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Get a head for cycling with Leigh Day

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30 Aug 2018

Advertorial: How the right support can help you overcome the mental barriers stopping you riding your bike

This feature was produced in association with Leigh Day Cycling (Twitter: @leighdaycycling)

Statistically, cycling remains an incredibly safe activity, but sometimes it’s hard for us to get our head around that idea. Sharing congested roads with cars, vans and lorries can make us feel very vulnerable out there.

And if you’ve been unlucky enough to come off your bike and suffer an injury, that can only heighten the feelings of anxiety, especially if it wasn’t your fault.

Even when the physical injuries have healed, cyclists can be left with mental scars that hinder them getting back out and enjoying the activity they love – and this goes for everyone from weekend leisure riders to top pros in the Tour de France.

So how do you get past these psychological stumbling blocks? Well, the good news is that there are organisations and specialists out there who are perfectly equipped to put you right.

You might already know about Leigh Day, the law firm whose dedicated cycling department has over 15 years’ experience of helping cyclists get back on their bike.

As well as offering legal services such as fighting for compensation, they’ll also help ensure you receive all the medical treatment you need – not just for physical recovery but for psychological rehabilitation too.

Through its close ties to national cycling organisations, Leigh Day is in touch with a whole host of experts who it can call on to help you get quickly on the road to full recovery.

We spoke to one such expert, a Cheshire-based cycling coach and ride leader, to find out more about the techniques she uses to help riders overcome mental hurdles and become stronger, happier, more confident cyclists…

The expert: Danielle Riley

Q: Hi Danielle, so what's your role exactly?

A: My full-time job is as a police officer but I’m also a lifelong cyclist with a background in racing. I’m a member of the Cheshire Maverick cycling club, and I’ve been coaching for the last six years.

I work for British Cycling as a tutor on some of their programmes, such as ride leadership and delivery of the national standards – for example, the Bikeability instructors’ programme and the Accredited Marshalling programme.

Specifically, I coach women, and I keep coming across women who are frightened of the roads, often because of something that has happened to them.

Q: What's your expertise in this field? 

A: I don’t have any training in psychology but I’m used to dealing with people and I’ve built up a lot of knowledge just from working with different people on the training programmes.

As a police officer, that’s where a lot of the road safety stuff comes in as well, and I’ve developed an understanding of how traumatic these incidents can be through dealing with victims of crime and road traffic accidents on a daily basis.

I got in touch with Leigh Day through working with one of their solicitors who had been knocked off her bike, so she asked for some one-to-one confidence-building.

A lot of people say, ‘Oh well, never mind, let’s forget about that,’ and just get back on their bike and go, but for others it’s not so easy. Half the time it’s not the incident itself that’s bothering them, it’s the what-ifs.

Q: Do you have any great success stories?

A: Over the winter, I was running some women-only training sessions on a traffic-free tarmac circuit. One woman turned up, got her bike out of the car and just stood there shaking like a leaf.

She said, ‘It’s the first time I’ve tried to ride my bike since being knocked off 18 months ago, and I didn’t think I’d even get this far.’ She couldn’t even remember how to get back on the bike.

She was bothered about holding other people up but I said don’t worry about that, let’s just concentrate on you. Her confidence had been knocked completely to the point that she couldn’t even do the simple things.

So we just started right from the beginning – I got her on the circuit and we looked at basic things like setting the pedals and which side to get on the bike.

In the six months since then, she’s come from not even being able to get on the bike to not being bothered about other people around her and has now moved up to the improvers group.

She’s even starting to venture out on the road again, so that’s very definitely a success story.

Q: Is cycling on the road really safe?

A: We’re a bit browbeaten into thinking that cycling is dangerous, that every time you go out you’re going to get knocked off.

I always say to anyone I ride with, when a driver does something daft, what about the 100 cars that have passed us with no incident?

We’ve been out for three hours and this is the first one we’ve had any issue with! Basically, I focus on the positives – and in my experience, the positives always far outweigh the negatives.

The other big thing for me is the importance of having a bit of knowledge. Quite often you’ll get shouted at, told to ride single file or ride in the gutter.

But the Highway Code says that you’re allowed to ride two abreast. That’s the advice, so let’s stick to it – I always point people to the great video Chris Boardman made that explains why it’s actually easier and safer for cars to overtake a group of cyclists when they’re riding two abreast.

And when you get a traffic-calming measure in the middle of the road, I’ll ride in the middle of the lane, in the primary position, so the cars have to wait to pass.

On our Sunday club rides, we have 80-90 riders out, and I tend to look after the newcomers’ group, teaching them safety, good technique and riding etiquette.

I always tell them, ‘Let us control the situation, don’t let them squeeze us. We’ll decide when it’s safe for them to pass.’ It’s all about instilling confidence and not being intimidated.

The word I like to use is empowerment!

To find out more information about Leigh Day Cycling, go to www.leighday.co.uk or on Twitter @LeighDayCycling

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