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  • Mental Health Awareness Week - FVA's Lea cycles for mental wellbeing

    Created: 08/05/2024
    News/Events Category: FVA News
    This item will show under the following categories: Health and Social Care  

    Name: Lea Cooper
    Role: Peer Support Network Coordinator / Lived Experience Team Facilitator

     

    Cycling really helps my mental health. Not only is it my main form of transport to get me from A to B, but I also love cycle touring, where you cycle long distances and camp along the way.

    I find having an active commute sets me up for the day and helps me decompress on the way home. It is nice to move my body after a day sitting down at the office. Spending time on my bike makes me feel connected to nature. It also helps me feel connected to the place I live – on your bike, you get to do things you don’t when you’re driving: stop to have chats with folks, pop into a new shop, or grab a cake and a coffee en route!

    On your bike, you get to do things you don't when you're driving like stop to chat to people or grab a cake and coffee en route!

    There’s also something about moving under my own power that makes me feel good about myself. Me and my partner Abi have travelled thousands of kilometres together across different countries – and it feels really cool that we did all that on two wheels, with only pedal power!

    In 2020 I started to have some problems with my knees which really affected my mobility, and I had to have an operation in 2022. In 2021 I got an interest-free loan from the Energy Saving Trust to buy an e-cargo bike so I could continue to cycle, and it is really great for doing shopping and getting around – especially because Fife can be hilly. You still get a lot of the benefits of cycling, but without getting quite so sweaty!

    I grew up in Cambridge where everyone cycles, so I was always on a bike as a kid and a teenager. I’ve never learnt to drive, so being able to cycle means I don’t always have to rely on public transport. But before me and my partner left for our first long-distance cycle tour in 2016, I’d never cycled very far in one go. We just set off and built up our fitness as we went. It was a steep learning curve!

    At the moment, my most regular cycle route is on my commute. I take the train from Kirkcaldy with my bike, and then I ride from Markinch station to the FVA offices in Glenrothes – its a really nice route, and mostly off-road. I enjoy watching the seasons change on my bike when I’m cycling the same route regularly – it was exciting when the snowdrops and crocuses all came out in early Spring, and now I’m looking forward to Summer! Glenrothes has lots of great shared use paths that make an active commute much easier.

    I enjoy watching the seasons change on my bike when I'm cycling the same route regularly.

    Both our cycle tours have been in mainland Europe - there’s long distance cycle routes in mainland Europe called the Eurovelo routes, which are often cycle paths and are very well signposted. I like routes that follow rivers, because they tend not to be too hilly! Our first cycle tour we rode from Amsterdam to Montpellier, in the South of France, along the Rhein and the Rhone, and on our second cycle tour we rode from Kirkcaldy to Budapest in Hungary, following the Loire, and the Danube.

    Cycling is a big part of how I look after my mental health day to day, because it combines so many things that are good for your mental health: getting outside, moving your body, doing something that makes you feel masterful, connecting to nature and to your community.

    Cycle touring has been a huge part of my life – Abi and I wrote a book about our first cycle tour, which was published in 2020, and that’s led to lots of great opportunities.

    Recently we were on Ed Miliband’s Reason to be cheerful podcast talking about cycling. You can listen to it here.

    And we wrote this blog for Sustrans on LGTBQ+ Cycling: The communities carving out a space in cycling that is radical, inclusive and fun

    In Kirkcaldy, Gallatown Bike Hub and Greener Kirkcaldy run relaxed, social rides if you want to ride with other people and build up your confidence. Cycling Scotland also run adult cycling courses if you want to build your skills before you start cycling.

    When I started cycling to work, I walked the route first, and then did a test run on a day when I didn’t have to be in the office for a particular time. This helped me feel more confident.

    You might have a bike sitting around in your garage or garden – if it has been there for a while, I’d get it checked over by a bike shop before you start riding. In Kirkcaldy, you can borrow bikes from Lang Toun cycles on Kirkcaldy High Street, and they also sell second hand bikes. It is worth dropping in for a chat with the team there, they’re super friendly!

    For your first ride, you might want to choose a route that is mostly on cycle paths. There’s some really good resources for planning a route in Fife online:

    Kirkcaldy Cycle Map - Greener Kirkcaldy

    National Cycle Network routes in East of Scotland - Sustrans.org.uk




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