Cyclist stories

Thank you for all the great stories submitted. Below are the winners from 2014, and if you scroll down, you will also find a few from the previous challenge in 2013.

Cycle Challenge 2014: New Cyclist Winning Story

Máire Jones, Trinity Collge Dublin

“On Yer Bike! The 10 minute cycle challenge could not have come at a better time for me.  In April I availed of the “Bike to Work” scheme to buy a new bike in TMG in Skerries and I was keen to get back into cycling. The bike I owned previously had been lying idle for a long time. The bike, I was told, had a “granny gear” which would get me up any hill! 10 minute trips were a perfect starting goal. So it was on with the lycra, high vis and helmet and out I went on day 1. It was great to be back in the saddle, but getting out of it was a different story – sore legs and backside, not to mention, lungs that were gasping for air.

Day 2 brought its own adventure – rain! Clad in raingear, off I went. The problem, this time, wasn’t getting out the saddle, but staying on it.  I was on the footpath and was about to cross a side road when a car came around the corner – I braked, put my foot down on the wet  ground to stop,  and in what seemed like the slow motion section of “Chariots of Fire”, continued onto the road, lost my balance and ended up stretched out on the ground, with the bike landing on top of me, just in front of the car which was turning – thankfully the driver had managed to stop in time. I think she got more of a fright than I did. A little shaken, but relieved that there was no damage done, except to my pride, I got back on the bike and cycled very gingerly the rest of the way home.

Undeterred, I continued on with my 10 minute trips each day, and gradually I could feel my legs getting stronger, and my lung capacity increasing, raising my hope that I would be able to attempt my goal of cycling the full commute home from Trinity College to Rush – a distance of 30km. I wanted to try the homeward journey first, because I hadn’t a clue how long it would take me – guessing about 2 hours, and I didn’t want to be under time constraints of getting to work on time, nor did I want to arrive into work in a lather of sweat unable to function for the rest of the day.  I left my bike in my office overnight, having seen that the forecast looked promising for the next day, (Day 9 of the challenge).  At the end of my working hours, it was on with the gear, and out onto Pearse Street to start the long journey home. I passed the end of  Lower Abbey Street heading onto Gardiner Street just a minute before the 33 bus was about to depart. I couldn’t believe the bus didn’t catch up with me until the Airport Roundabout. The brilliant sunshine, was pale in comparison to the beaming smile on my face when I got home in 1 hour 31 minutes, which included 5 minutes stoppage time at traffic lights and which was a faster time than the walk to the bus and the bus journey itself.

I’ll need a few more 10 minute trips to build up my stamina to be able to tackle the next goal, of commuting the 60km round trip in one day. With each day of the challenge, I could feel my fitness level increase.

Oh the thrill of finally getting up Curkeen Hill without having to get off the bike and walk,  and climbing Carn hill without using the “granny gear” – even though I am old enough to be a granny!

This challenge has enabled me to change my default mode of transport for shorter 4-5km journeys from the car to the bike.  For the last 8 years I have driven to Skerries to watch the finish of the Round Ireland Rás. This year, I went on my bike to see it, having also cycled to see the Cycle against Suicide and to see the Giro d’Italia come through the town.

Thanks to all who organised the challenge.  I have cycled over 300km, I have more money in my pocket, a much better level of fitness, and I am several kilos lighter.

When’s the next challenge???????”

Cycle Challenge 2014: Regular Cyclist Winning Story

Rachel Hilliard, National University of Ireland, Galway

“Last week I was invited into my daughter’s school to talk to the whole school about getting cycling. I brought in a poster of my cycle challenge statistics, and was able to tell them about how much CO2 and money I had saved (and how many chocolate bars I had earned).

The kids were very keen to tell me all the things they love about cycling. My daughter Bridget helped out by showing off her safety gear and her special cycle seat. We travel to school together most mornings, and it is such a nice start to the day, and special time that we spend together.

The Infants class made me wonderful cards to thank me for my talk, and you can see from Ahmed’s card that they listened really carefully and remembered all the things I told them about – he’s drawn my hi-vis, my neon bicycle clip, my lights, helmet.”

