Me and my bike: Jennifer Simmons

Me and my bike: Jennifer Simmons

By Kathryn McNicoll

How long have you had your bike? Perhaps 5 years? 10? Well, Jennifer has had her bike for 31 years. It is a good bike, bought on the principle that you should buy once and buy well, so she bought a sturdy Raleigh. It has had a lot of spare parts over the years, but it is still the bike she used to ride to school when she was growing up in Kidlington.

Jennifer has had her bike for 31 years.

The bike went with Jennifer to university in Southampton, it went with her when she worked in London, although storing a bike in a terraced house is not very convenient. Now Jennifer is back in Oxford and commutes from the Summertown area into town for work. She works in finance for a charity in the city centre, and her office provides bike parking, which is convenient.

Jennifer also has a fold-up bike, bought through the wonderful cycle to work scheme, which is great if you want to take your bike on the train to London or elsewhere.

Have bike, will travel

What about trips? Jennifer’s first real outing was at the age of 16, riding in the Peak District with her sister for three or four nights. She says she should have noted the name – Peak District means peaks, i.e. mountains, but nevertheless she enjoyed this trip. The two sisters stayed in youth hostels and it was their first real taste of freedom.

More recently, on turning 40, she decided to do some cycling ‘pilgrimages’, to places that have meant something to her. She has cycled to Bath (taking a few days and coming back on the train), to Southampton where she was at university and from Cambridge to Ipswich (both towns she has lived in). In the summer of 2020 Jennifer took on the Kennett and Avon Canal Route from Bath to Reading – a great activity after the first lockdown. Canal cycling doesn’t have the same variety as being out on country roads, though it’s great for not having to worry about navigation – you’re either 100% right or 100% wrong. She has also joined a 3-day organised tour of Hadrian’s Wall. This year’s project? Bath to Bournemouth.

Further afield

For led cycling holidays overseas Jennifer uses the bike supplied by the company. Taking your bike abroad by train is not easy.

She has cycled in both Provence and Tuscany and finds that cycling holidays suit her because she loves being active, loves the challenge.

Even better are organised cycling tours: that way, she doesn’t have to worry about the route or the arrangements, she can mentally zone out. ‘It takes me to a different place,’ she says. She can let her mind wander and she finds that immensely refreshing. It also means meeting new people, exploring new places.

She tried a bit of guided mountain biking in New Zealand, though this turned out to be at a level above her comfort zone. She made it through the technical sections, but must have been concentrating really hard as she then fell off during the last relatively simple section. No major damage done, though her shorts were badly ripped so it was a bit embarrassing.

Or just the ride to work

Even the short cycle to work, though, is refreshing. She became particularly aware of this during lockdown. Like everyone else she started working from home and was aware that she wasn’t getting that regular 20-minute ride to and from work, which she really missed.

What does she think about cycling in Oxford? She is excited about the improvements like the cycle path along the Slade and hopes that many more of these will be introduced.


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