Published: 12th Jun 2024 Images: Scottish Cycling

BlogHer: Riding to Recovery: How Breeze and cycling transformed my life

To celebrate ten years of Breeze in Scotland, this month’s BlogHer post comes from Laura Nisbet, who tells us about her recovery from a major health scare, helped by cycling and getting involved in Breeze, training as a ride leader to support more women to (re)discover the joys and experience the benefits of riding a bike

So, I have been asked by Scottish Cycling to write my first blog – how scary does that sound! About my involvement with Breeze and my cycling experiences. Where to start, well cycling has always been a part of my life, early memories of bike rides with my mum and dad, to my boys learning to ride their bikes, and then I wanted to get fit for 40! Scarily 50 is now only a year away …

I heard about women’s cycling groups being delivered via British Cycling Breeze and thought this might work; in the past I had tried to set up a cycling group within the local main club for the lesser speed and distance riders, but it didn’t attract as many as I’d hoped. I think at the start so many folk didn’t feel they could do it, for various reasons, fitness, health, bikes, confidence.

In 2017 I had a major health scare – I’m absolutely fine now, but back then it was scary for me to come to terms with. Physically, I healed very quickly, but mentally, it took a long time. I didn’t recognise I was struggling with it for so long. So, what happened? During a routine operation I had a cardiac arrest. Thankfully I was in the best place with great medical team, and well I started to think about getting back on my bike, and once I was back pedalling, how could I use this to help others enjoy the freedom of cycling.

So, I did my Breeze Champion training and in March 2018 delivered my first Breeze ride, and from then it has grown. After a couple more rides and regular ladies coming, we became known as the Kelso Breezers, with ladies starting out just managing five miles to currently the 50-ish miles we can now cover. I have organised bike maintenance sessions, cycle confidence coaching sessions, fun rides, and we even have our own kit. We now have five more ride leaders so we can deliver more organised lead rides. Even if the weather is bad and we can’t get out for a cycle, coffee can always be had, with plenty of planning for more cycling adventures.

As well as leading Breeze Rides I am a qualified cycle coach, I have my Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award and Mountain Bike DSU Coaching Award, meaning I can lead mountain bike rides as well as road rides. Until recently I used to work delivering Bikeability sessions to primary school children, for which I then came up with the idea of Sofa to Saddle sessions to help encourage women to become more confident on their bikes and out on the roads, a bit like the running Coach to 5k idea.

I’ve led and assisted on lots and lots of Breeze rides over the years and looking forward to leading lots more; we’ve lots planned for this year and future years. We are currently promoting the 10th year of Breeze and what the Borders has to offer in biking, with a weekend of taster rides and a big Breeze Meet up.

Aside from this we try to meet every Sunday, weather permitting, and in the summer months we have evening rides. Of course, all rides generally include a coffee stop. ‘It’s all about the coffee stops’ has become my motto. I love being able to help ladies enjoy being out on their bikes. I have been able to encourage many from being unsure they would manage a couple of miles, to them signing up to local sportives. I’ve always said it doesn’t matter what age, what bike, or your ability, cycling is for all. I love helping them find their smile and enjoying being out on their bikes.

Thanks to our amazing group I have had some amazing recognition, I was awarded Chain Reaction Community Champion 2018, I’ve made the shortlist twice for the Scottish Cycling Awards; for Volunteer of the year in 2018 and for the Recreational Cycling Award in 2019. I was awarded a Highly Commended Cycling Champion of the Year in 2019, in the Cycling Champion Awards jointly presented by Scottish Cycling, Cycling UK (Scotland), Sustrans Scotland and Cycling Scotland. And, wow oh wow, in 2020, this was amazing, I made the 100 women in Cycling list compiled by Cycling UK and was also awarded the Scottish Cycling Recreational Cycling award

My favourite honour was in 2019, leading the ride-out at the start of the Stage 2 Tour of Britain in Kelso, having the Kelso Wheelers Juniors, the Kelso Breezers and Wheelers, plus another couple of groups follow me, it was a great atmosphere.

All this wouldn’t be possible without the support of my family and my extended family of Breezers. Through Breeze I met some amazing women and, without sounding too soppy, my best friends. Aside from leading Breeze rides together, we have our own mini adventures on our bikes. I cannot wait for lots more adventures

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your experiences in cycling and recovery from cardiac arrest. For more information about cardiac arrest and heart health, visit the British Heart Foundation for information and support.

If you would like to tell your cycling story for our monthly Scottish Cycling BlogHer article, please email Melanie, our Women and Girls Development Manager, on: [email protected]