International Women’s Day: Joanna
We are celebrating International Women’s Day 2020 at Bike for Good! This is one of a series of blog posts celebrating some wonderful women we work with. We are also running Spokes not Blokes sessions at our West and South Hubs, a Women’s Ride, and a film night showcasing amazing women in cycling.
Jo is one of our members of staff, responsible for the skills and development of young people.
‘Cycling with other people for the first time was amazing, so social and full of camaraderie’
Life before bikes
I think I was about 5 when I learnt to ride, I didn’t cycle between the ages of 14 and 22 when I pretty much had to learn how to cycle again. When I was younger I cycled for fun, then I didn’t have a bike for a long time. It wasn’t cool and I lived near a busy street. I would occasionally cycle on holiday but that was it.
From ages 15 to 22 I was really unfit, having stopped cycling and playing netball. I was at uni, having loads of fun and I didn’t see how exercise could or should fit into my life.
Then when I was studying for my post graduate degree, my mum passed away. She was young. That really made me realise how important it is to be fit and healthy and look after yourself.
Life is so short.
So with the help of active and sporty friends, I started to get into netball and the gym again. I wanted to push myself. When I first picked up a bike again, it was with the intention of adventuring and touring.
I decided to cycle the length of the Santiago de Compostela, a long distance pilgrim route in Northern Spain. I planned to start cycling in September, yet I only bought my bike in July so I didn’t have long to get my cycling skills up to scratch!
The normal barriers and worries that I probably would have faced weren’t a big deal to me anymore. I was in a very defiant, determined mindset, and used that to my advantage.
At first I was really reluctant to cycle with other people as I thought I was really slow and I didnt want to hold anyone up. I’m competitive, I hate the idea of people waiting on me so at first I was always telling people to go ahead. Then I realised I was not the slowest and sometimes had to wait for people myself. Cycling with other people for the first time was amazing, so social and full of camaraderie. Being with other people really helped, especially if I had a mechanical issue with my bike. I made sure to always watch closely when anyone was working on my bike or theirs, I learnt a lot that way.
After my two week Spanish adventure I decided to embark on a long term 20 month solo trip through the States and into South America. Although I started out cycling on my own I ended up finding and making road ‘families’ along the way.
I did have long stretches of time when I was pedaling alone. Being a solo woman touring was I found, a very positive thing. I was asked at points ‘where is your husband’ but it was always from a place of surprise, not judgement, and I found I was very well looked after because of it. If I turned up in a village on my own I was never turned away, whereas I met plenty of blokes touring on their own who had been.
Being on my own really meant I made an effort to chat to people, which added so much to the trip. If I was with other people all the time I don’t think I would have had the same experience.
Returning to Glasgow
I came back from my trip and I knew I didn’t want to do anything with my masters, I didn’t want to be in an office, I wanted to be outside and working with people.
At the time I was working in a pub along the road from Bike For Good West. One evening the nextbike team came in for a pint, I saw all the helmets and bike t-shirts so I started chatting to them, my first words to Greg (our CEO) were, ‘I love bikes! What are you guys up to?’
He told me to come and volunteer.
Before my first volunteer shift I bumped into a friend who was out on his bike checking the nextbikes around the city, I asked if that was his job, cycling and checking bikes all day? I thought it sounded like the best job ever! He told me he was going on holiday for 3 weeks and that I should go in and ask if I could temporarily cover his job, so it turned out I started working at Bike for Good before I even became a volunteer!
Even after my big trip I still wasn’t that mechanical, I’d learnt how to adjust my brake pads, change an inner tube. I still hadn’t learnt anything more in depth than that. Volunteering at Fix Your Own Bike every week quickly changed that and my knowledge and confidence grew rapidly. I also learnt masses through nextbikes. When the manager of nextbike left I ended up taking over his role, I’d only been at Bike for Good for four months at that point. It was a very quick progression!
Despite really enjoying the nextbike role I was always looking for vacancies within the Community Outreach team, as although I loved my job it was a lot of statistics and computer based work. Whereas I really wanted to be encouraging, teaching and training communities and individuals about the benefits and pleasure of cycling. Anytime a job came up in that team I applied, eventually getting a job working for The Bike Academy and I’ve been part of the team ever since; working with schools, training kids and now I mainly work supporting our amazing volunteers.
My advice for cycling? Do it with friends, learn a bit of maintenance and get a bike you find comfortable!
Why don’t you come along to our Spokes not Blokes session at our West Community Hub on Tuesday 3rd March to meet Jo and learn from her?