A MORPETH woman will continue her charity fund-raising next month after being bitten by the biking bug.
Stephanie McCluskey took up cycling two years ago after agreeing to ride in a cyclo-sportive event without actually knowing what it was.
A friend asked her to do the 33-mile route through the Northumberland countryside for the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge and once she discovered what was involved, she got out an old mountain bike at the back of the shed.
After struggling the first few times, Mrs McCluskey quickly got into a rhythm and started to enjoy cycling.
Now she rides 20 to 30 miles most weekends with family, friends and on her own.
She said: “At 48, I had never been a cyclist and had certainly never heard of cyclo-sportive when in 2009 my friend Ann asked if I would ride the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge with her.
“I said yes and the event was enough to get me hooked on cycling.
“I was delighted to finish the course, but afterwards I realised that I had trained far more than was necessary for it and so I made it round easily.
“I really felt I had achieved something, but wanted more, so I vowed to return in 2010 for a longer route.”
“When I registered for the challenge I realised that I could raise money for charity at the same time. Since then I’ve always asked people to sponsor me for all of my longer rides.
“So far I’ve raised about £900 for charities like Parkinson’s UK and Help for Heroes, and I hope to raise much more this year.
“Cycling has completely changed my lifestyle and it’s all happened in less than two years – I’ve got so much energy. My brain is so much more focused, I rarely get colds and I’m much bubblier.”
A new project has been launched to encourage women back on a bike or to ride for the first time after Sport England awarded British Cycling almost £1million of National Lottery funding.
The National Women’s Cycling Network aims to help women of all ages and ability to organise fun and recreational group rides in their local area.
Its long-term aim is to encourage 20,000 women to cycle at least once a week.
This year’s Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge takes place on Saturday, June 25 with 33, 63 and 104-mile routes on offer. It’s the biggest open road cyclo-sportive in the country and this year is expected to attract up to 5,000 riders of all sorts – from families to professionals.
For more information or to register, visit www.northernrockcyclone.co.uk