It wasn’t so long ago that I decided I wanted to ride from London to Paris and although I had the girls to ride with, we couldn’t always get our schedules to be in sync. Knowing that I needed others to ride with to keep me accountable between my long rides I had to look further afield than my friends and amongst all the cycling clubs I came across the Breeze programme. It played such a huge role in my journey and success of my L2P ride that I decided I wanted to become a Breeze Champion myself to put on rides locally to me giving more women a chance to get out on two wheels and be social.
Find A Course In Your Area
Now this is no exaggeration but I think I waited well over a year for a course to be put on in a location near to me. I added my info via the website to say I was interested and when the email dropped into my inbox saying a course was planned near me, I applied immediately. It was about a 4 or 5 month wait until the actual course date but at least it was in my diary. If you’re keen to get trained up, I suggest you and any other women you know locally leave your information so British Cycling are aware of the demand.
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Complete The Online Training Before The Course
Before you turn up for the in-person training, you’re required to complete some online training which entails watching short videos and taking short quizzes. I chose to do it all in one go and it really only took a couple of hours maximum. You do get tested a little on the day of your course so make sure you don’t do it too early or give yourself a quick refresher the night before.
What Does The Breeze Champion Day Of Training Look Like?
Be prepared to be on your bike and take appropriate clothing for every weather eventuality! The sun shone like crazy on the day of my course… until we stepped out at lunchtime to head out on our bikes when it started raining. Heavily. This meant our first bike session was a little shorter than planned but it still happened. We did some drills to start with so our Course Leader could check our competency on the bike before heading out to experience what a Breeze ride should feel like.
Our afternoon session on the bike was an opportunity for each of us to have a go at leading a ride and also assisting on a ride. Most people had a preference for assisting as you rode at the front of the group with your main responsibility being navigation. Once we were all signed off on leading and assisting skills, the day was pretty much done and dusted!
What You Will Need To Take
In addition to the cycling kit (especially a helmet) for all weather I mentioned, you will of course need to take your bike. You probably will need to take a packed lunch and snacks incase you’re not nearby a shop (we weren’t).
If you’re like me and like to scribble everything down, take a notepad and pen with you. Oh and if you’re going by car, throw your track pump in just incase. Other than this, there is nothing else you need.
Health & Safety is Sexy
In order to lead rides as a Breeze Champion you need to have completed your First Aid Training. British Cycling work with The British Red Cross to put on courses specifically for cyclists but if you find another course that you’d prefer to go on, they will reimburse you up to £25.
I went on a British Cycling / British Red Cross course one week after I completed the ride leader training and tbh, it was pretty useful. The main takeaway was to carry a first aid kit (or as much of one as you can) on your rides. One suggestion for carrying this is to pack it into a water bottle and store in a second bottle cage on your bike.
According to what I have been told, British Cycling do send out a First Aid kit to all Ride Leaders so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that. In the meantime, I have started to think about what I should / would carry on a ride so it was good timing when Gel Packs Direct got in touch and sent me a sample of their reusable gel pack which can either be heated up or frozen for hot and cold compress. The one I have is quite big so I would prob freeze it and carry with me on rides when I take a backpack or if I take a handlebar bag (which is quite rare these days!). But either way, it will come in handy on a day to day basis (can warm it up and wrap around my abdomen to help ease period pain, right?!).
Perks of Being a Breeze Champion
Although your role as a Breeze Ride Leader is a volunteer one, there are a few perks of the ‘job’. The obvious perks are that you get to complete your Level 1 Ride Leadership course free of charge and learn skills which you can use on any ride you lead. Having your First Aid course covered is also a huge bonus. I personally hadn’t completed First Aid for ages as the onus in the fitness industry was put on the facilities to make sure they have First Aid trained staff in the building at all times.
Over and above this, you also get your annual British Cycling membership gifted to you which means you can use the discounts available and most importantly, as long as you follow procedure, you are covered legally / insured for leading your rides.
In addition to your First Aid kit (which is yet to be confirmed) once you have lead your first ride, you get sent your Breeze Champion kit comprising of a jersey and rain jacket. Wearing the kit is optional but it’s a fab little perk none the less.
Travel expenses (reasonable ones) are also covered; I think it’s something like up to 20 miles from your home will be reimbursed. I’m sure I won’t use this often, unless I’m assisting on someone else’s ride as I will try to start my rides within cycling distance of home.
Last but not least, you get to be connected to a network of other awesome Breeze Champions both in your region and across the UK. Some of the ladies have led hundreds and hundreds of rides so their experience is invaluable to us newbie Breeze Champions. The community so far seems to be full of positivity, passion and photos!
Your Commitment To The HSBC UK Breeze Programme
When you complete your training, you commit to leading 8 rides per year which I don’t think is too bad considering the investment the programme puts in you as a ride leader. Personally, I will try to get as many of mine done in the warmer months so there is less pressure for me to be on the roads when Winter arrives.
Planning My First Ride As A Breeze Champion
I think this is the hardest bit, as with any training. When you’re let loose and need to find the motivation as well as get over the anxiety of sorting out your first ride. I gave myself a couple of weeks to digest all the information then I started to think about possible routes. There are plenty of routes available on the site but personally, there were none that started at convenient locations for myself which was one reason I wanted to lead rides in the first place.
Having been on a few rides locally over the last few years, I picked a destination as the focal point for my route planning. In Essex, there’s a road called Mott Street which is quite the climb. It’s the kinda climb we can all do when we try and it’s the kinda climb that the fitter you get, the more you notice how much easier the climb is getting. So I figured that would be a good place to start. I picked a date, and between me, Google Maps and Strava, I planned a route. My first ride from Loughton is scheduled for 27th July and I already have a couple ladies booked on so fingers crossed it won’t just be my on my lonesome! That leaves me a few weeks to get out on my bike, double check the planned route and complete my risk assessment ready for ride day. I think once I’ve got the first ride under my belt I will try and schedule at least 2 per month… it’ll guarantee I get out on my bike too if nothing else!
Wanna come ride with me? I’ll post all my Breeze / Liv Cycling rides on the Train With Elle page
So hey… you gonna become a Breeze Champion too?!