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Former homeless addict who became bike mechanic receives ‘Real Yellow Jersey’ from Cycling UK

Ten jerseys, hand-knitted in Tour de France yellow, have been presented to people who’ve used cycling to change their lives and the lives of others.

Martin Williams from Birmingham was homeless, living on the streets, taking drugs and suffering from anxiety and depression before he was put in touch with the Big Bike Revival group, New Roots.

Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival scheme (link is external) aims to help people overcome the barriers stopping them from cycling – whether lack of skills, financial hardship, disability, cultural background or health issues.

Williams was sectioned in 2017 following a suicide bid, but over the last year he has learned cycle mechanics skills and now teaches others. He is in accommodation and has been clean for the past 18 months.

He volunteers at New Roots five days a week and says he feels like he now has purpose, motivation, and a positive outlook for his future.

“Cycling has transformed my life, really helping my mental health, but this yellow jersey is the icing on the cake,” he said. “I’ve never won anything before.”

While the yellow jersey is worn by the leader of the Tour de France, Cycling UK’s Real Yellow Jersey recognises that cycling isn’t just about sport; it’s an everyday activity for leisure, transport and health, and part of a solution to many of society’s biggest problems from climate change and air pollution to obesity and mental health issues.

“The Real Yellow Jersey for the everyday heroes of cycling really shines a light on how cycling can turn lives around, improving health, fitness and wellbeing and I applaud all the recipients for their achievements,” said Chris Boardman, who wore the Tour’s yellow jersey on three occasions.

Jenny Box, Cycling UK’s Head of Behaviour Change in England, added: “We wanted to celebrate all those amazing people across the country who are getting back on their bikes, changing their lives and helping others to do the same.

“They’re the real heroes of cycling whose skills, commitment and personal journeys are helping the nation reap the benefits of two wheels.

“The Real Yellow Jersey is also a symbol of everything that’s to be celebrated about everyday cycling and an encouragement for more people to get in the saddle.”

Joy Anibaba from Olton in the West Midlands was another recipient of a Real Yellow Jersey. She learned to ride at 50 and joined a Big Bike Revival cycling group two years ago. Since then she has become the club secretary and a ride leader and has been a key figure in the growth of the group, inspiring scores of others.

Ten-year-old Declan Nangle from Kidderminster didn’t think he’d ever be able to ride a bike because he suffers from dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder that makes coordination and balance difficult. This summer, thanks to the Big Bike Revival, he’s learned how to ride and is now cycling every weekend. He’s even going on a cycling holiday.

Joan Reynolds from Walsall recently returned to cycling after a break of 65 years.  Now in her mid-80s, she decided that she needed a challenge and so took part in a Cycling UK Big Bike Revival event. Following one-to-one tuition and advice on which bike to choose, she is now a regular cyclist.

Janet Baird and her twin sister Margaret, from Harrogate, began cycling when they were 11, but after 40 years riding together Margaret sadly died in 2004. Janet couldn’t even look at her bike for years but thanks to the Big Bike Revival she is back in the saddle and full of renewed enthusiasm. She’s now encouraging her friends to get on their bikes and campaigns for more cycle routes in her local area.

When Caitlin Bartlett began cycling, she found many cycling spaces and bike shops intimidating. She felt like she had to pretend to know more than she did to avoid being patronised. Caitlin then found the Big Bike Revival group Beryl’s Night and is now a qualified mechanic working at a community organisation that teaches women and trans people about cycle maintenance.

50-year-old Linda Rackham from Norwich stopped cycling when she learnt to drive at the age of 19. Thirty years on and diagnosed with type II diabetes, she was looking for an exercise that suited her. Remembering the joy of cycling from her younger years she went along to a Big Bike Revival event to regain her lost confidence. She’s now cycling over 100 miles a month and has encouraged her partner and friends to join her.

Judith Swaffield from Southampton was looking for new experiences to cope with the grief of losing her mother. She joined a Big Bike Revival group which helped her to explore the local parks at a comfortable pace and she was able to find joy and happiness again with the support and friendship of the group.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her mid-30s, Rebecca from Bradford worried her cycling days were numbered. Thanks to a new bicycle and renewed confidence she hopes to continue riding for years to come.

Farzana Khan, from Bradford, Yorkshire, was not able to ride a bike but was determined that she and her children should learn so they could enjoy going out cycling together as a family. With the help and support of a Big Bike Revival group Farzana and her children have learned how to ride.

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