More and more Falkirk folk get on their bike

Larbert High School bike club with Sir Chris Hoy
Larbert High School bike club with Sir Chris Hoy
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Many of us have been inspired by the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games to try a new sport.

Boxing, athletics and swimming have all seen a boost in participation levels but arguably cycling has had the biggest rise in profile.

On the back of the Glasgow Games and the London 2012 Olympics, and high profile cyclists such Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, bikes have never been cooler.

Stephen Dickson from Falkirk Bicycle Club agrees.

He said: “The past two years has been the biggest for the club in terms of growth. We have doubled our membership to 130 active members and have more members than ever in our 30-year history.”

The group is one of a number of clubs in the area catering to cyclists. Falkirk Bicycle Club is for road biking enthusiasts and meets weekly for long rides to Stirling, the Trossachs and Arbroath. During the winter months, these rides can be up to 70 miles, reaching 100 miles in the summer.

Stephen continued: “Road biking can be very dangerous, with 30 or more riders on the road at one time, so it’s crucial everyone knows what they are doing and rides safely. For that reason, we’re not really for beginners and people usually come along to some of our shorter rides once they have a bit of experience and have been inducted in how we ride.

“But once you get started, it can become addictive and you find yourself constantly updating and upgrading your bike, striving to better your best ride.”

Road biking can be an expensive sport, with the initial outlay for a new bike ranging from £500 for a basic model, to thousands for a top of the range one.

Stephen continued: “The cost for a road bike is high, which is why we keep our membership cost low and we’re happy to help newcomers with bike recommendations.

“The government’s Cycle to Work initiative has been a great help though, so people get a top quality bike at a reasonable price.”

The scheme allows employees to buy a bike and have payments taken from their salary, sharing the cost and saving them up to 40 per cent of the cost price.

Budding cyclists can also make use of the bike pump track due to open at Larbert High School later this year. Work is underway at the site in Stenhousemuir to transform unused land into a skills area and track for bikers to practice safely, away from motorists and pedestrians. Although situated at the school and designed to be used in PE classes, the track will be open for all to use.

Women interested in cycling can build their confidence and meet new friends with a new Falkirk group.

Belles on Bikes launched in 2013 and aims to promote cycling among women and encourage fitness.

Laura Ledbetter (51) from Polmont founded the group after hearing about the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches.

Laura had recently retired from nursing and suffering with fibromyalgia and arthritis she wanted to get fit and lose weight.

Laura said: “Lots of cyclists I speak to were inspired by the likes of Sir Chris Hoy. But I was looking for a low impact sport that could help me get fit. Gyms bore me to tears and I like being outdoors, but going cycling on my own was daunting.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh were a bit far to travel so I decided to set up my own group.”

With the help of national cycling charity CTC, the group was formed and the women meet for bike rides followed by coffee and a chat.

Laura added: “We go as fast as the slowest person and stick to cycle and towpaths so we are an ideal set-up for novices.

“Cycling has completely changed my life and helped me lose four stone.”

More and more people are getting on their bikes to get to work, school or college. To recognise this, Larbert Train Station has just installed a new cycle shelter and Forth Valley College has been named a cycle-friendly employer. The award from Cycling Scotland recognises they are doing all they can to promote cycling for staff and students, including having adequate bike parking and lockers for equipment.

Dawson Bike Club members appreciate cycling can have expensive start up costs and aim to help people get in the saddle, with minimum outlay.

The organisation is in the middle of moving to bigger premises in Bankside Industrial Estate. They take donations of old or broken bikes and restore them to be used again. They also run family and novice-friendly bike rides and teach basic bike mechanics. The club hopes to have a hire facility at the Helix this summer, allowing visitors to borrow bikes, trailers, and children’s seats.

Mark Cameron from the club said: “There has undoubtedly been a huge boost to cycling since the London Olympics in 2012. Just a visit to the canal or Helix will show you that, there are lots more cyclists out and it’s amazing to see so many people enjoying the paths.

“With the cost of running a car increasing all the time, cycling is an affordable and healthy way to get from A to B.

“Falkirk is ideally located for cycling and you can get around most of the town using canal paths and cycle routes, avoiding main roads.”

Contact Belles on Bikes Falkirk through their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BellesonBikesFalkirk

You can contact Mark at Dawson Bike Club on 07719 126626 or visit their new facility at 8 Castle Place, Bankside Industrial Estate, Falkirk.

For further information about joining Falkirk Bicycle Club, contact Stephen Dickson at falkirkbc@hotmail.co.uk