Big Bike Revival inspires new group for women’s wellbeing

Peloton Wheels cycling group
Sometimes cycling groups aren’t just about cycling. Cycling UK’s Sam Waller discovers how Peloton Wheels in Stirling is helping people improve many aspects of their lives

Through Big Bike Revival activities at Recyke-a-bike in Stirling, the cycling group Peloton Wheels has been supporting women to tackle isolation, boost their self-confidence and even overcome panic attacks.

“Cycling is another tool for improving women’s confidence, their self-esteem and for building social connections,” said founder Jane Milne, who is also a women’s wellbeing coach and leader of Peloton Wheels cycling group.

This isn’t a group for super-keen cyclists, but rather those looking for a welcoming environment to give cycling a go.

As Jane explains: “It’s all about the joy of being on your bike with other people who are all there to support each other.”

Before the Big Bike Revival, the group was just an idea in Jane’s head. She liked the idea of creating a wellbeing group around cycling, but wasn’t sure where to start.

She was introduced to her local Big Bike Revival development officer, Ralph Jessop, who helped her to put together a plan. Over the summer the group ran sessions over four weeks, supporting participants to learn basic cycling skills and build confidence.

The diverse group of women who took part included several who hadn’t cycled for decades, some with low cycling confidence and others who wanted to overcome previous negative experiences.

When you’re in a little group and somebody gets a puncture, we all have a laugh about it and support each other. Doing it on your own isn’t as much fun!

Jane Milne, founder of Peloton Wheels

Jane recognised that cycling groups can sometimes be intimidating. Every session therefore ended with an open conversation, so that the women could share their experiences during the ride in a supportive space. This acted as a springboard to talk about challenges in life more generally as well.

The group’s inclusive ethos was always to the fore, Jane said. “When you’re in a little group and somebody gets a puncture, we all chip in together, have a laugh about it and support each other. Doing it on your own isn’t as much fun!”

As the sessions went by, the progress was plain to see. Jane picks out one woman in particular: “She started not being able to go out and cycle at all. By the end, she was actually encouraging and supporting some of the others who’d never cycled before.”

Jane says the group has also been liberating for the women in terms of appearance: “It’s also not giving a monkeys about what you look like. When we come into the café and take off our cycle helmets, our hair’s all over the place. We’re a bit sweaty, and we might be a bit muddy, and we don’t care.

“It makes us feel so good that we don’t care what we look like. It’s a really refreshing environment for a lot of women. They might not have experienced that before with a group of women.”

Big Bike Revival support enabled the group to access training including cycle ride leader and roadside repair, to ensure they could continue running social rides. This provided another boost of confidence and helped the women carry on with their cycling journey.

Jane says that many of the women have greatly increased both their confidence and cycling skills since joining the group, Indeed, six of the women even signed up for Ride the Night, a 100km ride in Edinburgh. A fantastic achievement, which shows just how far many of the women have come.