivis could balance properly her confidence grew tremendously.
Another motivating factor for sticking with it was her friend Angela who was cycling well under the programme and Ivis enjoyed the friendly competition between them to keep going.
Ivis has also taken part in several BetterPoints programmes, most recently the May National Walking Month and the current Breathe that aims to reduce air pollution by encouraging active travel. “I took part in the May walking challenge and was able to walk five consecutive days to win a prize draw entry to win money for a charity of my choice.
“Donna from Sustrans told me about the app. It allows me to know what distance I’ve gone and how I can improve on what I’ve done in the past. It records my activities. I was going to buy a Fitbit but BetterPoints gives me all I need and also has the option to donate to charity.”
“With the Challenge, I thought instead of going out once or twice a week I’d go out more depending on the weather.”
For the Breathe programme Ivis leaves her car at home for shorter trips: “I cycle, as I know it’s good for my health and better for the environment then taking public transport or using my car. I tend to only use my car for longer journeys.”
Ivis enjoyed cycling so much she became a volunteer for Sustrans, to encourage others to learn to ride.
“If someone was scared to cycle I’d explain the age I was when I started and say it’s good to challenge yourself and set a goal and go for it. Have an aim and objective and keep going.”
Sadly, though, the community centre is no longer actively encouraging cycling. “We could do with more incentives to help people join in and go out in a group,” says Ivis, “as it’s great for being social as well as the exercise.”