Inspiring women cyclists from Warwickshire recognised in top 100 - The Leamington Observer

Inspiring women cyclists from Warwickshire recognised in top 100

Leamington Editorial 18th Aug, 2019   0

INSPIRING pedal pushing women from Warwickshire have been named in Cycling UK’s ‘100 Women in Cycling’.

Shona Hudson and Clair Parfrey were both included for their efforts to inspire more women to jump in the saddle.

The Warwickshire women join famous sporting names on the list including multi gold medal winning Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey and double Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton.

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Shona Hudson, who has suffered with hearing problems all her life, was recognised for her work leading bike rides for other women with hearing loss.

The 57-year-old Southam resident struggles to hear speech, particularly in groups and when there is background noise.

She has enjoyed cycling for some 30 years but her family’s concerns about her riding alone prompted her to join Breeze Rides in Solihull – volunteer-led cycle rides for women.

But Shona sometimes found the social interaction in the group a little difficult.

She said: “It’s not the cycling itself that is an issue but it’s the chatter and the banter that you miss out on.

“People naturally want to chat when they are cycling alongside each other but it’s impossible to lipread and cycle.

“The area where it affected me the most was when we do the social bit, having a coffee at the end. This is where I am lost. It’s all the conditions that are difficult – lots of people talking, acoustics, cutlery clattering etc.”

Shona, who is a self-employed workplace assessor, took matters into her own hands when she became a Breeze Rides volunteer and led a group for others with hearing problems.

She added: “There is very little chatting when we cycle. We stop now and again, and the sign language users have their chat and we all chat face to face too. It’s just a different way of riding – save the chat for the end or when we have stopped. It takes a little more time to get confident with group riding and we can do this as a group and build up gradually.

“I feel I have made some lifelong friends through this. We keep in touch about all sorts of things but mainly about hearing related information which is great.”

Shona – who is also a member of Warwickshire Ladies Cycle Club – has had a break from the group to focus on her many volunteering roles including for the NHS, charity Hearing Link and raising awareness of the deaf and hard of hearing. She counts an annual finger spelling competition held at Southam School, and encouraging her local Tesco to fit a hearing loop – a sound system which allows those with hearing aids to pick up announcements – among her top achievements.

But she is keen to continue to encourage others whose hearing can affect their confidence.

She told the Observer: “I have learnt that often people with an acquired loss are less confident and avoid groups. There must be many people out there who might enjoy being with others who know how hard communicating can be. When I met other deaf people it was like finally belonging with people who understand. There is comfort in being with people you don’t feel you have to pretend with when your confidence has taken a bash.”

Clair Parfrey became a top time trial rider after she decided to cycle to lose weight in her early 40s.

The 56-year-old from Rugby began riding in major cycling events, including some up to 100 miles, before trying her hand at time trial races – improving her time every year.

She went on to take part in amateur world championships and this year, after coming second to an ex-pro rider, she will be taking on the Union Cycliste Internationale in Poland at the end of this month.

Locally, Clair takes part in Midlands Women’s Time Trial Series events – where beginners and women are particularly welcome, with prizes for the most improved as well as the fastest.

The mum-of-four’s love of cycling prompted her to give up her career as a health and safety consultant and follow her passion for pedalling.

Not only does she now work in a bike shop but Clair founded Phoenix Cycle Coaching which provides advice and training programmes to beginner and intermediate riders.

But she said there was much more to the sport than its competitive side.

She told the Observer: “I started riding to lose weight primarily but I found that it was so good for me mentally too – when I’m on my bike it’s just me and my bike – I’m not mum, a wife or at work.

“I think it’s important for everyone to have that mind space and it has the added bonus of making you fitter, plus it’s great fun. I love the feeling of my legs spinning around, the wind on my face and hearing the birds.”


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