Raised on a bike
Laura’s childhood was filled with cycling. Her father, a professional continental rider, instilled in her a deep respect for the sport. She vividly remembers her early days on a bike, challenging stereotypes and racing alongside the boys. “I was dragged up in cycling,” Laura recalls. “Girls are slowing them down” was a common sentiment when women’s cycling was far from equal, and she fought to dispel that.
Yet, despite her early passion, Laura’s relationship with cycling was not without its ups and downs. A significant injury during her cycling journey forced her to step away from the sport for a time. She says, “I had a bad crash, and it wasn’t cool. It was the late ’80s, and women’s cycling really wasn’t a thing back then, so I didn’t see much of a future in it.”
But cycling always had a way of finding its way back into Laura’s life. She kept a bike by her side, and even during her studies in Germany, her trusty bicycle remained a faithful companion. When Laura moved to Bristol and met her husband, her bike once again became a practical and meaningful part of her life when she invested in a 7-speed Electra cruiser for more practical reasons. The daily commute to work became an opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding.
Her connection with cycling deepened when she decided to open a cycling shop in 2014. It was a bold move, and her desire was to create a space for boutique cycling brands. She was inspired by the “buy British” sentiment that was in the air as the Tour de France started in the UK that year. “It really took off,” Laura notes with pride.
Laura’s journey with cycling also took a more personal turn when she joined her father’s cycling club. The camaraderie and acceptance she found among the group were transformative. She remembers, “Very quickly, with their help, I learned all the etiquette. I could identify who was safe to ride with and improved my skills a ton.” They took her under their wing, delighted to have a young woman cyclist in their midst. Her father’s presence in the same club added to her joy, and soon she was an integral part of the group.
Cycling takes on a whole new meaning
This strong foundation she had built in the cycling community would prove crucial, too — as Laura’s journey with cycling took on new significance when her husband was diagnosed with ALS. ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
As Laura explains, “My husband was more into running, while I leaned towards cycling. We used to run ultra-marathons together, but it was also great that we had our own passions and pursuits.”
However, One significant event they decided to conquer as a pair was the Transalpine run, which turned out to be their last major adventure together. Laura explains, “During the run, he kept stumbling and falling, and it became apparent that something was wrong. Little did we know that he was already battling a motor neuron disease.”
After numerous medical evaluations, they received the devastating diagnosis and a prognosis of 2-3 years to live. “The doctor mentioned that his exceptional fitness likely concealed the disease’s progression for longer than in someone less physically active. It was an incredibly challenging time, especially with our 10-year-old and 8-year-old children.”
Going forward, cycling became more than just a form of escape; it was a lifeline that helped her navigate the complexities of caregiving. “I needed to do outdoor stuff for my mental health, and to find a way to deal with the surreal world of caregiving,” Laura explains. She rode through rain and snow, finding solace in the routine and the physical release that cycling offered.
With her husband’s health still in good enough condition, the family decided to take a journey together. They embarked on an adventure to explore new places and create lasting memories. “We took the kids travelling for three months, and I packed my bike,” Laura recalls.
During this unforgettable summer, Laura’s relationship with cycling took on new meaning. She describes how her husband’s unwavering encouragement emboldened her to tackle challenging climbs and find moments of accomplishment and peace for herself.
One memory from Italy stands out, “We were in Tuscany. The family was still asleep, and I decided to venture out for a ride,” Laura recounts with a smile. The early morning rides became her sanctuary—a time for herself and much-needed headspace. “The physical activity is calming,” she explains, “I can think just about riding, the right pace, how the bike feels, what’s around me.” It was a precious escape and a chance to reconnect with her own sense of self.
Laura explains that the simple act of riding allowed her to focus on the present moment. “You don’t have to think about anything else,” she says, her words resonating with anyone who has experienced the meditative nature of cycling. “You’re just thinking about breathing, pushing yourself, continuing onwards.”
Of course, there were moments of joy, too, as cycling became a source of laughter and smiles that helped her reconnect with the joy of living. “That’s what cycling is like for me,” she says, “it’s a release, it’s exhilarating.” The feeling of the wind in her hair, the sound of tires on the road, and the beauty of the world rushing by—these were the simple joys that provided solace.
The sense of connection with others made these journeys even more special. “Sharing with others,” Laura emphasises, “people saying hello and asking you about what you’re doing.” Whether it was a fellow cyclist’s friendly wave or a spontaneous chat during a coffee stop, these interactions reminded her of the beauty of human connection.
Cycling together and forward
Throughout her journey, Laura’s family played an essential role. Cycling became a family affair, and she proudly recounts how she introduced her children to the sport. “I took my kids downhill biking, and they absolutely fell in love with it,” she says with pride.
In coping with grief and finding a sense of renewal, Laura also ventured into coaching. She trained to become a coach and help beginners discover the joys of cycling. “It’s brilliant to see people come on and build their confidence,” she says enthusiastically. Laura’s coaching journey allowed her to give back to the cycling community, offering others the support and guidance she had received during her cycling journey.
Ultimately, her story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of cycling. It is a journey marked by ups and downs, moments of solitude and camaraderie, and the unwavering support of loved ones. Laura’s journey is a reminder that even in the face of life’s most challenging moments, the simple act of pedalling forward can lead to rediscovery, growth, and moments of pure joy.