Sue Booth – volunteer founder of a cycling group for women

Sue Booth and a group of female cyclists
Sue Booth, (centre in pink) founder and secretary of Chester Fabulous Ladies Cycling Group
Sue Booth founded Chester Fabulous Ladies over 10 years ago after Cycling UK's '5 Miles to Fabulous' initiative in 2007 to inspire more women to become involved in cycling. The group has gone from strength to strength with regular monthly rides in the Wirral area, proudly boasting of never having visited the same café twice! Sue is still the mainstay of the group and describes her role volunteering with Cycling UK

Full name, occupation, area you live in and name of group or activity you support

Sue Booth, community nurse (learning disabilities), Chester Fabulous Ladies women's cycling club

What made you decide to volunteer your skills with Cycling UK?

Ten years ago I realised there were not as many women riding events in our area, and thought I should not just moan about it, but instead get involved with CTC (as it was then) and our regional DA (before it became a member group)

How much time were you able to commit?

Originally I thought I could manage a morning a month; that is for the actual ride.  There is of course planning, publicity and co-ordinating rides and events now.

What did you support?

We hold monthly ladies only cycle rides, with a view to encouraging ladies to ride in a group and ultimately join our Sunday rides and other events.  We have a weekend away each year too.

What was the greatest challenge you encountered?

To keep the group current, with changing riders and people wanting to do different things. The world of cycling has changed a lot since 2008, and the emphasis on racing, sportives and faster hills is not what I envisage for our group. I have maintained a consistent vision for the group, but also adapted to have different levels of rides.

Describe a typical day in your volunteer role

Two weeks before a Saturday morning ride, I email my leaders to check availability. This determines how many groups and riders we can manage.

A week before, I email and maybe set up events on Facebook, to remind the ladies that the ride is imminent. Despite having the list of dates at the start of the year, people forget. Hopefully I will remember to phone the café and arrange for our visit.

On the morning, I will arrive in good time, and make sure I get a coffee! Then usually chatting and answering lots of questions about all sorts, not just the ride, route and café for today. I have sign-in sheets, so the groups naturally form, and after an introductory chat and mandatory photo, I set the groups off.

Leading the group is second nature to me now, I ensure everyone can keep up, have occasional stops to re-group or share information, and take photos as we go.

At the café it is usually a bit more relaxed, and then make sure everyone can get back – sometimes the groups re-form and change.

After the ride, I keep a record of everyone, and any new riders I invite to our email group so that they can keep in touch. I also write a blog, to share what we do and where we have been, and also pictures from the morning. Once a year we meet up as leaders to plan next year, and the ladies weekend.

Keeping it alive with social media is also a bit time consuming, but vital in these technological times. I receive three – four email enquiries per month, which I always answer.

Of all the tasks you helped on, what are you most proud of?

Outside the ladies group, I also run Chester CTC; as part of this for the last two years I have organised the Bob Clift Memorial Cheshire Cycleway Rides. I took it on in its 30th year, realising I rode the first one (and have the certificate to prove it) in 1986. I knew Bob, and as a Cestrian it makes me proud to be able to keep this traditional ride going.

I was really pleased with having the largest numbers ever in my first year, partly due to using social media. Months of planning go into this, and the day is long and hectic, but good fun.

What did you get out of the experience?

I enjoy the planning and organising, I love to see everyone out enjoying themselves. I obviously get to ride too, but it is not ‘for me’; I naturally want to help and advise people, and share my passion for cycling, and our local area which is perfect for cycling.

I love to show people around my corner of Cheshire, and the secret track and quiet lanes; surprising them with what we have on our doorstep.

Has it enhanced your passion for cycling/have you had the chance to get out more on your bike?

I think it runs alongside my passion for cycling, I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t so enthused. I probably don’t ride as much for myself as before, but I do have a weekend away each year with friends!

Could you describe your volunteering experience in three words?

Enjoyable, busy, satisfying.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Cycling UK?

Be clear on what you can manage and what you want to achieve. Stick to your vision, but be prepared to be a bit flexible. Delegate if you can, to share the load. Seek support from your local member group, or at least let them know what you are planning.

Find out more about becoming a volunteer