When we asked you for your stories about how you got into cycling after the age of 40, we expected a few entries. But not 100s! And such moving, inspiring ones at that.
It's been quite a job to sift through so many heartlifting tales and wonderful pictures. We somehow narrowed it down to the favourites below - and finally chose one winner (who gets to choose a pair of Anna Glowinski's famous Anna's Legs cycling leggings). Scroll down to find out if it was you, but make sure you enjoy each of the entries on your way down...
What this all proved (like it needed proving, right?!) is that the draw of cycling is often at its strongest for us women a little later in life.
It often gets under our skin in those years when we're still close enough to our physical peak to become more than capable cyclists.
It's when many women start to find themselves with a little more in the way of resources and time, after the toughest years of challenging careers or family raising.
Most importantly, cycling improves people's lives. And it's never too late to begin.
Here are just some of our favourite entries:
Rachel (pictured) responded to a whole cocktail of bad things happening to her by pedalling it out:
"Depressed after divorce, loss of a parent and relocating my life to yorkshire, along with the realisation that my life long my love of hockey was not helping the state of my knees, I pulled my 20 + year old bike from the shed and found some a local cyclist to show me the way.
Two weeks later, and on a new bike, I rode in a local 50 mile sportive! The rest is history.
It's almost two years since that, and I have to admit that I am now slightly addicted. I've made new friends, joined different groups and love the almost child-like thrill of setting off on a biking adventure!
It has often been my salvation both physically and mentally. I have achieved things I'd never thought of - done a number of iconic climbs and even enjoyed a very challenging and hugely rewarding group cycling trip to Austria. I'm definitely fitter and stronger than ever."
Corinna got out of a negative relationship and straight into a new relationship with her bike:
"I left an over bearing and quite domineering relationship and almost immediately bought a second hand steel frame, hard tail mountain bike.
I had always wanted a mountain bike, but my partner had discouraged me, saying i would never use it.
Well, that was rubbish.
I left, bought a bike, and I have never looked back - he ('Indiana') has become my trusty freedom steed and I now ride almost every day. I'm fitter, high on life and find joy even battling on windy stormy days.
I've climbed hills I never thought I was capable of and every time I don't fall off or I manage to lose myself in joy on a down hill (even just for 5 seconds!), it is a personal victory.
My bike is a symbol of independence and freedom, and I love him."
Classy kit for the more... 'grown up' cyclist!
Martine found herself single under much more tragic circumstances, and found solace in cycling:
"It was after my husband died three years ago that I caught the cycling bug.
I had returned to cycling in a pootling kind of way on my hybrid bike 10 years previously as I had more time on my hands, but bought my first a road bike a year and a half after my husband died.
I joined a friendly and supportive local cycling club and my fitness and cycling has improved from then on. I now cycle between 100 to 200 miles a week and have entered 100 miles sportives.
I have also trained as a Breeze champion two years ago with British Cycling to encourage other women to take up the sport. I lead rides once or twice a month.
Cycling has transformed my life for the better and I really miss it when I can't do it. It helped me through my grief, as excercise give you the endorphins to lift your mood and I have made new friends though the cycling club.
A brush with your own mortality can often prompt people onto a bike, as Elizabeth found:
"In 2009 at the age of 44 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I can honestly say that it was the toughest thing I've ever had to face.
3 years after all the surgeries and treatment were over I decided to give something back to a hospice which I'd used in some of my darkest days.
So, I persuaded 2 friends to come with me on a cycle ride from London to Paris - a good idea, I thought at the time.
We said to each other, if we can raise £500 we'd be so happy, but with the generosity of our friends and families we ended up raising over £4000.
Since then I've taken part in 2 other overseas cycling challenges and 4 night rides, all raising money for Breast cancer care, Ovarian cancer action and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. To date I think I've raised in excess of £12,000.
To me it's been an incredible experience which is not only raising money for important charities, one of which is very close to my heart, but it's also been a way back to health, which when I was so ill I never thought would happen."
Meanwhile Jennifer has discovered that cycling can alleviate her symptoms like nothing else:
"I was out running one day and fell flat on my face into the mud!
My knee just seemed to collapse, it didn't feel right so I stopped running and bought my first mountain bike in my 30's.
I was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 35 and one symptom (ahhh, that's why my knee was dodgy too!) was vertigo.
