Pedal Pals: Shgufta and Hannah

In February 2021, Shgufta and Hannah helped us to test Pedal Pals, our new campaign designed to connect people through cycling across Glasgow. Hannah first joined Bike for Good as a volunteer and now works as a sessional worker delivering cycle training and Shgufta is our Active Travel and South Hub Lead.

What was your experience cycling before Pedal Pals?

Hannah: Cycling has really changed my life over the last 3 years, initially through commuting. That naturally progressed to me approaching Bike for Good and raving to my friends about how much I love cycling. This led to my friends each buying a bike and joining me on cycles. I’ve really seen the effect of me telling them about how much I enjoy being outside and the money I save on transport. Before Pedal Pals I was already doing similar things with my own cyclist friends, so I was excited to sign up.

Shgufta: It was about 6 or 7 years ago in a previous role that I took up cycling as an adult. Prior to that, I only really ever cycled while on holiday. As I progressed with cycling, I realised I enjoyed it a lot and my passion for it grew. Before Pedal Pals, I did have a group I cycled with but our timings didn’t match and some didn’t cycle as frequently so weren’t at the same level as me. I’ve really enjoyed that Hannah and I share a similar stamina and cycling ability; we’ve definitely pushed each other and introduced each other to different routes.

Why did you want to first be part of Pedal Pals?

H: When I was describing it to friends I compared it to a blind date and the exciting idea of meeting someone new – I had met Shgufta before but I didn’t know her more than polite small talk. Relative to lockdown, I was just ready to do something new and different. I mentioned it to a friend who said “oh my gosh no I could never go out of my comfort zone like that” but I didn’t feel that way myself.

S: I think it’s a great idea! In the Active Travel team, we do a scheme called Bike Buddy and it’s essentially like Pedal Pals but without the social aspect; it’s a trained rider going out with someone who wants to practise a commute and build their confidence on the roads before riding alone. I liked the idea of doing something similar with a social aspect. I’ve liked alternating routes – the first time we went out, Hannah suggested a route, then I did, and the third time we did a familiar route which was in the middle for us both.  I’ve personally enjoyed feeling pushed out of my comfort zone!

How often did you talk together online before you met in person?

S: We just sent a few messages online arranging it. I’d be comfortable meeting anyone in this capacity, which may be because of my role or just how I am as a person. I must admit that we have a lot of sessional staff and volunteers and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them so that’s been really lovely getting to know Hannah on our rides because we do blether the whole time and I love that!

How many times did you cycle together? What were your rides like?

S: We’ve done three in total; one to Milngavie (which was the coldest ride of my life), the second up to Bowling which was really lovely, with perfect weather and we treated ourselves to fish and chips which made everything better! The third time was for International Women’s Day during the middle of the day when I had my daughter with me – she wasn’t at school and we couldn’t go out for long so we went to Pollok Country Park. We bumped into my friend who was taking a New Scot round on their bikes. It was a lovely ride and my daughter cycled a lot more than she normally would have because Hannah was there.

H: Yeah it was lovely that your daughter came along. It’s great our work schedules matched each other so we weren’t limited to only cycling on the weekends.

Cycling to Pollok Park on International Women’s Day.

 

What did you enjoy most about cycling together?

H: I enjoyed our age difference and speaking to Shgufta as a mum. I’m 28 and most of my current cyclist friends are my age, so it’s really nice to speak to someone who’s older and wiser, and have a different range of conversations. For me, it’s as much about the conversation and social aspect as it is about the cycling and I loved that we chat the entire time. 

S: I agree with Hannah on social interaction and cycling being just as important. I did a long hill walk yesterday with two really good friends and we didn’t talk anywhere near as much as Hannah and I do. When we cycled to Bowling, we must’ve cycled about 43 miles and it didn’t feel like anything at all. As Hannah said I’m considerably older than her and nowhere near as fit, but the chat really keeps you going longer than when you cycle alone. 

A woman stands in front of two bikes holding a coffee cup, behind her is a river and a bridge.

Shgufta on their ride together to Bowling.

 

Do you think it’ll attract those looking to be pushed out of their comfort zone or do you think having done it that it’s less scary than your friend might’ve thought?

H: I hope so; I think it’ll attract people who are ready to take on a new challenge or they might be in a position where they feel quite lonely and isolated as a cyclist and it’ll be good for them to share common experiences. I hope that word of Pedal Pals spreads far and wide!

S: I think it’s happening in a capacity without a name in Glasgow already; I have one friend who’s always meeting someone (normally a New Scot) who hasn’t really cycled before or isn’t confident on the roads and introducing them to new routes. Every time I bump into her she’s cycling with a different person! So there are those who are really passionate about this and are doing it already but Pedal Pals gives it a name and opens it out to more people and I think it’s a really wonderful idea. I’ll happily admit that I don’t enjoy cycling on my own or getting out of my bed on the weekends either, so the fact that I’m meeting someone forces me to do it! 

What impact did taking part in the project and cycling together have on your life? Did it impact your confidence or wellbeing?

H: Yes it has built my confidence and it’s allowed under current lockdown restrictions which has been really nice.

S: I would echo that. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time so I try not to get bogged down with work on my time off and get out as much as possible for my own physical and mental health.

Would you recommend Pedal Pals to others?

S: Absolutely. I think lots of people have barriers with cycling, including not knowing the route, missing the social interaction or the motivation to get out and I think Pedal Pals addresses all of these. You can learn so much from each other, whether it’s about how much to carry, what snacks to take, what to wear, or new routes. There’s so much to learn and absorb!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

S: The one thing I really enjoyed about cycling with Hannah was that the weather didn’t put her off and a lot of other people I cycle with are fair-weather cyclists. We arranged a time and got out regardless of the weather.

H: On our first cycle together, there was snow at the edges of the road so it felt a bit risky and we had to take extra care. I decided a few years ago that I was going to become a cyclist in every weather and committed to it by buying the right waterproofs and sticking to my decision. 

S: I admire that because it’s not the norm and it pushes me a little further as well, because if somebody said “oh the weather’s really bad let’s just leave it” I’d go along with it.

Cycling to Milngavie with numb fingers and toes!

 

Thanks to Hannah and Shgufta for testing our Pedal Pals programme, we look forward to hearing more about their cycle rides together in the future!

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