Erin O’Connor’s other passion: cycling

I’ve been cycling ever since I was a kid. I remember taking my cycling proficiency test aged seven – I got to school at 7.30am to practise, I was so nervous. After that I always cycled to school.

I like a seat with a view. That’s why cycling is such a fantastic means of transport.

I always, always wear a helmet. I don’t worry about messing up my hair. It’s short and helmet-like anyway – another layer of armour! Get over it and wear one, they save lives.

Cute 40s vintage bikes with baskets are fashionable at the moment, but mine is definitely not like that. It’s a sturdy, loyal bike from Halfords – light and practical.

It’s not the bike; it’s what you wear when riding it that counts. Style and functionality can coexist. I like cycling in high-waisted, Katherine Hepburn-style trousers, gathered at the ankle. I sometimes cycle in a skirt but I’m more of a trouser girl – and I never cycle in heels.

Cycling is a great way to learn about your city. I love being outdoors, especially in good weather, but I’m not a fair weather cyclist. I’m happy to get a red nose in the cold.

The worst thing about cycling is the roundabouts, especially growing up in Birmingham. And the traffic.

Cycling in London was quite challenging at first. I like cycling along the Southbank, where there are lots of attractions.

Caution is the key to safe cycling. I’m aware that cars are bigger than me, but I feel quite safe. I’m in control, liberated and free when I’m on my bike.

I get sweaty when cycling, of course. I carry deodorant, wet wipes and antiseptic handwash in my cross-body bag.

If I could pass a law to make cycling safer, I’d have cycle lanes in every part of London. I also like the idea of the new bike hire scheme.

I’ve had two bikes stolen. The first was my mum’s bike, which I’d borrowed – luckily I didn’t have to pay her back. The second was outside a pub on The Cut in Waterloo.

I once fell off my bike quite spectacularly.
I was going downhill and took a speed bump too quickly, went flying over the handlebars and through the air, and ended up with a massive scab on my chin for weeks. I still love going fast down hills, though. There’s a real moment of freedom when you’re freewheeling.

Victoria Pendleton is one of my cycling heroes. I’m hoping to get tips from her. Being really tall is an issue when you’re cycling – you can end up with your knees by your ears.

One of my happiest cycling memories – apart from passing that cycling proficiency test – is racing at high speed along the canals of Birmingham with my friends. We’d also go to the BMX track. I’d ride my girly pink bike in my school uniform with a gigantic pink bow in my hair.

You don’t have to be good at cycling; it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can get enjoyment, a bit of exercise and some nice scenery when you’re in the saddle.

Erin O’Connor is an ambassador for Sky Ride and is taking part in the Birmingham event on Sunday 12 September. She is also supporting the Sky Ride Style blog, which aims to get more women on their bikes.

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