Sustrans has started a project to help people aged 50+ improve their physical and mental wellbeing through cycling. The project – called ‘Silver Cyclists’ – is a course of refresher cycling sessions, and is free.
The sessions are designed for cyclists of all types and abilities, and is run by experienced cycle leaders and trainers from the Stockton Hub, a Lottery-funded facility run by Sustrans in partnership with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and the local Primary Care Trust.
The Hub helps locals to walk and cycle more.
The Silver Cyclists sessions help people build their confidence, learn how to choose and maintain their bikes, and find the best cycling routes. There are also guided group rides.
“For me it’s about staying fit, meeting people and learning things about Stockton that I never knew,” he said.
“I bought a bike when I retired but hadn’t got going on it and then I saw an ad for the Silver Cyclists group and went along. They started me off with some easy steps, some simple rides and I went on a bike maintenance course, which was great. I’ve cycled a little in the past but now I’m out every week.”
And is he feeling the benefit?
“I can feel that my legs are stronger and I feel fitter all over, really. The rides take into account all types of levels of cycling and we encourage each other.”
But staying fit is not the only benefit for Cavendish. The social benefits are key, too.
“It’s a great way to meet people, make new friends and socialise. We sometimes do 10 miles together and thoroughly enjoy it. Just doing something simple in a group can really open up your social network.”
Having to mix with motorised raffia and the perception of danger are often reasons why people say they do not want to cycle but the Silver Cyclists are shown how choosing routes with cycling in mind, rather than driving, can make a huge difference:
“I now know lots of easier, safer, traffic free places to go for some fresh air with friends. We probably do about 80 percent of our riding on cycle paths and less busy roads. It’s been great to discover new places to go and plan my own rides too,” said Cavendish.
Paul Morrison, coordinator of the Stockton Silver Cyclists, said:
“The perception of cycling is often very different from the reality. With this group we open people’s minds to how easy and accessible cycling can be for anyone of any age or ability, whether it’s for health, being sociable or just popping to the shops.”