Meet our Get Britain Riding Prizewinners

Last year we teamed up with B’Twin and Decathlon UK to launch Get Britain Riding and picked four riders, nominated by friends and family, and kitted them out with everything they needed to start cycling.

Get Britain Riding's Rob Smale

Our Get Britain Riding campaign – in conjunction with B’Twin and Decathlon UK – was a huge success: over 10,000 cyclists pledged to get friends or family on bikes saying that they’d help a whopping 42,000 people take up riding. In total, you pledged to ride a hard-to-comprehend 23 million miles over the course of the year. We also selected four new riders, nominated by friends, family and even themselves, to become part of the Get Britain Riding team. Let’s meet our new recruits…

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Rob Smale, Maidstone, Kent

Get Britain Riding's Rob Smale

For the past three years I’ve suffered from mental health issues that mean I find it hard to get out and meet people, and have led to hospitalisation (you can read more about Rob here).

Taking up road cycling was a way of getting some sense of confidence and control back in my life, start getting out and hopefully building a social life. Plus I could do with shedding a few pounds.

When I found out I was to be one of the four Get Britain Riding riders I thought I was being trolled. After a tough few years I didn’t think I could be this lucky! I was saving up to get a second-hand road bike. I’d even set up alert on auction websites for B’Twin Tribans because of all the great reviews, so to receive a Triban 540 is gobsmacking.

Since getting the bike I’ve I been riding around Kent flat out three times a week on average. I even took part in a three-day charity ride for East Anglia Children’s Hospice, and I’ve smashed the goals I set for 2017 as part of Get Britain Riding.

I wanted to get fit enough to do a sportive and completed the Tunbridge Wells Epic and complete the Strava Gran Fondo Challenge at least once a month. I still have to summon up the courage to join a club. It’s tough with my specific mental health issues, but I’m leaving it on the list.

I hadn’t expected how signing up for Get Britain Riding would motivate others. I’ve been featured in write-ups on my local mental health trust’s website, supporting things like the Cycle to Work scheme, the wellbeing scheme and encouraging physical exercise in patients with mental health problems.

I do have a few worries about cycling. Everyone seems to have their own ‘rules’, tips and hints, so sometimes it’s a bit of an overload. But I’m looking forward to getting faster, improving my technique, taking part in more events and encouraging other people to give it a go.

In 2018 the NHS is turning 70 and I’d like to do seven events in different parts of the country to bring awareness of mental health and of using cycling for mental and physical health. I’d say to anyone thinking of starting to stop thinking! I can promise you at some point you will feel silly, probably fall off, wonder why you are doing it and swear you’ll never try again. I can also promise that your balance is better than you think, you will whoop like an eight-year-old at some point, and you will get better!

Annaleise Davies, Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Annaleise Davies and her brother Richard

As a child, I was very active. My love of sport varied from swimming, dancing, horse riding, skiing, netball, rowing and riding my bike with my brother, Richard (pictured with Annaleise above). Something changed during my 20s where I lost interest in sport and developed a very unhealthy relationship with the sofa.

2016 was the year of change. I lost my father to heart ischemia, one uncle to motor neurone disease and my other uncle to cancer. I couldn’t believe that this could happen to them and the loss I felt was, and still is, overwhelming. I decided it was time to become fit and active again. I joined a walk to run group, boot camp, spinning class and found a personal trainer. I have a long journey ahead, but I will succeed.

Richard had been trying for years to get me back on a bike, so when he saw the Get Britain Riding campaign he nominated me. I couldn’t believe that I’d been chosen and feel so lucky and privileged. I’ve now got a smart B’Twin Triban 540, helmet, shoes, clothing, and all the gear you could ever want. The Triban 540 is a superb bike for someone like me who hasn’t ridden for 18 years! As I’m not terribly confident yet, I’ve been mostly riding short loops during the week and then a planned 15-20-mile route at the weekend. My routes are mostly on country lanes as the main roads are a little too busy for me for now. I’ve also joined a B’Twin owners’ group on Facebook where I’ve received fantastic advice. Richard is a font of knowledge – everything from bike maintenance to chamois creams.

