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Love to Ride: The pedal-powered community encouraging people to get on their bikes this winter

The online community is running a competition throughout December giving cyclists the chance to win an e-bike.

Love to Ride cyclists this winter
Katie Cunningham and Julien Seguin have been members of Love to Ride for over a year. Image: DC Thomson.

During the cold, dark, wintry months it can be hard to find the motivation to get out in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, never mind going for a cycle.

But help is on hand to get you back into the swing of things and throughout December, as the organisation Love to Ride has encouraged people to still get out on their bikes.

The free website motivates people to take a bike instead of their car, helping them feel better, save money and look after the environment.

It’s a community for keen cyclists across the north-east, no matter how fast or far they can ride.

Members can log their rides, check out leaderboards and earn badges, but they can also encourage others, upload pictures, and share what motivates them — like cycling to eat 50 slices of cake.

Winter Wheelers competition

Shona Park, the community engagement officer for Love to Ride, described it as “more than just a website” because of this.

There’s also a wealth of information, including courses and tips for anyone who wants to learn more, and Shona is on hand to support anyone who needs it.

Shona Park, community engagement officer for Love to Ride
Shona Park, community engagement officer for Love to Ride. Image: Shona Park

And since the start of December, Love to Ride has been running its Winter Wheelers competition.

Shona said it’s like an advent calendar because people don’t need to have started at the beginning, or cycle for the whole month to enter.

Every day you go for a ride, there’s a chance to win incredible cycling prizes — including a Brompton e-bike worth £5,000 on Christmas day.

So far, more than 200 people across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have been taking part.

Love to Ride ‘motivating’ tool for beginners

Katie Cunningham started cycling last year after going for a leisurely bike ride with her boyfriend, Kieran.

She remembered her dad cycling from their house in Newmachar to her aunt and uncles in Ellon and thinking he was a “hero”.

Katie and her boyfriend completed the cycle and found it wasn’t too bad considering how long it was. That’s when she decided she could see herself cycling more.

Katie Cunningham and her bike on a bridge
Katie Cunningham and her bike. Image: Katie Cunningham.

The public health worker often goes between Marischal College and ARI for work and uses her bike to get around town.

An active travel coordinator told her about the Love to Ride site and she’s been using it ever since to track her miles and record rides. Soon enough, Katie picked up the pace and was logging around 90 miles a month.

She insists she’s “not particularly fit” and uses her mum’s old second-hand bike to get about — explaining that you don’t need to spend money on expensive kit to get started, especially with e-bikes available for hire.

“I’m not particularly fit, and im not really very good at it,” the 35-year-old laughed. “But it’s just really accessible and it was something I enjoyed and it was really convenient, so I just sort of kept it going since then.

“At the start, it’s really motivating, you might only go to Tesco a few mornings but actually, that’s five miles a week.

“If you’re maybe a wee bit older or maybe someone who doesn’t see yourself as active, this is a really easy way to become active and enjoy it, you don’t need to be good at it and you also don’t need to spend a lot of money on it.”

‘You don’t need to be good at it… just get on a bike and have fun’

Katie hopes the more people who sign up for Love to Ride, the more of a community it will build.

Katie and her boyfriend on a tandem bike
Since starting to cycle again, Katie and her boyfriend have been on a tandem cycle from Dunkeld to Blairgowrie. Image: Katie Cunningham

She has been taking part in the Winter Wheelers challenge and is up to 56 miles for this month so far. Although she hasn’t won anything so far this time round, she has managed to scoop a £50 Love to Shop voucher in a previous competition.

Katie said: “The main aim is to keep people cycling when it’s dark, and cold, and miserable, and it’s really easy to just not cycle. It’s about keeping the habit up because if you stop for a really long time it might be perceived as more difficult to restart.

“I think it builds momentum.”

She finished: “You don’t need to be good at it, you don’t need to be fit, you don’t need to have all the gear, you can just get on a bike and have fun.”

Commuter cyclists can track their rides

Julien Seguin has always been a cycling commuter, but when he started his job in Westhill last year his boss introduced him to Love to Ride.

He works in a small team, with a few other cyclists so the “competitive edge” sometimes takes over.

Julien Seguin and his bike
Julien Seguin has been a keen cyclist for years. Image: Julien Seguin.

Julien, who works in carbon storage and oil and gas decommissioning, also goes out for weekend and evening cycles during spring and summer, either by himself or with friends.

For him, Winter Wheelers is an incentive to keep cycling in the “dull winter months”.

The 50-year-old said: “It really helps with getting more people on their bike and out of their cars, especially here in Aberdeen because the weather is not great, it could be worse but our roads are quite congested.

“It could take more folks off the road, I’m not saying it’s suitable for everyone, but if you take 50 people off the road it’s that many people not sitting in traffic.”

Winter Wheelers inspires people to get out on the ‘dull days’

So far, Julien has cycled around 65 miles in December — despite the ice, rain and wind. He says he hasn’t won anything yet, but is keeping his fingers crossed.

“There was probably a day or two where I have thought it’s really dark, it feels cold, I should be driving to work or working from home,” he admitted. “But, because of the Winter Wheelers, I’ve thought twice about it and decided to head out.”

Like Katie, he hopes the more people that join the larger the community will grow.

But, he would encourage people who have never cycled, or those who are a bit unsure, to consider joining in the Spring when the weather is a bit more fair and the days are brighter.

He says it’s a “great initiative” and is amazed at the number of people taking part.

Julien was also surprised to see so many staff from the NHS “leading by example”.

He said: “They’re doing their long shifts and then they’re cycling there and back.”

Julien added: “I think it’s a great initiative, I was already a commuter and already a cyclist, it didn’t bring me into it, but it’s definitely helped me cycle on the really dull days.”

‘Strava and Facebook combined’

Winter Wheelers is focused on the health benefits, even going on an exercise bike or going to a spin class will count towards a cycle for the day.

According to Shona, it all helps to get people fit and build confidence before they actually get on a bike.

So far, 227 riders have been taking part and have cycled 11,641 miles in total. That’s 1,083 cycles logged since the start of September and 1,494lbs of CO2 saved — and there’s still a few days left to take part.

“It’s like Strava and Facebook combined,” she finished. “We’re trying to create an online bike community that is inclusive and supports everybody and motivates eachother.

“And Winter Wheelers encourages people to stay active during the darker months to feel better, and that’s really the crux of it.”

Find out more about Love to Ride online, and sign up here

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