Why we cycle: Cathy Tester

Where are you based?

I’m based in Oakwood, having recently moved from Wirksworth.

What do you do?

I do some voluntary work with Age UK and I’m involved in Derby Cycling Group. I’m in the process of setting up ‘Cycling Without Age’ in Derby.

How long have you cycled for?

I got my Brompton about 3 years ago, and before that I didn’t really cycle much at all and didn’t own a bike. I learnt to ride as a kid and occasionally hired a bike to ride with my own children on holidays, but it was always off road. Shortly after getting my bike my partner and I did a four month cycle tour around Northern Europe, visiting 13 countries and carrying all our camping gear on Bromptons. So I went from being a non cyclist to cycling big distances every day!

Why do you cycle?

There are lots of reasons, but more recently it has become my main form of transport. In the last year or so I have cycled just to get from A to B, to avoid using a car, and that has become more and more important to me. I also cycle for health and fitness and for social reasons – I like to go out on group rides, for example with Breeze and Sustrans. I cycle because I think it’s the best form of transport for me and it is sustainable. I cycle to explore the world.  It has sort of become a part of me now; a part of my identity.

Where is your favourite place to cycle in Derby?

I like the riverside path going out from Derby to Elvaston Castle and the cafe there. If I am going further afield I really like riding from Derby to Wirksworth, where I used to live, as you are so quickly out into the countryside. It is a more challenging ride, but I take it slow and appreciate the views, so on a nice day I would say that is my favourite ride. I take a quieter route through Little Eaton, Duffield, Shottle and Alport Heights and it takes me about an hour and a half. It’s very hilly but it is lovely.

What is your best piece of kit?

I’ve not got much specialised kit, I wear whatever is comfortable, but I do like my Brompton bag that goes on the front of the bike. I can just put everything in it, really useful for everyday cycling and for when I do my shopping on the bike. It is also the bag that I’ve used when I’ve been cycle touring as you can cram so much in it. 

What do you think could help more girls and women to cycle?

I wish I knew the answer to that one! I think the obvious thing is safety and having good infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes. I think there is also a need for women only rides and women only maintenance classes to increase confidence. However, I think there’s something quite fundamental that’s putting many women off, and I think that is the image, in this country, of cycling being competitive and a sport.  So many women I have spoken to, myself included, say things like ‘I’m not very good at cycling’ or ‘I cycle but I’m slow’. We don’t talk about other modes of transport in that way – we don’t say ‘I walk to work but I’m not very good at it!’. We are pressurised into thinking that we have to be good at cycling in order to define ourselves as cyclists, and that really doesn’t happen in other European countries where as many women cycle as men. Of course there’s a real place for cycling as a sport and we should both encourage and celebrate women who are competitive cyclists, but for everyday women who want to cycle as a mode of transport, we need to emphasise that it doesn’t have to be competitive. You don’t have to cycle fast or wear Lycra. In order to encourage more women we need to get it out there that any woman can cycle, for any reason, and wearing whatever they want to – to get to work, to the shops, with your kids, or for exercise and leisure.

How do you feel when you cycle in three words?

Generally I feel ‘invigorated’ when I cycle, it also makes me feel ‘younger’, but sometimes I can feel ‘invisible’.

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