Lorraine Liyanage
Lorraine Liyanage

Digital cycling champions

Cycling UK is following the journeys of six female cyclists – over the next six months – who are new, or fairly new to cycling as they work towards achieving their 2021 cycling goal. During the annual Women’s Festival of Cycling (taking place between 17 July to 1 August 2021) the digital cycling champions will help to inspire and encourage women to take up cycling through social media and other digital channels.
Chloe Gillard

Growing up sport was always a big part of Chloe’s life, particularly hockey. She was then devastated when she was advised to stop her usual activities while she recovered from an eating disorder. 

Looking for something she could do that would support her recovery and improve her mental health during the coronavirus pandemic she decided to give cycling a go. It quickly became her happy place, giving her an opportunity to clear her mind and escape from the stresses of daily life. 

Cycling goal

Chloe is passionate to help inspire others who have been through similar struggles and her goal is to join a local cycling group and become an ambassador to encourage more young women to take up cycling. 

“I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never been out with more than one other person before, so I’m a bit nervous about being in a group. But I’m really looking forward to having that sense of community and the enjoyment of riding with people who are diverse in terms of lifestyles, jobs, age, but yet we have this commonality through cycling.”

Fran Pearson

Fran is an advocate for all outdoor activities and as a plus-sized lady she’s particularly keen to encourage larger people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. 

Even though Fran volunteers at a local cycle hub she is a complete cycling beginner, her previous riding experience limited to gentle rides around centre parcs. But after she saw a woman fat-shamed in a sporty Facebook group she decided that no-one should be made to feel that they do not belong in a sports environment because of their size.

Cycling goal

Fran wants to promote a plus size positive body image and promote women in all sports that are often male dominated. She’s planning to complete her first ever long-distance trail on a bike this summer, hopefully accompanied by her children, if she can convince them! 

“I have decided to complete the Shropshire Cake and Ale Trail on my bike. The trail itself has been designed as a hiking trail. My plan is to adapt it as long-distance cycling trail, following the existing route as closely as possible. The idea is to camp along the route and to carry all my necessary gear with me on the bike.”

Karen Jane

Karen works part-time in admin and fundraising for youth charity, Outfit Moray who deliver life-changing outdoor learning and adventure opportunities to young people in Moray. 

Her own outdoor activities however have been limited by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, fibromyalgia and arthritis as she struggles with chronic fatigue, joint pain and muscle weakness. 

After trying an electric bike at a local event in March 2020 she bought her own and was quickly hooked. 

Cycling goal

This summer with the support of her colleague as Outfit Moray, Karen hopes to cycle up local hill Ben Rinnes (841m) on her electric mountain bike.

“Because of my health conditions, exercise normally wipes me out and causes a lot of pain, but because cycling on my electric bike is low impact it's easier on my body and being out in the fresh air and seeing the countryside, plus having a natter with whoever is with me, gives me a great wellbeing boost.”

Follow Karen’s journey...

Lorraine Liyanage
Lorraine Liyanage

Before lockdown Lorraine had a bike but was too scared to cycle on the road other than very short journeys around her neighbourhood. Not being a driver Lorraine and her 12-year-old daughter were limited to where they could go by public transport.

Since learning to ride in her 40s she has become confident enough to replace all her journeys with her bike. This has particularly opened up places Lorraine and her daughter can visit during the pandemic.

After benefitting from the peaceful cycling in her local Low Traffic Neighbourhoods she is keen to persuade her female friends to take to the roads. 

Cycling goal

Lorraine plans to tackle the London to Brighton cycle ride in September, which will be the furthest distance she’s ever cycled. 

“I live in a very hilly part of London and when I first started cycling in lockdown (March 2020), I was so unfit I had to get off my bike and walk up most of the hilly roads. I’ve managed to get a bit fitter to cope with some of the inclines but there’s still a long way to go!”

Sarah Berry

A year ago Sarah didn’t own a bike couldn’t imagine herself cycling in London. She never saw women like her — women who were anxious, risk averse, not very sporty or coordinated — represented in the cycling world and thought cycling wasn’t for her.

When her local council introduced a low traffic neighbourhood in June 2020 to get more people walking and cycling, Sarah decided to give it a go. 

Sarah fell in love with cycling and it’s now her main form of transport. She started a blog about her experiences as a new cyclist, became involved in campaigning for active transport and recently started a podcast about cycling. 

Cycling goal

Sarah plans to take a three-month sabbatical in which, she will travel around the UK on her bike visiting towns and cities to see what they’re doing to incentivise people to get on their bikes. 

“I want to be as visible as possible to all the women out there thinking they’re not capable, worrying that they might make a fool of themselves or not be accepted. I want to show them just how accessible cycling is and how welcoming the cycling community can be.”

Follow Sarah’s journey...

Shubnam Suleman

Having recently learnt to cycle, Shubnam, a former headteacher, has been embracing both the health and environmental benefits for cycling. Advised to start cycling to assist with arthritis pain in her knee she quickly realised how beneficial cycling was to her knee and her perimenopausal symptoms.  

Shubnam wants to inspire women in the Muslim community and anyone who is a reluctant cyclist to venture out of their comfort zones. 

Cycling goal

Shubnam’s cycling goal is to cycle from her home to green spaces around London and not drive, and use her bike instead of the car for shopping and other chores.

“Having worked as a senior leader in schools I know too well how cycling can help communities become both mentally and physically healthier.”