It’s not about the bike, it's about you powering it

Struggling with motivation and health in lockdown, Sheffield-based copywriter Ruth McIntosh used Zoom to embark on a storytelling project with 12 women from across the country.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 2:44 pm

Many of the women in the book trained to be Breeze leaders and some of them still volunteer their time today.

Breeze is a programme from the HSBC UK and is aimed at breaking down the barriers to cycling for women and girls.

Ruth’s first book, “In Search of Adventure” is a collection of their stories, reflecting on their journeys and what they’ve learned from their mistakes and experiences.

Cyclist Janine Morrall, having climbed up Rutland Road

She explained: “They are not elite athletes. They are not famous. They are women who have coped with a range of health problems and they’ve not been immune to stress or loss.

“Sharing stories makes them stronger and wiser. These women have a love of cycling, adventure and a great sense of humour.”

Alongside the real-life inspirational stories, the book offers some guidance on choosing a bike, planning and nutrition.

There’s also a list of useful tips and contacts for people wanting to get involved in riding a bike through cycling initiatives.

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Among those featured in the book is Janine Morrall, aged 40, who lives in Hillsborough with husband Shaun, who is a singer with the Everley Pregnant Brothers.

She got back on her bike at the age of 31 to start commuting to her job as a nanny. In her spare time she delivers national standards training for Pedal Ready in Sheffield and Doncaster, and also work as a session worker for Cycling for All.

She explained: “I moved back to Sheffield in 2008. Some of my friends had just trained as spinning instructors, so I was supporting them by going to their classes. My husband questioned me, “if you sit in a gym on a bike, why don’t you cycle?” We bought a couple of cheap bikes and started to commute to work on them.

“Cycling was a way of getting around without having to spend money. It meant not sitting on the tram, catching everyone’s germs. Then it really grew on me when the Olympics happened and the Tour de France came to the north of Sheffield. We got caught up in all that excitement. I rang British Cycling to ask if they were doing a Sky Ride in Sheffield and that’s when they suggested Breeze to me. I said, “I’ve never led a ride or done group leading”. They said, “it doesn’t matter, we’re not looking for experienced cyclist group riders, we’ve been there and done that”.

“The best thing about Breeze is working with women who aren’t really sure why they bought a bike or got it out of the shed. After a couple of rides, they’ve come from doing one lap of Dam Flask reservoir to two or maybe a 20 miler. Seeing them make progress and achieve something is great, it doesn’t have to be a World Record or anything. We get a lot of people who come on their own, then they’ll bring their friends afterwards. I get some ladies returning a couple of times then I don’t see them again. I always wonder, are they still cycling?

“There are some people who live in cities who might be put off cycling by the lack of infrastructure. A lot of consultation needs to be done with communities and businesses. How do we involve the whole community, even if people don’t necessarily want to cycle it themselves? There’s a lot of information that people probably don’t realise even exists, you don’t see it unless you walk or use public transport. Since Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey started as a Travel Ambassador in Sheffield, there has been more investment and they’ve started to join up the dots that were dead ends before. Hopefully, we’re making progress.

“A group of four of us tour together in the UK. We decide on a route, book the days off work and off we go, sharing accommodation along the way. Touring takes time. You’ll see a sign that says, “one mile” to somewhere then see another four blue and white Sustrans signs over the next five miles saying the same thing! You’re always having to phone the B&B to say, “we’ll get there when we get there, sorry”. For day trips we go head east where it is flatter than Sheffield! We tend to do northern routes for our longer tours so coast and castles, Hadrian’s Wall and The Way of the Roses, gradually working around remote parts.

“I’ve not got the greatest balance in the world and I’ve had surgery on my ears over the years. I was probably about nine or ten before I was able to tie my shoelaces. I’ve never been good at ball sports and I’ve never really been able to coordinate. In dance classes everybody would be going to the left with their right leg in the air and I’d be going to the right with my left leg in the air! Recently I took part in a study where they put me on the Watt bike and fitted me with brainwave sensors. The area of the brain that usually lights up when you’re riding a bike didn’t instead another area did to compensate for it. Their conclusion was that I probably shouldn’t be able to ride but I can! I always laughed off stuff that I don’t find easy and got on with it. I don’t like labels but I’m probably slightly dyspraxic.

“I say to people, “I’m not bothered what bike you come on because, actually, it’s you that’s powering the bike”.

"It’s about your physical and mental determination rather not the five-grand bike.”

For a copy of In Search of Adventure visit

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.