International Women's Day: an interview with Marta
We spent some time talking to one of our amazing mechanics and Pedal Power cycle instructors, Marta. Here's why she's so passionate about cycling, and what working at The Bike Project means to her, in her own words:
About two years ago I left my previous 9 to 5 office job. I was looking for something completely different, a position that required me to be active and in close contact with people. I couldn't find anything that triggered my curiosity until I randomly googled “bicycle charity”. The Bike Project appeared as the very first result. I went through the website and my first reaction was “Wow! This project really exists!” I couldn't resist getting in touch immediately.
At first, I honestly thought the project was too good to be true. As I read around the organisation I realised that The Bike Project seemed to be made up of a great community of people from all over the world unified by one common goal: its aim of getting refugees cycling by refurbishing and donating second hand bikes. Its focus on people and sustainability drove me to write a long spontaneous email directly to Jem, our CEO. I was lucky to find an open position on their website, although I would have gotten in touch anyways!
The Bike Project's ethos resonated deeply with me, and I was especially thrilled to help the refugee community in London. The project sounded something new, exciting and challenging. A happy workplace run by purpose-driven people.
One of the reasons The Bike Project resonates with me is because I’m so passionate about cycling. In fact, I could go on and on talking about the benefits of cycling but the one key takeaway would be that it's all about being independent. I was a fearless kid who loved climbing trees and riding my bike. I remember my friend and I would go to the park after school and head down the slopes on our bikes. Bringing my bicycle in my primary school's yard was my reason of pride, my way of saying: “Hey! I'm a little girl and I can do what I want”.
I was the only girl in my classroom wearing the boys' uniform, just to give you an idea of my personality. In my teenage years I never had a motorcycle, unlike the majority of my fellows, because I was simply not interested in a motor on two wheels. My friends and I would stick to our rusty, creaky cycles, often borrowed from our parents. No need for pocket money for petrol, no fear.
I cycled around Southern France just after my high school diploma and I still remember that experience as the best holiday I've ever been on: rolling down the hills in the beautiful summer landscape, stopping at a farmer's shop in the middle of nowhere to buy tomatoes and peaches for lunch, it truly was a completely immersive way to explore a new country.
I remember once I repaired my tube three times in a day, my tyres were so battered and I had no knowledge ofbike mechanics. No fear, just keep pedalling. Today cycling holds the same value for me: it's my statement of independency and confidence, my bicycle is my trusted horse that takes me around London every day. I have upgraded my kit and I even wear a bike helmet now (my dad is still very surprised about this!), I am certainly more responsible and I developed my mechanics skills.
Sometimes, cycling around London, I’m reminded of the first time I got to pedal by myself: I kept practicing and practicing going around a big table in my parents' living room until at some point I felt like I was flying. And I was cycling! My parents brought me to the local park, where there was a long round tarmac loop. It was the perfect place for speeding up. After the first round I got excited and kept increasing my speed until I found myself on the ground, the whole left side of my body covered in scratches and bruises. I looked at the corner where I fell and got back on my bike, shedding a little tear. All I wanted as a kid was a yellow bike and the day my parents got it for me I was the happiest kid in town! When I grew out of my bike, it was passed on to another younger child, probably a family friend, to continue its lifecycle. A bicycle never gets too old!
Cycling can free yourself from many constraints: first, it helps you saving money on public transports, especially in London where a weekly bus pass costs £21.20. Cycling is also often the fastest way to get from a place to another, no need to wait or queue. Have we talked about the benefits of cycling on our mental wellbeing? This is a chapter worth a book! Cycling makes you happier, it's scientifically proven!
For anyone out there who are concerned about starting cycling…I say just do it! Who cares if you are a man or a woman? Cycling is for everyone, really! Ride in the sun and in the rain, explore your city, watch people around you, stop at a local shop, get back on your bike, keep going. Cycling has no age or gender, you don't need the latest kit to start, believe someone who rode rusty pieces of steel throughout her life! You don't need to be a pro to ride, you don't need to compare yourself to the lycra show. Just pump up your tyres and go, you won't regret it!
Here are my four tips for starting cycling:
One: carry out a simple check of your bike before you head out and ride! Number two: don't feel discouraged if at first you cannot reach your goals, give yourself a second chance. Three: be bold, leave your worries at home. Four: ride with friends, it's always more fun to share the experience!
If there was one cycle route I could do anywhere, it would be the del Sole, a cycle route that takes you all around Italy from Trentino Alto Adige all the way down to Sicily. I'd love to explore my native country region by region, going through small towns and different landscapes.
If you’re on the fence about supporting The Bike Project…what are you waiting for?! We offer plenty of options for supporting our charity: you can donate your old bicycle, give a small monetary contribution or volunteer at one of our activities and support will always be welcomed!
Written on: 06 Mar 2020 | Author: Muna Hussen