More than 150,000 inspired to start cycling since 2013
More than 20,000 riders enjoyed amazing conditions today (28 May) as they took on three Ford RideLondon-Essex mass-participation rides, many fundraising for charity at an event that’s been dubbed ‘the London Marathon on wheels’.
Since RideLondon began in 2013 as a legacy event from the London 2012 Olympic Games, it’s become the world greatest festival of cycling, offering more than 50,000 people every year the opportunity to take part in one of four mass participation bike rides on traffic-free roads in London and, since 2022, Essex.
Raising money for charity
These rides have inspired more than 150,000 people to start cycling, raising more than £83 million for charity in the first 10 years of the event and the 2023 events.
Among the smiling faces at the Finish Line at Tower Bridge was Alison Price from Oakham, who took on the Ford RideLondon-Essex 60 for the event’s Charity of the Year, The Eve Appeal.
“I’ve only been road cycling for about a year, and this was my very first event, so it was superb,” said Price, proudly displaying her medal. “The atmosphere was amazing and coming onto Tower Bridge at the end was quite something. It was really worth doing.
“A lot of people were fundraising, and there was a lot of support from other riders, which was really amazing actually, because the adrenaline and support give you the will to go on.
“There were all sorts of different abilities, which I think is why I enjoyed it so much – you feel you are welcome and people were happy to stop and support if anyone had an issue.
“I’ve had a few friends sadly die of ovarian cancer and I think it’s vital that we fund research into these aggressive cancers and plough as much money in as possible. I don’t know how much I’ve raised yet, but I’ve got lots of family and friends, and people at work, supporting me today.”
Riders return year after year
It might have been Price’s first event, but some riders come back year after year for the chance to enjoy the fun and freedom of cycling on 100 miles of traffic-free roads, including Olivia Fitz-Poole, from north London, who took on the event for the fifth time after enjoying it so much in previous years.
“It was good; it was tough, but we had a nice group of people,” she said afterwards. “I've done RideLondon five times now – it’s good fun and it's achievable. I think a lot of women are put off by the distance, but once you've done it once, you know you can do it again.”
Matthew Sapte, from south-east London, took part to fundraise for Alzheimer’s Society, the official Charity of the Year of the Ford RideLondon-Essex 100.
“It’s a really well organised event and a nice flat course to ride on. I was fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society for my family and it’s a pleasure to support them. I rode Land’s End to John o’ Groats last September, so this was my next challenge.”
Paul Crossman, from Billericay, also completed the 100-mile ride and enjoyed riding on some familiar roads as he took on the challenge.
“It was a great route and there was some fantastic support on the roadside, which really makes a difference. The people taking part are a big community – and to see your home county in this environment is really fantastic.”
Reaching the Finish Line
The 100-mile ride at Ford RideLondon is one of three events that make up the London Classics challenge (the other two being the TCS London Marathon and the two-mile distance at Swim Serpentine). More than 200 people collected their London Classics medal after crossing the Finish Line, including Holly Stout from London, who was thrilled to receive the enormous medal for her efforts.
“I feel pretty knackered, so it’s amazing to get to the Finish Line and collect my London Classics medal,” she said. “I started the London Classics challenge in 2018 and was planning to do one a year, but what with Covid and various injuries on the way to the London Marathon, it took a bit longer than I intended.
“The atmosphere out there today was amazing. I feel really good to have completed the three events, and I’ve done them all for the charity Free Representation Unit – I think I’ve raised about £7,500 for them in total.”
A sense of community
One of the aims of the Ford RideLondon-Essex events is to encourage cyclists from under-represented groups to take part, and one of the biggest groups at the event was Cycle Sisters, set up by Sarah Javaid to inspire and enable Muslim women to cycle.
Friends Farzaana Sheikh and Iffat Ali, from east London, took part in the 30-mile ride, having never done a cycling event before, with around 100 members of the Cycle Sisters group.
“It was amazing,” said Sheikh after collecting her medal at the Finish Line. “It was really nice to be part of the wider cycling community; it gives you a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement, and it was nice to ride on the roads with no cars, you don’t get to do that every day, so it was a unique experience.
“It was fun too; you really feel a sense of community – everyone’s out to have a good time, you don’t feel like you’re competing with anyone, it’s just about having fun.”
Ali added: “If you haven’t done anything like this, do some training and put your mind to it – it’s really worth it!”
Misbah Choughtai agreed, saying: “It was really wonderful to do the event today and see so many Cycle Sisters out there. When I started cycling about 10 years ago there were no groups like this, so it felt a bit lonely and I felt out of place to be honest, but I persevered and now I’m part of Newham Cycle Sisters as a ride leader. I’ve never seen so many people from the Muslim community at a sportive, so it’s been really fantastic.
“Cycling is not just for exercise, it’s very good for your mental health as well. When you achieve something, coming from the background I’m from, where culturally there’s an attitude that women shouldn’t ride, you realise that you can do anything you put your mind to. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m in my sixties now, so if I can do this, anyone can!”