Talking to Kat is an insight into the life of a very strong willed and tenacious account manager and cyclist working in London and breathing bikes as a hobby – while also thinking about the benefit it has on the planet. Kat’s enthusiasm toward using bikes not only for commuting, but enjoyment and therapy is refreshing to say the least. We all know getting around London for work can be a nightmare and with a fair amount of travel throughout London for her job, Kat has invested in a folding Brompton to make her life easier.
‘Because it’s London, I use my Brompton to try and get to as many sites as possible. So it’s good for the planet as well, which the customer appreciates.’
Having grown up in Lancashire, we imagine the London lifestyle came as a bit of a shock for Kat. However, it did help bring bikes into her life with the wonderful local communities and she’s a strong believer that anyone can ride a bike – as long as you have a helmet and bike, it doesn’t matter about the kit or equipment – they won’t stop you enjoying yourself.
Kat had always been quite sporty and in 2015 she picked up her first bike, while she was training for a marathon. After realising she enjoyed swimming and running Kat decided she’d give triathlon a whirl. Being the strong woman she is, Kat had agreed to head out on her second bike ride, with a group of cyclists her friend knew, clipped in and unknowingly on the wonderful roads of Kent.
It was a bit of a rocky start to cycling for Kat, with a few bumps in one day – there’s a lot more coordination to cycling than one can imagine. She came out of the day with a few grazes and some fear and wasn’t quite ready to continue with the two-wheeled adventure.
‘So I put my bike to one side and just went no, no more for a while, maybe we will just do the flat roads of triathlon. And that’ll be it, and maybe a bit of commuting, but nothing more. We’ll just put it down to I’m not a cyclist.’
Kat is an astounding woman, with a passion for life and taking things head on, an inspiration for many. Unfortunately very soon after starting her two-wheeled adventure, Kat received some terrible news of a family bereavement. Using her training to throw herself into a channel of physical meditation and a way of releasing herself from reality is likely to have helped keep her going. At this time Kat was still training for her marathon, while starting a new job and living 300 miles away from home, as you can imagine it was a very difficult time for her. But she didn’t let it stop her from charging on full steam.
During this tough time for Kat her new found cycling friends advised her to try a multi-day trip on some kind of bike to see if she really didn’t enjoy cycling. With challenge in mind and Kat yearning for more she came across the Ride Across Britain and snapped it up! An adventure not many seasoned cyclists would even take on, but igniting the adventure in Kat and allowing her to find a channel for her grief, it was the perfect adventure.
‘So when I started, I was maybe 48 kilos, very, very skinny. I was a marathon runner, that’s what I did. I didn’t particularly know strength. I could run a marathon in four hours. But I didn’t have any strength outside of that. And I got stronger, I got fitter, I got more resilient, I made amazing friendships. And I also managed to raise about £15,000 for charity, in memory of my sister.’
She started with a bike and helmet, and 12 months later, she cycled the length of the country. Encouraging her dad and nephew to get more active as well.
Cycling really did change Kat’s life.
Joining a cycling club
Kat was invited to an event at Look Mum No Hands to talk about her trip across Britain, why she did it, how she did it and most importantly opening her experiences to those who might be in a similar situation, allowing more people to feel familiarity.
From sharing her experiences Kat met Alison Dex, who swiftly saw the wonderful nature in Kat and, with her inimitable persuasiveness, encouraged Kat to join Bella Velo. Although, if you’ve ever joined a cycling club, you know how daunting it can be – it’s like having your first day at work and walking in somewhat blindsided.
‘I was still a bit nervous, weirdly about joining a cycling club thinking that I wouldn’t be experienced enough. I didn’t have very good kit. I was still on my very heavy aluminium bike. But Alison was so lovely, and basically didn’t stop messaging me until I came on a group ride. And I think I did go on a group ride in 2017. ’
With the wonderful nature and inclusivity of Bella Velo, Kat very quickly got sucked in, and was welcomed with open arms by the whole club. Alison Dex and Belinda Scott founded the club, and having founders who can see those who need a little nudge and those who would fit in well within the club brings a significant value to the set-up. Finding the right club for you can be hard, but knowing you are the one choosing and it’s ok to say no is something important to remember.
‘When it comes to cycling clubs and trying to find one that’s right for you. You don’t have to say yes to the first one. You can literally try them out and chat to a few people.’
Joining a club that has a community element and supports its riders is imperative for most cyclists, nobody wants to feel like a burden or like they can’t join the club runs. While looking to join a second claim club Kat came across Kingston Wheelers, somewhere she could do a bit of faster training to see if she could pick up the average pace. They definitely passed the test!
‘So when I started flagging, they were all lovely, and they were all just like, we’ll get you home, don’t worry.’
The friendships we form within cycling are some many people will struggle to experience outside of cycling. They become our family and often are some of the people we see the most!
We know personally that the friendships we have built and nurtured within cycling are actually some of the strongest bonds we have with people – partly from the adventures we take on together and partly because, they often see you at your worst moments as well as your best and if you can help each other through those times then a bond will immediately be built. The diversity you come across whilst cycling is astounding and it’s a thoroughly addictive way to approach life.
‘Definitely. I mean, I love riding my bike. But I think my favourite thing about cycling is the friendships I’ve formed from it.’
Role within Bella Velo
With such wonderful experience under her belt, and having come into club cycling head on, Kat has taken on a role within Bella Velo to help encourage the members and new joiners. Kat is co-lead of the club’s ride captain team, and is responsible for organising the programme of weekly club runs. Having found her feet in cycling at a tough time in life, she really is absorbing the freedom and passion it provides, while giving back and enlightening others.
Most clubs offer voluntary roles to their club members, clubs run off volunteers and what’s better than the roles being filled by people you know have a genuine interest in the club. Kat tells us that she does a fair amount behind the scenes to get the club runs set up.
`We do all the admin in the background to make sure the ride captains can sign up to lead, to make sure members of the club can sign up to ride, make sure everyone’s safe and well, follow up on any incidents etc.’
It’s a busy life that Kat leads, but one all about giving back to her community that she found in a time of need, one that has given her friendships for life, a support group everyone would dream of and a lifestyle stacked full of adventure and free endorphins! We loved talking to Kat about the various ideas and future plans she has brewing, the way she takes life head on and has found herself an extra family.