Denise does the inspection.
On Saturday the 9th of March, in bitter cold, blustery wind, and occasional shower, 16 brave women showed up at the Woolwich Leisure Centre for the Absolute Beginner's courses with one goal in mind; learn to ride a bike. Most of these women had never ridden before, or haven't been on a bicycle since childhood. Our professional trainer, Denise, made a favourable impression as always by showing up on her recumbent bike towing her daughter in a trailer. A major factor in the success of this day was that Barry arranged for the free loan of six bikes from Harry Perry Bikes in Woolwich.
Liz, Linda, Jane and I were on hand to assist Denise with the training. Some of the successes were instant, others took a few hours and only four women were unable to master the skill by the end of the day, partly, we felt, due to the strength of the wind. All four were eager to continue practising and asked when we would be holding our next class. It was truly rewarding to see and hear how excited these women were about their accomplishments. A sampling of comments: "I am so happy that I learned to cycle today", "...raised my confidence..", "I am very happy and I can't believe I had the courage - but I did it!", "Excellent! Very supportive and informed instructions", "I'm flying!".
The following day, Sunday the 10th, six women and three GC volunteers showed up at CSG for the Thames Barrier ride. The weather was chilly again but spirits were high and there was instant rapport among all the women. One of the riders was from the previous day's beginner course and was excited to share how she showed off her new skill to her husband and son. She is looking forward to joining her family on rides soon and was so grateful that she could learn in a friendly, relaxed environment.
On Saturday the 16th, we had the classic Lock, Docks and (no) smoking Ferry. The Woolwich Ferry was closed that weekend for repairs so we ended up going through the tunnel instead (narrower, deeper and longer than the Greenwich foot tunnel with very small lifts that only fit 3-4 bikes).There were 6 of us on this ride, most from GC. Another woman joined us from Thames Barrier to the Royal Docks Rowing Club and then returned on her own. We think the prior week's nasty weather and dismal forecast dissuaded more women from showing up. Two men showed up at CSG that morning as well - but were most understanding when we explained the nature of this IWF event. Both took a copy of Pedal Power with them and promised to come back another time. We lunched in our usual pub (The Pier on Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs), using the back garden to park our bikes. About half of the group stopped after lunch and the rest carried on through the rain that finally arrived as the tour was leaving the Isle of Dogs.
The Evening ride on Tuesday the 19th didn't attract anybody. Again, we think the weather was a factor as this was the day after those horrendous winds which made even the most confident cyclists nervous. Liz, Kate and I ended up in the pub and did some planning for follow-up courses and assistance.
Our last ride was Saturday the 23rd when we rode west up to the South Bank. The weather was wonderful at last with constant sunshine and mild temperatures. There were 9 of us in total on this event with a good turnout from GC. A puncture was quickly mended when everyone lent a hand or tool to the process. With Kate leading the ride, we discovered several interesting works of art, monuments, gardens, parks and interesting detours. At one point after some curious turns and several steep steps to get up and down obstacles, we found ourselves dead-ended at the back door of the Hilton Hotel, Rotherhithe, lobby. Not wanting to back-track, one of us did a bit of fast talking with the hotel staff and soon had them nodding their heads in confusion while we marched our bikes through the lobby and out the front door!
We stopped for a coffee in front of Tate Modern, then continued to the Lambeth Bridge and lunched at the Lambeth Pier, a friendly cafÈ on the water across from the Garden museum. Someone asked about the biker's discount and the owner willingly complied with special prices for everyone in our group. On the return home we ran into Barry and friends at the Convoy Wharf "open house" and made it back to CSG around 4pm. Everyone agreed this was a great finale to the IWF events and several of us went on to the pub for a congratulatory drink.
Throughout all the classes and rides, the GC volunteers were providing helpful advice on shifting, basic riding techniques, helmet fitting, minor maintenance, future class offerings and answering questions on all aspects of cycling. A lot of new women have already joined our e-mail group and plan to join Greenwich Cyclists on future rides. We received multitudes of praise and thanks, with many commenting that the all-women structure of these events provided the perfect atmosphere for them to either learn cycling or become more comfortable on their bicycles.
At the risk of sounding like an acceptance speech on Oscar night; I would like to thank everyone who helped out with these events. Barry, of course for getting our group involved, arranging for the loaner bikes, helping Kate, Liz and I to get started, and knowing how and when to step aside and let us run the show. When our grant application to Greenwich Council was denied, Liz petitioned and received funding from LCC so that we could have a trainer for the beginner's class. Denise was great, as always, and everyone learned loads from her well-paced instructions. Paul at Harry Perry Bikes (020 8854 2383Ö discounts to Greenwich Cyclists) was extremely helpful with the six bikes he provided free of charge. Thanks to Lea for running Greenwich Cyclists stall at the IWF Health Day. None of this would have been possible without Liz, Kate, Hilary, Linda, Ayako, Wendy, Barbara and the other GC women who showed up to ensure the classes and rides ran smoothly. The results were really fantastic - I wish everyone could have seen the pure joy on the faces of the women who pedalled a bicycle for the first time in their life.
The Greenwich Cyclists website states, "We want to get more people on bikes from every section of our community." We made some steps toward meeting that goal, and I am glad I was a part of it.
Heading out along the Woolwich promenade.
"Now listen, you can do this"