It made me feel drunk (without the pleasure of the beautiful grape) and I found it hard to walk - it was awful.
However, as soon as I got on my bike, the unsteadiness of vertigo disappeared. It felt amazing to move without feeling dizzy and just feel 'normal' again. I felt free for the first time in months!
Following treatment the vertigo subsided but I've carried on riding and simply enjoy the wind in my hair and mud on my face as I hurtle through my local woods.
My next goal is to join a cycling group..."
A love of cycling be born from less serious ailments too, as Christine discovered:
"I was 62, fed up with my job, lonely and overweight. But fate intervened.
I went for a walk among the bluebells, slipped and broke my ankle. Not a good thing you might say. However, 6 weeks off work gave me space to realise I could afford to retire early if I was careful.
I knew I needed a new interest to change my life around. The orthopaedic consultant suggested cycling as good physical therapy, and my local bike shop even lent me an old Raleigh to have a go on.
Serendipitously, my GP mentioned the British Cycling Breeze programme, and one of the owners of the local gym that I joined is a very keen roadie, cycle coach and personal trainer.
Early progress was slow and painful, I fell over, a lot, struggled to turn corners, and I'm still not good at signalling while pedalling.
But I had so much fun and support with my new breeze friends, and a coach that would say 'you could do that!'
To cut a long story short, I got better, bought a road bike and last September I cycled from London to Paris to raise donations for Bloodwise, the blood cancer charity.
Cycling is awesome and I love it."
Often, discovering a love of cycling can lead to sharing it with others. Zoe is a great example:
"After two failed rounds of IVF in my late 30's I needed something to focus on so joined a local cycling club.
Despite being the slowest in the group I was improving and enjoying the challenge of a climb.
My enthusiasm resulted in being asked to train as a coach for the childrens club.
Since then I have set up my own club coaching children from age 3 upwards in all disciplines of cycling.
We ride on and off road, outdoor track, velodrome and even tried cycle speedway. I lead by example so race in the Welsh Cyclocross League and MTB XC series and also some closed circuit road races. Last year I took part in my first sportive with some of the ladies from the club.
I am now a level 2 MTB specific coach, belong to a coaching academy at the local university and was runner up coach of the year at last year's Welsh cycling awards (my club received Go-Ride club of the year).
I was never sporty at school so would never have expected to be in this position in my 40's but I feel great!
MTB is by far my favourite discipline!"
Andrea discovered that cycling can change your life whilst solving some of the most common women's issues:
"In my 40's I inherited my man's old mountain bike when he got himself a new one.
I caught the bug quickly and we went on adventures all over Scotland, including the Highlands and the Isles.
Abroad, we went on Alpine trips, tackling the circumnavigation of Mont Blanc but also the Atlas Traverse in Morocco close to my 50th birthday.
Being a curious person, I got myself also into events from Diva Descent and Air Maiden, and ended up competing in the Megavalanche in my 53th year.
After our move to Black Forest, Germany where there is a lot of snow in winter and the Alps are only a two-hour car drive away, we got ourselves Fat Bikes which take 'strenuous' to another level - they are the best of fun!
Biking has not only got me physically fitter than I ever was in my youth, but it also has helped me greatly during Menopause.
Moody episodes were a big issue for me, and biking always helped me to overcome these dark moments.
So it didn't only keep me physically fit but also mentally! I am 57 now and not stopping!
Linda always had the cycling gene dormant within her, but it took a trip to India for it to flourish:
"Originally I signed up and completed a charity cycle event for Women's Cancer in India.
After 500 miles and a life changing experience on many grounds, I bought my first road bike!
You may be surprised as I am the daughter of the 1952 Tour of Britain winner - Ken Russell, who is the only individual to have won this event without the support of a team.
In brief this led me to the next challenge of riding in another charity event from London to Paris for a friend with Myeloma. What an amazing experience as we rode up the Avenue des Champs-Elyse just like the professionals.
Encouraged by my old college friends I then attempted my first triathlon event in 2015.
Despite a fall and broken collarbone in 2017, I picked myself up, literally, and came back in 2018 to achieve 3rd place at the World Championships at the Gold Coast in Australia and 3rd place at the European Championships in Tartu.
At 62 years of age I was pleased with my first GB event. Yes - older girls can still do it!"
