Pashley People - Claire McNeal

The latest in our regular series of profiles of riders of Pashley and Moulton bicycles. Claire recently completed a 189 mile charity ride on her Pashley Britannia in aid of The Fluency Trust Charity and raised over £2000!

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Tell us a little about yourself

I generally like to spend plenty of time outdoors. I love animals and currently have an old dog and an old horse. I like to keep pretty fit and was upset last year when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my neck which prevented me from riding my horse and from cycling. I needed to find a way to keep active!

What do you do for a living?

I am a Speech and Language Therapist and I have worked in the NHS for 35 years. I specialise in working with children and adults who stammer and I am passionate about supporting children to live their lives unimpeded by stammering. I am a founder Trustee of The Fluency Trust charity, we run unique residential courses combining speech therapy and outdoor adventure for children who stammer. I have recently completed a 189 mile sponsored ride on my Pashley Britannia to raise funds for this charity.

What is your earliest memory of riding a bike?

I can remember my dad running along by me as I first rode my bike without stabilisers. I think my bike was red but can’t remember anything else about it.

I have always used bikes as a means of transport. As a child I cycled every day to visit my pony. I looked after a pony who was previously not well cared for; my parents let me keep the pony if I did all the care as they knew nothing about horses. Every day before and after school I cycled with a bucket and head collar on my handle bars to see my pony. When went to University in Manchester in 1979 I had a lovely traditional ‘sit up and beg’ bike and used this to cycle to lectures.

How long have you been a cyclist?

I have spent much time walking with dogs or riding my horse so have really only cycled to get to places until more recently. I have always used my old bike to get to the stables and was persuaded by my husband to get a second hand road bike a year ago. I soon discovered that I could not ride this kind of bike as the neck movement and cycling position was hopeless for my neck problems. This got me thinking about my old bike that I had as a student.. So I took a trip into the world of traditional cycles.

What bike are you riding?

I have a lovely red Pashley Britannia which I bought in May. I got this as the upright riding position is just right for me and doesn’t hurt my neck at all. In fact my osteopath gave me exercises to do when I cycle my bike which have greatly helped.

How many bikes do you own?

My Pashley and a very old rusty bike that I have had for over 20 years, and have used just to get to the stables and back.

What is your dream bike?

I have my dream bike now, although having cycled from Swindon to North Devon on my Britannia, and tackling many hills over Exmoor, I did wish that it was a little lighter. I would love to get a Moulton at some point, so that we could pop it on the roof of our old VW camper for holidays.

What does cycling mean to you?

Since buying my Pashley bike cycling has become a way of life. I am not using the car as much. My husband commented that our fuel bills are so much less, mainly because I now cycle, if I can.

I also love to cycle because I can then eat lots of cake and not get fat! While I was training for my sponsored cycle I went on various long training rides with friends which had to include a café for a coffee and cake stop. A good friend advised me that when I was doing the sponsored cycle I must stop every hour and eat cake, it was the best advice I had! There were two occasions when I felt really tired, and tea and cake sorted the problem and on I went.

What do you dislike about cycling?

When the wind and rain are against you! And punctures! I got one at the end of my third day on my ride when I was cycling through Taunton and I was pretty tired at the time. But thanks to a really helpful man in the Ralph Colman shop fixing the puncture , I was soon on my way again.

How often do you ride your bike, and for what purpose?

The sponsored cycle that I have just completed meant so much to me. I have raised over £2000 for The Fluency Trust Charity which will really help with the cost of our course next year. Also I realised that I can cycle and be fit despite my creaky body.

The idea to cycle from Swindon to Appledore in North Devon came to me when I planned to buy my Pashley. Swindon is where the speech therapy office is and Appledore is where we run our courses for children.

I absolutely loved the pace of my cycle taking 5 days to slowly make my way west using mainly cycle network routes. My first day was from Swindon to Bradford upon Avon a delightful route on National Cycle Network Route 254, then on to Glastonbury using route 4 then 24 and meeting up with cycle route 3 at Wells, then continuing on cycle network 3 west of Taunton staying over in Hillfarrance and over Exmoor, staying one night at the top then down through Barnstable to Appledore. The route from Hillfarrance to the top of Exmoor was a challenge as it was either up or down, there seemed to be no flat bits! The hill out of Dulverton is a killer but the views from the top were wonderful and worth the effort. I did between 35 to 45 miles per day which was about right for me as I did go pretty slowly. However, because of my upright riding position I enjoyed every view on the way- beautiful cottages, hedges bursting  with blackberries, the constant changing light as the day progressed and our animal friends in the fields along the way. I would certainly recommend long slow cycle for noticing what matters!

What’s your favourite cycle route or destination?

It has to be making it to Appledore at the end of my cycle.