Cycling group gathers pace

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Wetherby & District U3A continues to grow and change in terms of its membership and the number of groups it has on offer, writes Caroline Green of the group. We have members from Leeds, Harrogate, Selby, Tadcaster, Knaresborough and York and many of the surrounding villages. It is truly Wetherby & District.

There are over 1,000 members and over 100 groups offering a wide and varied selection of activities which are cerebral, practical and physical in their execution, sometimes all three.

It also offers varied social activities which are equally important to all the other elements. For those of us who are retired from work, whether it be part or full time, the meetings and activities which include coffee and cake, lunch or afternoon tea are a great opportunity to get to know each other and make new friends.

The makeup of each of the groups grows and changes all the time depending on its members and their needs. Sometimes groups fold when an objective has been reached, or maybe the membership has dwindled. More often the groups expand in number to grow exponentially and become off shoots of the original, like the Walking Groups which now number several, each evolving to suit its members.

To give you an example of the changing nature of a U3A Group I can cite my own group. I am jointly responsible for the U3A Cycling Group with Ken Brewer and Phil Thompson, and since it started in 2013, with six members, it has grown and now numbers 71 members.

In 2013 we had one leader who arranged the rides and we met fortnightly for a 10-mile ride and never ever stopped for a coffee break.

Consequently, when we met up for our first Christmas ‘Do’ to celebrate the end of the season, we didn’t recognise each other because we had always worn helmets and dark glasses and never took them off!

In 2014 when John Hackett and I took over, we sent out a questionnaire to find out what our members would like in terms of ride length and content. Overwhelmingly all the replies came back saying they didn’t mind where we went or how far, but a coffee stop was essential!

The membership grew and we started riding every week, varying the distances and introducing different coffee stops. During the season everyone built up their stamina and fitness and got to know each other well.

At our end of season supper, it was relaxed and fun, because the coffee stops on the more regular rides had allowed people time to get to know each other. The distances that riders were able to achieve grew in length and encouraged some riders to attempt the Wetherby-Filey 70 mile Bike Ride, enter in local Sportif’s and cycle abroad.

Several people were spurred on to invest their hard-earned pensions in upgrading their bikes. Things were changing!

In 2016 Ken and Phil joined me and we started to introduce medium length and longer rides and brought in Softie Rides to encourage people who hadn’t been on a bike for years to get their cycles out of the garden shed.

We grew from one ride a week to two, and sometimes three, varying distances and speeds. As joint leaders we looked at how we could build cyclists confidence on the road with a Bike Safety Session delivered by Leeds City Council in 2017, a Try a Bike session and this year a Bike Maintenance session organised with one of our own members Nick Folkard and the CTC.

We try to encourage all members to contribute to ideas for rides, whether it be introducing a new coffee stop or a new route and we now have a ‘Peloton of Pensioners’.

We have introduced a ride leader and a back marker for added safety and always go at the pace of the slowest rider, so no-one is left behind on a ride, apart, of course for the members riding ebikes who whizz past everyone on the hills.

The Cycling Group is just one example of how a group grows and changes over time to meet the needs of its membership.

The U3A is a self-help organisation for people who are no longer in full time employment, no other criteria applies, so check out our website and see what there is for you.