Rehana's story: learning to ride a bike in your forties
Until this summer Rehana had never ridden a bike in her life. Now in her forties, she hadn’t learned as a child, and when she got her driving licence aged 17 she travelled everywhere by car.
Rehana was encouraged to try free cycling lessons with Free Wheel North and attend Big Bike Revival led rides through the organisation Al-Meezan. The charity provides Islamic education and a wide range of classes and activities to women and children in Glasgow and surrounding areas, and Rehana was already part of the Al-Meezan community. Cycling was something Rehana had been keen to try, so when a friend prompted her, she went along for her first session and hasn’t looked back.
As a complete newbie, Rehana started learning in summer 2016 with help from Free Wheel North at Glasgow Green in a traffic-free environment. She found that learning as an adult beginner was challenging because adults don’t necessarily have the same confidence as children. As she felt quite apprehensive at first, she used a balance bike for her first week, but she gradually became more confident and was ecstatic when she started pedalling and riding by herself.
After mastering essential cycling skills over the summer, Rehana attended Al-Meezan’s led rides as part of the Big Bike Revival in autumn 2016, which took riders on various routes around the city via cycle paths as well as roads. She relished the challenge of applying her new cycling skills to these rides, and said, “because I’m a newbie, every ride was exciting. There’s a new challenge each time. Mahnoor [Al-Meezan’s ride leader] is a brilliant teacher.”
Rehana caught the cycling bug, and just a few months after her first ever lesson and having enjoyed Big Bike Revival led rides so much, she bought her first bike – second hand from another Glasgow cycling organisation, Soul Riders.
I bought waterproofs when I bought my bike, so the weather's no barrier!"
Rehana, new cyclist
Having her own bike means Rehana can now go cycling whenever she wants. She said that the Al-Meezan ride leaders were a great support to her to become more independent and confident, with ride leaders buddying with her to help her find good routes in her local area, as well as showing her low-traffic options via the Big Bike Revival events she attended.
Despite the winter season, Rehana is now starting to make purposeful journeys by bike, clocking up the miles and maintaining at least one weekly ride. Her next goal is replacing the car for more journeys and for getting to and from the gym. She’s impressively unfazed by Glasgow’s damp climate, saying cheerily, “Oh yes, I bought waterproofs when I bought my bike, so the weather’s no barrier!”
Rehana credits the accessibility of the Free Wheel North cycling classes and Big Bike Revival led rides with her transformation from non-cyclist to enthusiastic rider. Before she learned to cycle, she didn’t have access to a bike. Being able to access cycle training was invaluable to her. Big Bike Revival led rides helped her build confidence and learn about route options in her local community, too. As she explains, “a little thing like that can make a huge difference. I honestly wouldn’t be cycling without it.” The group spirit and support of having led rides has also been great for keeping motivation in the early stages.
Now Rehana can take her children out on their bikes, and the whole family can enjoy cycling together, with bike journeys providing a fun and healthy alternative to going places by car all the time. She has become more aware of the needs of cyclists when bikes and cars are on the road, and would welcome more good cycling infrastructure in Glasgow. “I’m hoping for more cycle lanes,” she said. “That would be a dream”.