Frances Bonikowski competing in a cyclocross event.

Interview with Frances Bonikowski

How long have you been cycling and when did you join Penge CC?

I started cycling when I was 30 and (following a pattern that I’m sure is familiar to many of you) realised it was time to grow up a bit and start doing some exercise. I borrowed a ludicrously heavy mountain bike which I used to commute and plod around Richmond Park for a while. It wasn’t until I moved to Penge at the end of 2015 and joined the club that I really got into cycling.

What made you join Penge CC? Why do you think Penge CC is a good club for women?

I spotted a group of cyclists gathering outside SE20 cycles on a Thursday evening when I had just moved here and thought ‘that looks like fun’, googled the shop, the club and turned up for a Sunday ride in a bid to meet new people and get to know my new local area by bike.

What made me join was the widespread friendliness extended towards me, that’s one of the club’s best features. What makes the club good for women is that there are quite a few of us so there’s a suitable group for any new members to fall in with.  

Which group do you cycle with / which activities do you take part in? (e.g. Sunday morning club rides, off road, racing etc?)

I’ve not done a lot of road riding in 2021, but I occasionally ride with Long 4 on a Sunday morning. I mostly ride off road with a group of friends from the club, including our chairman! In the past I have raced track at Herne Hill Velodrome, and every now and then I take part in a cyclocross race. I also enjoy long distance gravel riding, and multi day bike packing trips.  

What do you like about Penge CC? Do you feel they are a welcoming club?

In my experience Penge CC are a very welcoming club, and since joining in 2015 I have not only made a lot of great friends – whose company I enjoy on and off the bike – being part of the club has made me feel much more connected to and part of the local community.

I didn’t think I had much aptitude for cycling (or any sport), and even less that I would ever compete in a race, but the support and encouragement of my friends in the club has helped me achieve all sorts of things over the last few years.  

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

It’s a simple pleasure, I love the freedom. Being outdoors, rolling along some nice tracks, catching a beautiful sunrise, sunset or breath-taking view is so uplifting for me.

I also enjoy pushing myself hard, the adrenaline rush of trails in the dark, and of course doing all of this with my best Penge CC companions.

Do you have any things you would like to achieve in cycling?

I want to continue to test my physical (and mental) endurance on some more challenging off road adventures and bike packing trips. I’d also like generally to continue to improve my skills, and maybe take part in some gravel racing.  

What advice would you give to someone getting into cycling?

Try everything anyone suggests, there is more fun than you can imagine to be had!