Rachel_Hilliard_NUIG

Cycle Challenge 2013: New Cyclist stories

Eamon Duffy, Dublin City Council

From Gazelle to Hippo and back again! “The excuses have been legend: too wet; too cold; too windy, too hot and too dangerous. Sure I know, the Swedes told me there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothes. Then there all the medical excuses: ITB; IBS; PMDS and a litany of TLA’s and neuroses that would horrify the most active internet hypochondriac.

So, I pumped up the tyres and donned my superhero Lycra cape and budgie-smuggler shorts. There were the usual slings and arrows: “How can we be inspired by a captain who has the sporting physique of Jockey Wilson?”

So, how was it for you? It was lovely thanks. Each day I achieved a minimum of an hour and half of low impact exercise, a half an hour shorter commute, a just-stepped-out-of-the-sauna ruddy complexion and I can now go up a flight of stairs without oxygen. Who knows by Christmas I may be able to blow up a balloon?

My legs are tightening up and that pain is weakness leaving the body. The journey back form hippo to gazelle has just begun.

Many of my happiest childhood memories revolve around my powder blue trike and my Raleigh Chipper. Now, I have rediscovered the joy, the peace and independence that cycling brings and I have rediscovered old friends. It is said that a pleasure denied is a pleasure doubled; now I have started I am not going to stop.”

Claire Trotter – Physios on Wheels Team – Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street

“With a change in job, came a big change in my routine. A change that I really wasn’t prepared for. Living in Rathgar and working in Tallaght involved a very easy drive to work in my car. A switch to working in town meant that driving was no longer an option. So the bus journeys, albeit relatively short bus journeys began. They were horrible; mornings and evenings I used to dread them. Packed buses, feeling sick and no fresh air all became part of my daily routine so something had to change.

Therefore three weeks into my new job I bought a bike and started cycling to work…I haven’t looked back since. Much more enjoyable (despite a couple of falls!) and a good way to keep fit. Also convienient that it coincided with the 10 minute cycle challenge as the challenge allowed me to be part of a team in my new workplace which was great. Makes getting to know people a whole lot easier. I am now firmly settled in my new routine!”


Adam Faloona – Digital Donkeys Team – Belfast City Council

“As the new member of our team I have had an absolute blast during the challenge.

From day one, I was seeing the benefit, spending little or no time in traffic and zero time waiting at bus stops. I also noticed a real kick of energy first thing in work, having blasted the cobwebs away coming down the road.

I do a lot of exercise and so enjoyed taking on this new challenge, the versatility of the exercise has even seen me lose weight. I think some of my team mates were surprised at how enthusiastic and competitive I was about the whole thing.

My team captain was a great encouragement; I think he felt it was job done when I expressed interest in purchasing a road bike, as opposed to the hybrid I used during the challenge.

I even encountered my first puncture yesterday before heading home (must have been one of the extra journeys I was pushing for on the final day). This still has not dampened my spirit and I cycled into work again this morning, despite the challenge having been completed. All in all I had fun, feel healthier and am now a cycling convert. I am already looking forward to next year.”

Regular Cyclist Stories

Allan Bell  – NI Environment Agency

“I’ve been a cyclist around Belfast for quite a few years but have just returned to cycling to work following an absence of just under 3 years so feel I’m in both categories – new and regular! The absence was enforced due to transfer to a job requiring use of a car but from April 2013 (just before my 40th birthday) I moved again and immediately took advantage of the cycle to work scheme. The scheme was so easy to use and I got my new bike within a few days not to mention the financial saving on offer (bike = £17 a month, bus = £11.50 a week) – no brainer there. I only do a return journey of about 7.5 miles a day but felt the benefits of the regular exercise almost straight away, cycling is a really enjoyable experience – life for me has definitely begun again at 40!”

Brian Gray – The CycleRnots – ESB

“As a regular cyclist I often forget the ‘power’ that cycling gives me in being in charge of my own time, the reliability and predictability of how long it takes to get to work, the added benefit of the exercise and air to wake me up or shake off the end of day frustrations.