It's amazing how circumstances can get in the way of a love of cycling as a kid, until a certain point in life - as Sally can attest:
"I always loved cycling when younger and lived in a quiet rural setting.
However when I moved in my early twenties to a busy town the fear of traffic put paid to my cycling life and it wasn't until a customer came into the shop where I work a few years ago who rekindled my love for the bike at now age 40.
Chatting with this customer she suggested I take a bikeability course which I duly did and the fears of cycling in busy town centres vanished.
Then I applied to be a Breeze ladies cycling Champion and over the past 3 years have led over 150 rides for ladies of all ages and abilities - from prom rides to café rides to hilly rides.
I've cycled in Majorca and climbed Mount Tiede in Tenerife and met my husband through cycling and got married in Lycra!
Most of all though I love nothing more than a coffee a cake and a laugh."
We've heard about negative 'husband experiences' leading to cycling - but there are positive ones too, as Trina can vouch for:
"You don't get to 50 do you without life throwing you a few 'knocks'?
Mine seemed unbearable for a while - unexpected death of my mum, family illnesses - and as a result I struggled with my own anxiety. I needed something new and fun to do as a release.
My lovely husband came to the rescue and bought me a road bike for my 45th birthday as a surprise in 2013.
After a wobbly shaky start we both built up the distance we could ride by picking a café further away each time and heading towards it.
I love the sense of release and headspace my bike gives me. Practically giddy with excitement I even enrolled in sportives raising money for a cancer charity in my mum's memory.
I simply LOVE IT.
Sadly I'm now ill myself and my cycling has taken a back seat for 6 months but I'm determined to get back to it. I dug out my hybrid and I do my local shopping, doctors visits and chores on my 'old gillopy'.
That feeling of the wind in my hair, whizzing along gives me a liitle mental lift every time. I'm just so grateful and glad I discovered cycling and I've made so many wonderful friends through it.
And will I still be doing it at 80? You betcha!"
Creena wasn't going to be outdone by her husband on a bike... and wow, did she show him!
"I was in my 40s when I started cycling. I watched my husband and son compete in 147km race and when they finished I said I'm going to do that next year and they laughed at me.
I was overweight and unhappy about my body so I started training on a town bike to start with.
My husband realised I was serious so he bought me a second hand road bike. The weight was pouring off.
12 months to the day, yep I've done the race and finished in a time of 5hours 30.
I went from there next year it was 4 hours 40. I continued to race. I have since ridden over the French Alps the famous climbs and Italian Dolomites twice.
Where ever we travel the bikes go with us."
It's not just human bereavement that can launch people into cycling. Gina is quite a testament to that!
"I had to have my horse put to sleep after an injury.
I was beginning to put on weight without doing any exercise so I bought a bike on the cycle to work scheme initially just to commute.
I loved it so much that I joined a club.
20 miles became 60 miles became century rides which turned into 24 hr competitions and a solo unsupported 2400 miles across Europe in 22 days!
Cycling has fast become an addiction. In 4 years I've cycled more than 65,000 miles and I've no plans to stop.
Cycling has benefited not only my physical health but also my mental health and helped me get through a very difficult time with my Dad suffering from dementia."
And the winner is...
Anna's Legs 2019
After MUCH deliberation, we fell for this story of zero to hero from Val Lowman - a true inspiration, and proof that anything's possible after the age of 40:
"I started cycling aged 40 because I couldn't afford the train or tube fare to meet work clients in central London.
This twelve mile commute not only saved me money, it changed my life, building my fitness, strength and confidence.
But most of all I rediscovered it was fun!
It wasn't long after in 1993 that I came across the word 'triathlon' and immediately knew I wanted to 'do this before I died'.
However I couldn't change gear on my 20 year old bike, couldn't swim front crawl or run well.
It took me 11 more years to get my act together and buy what I thought was a 'proper' bike (I bought a Roberts) and entered my first race in my last week of being 50.
I was terrified, but will never forget the elation of crossing the finish line. I was hooked.
I realised the Roberts was great for commuting and touring, but was not a perfect road or triathlon bike.
I'm still not a great swimmer or runner but in 2013 my bike enabled me to qualify as a Team GBR Age Grouper.
I became an Ironman in 2017."
Val - please contact us to arrange your choice of size and model of Anna's Legs!
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