Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme helps Sarah cope with serious health conditions

woman with bike on canal towpath
Sarah on the canal towpath she rides every day, rain or shine
Sarah McGrory’s bike had hardly been used since moving to Scotland in 2018. After receiving a free service through the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme she is cycling every day, losing weight and coping better with fibromyalgia and epilepsy  

Sarah McGrory, 52, is originally from Wiltshire but moved to Scotland in 2018, first to Paisley and then to Clydebank. Although her bike came with her as part of the move, caring for a family member left little time to use it.

When she decided to start cycling again, her hybrid cycle needed a little attention after being unused for a while. With money tight, Sarah was pleased to learn about the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme from a neighbour who recently had his own bike repaired at Centre 81, a local community centre.

The scheme is funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Cycling UK. It provides up to £50 of free servicing and repairs at more than 290 participating bike shops across Scotland. The scheme is aimed at bringing old bikes back to life and encouraging as many people to cycle as possible.

I wake up and feel like I could just stay in bed but I push myself to get up and go out on the bike. I feel fitter and have more energy

Sarah McGrory, Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme beneficiary

“The bike wasn’t too bad overall but it needed new tyres and a service. I kept meaning to get it done but £50 for someone on benefits is quite a lot and you can always prioritise for something else.”

After her bike was serviced, Sarah was delighted to discover how cycling helps her energy levels, with fatigue being part of the fibromyalgia and stress-related epilepsy which she lives with.

“I wake up and feel like I could just stay in bed but I push myself to get up and go out on the bike. I feel fitter and have more energy. I find cycling is easier than walking with fibromyalgia.”

As well as jumping on the bike to go to the local shops, Sarah rides 10 miles every day to Bowling Harbour and back along the Forth and Clyde Canal path. Weight loss has been a happy side effect.

“I’ve got more fit and gone down two dress sizes, which is great.”

One of the main benefits of cycling for Sarah has been the sense of wellbeing that comes from being outdoors and engaged in a physical activity.

“It’s not just about the physical benefits. When I’m out on the bike for an hour I don’t have to think, I can switch off. You’re so focused on breathing and where you’re going. It also gets me away from the phone and computer, as I feel like I’m always looking at a screen.”

This increased sense of wellbeing helped Sarah to cope with the loss of a close family member in 2019. Her stress-related epilepsy is also under better control.

“Cycling has helped me deal with the bereavement and feeling less stressed in general means that I haven’t had a fit in over two years.”

Getting out on the bike has been key to Sarah remaining as active as possible, with many commitments as both a lay minister and a community volunteer. If that wasn’t enough, Sarah has also been occupied until recently with a practical theology course at the University of Glasgow.

“I’m with the United Reformed Church and I perform a service a couple of times a month along with school chaplaincy work. Being out on my bike when I do lay ministry in the community is great as people recognise me.”

Sarah’s voluntary work also takes her around the local area to help with gardening projects.

“With the Leamy Foundation we go into schools and community gardens and help with their gardens. At the moment we can’t go into the school so we write lesson plans for teachers to use so they can grow their own fruit and veg and do composting.”

Her next challenge? Getting her boyfriend, more of a fair-weather cyclist, to accompany her on rides!

“I’d love us to ride to Loch Lomond in the summer. The route is really interesting with all the industrial heritage, especially if you don’t come from this area.

“Centre 81 gave him a donated bike, which was great as he has Type 2 diabetes and needs to lose some weight. Unfortunately, where he lives in Barrhead it’s really hilly and he prefers to only go out in nice weather.”

Scottish weather is no barrier to Sarah, however: “I’ve been out a few times in the rain and come back plastered in mud. If you didn’t go out in the rain you wouldn’t ever go out!”