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26 May 2022

County Derry cyclist inspiring female participation in new national campaign

Cycling Ireland launched the campaign during Women in Sport week.

County Derry cyclist inspiring females in new national campaign

Deirdre Quinn (centre) is a member of Carn Wheelers.

During Women in Sport Week, Cycling Ireland launched its new Women in Sport campaign, ‘IT’S NOT A RACE*’.

The campaign celebrates the many female cyclists who make up the broad spectrum of women and girls who actively participate in cycling across its many forms.

As importantly, it celebrates the many reasons why women and girls cycle. And yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s not always a race.

Over the coming weeks and months, Cycling Ireland will be sharing the unique stories of the ambassadors of the campaign starting with Deirdre Quinn, a member of Carn Wheelers Cycling Club in County Derry and a native of Belleek, County Fermanagh.

Find out more about Deirdre’s story and how she got involved in cycling below.

Current cycling club?

Carn Wheelers Cycling Club

What is your current age?

53

What cycling discipline are you involved in?

Road – leisure. I also enjoy mountain biking but not my main discipline.

What age did you get involved?

I joined a cycling club at the age of 48 but I have cycled for most of my life

Why did you start cycling?

I learned to cycle as a child and I have cycled for as long as I can remember. I did the cycling proficiency test as a 10-year-old in primary school and this gave me a brilliant foundation in bike handling skills and road safety.

Growing up in the country, I cycled for necessity and independence but in adulthood, I started to cycle for pleasure, fresh air and exercise.

I joined a cycling club because I wanted to cycle regularly, and I thought that it would be safer and more fun to cycle with other people.

What has been your involvement in cycling, your story?

In my youth, it was a necessity to cycle because we lived a mile from the town but over time, I enjoyed more and more the experience of being on a bike and exploring the countryside around home or further afield on holidays in Europe with my husband.

After a very difficult year of serious illness, I started to train for the Cycle Against Suicide Sperrins Spin off in 2016 and encouraged a few friends to join me.

A few weeks after a medical procedure which gave me my life back, I completed the 35mile cycle with my brother and I met a new friend and was recruited to the Carn Wheelers Cycling Club.

I have cycled for the past 5 years with the club and enjoyed many club rides and sportives. I have also done some mountain biking at the local trail centre and I did a mountain bike sportive in January 2018 but I don’t have enough time at the minute to cycle regularly both on and off the road.

The online training programmes in 2020 introduced me to a whole new female cycling community and inspired me to start thinking about how I could reach out to girls that I knew wanted to cycle and create a local female cycling community. 

With the support of the Carn Wheelers Club committee, I gathered together a few members and we set out to encourage some females that we knew were interested but hadn't made the leap into joining a club.

Over the summer of 2021, despite COVID restrictions, I set up a ladies group in the Club and recruited 9 new club members and we enjoyed a great summer of Friday night group rides and a workshop on bike maintenance and group cycling etiquette and participated in our club sportive together. We had a lot of fun and laughter along the way.

I have also trained as a Community Bike Ride leader and myself and my cycling buddy plan to develop group social spins in our local community in the spring.

I take any opportunity that I can to cycle, whether it’s the Club spin on a Sunday or a social spin with a coffee stop during the week with some of the ladies. I still enjoy cycling with my husband when we are on holidays.

What have been your cycling highlights?

My most memorable cycling highlight was the first time I completed the Skoda Tour de Conamara in 2017. This was my first major sportive and I loved the atmosphere, camaraderie, scenery and the challenge of completing the 80km route with my friend.

We met other cyclists along the route, battling the headwind on the scenic Inagh Valley together. Other highlights include being awarded the Most Improved Ladies Leisure Cyclist in the Club in 2017 and 2019 and cycling my first ever 100miles in 2019.

How do you feel cycling has benefitted you?

Cycling has benefitted me physically and mentally. I love spending time outdoors and cycling is a great way to keep myself fit doing something that I love.

What is your favourite thing about cycling?

I love meeting people and I enjoy the conversation and craic from cycling with other people. I have met some great people through cycling and some of them are now my closest friends.

My favourite thing about cycling is that it enables me to combine exercise, being outdoors and being sociable.

What would you say to other females who may be interested in cycling?

I would encourage any females who may be interested in cycling to go for it, don’t be put off by the gear and the gadgets, as long as your bike is roadworthy, and you can cycle safely, get on your bike and discover if you enjoy it before investing in special cycle clothing or equipment.

I know it can be daunting at first, especially if you haven’t cycled much before but there are lots of cyclists who will support you and give you really helpful advice to build your confidence.

Find out if there are any cycle groups in your area and talk to them about how to get started. Some clubs may be running beginner programmes and these would be a great way to meet new people who are starting at a similar level.

It’s a good idea to get your bike serviced before you start and local bike shops are a great source of information  about local clubs, events or contacts to get you started in whatever type of cycling you’re interested in.

How do you feel about becoming an Ambassador?

I am very excited and enthusiastic about becoming an ambassador of the new campaign and advocate for women’s cycling. I hope that I will be able to encourage and support other females to enjoy the same benefits from cycling that I have experienced.

I am also excited about being part of the women's cycling community and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to meet other female cyclists and to learn from their experiences.

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