Annaleise Davies' B'Twin goodies

If you are thinking about taking up cycling just do it. It’s a fantastic way to improve your fitness, meet new friends or make time with your existing friends, and it’s great for your mind too. Look for quiet routes and ones that will lead to a coffee shop on longer routes. It’s a great opportunity to refuel, think about your ride there and anything you want to do differently on the way back, or just to chat. I’m so glad to have started riding again. I feel like a kid going downhill with my feet out to the sides. Get off the sofa, get on your bike and ride free!

Chris Devonshire, Overton, Hampshire

Chris Devonshire and his B'Twin

I was nominated for Get Britain Riding by my mate Gary Booth as I’ve often mentioned to him that I’d love to join him for a ride but not managed to actually do it!

I don’t have much of a cycling background but I’m a PGA golf professional and love keeping fit and healthy. I’m keen to find an activity other than golf that would let me make use of the fantastic countryside around me and push me in different way physically. I’m really after an activity something that will boost my cardiovascular health and cycling seems like a lot more fun than running!

It was a huge surprise to be picked but it’s been great so far as I’m doing something that’s completely different to my day to day. I’m already thinking of all the new places I can see from a rider’s perspective. I want to push myself with the bike, and I’ve been trying to get out twice a week for short rides but I’m also keen to push myself to see how far I can go.

My first big achievement was climbing a local hill – Kingsclere – without leaving the saddle. It’s not a big one but it was a box ticked nonetheless! The bike and kit from B’Twin feel brilliant – a lot has changed performance-wise in clothing since I last got on a bike.

I’m really finding that I love the freedom I feel away from ‘digital life’ – we all spend so much time on our phones, tablets and computers and I think we lose a bit of perspective after a while. Riding the bike is giving me a chance, and a reason, to put the phone away and do something real which is also free and healthy!  

I think that’s just one great reason to get on a bike so I would now say to anyone thinking of starting to ride do it! Yes, it’ll keep you physically fit but it also helps the mind settle. All in all cycling’s a winner!

Lewis Bowes, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

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I was always active as a child riding literally everywhere on my bike – often 10 miles to the next town when although I never told my mum ! I played a lot of football too but it kind of all stopped when I reached adulthood.

I actually couldn’t believe that I’d been selected as a Get Britain Riding winner as I never win anything like this –  the only thing I’ve ever won is a Drumstick out of one of those ‘prize every time’ grabber machines at Blackpool!

The B’Twin is awesome and I love it! My plan was to start cycling to work but the week after I got the bike I changed jobs and it’s now a three minute walk to work so a change of plans was needed! Before Christmas I started riding at weekends and in the morning before work when I was doing 2pm-10pm shifts, but a mixture of ill health, sub-zero temperatures and the aptly named ‘Beast from the East’ have restricted my rides to short 10 milers in the last couple of months. I did buy some over shoes but there’s only so much they can do when it’s only two above freezing!

I am really looking forward to the spring and being able to enjoy the sunshine and longer evenings so I can really start to rack up the miles. I’ve also started to try and eat more healthily and have lost a stone since getting the bike but my goal is to lose more for summer.

I’m looking forward to getting fit and returning myself to my former glory! There are a lot of steep climbs near me that I used to breeze up as a kid but I doubt I could barely walk up them at the moment. The only thing I ever worry about is getting a flat tyre 20 miles from home! That’s why I always carry £20 with me for a taxi!

I tend to struggle with is the nutrition side, I never know what to eat before, during or after a big ride and end up feeling drained towards the end and that can be horrible when you’ve got 10 more hilly miles to cover before you get home.

If you’re thinking of starting to ride I’d say be prepared! Fill your drinks bottle, make sure you’ve practiced using your cleats with your pedals and WEAR PADDED SHORTS!

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