This article, which follows on from ‘Cyling in Alexandra Park; [click HERE to read] takes the form of the 3 ‘stories; from users of The Bike Hive at Alexandra Park, the modern equivalent of the Park’s ‘riding schools’ of the turn of the 20th century. Read the ‘cycling stories’ of Bike Hive volunteer Haidy and learner cyclists Mohammed and Linda:

Haidy’s story:

‘You know when I ride a bike – I feel free’

Haidy is one of the regular volunteers at the Bike Hive, this is her story: I learnt to ride when I was a child in Saudi Arabia.  I liked riding and I have many photos with me on my bike.  But I had to stop when I was 9 or 10 years old.  My mum, she was angry and she said you’re not allowed to ride now you’re a woman and maybe you’ll have problems.  To be honest I was afraid to ride.  But when I grow up I didn’t find any problem.  It’s not really a problem at all.  And still women do not ride in Saudi Arabia.

When I came to the Bike Hive last year I thought maybe I’ve forgotten how to ride.  And Ian said just try and see how you manage the bike – just try.  And I remember this now when I’m teaching people to ride.  I spent 3 months riding in the park, but I was afraid to go on the roads.  Then after 3 months Ursula and Ian rode with me to Ashton-under-Lyne.  It took 2 hours, and it was very very nice.  That was my first time on the roads.

You know when I ride a bike I feel free.  I can go any place any time on my bike – no-one tells you where to stop.  For me it’s important for transport – I use my bike a lot.  When it rains I still go out on my bike.  When I was in Ashton-under-Lyne I took it with me on the train and then I used it to get to my volunteering in Manchester.  I use it to go shopping – with bags on the back.   Safety is important too.  At night I would go out on my bike in a group but not on my own.  In the winter when it was icy I didn’t use it.  I don’t like to stay at home.  I was very sad when my bike was stolen last year – it was my first bike here.

I’m a volunteer at the Bike Hive now and I teach people how to ride a bike.  I like this because I can give back to people what I had.  When you ride a bike for the first time – you have to trust your teacher absolutely.  I feel happy when someone says ‘I trust you’.  I can spend an hour with someone and I don’t get tired.  I believe people can learn if they want to, and it makes me happy to see people learning.  I did cycle instructor training last year.  I would have liked a longer course – it was just 2 days.  I feel I need more – it was difficult for me. I did ride leader training too – it was very nice.  I’d like to lead groups, but I worry my English isn’t good enough.  I like to challenge myself.

To be honest, 3 weeks ago when we had the Pop Up event in the park – I was very happy working with people.  They all enjoyed it – and the children, they didn’t want to go or give the bikes back.  One of the children was crying because he didn’t want to stop.  I hope we can grow the Bike Hive.  We need more people.  I want to say thank you for the Bike Hive!

If someone wants to learn to ride and they feel afraid – there is a small word to remember: try.  I think they should try.  Ask someone to help you – you’ll soon be flying.  I’ve seen one learner  – she had never ridden and now she rides so well.  She enjoys riding in the park and when I see her I feel happy, so happy for her.

Mohammed’s story:

‘For me it’s like magic – I never thought I could learn to ride a bicycle at my age’

Mohammed learnt to ride at the Bike Hive in 2019.  This is his cycling story:I’m from Palestine but unfortunately I can’t go back to Palestine.  I can’t go back to anywhere because I’m currently stateless.  I’m here in the UK now but most of my life I was in Saudi Arabia.  I rarely found people cycling on the roads or commuting from one place to another using bicycles because the weather is so hot there.  Children use bikes for fun in the parks or during nights, not to get around.  Most of the time people use cars to get around.  The temperature could be around 35 -37 degrees at the moment and in the summer sometimes it reaches 60 degrees.  Yes, it’s very hot in the summer.  So that’s why I’m not aware of people riding bicycles.

When I was a kid my brothers used to ride bicycles.  They are 3 years and 4 years older than me.  Most of the time they told me ‘You will never ride a bicycle; you don’t know how to ride.’  It was very mean of them because we were sharing the same bicycle and they used it almost all the time.  Then I rode it myself one day and I crashed down and had a wound on my leg, so I stopped thinking about riding.  I was about 10 years old, living in Medina where I was born.

Now I’m in UK and the weather is much better than in Riyadh and I see a lot of people riding around on bicycles, commuting from place to place – it’s much safer to ride here in the UK.  That’s why I thought ‘Oh, why don’t I ride a bicycle to commute?’  It’s much faster than walking and it’s much cheaper than having a car.  So that’s why I decided to learn riding a bike.

