Meet the Wheeler: Caroline Hemmington
Caroline found her way into road cycling by borrowing a bike for a Surrey sportive. After meeting a Wheeler on Box Hill she signed up to the club in 2015, and soon got stuck in volunteering, joined the committee and last year stepped up to take on the role of membership secretary. If the club is hosting an event you are guaranteed to see Caroline there helping out.
Tell us about your journey into cycling
I’ve always cycled but was nervous about skinny tyres so didn’t get a road bike until about six years ago. My friend lent me his for a Surrey sportive – it tipped down with rain and I fell over by the side of the A24 when I clipped into the cleats by mistake but it was still great fun. Then one day I bumped into a Wheeler at the top of Box Hill and asked her about joining the club. I attended one intro ride, got put off by group riding and it was another year before I came back to try again. Once I joined properly I was hooked and even ended up joining the Committee.
What do you like about riding with a club?
The people I’ve met, the good friends I’ve made, the places I’ve been and of course the cake. I love the fact that you can ride with people of all ages – we all enjoy getting on two wheels. I’m not speedy and will never be a racer but riding with the club I’ve challenged myself and had a go at things I’d never have considered like audaxes, track days and even a couple of time trials. As a single mum with a busy job, I’ve always tried to make the most of my spare time so it’s great to cycle with like-minded people who enjoy fresh air and a chat while keeping fit. I’ve made friends for life at the club, been on some fantastic cycling holidays and was even a birthing partner for one of my friends.
How can the cycling community encourage more female participation?
There are some great initiatives out there like Breeze rides to encourage women into cycling and build confidence. I love cycling in a mixed group but remember pre-COVID days turning up on a Sunday morning searching for a familiar face in a sea of lycra. It can be intimidating but a friendly hello is always helpful. Some women prefer all female rides so Kingston Wheelers is trying to arrange a women’s ride once a month so people can get to know each other. We’re lucky as we have some great female role models in the club who are happy to give advice and support if women want to develop their cycling skills.
What advice would you give to riders new to the sport?
Don’t be put off if you can’t afford the expensive gear or bike. When I was quite new to road biking I remember someone saying to me ‘my wheel cost more than your bike’ which I found funny but a bit off-putting until another Wheeler pointed out that I was able to keep up with the group and do the distance on the bike, so what did it matter? My other piece of advice is to put yourself out there and make friends as your mates will get you out for a ride on that chilly Sunday and you’ll feel better for it.
Why would you recommend Kingston Wheelers?
It’s a big club but it doesn’t feel too big. We care about each other and the community. There’s something for everyone whether you like speed, distance, mud, gravel, tarmac or track or just a pootle in the countryside, there’s always someone who’ll join you.