My wife recently started a new job which saw her give up a home office role, following 7 years in this no commute situation. She started on the bus and after her first couple of days of 90 minutes -2hours commuting for the 6 mile round trip, I convinced her to give the bike a go. Her commutes now take 40 minutes, she’s feeling healthy and stronger and she’s enjoying the ride. A few days ago as the whole household started their day out, 2 parent on bikes and 2 kids on their bikes, an elderly gent passed us on the path and commented how delightful it was to see us all cycling; the kids to school and my wife and I on our work commutes. It’s a simple and easy lifestyle choice to make and you will feel all the better for it.”

Colette Gill – Buns of Steel – St. Vincent’s University Hospital

“I am a regular cyclist for the past 3 years. Since starting work in St.Vincent’s I have become a big fan of cycling as a means of transport. Prior to this I was going everywhere in the car. Now I can see the massive advantages of cycling. This challenge has been a great experience. Our team has had great fun cycling to work and in the evenings and has created good lunch time banter and some healthy competitiveness within the hospital with other teams.
On a personal level, this has been a great challenge for me. Part of my job involves completing community visits in South Dublin. For the last 3 weeks instead of going to see my patients in the car I have used the bike to get around. I have clocked up over 20km some days with work related trips. Also in the evenings I have been using my bike to go to the shops or training. As I play camogie, this extra fitness has given me an extra advantage over my team mates! Feeling fit and healthy after the 3 week cycle challenge. :-)”

Patrick J Fenlon – PJ Fenlon Team – GlaxoSmithKline

“I got a knee operation in 2010 on my left cartilage. I took up cycling in June of the same year. I also suffer with Crohn’s disease and just wanted a sport that didn’t impacted on my life too much. I am a father of 3 boys and reside near the beautiful town of Dungarvan. Which is synonymous with the Sean Kelly Tour Of Waterford. Which is held on the last weekend of August. I have done a few sportive and charity cycles over the past three years. But this year I pushed the boat out and started road racing at the young age of 41 lol. I still have a long way to go to improve my fitness. I have competed in two races this year and hope to do a few more before the season ends. Cycling is a very enjoyable way of keeping fit and enjoying our beautiful country. I would highly recommend to anyone to
take up cycling, for personal enjoyment and the social aspect too. My work mates and I joined the smarter travel competition this year and got a few new cyclists to join too and we have enjoyed the challenge.”

Sean Stephen – Digital Donkeys Team – Belfast City Council

“My most rewarding experience has been to hear my wife actually thank me for taking her out on her bicycle the other evening. We bought a wee mountain bike type of thing at a car boot sale some months ago on her behest.  I believed that she wanted to shed some weight then.  I made all the necessary adjustments and maintenance to the bike but it sat in a corner for a long time. Now whether it was luck, whim, good timing, good weather or a mixture of all that got her in the saddle, I don’t care.

I asked her after I got home from work one night around the start of this campaign, on the off-chance, if she fancied coming out for a ride.  She said yes.  Yippee, I thought, a chance for a nice cool-down in gorgeous sunshine AND my wife is coming out.  I chose the flattest route we have around us and took some water for her and off we set.  She chose the six and a half mile version of the route though because the three mile version is a little rough for her.  She figured out how most of the grip-shift gears worked fairly quickly but still need prompting as to when to shift but no matter.  We managed the first hill, which can be a bit of a kicker, but stopped at the crest to get her breath back despite the full half mile freewheel down the other side.  Then off across Flush Road which rolls a bit.  There were a couple of stops along there; one quite worrying.  I had to pick her out of a nettle strewn ditch as she got her gears wrong and came to a stop half way up an incline but didn’t have the strength left in her legs to stand out of the saddle to rest a foot on the ground.  We laugh about it now.  A few miles further and a couple of ‘hill-walks’, drink stops and rests later and we were home.

Two nights later, armed with extra seat padding we tried the same again with less stops and only one drink break. Now, we can manage five and a half miles before the last hill gets her walking.  She is so pleased with herself.  She is over fifty (shall we say) and overweight, but still game for it.  This may not last into the bad weather, but if I can persuade her to get onto the turbo-trainer we’re on a winner for the winter, and who knows, maybe a road bike next summer.

So this campaign is not just about team efforts and points for journeys.  It’s about reclaiming past fitness; even later in life.”

Many thanks to everyone who offered to share their stories on the website and congratulation for all of your efforts and achievements throughout the Challenge!

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