Sam proves it's great to start cycling — at any age

Sam Sahdra loves cycling and socialising with the Handsworth Ladies
Sam Sahdra reckons cycling with the Handsworth Ladies is like being part of one big, happy family. Not that Sam got off to the greatest of starts when she first considered taking up cycling. She saw her grandchildren riding their bikes, asked them if they would help her to cycle, and they said she was too old!

Now 61, Sam has certainly proved them wrong after discovering Handsworth Ladies, a thriving cycling group which has just become a Cycling UK Community Cycle Club.

Sam visited Handsworth Park, Birmingham, in May this year and asked at the centre about Learn to Ride sessions. She nervously attended a session, met the organizers and admitted to Keith Hill, a Ride Activator with Big Birmingham Bikes, that she was scared about learning to ride.

But he showed her what to do and that fear of the unknown quickly passed – to the extent that she immediately started attending every week.

Sam learned to ride a bike in five sessions and declared: “Coming to the group felt like a family.”

Beat the Street

Handsworth Ladies was set up out of Beat the Street, as women who lived in the area wanted a cycle group of their own. Beat the Street approached Big Birmingham Bikes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Big Birmingham Bikes provide a programme of free bikes, cycle training, and activities with employers, schools and communities to encourage cycling, as part of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution project.

Cycling UK is working with BCR/BBB to help get people cycling in Birmingham, and provides groups like Handsworth Ladies with the resources and opportunity to stand on their own two feet, supporting them to set a plan for the future as a Community Cycle Club affiliated to the national cycling charity.

The women who attend feel happier in themselves from being part of the group. They want to be active and really enjoy it. I certainly love it – and my family are very supportive.

Sam Sahdra, Handsworth Ladies

Sam said: “I felt very determined that I wanted to learn and practised regularly. Socialising with the other ladies in the group is really enjoyable and I like to help the others where I can – encouraging the ones who are like I was when I first started. I feel more active and have confidence when cycling now, which I certainly didn’t have previously.

“The women who attend feel happier in themselves from being part of the group. They want to be active and really enjoy it. I certainly love it – and my family are very supportive.”

Sam makes sure that she tells other women who live in her community about Handsworth Ladies, who currently meet on a Wednesday each week.

Going forward they would like to form their own women’s cycle club, getting out riding and going places – even perhaps doing sponsored rides for charity in the long term.

Everyone welcome

Asad Agha (Beat the Street) and Simon Wade (Handsworth Community) have done a lot of promotion in the community to encourage local women to join the group.

Asad said: “The women wanted a women-only bike group. As Sam said, it is like a family. It sets an example to others as it is a united group. It has broken down barriers to participation.”

Simon explained: “The women have grown in confidence and it has put smiles on their faces. They are a very diverse group – age, culture, religion, professions. It also helps their feeling of well-being.”

Vanessa Morris, Cycling UK’s Community Clubs Development Officer in Birmingham, said: “Handsworth Ladies is a great group – so friendly and supportive of each other. I hope Sam’s story inspires others to discover the gift of cycling and share its endless benefits to your health, wellbeing, the economy and the environment.”

Below: Sam is pictured with other cyclists from the Handsworth Ladies group