Saffron Small

Saffron Small
Saffron Small is part of Cycling UK's 100 Women in Cycling 2019 list for her commitment to helping people of all backgrounds in Northamptonshire to benefit from cycling.

Having loved cycling as a child, Saffron would spend nearly everyday out on her bike but as she approached her teens and could finally drive a car, the beloved bike was relegated to the garage. Fast forward to 2007 and an advert for a charity ride from London to Paris. "How hard can that be" Saffron thought to herself? "Well I can tell you with minimal fitness and no training it was one of the worst experiences of my life; once again my love affair with the bike was over".

Saffron would return to cycling however. In 2013, her life was turned upside down when her step-father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and her biological father committed suicide. On top of that she was working full time, with two young children, and had lost any sense of who she was, of any purpose or direction. In her own words: "At my lowest point, I decided to try and end my life, I was referred to see a counsellor and a doctor and offered a number of pills, but I didn't see this as a long term solution."

"It was during a session with my counsellor that he suggested exercise as a way to combat stress and promote a feeling of wellbeing, my homework was to go away and do something physical. With some trepidation I got my old bike out and rode around my local village, without the targets and minimum speed requirements I'd experienced on my London to Paris trip, I relaxed and for the first time in ages felt free. The bike rides became more regular and got longer and I relished the peace and quiet I experienced on the bike, the only thing I had to focus on was each pedal stroke, for the first time in a long time I felt free."

With some trepidation I got my old bike out and rode around my local village, without the targets and minimum speed requirements I'd experienced on my London to Paris trip, I relaxed and for the first time in ages felt free.

Saffron Small

Saffron is clear on how cycling has changed her life. "It gives me freedom, the ability to escape all my worries and stress for a few hours. Cycling has given me a purpose again, a career, it's ignited a passion in me and allowed me to meet the most wonderful and inspirational women and help them on their cycling journey."

Her individual journey has led to her inspiring others. As time went by and Saffron’s mental and physical health improved, she decided she wanted company on her rides. She stumbled across Daventry Cycle Club and decided to give one of their rides a try. She enjoyed it, while becoming aware how very few women members there were; the thought was like an annoying buzz in her head, the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to do something about it. Initially Saffron decided that the club committee needed a change of dynamic so she started turning up at meetings to try and give a female perspective on things. With a background in communications she was able to offer help in terms of developing the club’s social media presence.

Member numbers began to steadily increase, but there was still a huge imbalance when comparing male riders to female riders. Whilst researching female cycling, Saffron came across the HSBC UK Breeze programme. She immediately realised this might be how to encourage more women onto their bikes. Saffron became a Breeze Champion in October 2017 and organised her first Breeze ride the following April. The ladies come in all shapes, sizes and ages (20 to 70), proving that there is no such thing as a typical cyclist. Over 120 rides later, Saffron’s Breeze group continues to increase and gather momentum.

As an established ride leader she decided to try and inspire children and young people to get into cycling. With children of her own, she knew how easy it was for kids to become enslaved by laptops and mobile phones. Adding a level 2 British Cycling Coaching Qualification, she now regularly coaches children as part of a Junior Academy she helped set up for Daventry Cycle Club. Saffron also runs eight week courses at local schools and supports the Schools Game Programme as a coach, an initiative aimed at promoting cycling to Year 6 primary school children and Year 7/8 Secondary School children. Other roles that Saffron has taken on include being a Cycling Ambassador for Northamptonshire Sport and a Women's Ambassador for Trek, a Breeze Area Co-ordinator for Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, Club Secretary for Daventry Cycling Club, and she is an accredited marshal. If she gets time she also leads guided rides throughout the UK and Europe!

Cycling has had a huge impact on not only Saffron’s life but that of the clubs. As the ladies get stronger they progress from the Breeze rides to join Daventry Cycle Club, where the numbers have increased from five female members when Saffron joined, to over 50 women members now. They're still some way off equal numbers but are making progress and crucially the dynamic of the club and people’s perception of it has changed. It's easy to see the impact Saffron has made from the comments we received about her, where she was described as "frankly, an AMAZING woman, and a driving force behind getting women into cycling, also being a massive part of British Cycling's One in a Million campaign recently, appearing on Sky News and other outlets."

"Saffron cares so much about her Breeze ladies, and in her commitment to helping them, has also set up strength training classes at the local gym, holding bike maintenance courses to aid their progression. She is also an active committee member of the local cycling club, and with other committee members, gives up her own time to run a junior cycling group twice a week, encouraging children into cycling. She has completed countless rides for charity, riding 1000’s of miles every year to raise much needed funds for a local homeless charity and various cancer charities to name just a few. In short, Saffron is one of the most selfless people I’ve had the privilege to know. Her determination and drive is truly inspiring and she deserves this nomination a 1000 times over. Go Saffron!"

What is 100 Women in Cycling?

Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling is an annual list celebrating inspirational women who are encouraging others to cycle.