Inspiring cyclists: why I enjoy being a Cycling UK volunteer

Narinder, an ICU nurse, loves cycling and helping others to enjoy it too
Ahead of this year's national Volunteers' Week (1 - 7 June) we hear from Cycling UK volunteer and intensive care nurse Narinder Kaur about how helping others has helped her mental health, allowed her to meet new people and given her a way of carrying on her father's commitment to selfless service through the Sikh practice of sewa

Narinder was born in West Bromwich in the UK to Sikh parents who migrated from the Punjab in India. She is a Cycling UK member and volunteers with Walsall Arboretum Community Cycling Club in the West Midlands. 

Sudden grief

In 2018, we experienced the sudden death of my father, who was planning a holiday back to his motherland, when he was suddenly taken ill. On the day of his flight to India, Dad was rushed into hospital, and less then 24 hours later, he'd passed away. The sudden lost of a much-loved father for all our family was enormous. Dealing with grief became difficult and overpowering and nothing was helping to console me until I discovered cycling by chance, a skill I'd never learned in my youth.

Discovering cycling

One day, I found myself in Walsall Arboretum Park, an area my father loved and where he once took regular walks, and bumped into Steve, a volunteer for both Walsall Arboretum Community Cycling Club (WACCC) and Walsall Bike Project. Little did I know, WACCC was going to become a huge part of my life and help me to come to terms with my loss.

The positive impact of learning to cycle has become a huge accomplishment and the achievement of a lifelong goal but, more importantly, part of my life.

Giving back

In the same year I started cycling, I was given the opportunity to undertake a ride leader course and became a volunteer ride leader for the group. Being a ride leader gave me confidence; I enjoy meeting new people and sharing my experiences of cycling, it's a lot of fun.

Volunteering gave me opportunities to give back to the community by helping others and I see first hand the positive impact cycling has. Not being able to express yourself due to a language barrier, mental ill-health, or even physical ill-health should not be seen as a hindrance for participation or learning. 

Cycling has helped me to meet people and make friends as well, becoming part of the community, so for that I am also very grateful

Narinder Kaur, Cycling UK volunteer

Looking after my wellbeing

Mental ill-health has become more common, especially in the fast-paced and stressful society we are now living and working in during the pandemic. As a staff nurse working long hours in an intensive care unit, it increasingly became more important to look after my own mental health and wellbeing.

Thanks to Cycling UK supporting all frontline workers, I managed to have my bike serviced by a qualified bike mechanic, allowing me to venture out on my own during lockdown and visit places WACCC had cycled to previously. Sometimes I would meet up with other club members and, in accordance with government guidelines, go out to explore areas our club could cycle to in the future as a group.

My volunteering

As a volunteer, I was given the job of taking photos of others with bikes and putting them on the Cycling UK WACCC web page: I often think photos tell more of a story than words. I am grateful for such opportunities the cycling world has provided me with. 

The last three years of volunteering have allowed me to give back to the community by helping people of all ages to grow in confidence. Each individual is unique, and watching and encouraging them, whatever their reason to learn, as they demonstrate their sheer determination to learn to ride a bike, can be amazing. Thanks to charities such as Cycling UK supporting many communities through activities such as WACCC, the Walsall Bike Project and the Big Local at Palfrey Park, many people now have hope.

Back to it

The familiar hustle and bustle of the club opening on a Tuesday morning has been much-welcomed by many of our club members; we have been waiting patiently but eagerly to take a bike out and cycle to our heart's content since the start of lockdown. For me, volunteering continues by ensuring that admin is complete and up-to-date, while welcoming new members and signposting them to other clubs and projects.

Why do I volunteer?

My father was passionate about helping others by working in the community. In Sikh culture, the term is called sewa, which means 'selfless service'; it involves helping people without assumption of reward or personal gain.

At each place I volunteer, I have enjoyed myself immensely whether I've been painting the storage container, participating in learn-to-ride sessions, or leading rides. You may ask why volunteer? Well, simply helping others less fortunate than myself gives me a great sense of achievement. Cycling has helped me to meet people and make friends as well as becoming part of the community, so for that I am also very grateful. 

As a health care provider, I wish I could prescribe everyone to have a go on a bike. Encouraging more people to take up cycling would benefit them both physically and mentally, but to do this we need to improve our infrastructure to keep both young and old safe. This would have a domino effect: by reducing our carbon footprint and caring for the environment, we'll leave a healthy legacy for the next generation.

Get involved

If, like Narinder, you'd like to become a volunteer in cycling and enable other people to experience the benefits of cycling, as well as enjoying a sense of achievement yourself, please take a look at our current volunteer opportunities or get in touch with the volunteering team.

Volunteers' Week 

Do you know someone selfless like Narinder who goes above and beyond to help others enjoy cycling? Nominate them for a Going the Extra Mile award and see them get the recognition they deserve during Volunteers' Week from 1 - 7 June 2021.