I think the first time the resistance was from my brain: ‘Oh my god, you will never be able to learn to ride a bicycle’.  But then I told myself it will be a new adventure for me.  Because whenever somebody knows nothing about riding you think you will fall down and get hurt.  Thankfully I didn’t get hurt – I fell down but it was in the park and I put my hand on the fence and I wasn’t hurt.  It was a lot of fun.  In the beginning it was scary too.  I felt like I was a bag of coal!  I remember feeling my heart racing – my heart rate going up and up.  Then I felt like I was a stone, I was so tense especially my upper body.  Every time I came back from a lesson I got pain in my wrists and my hands for one day.  It was a journey – like a little adventure journey.  I’d like to thank everyone who helped me learn.

The most beautiful thing about my journey is the help I got from the Bike Hive, that it took me two sessions to know how to balance which is amazing.  I feel I have achieved a lot.  And I think that this would never have happened if I didn’t get help.  And especially I would like to thank Abdullah and Neill – they were both with me.  I remember after I learnt to ride, Neill told me – Okay, you did it, let’s take a picture together!  It was an amazing experience.  And I’d like to thank Jane at City of Sanctuary for introducing me to the Bike Hive.

I’m now riding a bike round the park every week.  Once we went with a group to the Fallowfield Loop.  It was like another new adventure.  It’s difficult – you imagine you will smash into a car, or suddenly a car might smash into you.  So I was very anxious at the time, but I feel more comfortable now.

What made me learn how to ride a bicycle is to challenge myself, to prove to myself that I have the ability.  I can achieve more.  Your mind can tell you that you’re not good enough to do something, but if you try it, then you can tell your mind ‘you were wrong, I am able to do this’.

I found the Bike Hive is a combination of good-hearted people, experience and a safe space for riding.  For me it’s like magic – I never thought I could learn to ride a bicycle at my age.  I would say it’s like a piece of cake to ride a bicycle.   Before it was like a nightmare, but now it’s a piece of cake.  I’d encourage anybody who doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to start with Bike Hive.  Now I go frequently because balancing is not enough – you need to practice more until you get used to riding.  So I come every week to practice and I feel that I’m getting better every week.  Now I can use my bell in the park, and I’m learning to ride with one hand.  I’m looking for a used bike to buy so that I can come here with my own bike.  I’ve asked at the Bike Hive and they told me that later there might be a good second hand bike for me.  And they’ll help me to maintain it, so if I have any problems they can help me to repair it.  I’d like to use my bike to go to college – that’s my next move.

There is a proverb in Arabic – It’s like: ‘the man who is afraid of the genie, he will see it’.  This is how it happens – if you manage your fears you can manage how to ride a bicycle.  The first thing I told myself is ‘you should forget about fear’.  Just slow down, think quietly and forget about fear.  That’s what helped me learn more quickly than I thought.    The fear of falling is a big factor.  If you let it control your mind you will never learn to ride


Linda’s story:

Linda learnt to ride last year.  She started coming to the Bike Hive in February and on 1st July she took part in ‘Let’s Ride Manchester’ – a 4 km route from Alexandra Park round the city centre and back.  Quite an achievement!  This is her story:

I learnt to ride last year, 2018.  I’d never ridden before in my whole life – I’m sixty-seven, sixty-eight this year.  It was one of the things I knew I wanted to do.  I was a bit scared – I was thinking they’d have us on bikes with stabilisers and that put me off a bit.  Then I came here to the Bike Hive and one of the instructors taught me.  First he showed me how to walk with the bike, to get used to it.  And then he showed me how to start riding the bike and then I got on it, and then off it and then it just came to me  – at the end of the day I just did a little round and I thought YES!  And he said to me –  come back next week.  He just left me to it and I didn’t feel stupid or anything.  And then on the third lesson we cycled round the park together.

It was frightening and exciting!  Because falling off was my worst fear – and once I fell off and I just got back on again.  And my husband said ‘good’ – because now you won’t be frightened anymore.  I think the instructor was worried that I wouldn’t come back, but I did.

I did the ride on 1st July – I loved it.  I was worried, a bit concerned because it was a big ride with loads of people.  But everybody was so good, so helpful and supportive.  And you had little kids cycling – it was great.  What worried me was people getting too close, but there was none of that, we were all spread out.  Everybody was really good, telling me what to do. It was exciting.  I was determined to finish it and I did.  When I’d done it I texted all my family and told them that I’d learnt to ride and that I’d done this.  And they said ‘Really!  At your age?’  It’s an achievement isn’t it.

I’ve found now that as a driver I’m more aware of cyclists.  And there’s a lot of cyclists on the roads.  I feel everyone should learn how to cycle.  Now what I really want to do is to learn to ride on the roads.  And I’d like to go on a biking holiday – in the countryside or by the sea.

I’d say to anyone who’s thinking of learning to ride – just go for it!  Once you’re out there on a bike in the park – it just feels so free.


Thank you Haidy, Mohammed and Linda, it has been great to talk to you and hear you stories of life with the Bike Hive.  If any of our other readers have something they would like to share on their experiences with the Bike Hive or memories of cycling in Alexandra Park, we would love to hear