Interview with Niki Wilson

[Originally written in 2017. Updated in 2022.]

Number of bikes?

Two! They’re, um, quite similar. Endurance, disc brakes, mudguards; one’s just a lot more fancy than the other.

What do you do for a living?

I am a librarian for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. I’m currently on maternity leave looking after my little girl, Cleo, born in September 2021.

How did you get into cycling and what made you join Penge CC?

A few years ago I bought a road bike after doing the London to Brighton charity ride on a flat barred hybrid and getting a lot of hand pain. I started riding the road bike to work after a job change allowed me to cycle in, and I enjoyed that, so then I started wondering how people find nice routes in the countryside.

I did some Googling, found Penge CC, and a few weeks later I’d joined!

How long have you cycled with Penge CC?

I joined in August 2015, so quite a long time, though getting pregnant and having a young baby means I’ve not been riding with Penge for a very long time. I miss it!

Which group do you cycle with?

I flit between Short 3 and Long 2 but used to lead very long rides on a Sunday, or shorter ones on weekday evenings.

What do you like about riding with Penge CC?

Loads of things! The different people you meet; the fact that you end up having pals who are willing to cycle with you pretty much any time you want; the camaraderie on a Sunday morning outside the shop and in the Kent lanes; the encouragement, advice and banter you get.

I also love our social events and being able to chat to those who ride in other groups. We’re a super-welcoming club and it really does feel like a big family sometimes.

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

Penge is a great club for women as we’re not treated in a special way, and I think that’s how we like it. We don’t have women-only rides, for example, and sometimes, yes, I’ll find myself being the only woman in a group but I can honestly say I have never been treated differently because of my gender.

We are growing our female membership, so it’s an exciting time to be a woman in Penge CC. Women from Penge are getting involved in a lot of different things: audaxes, racing, sportives, track, off-road. It’s pretty cool.

What is your proudest achievement in cycling?

In 2019 I completed the 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris audax in 88 hours and 53 minutes, one of only 34 British women that year to finish. The event only takes place once every four years and there’s a set of long qualification rides to complete before you can enter. It was ridiculous and hard and fun and I can’t believe I did it.

Before that, being awarded most improved female member at the Penge CC Christmas Drinks in 2016 would be it. I also won most improved female time trial rider. The encouragement and support I got on that evening was amazing and I won’t ever forget it.

What was the most enjoyable thing you did on a bike this year?

A few weeks ago (2022) I rode 70km for the first time in a year. It was hard, but it was one of the first days of spring, a glorious day. When I got home I was absolutely shattered.

Considering I used to do a 200km ride on a near weekly basis a few years ago, sometimes riding slower and for less time doesn’t quite scratch the long distance itch I have.

My life is different now I have a baby, and any time I can get to ride is precious. I have no doubt I’ll get back to doing long rides one day but for now it’s about appreciating the scenery and making time for myself. 

In 2017 I rode Land’s End to John O’Groats: I did it unsupported in 9 days with my partner Mike who is also a Penge CC rider. I plotted the route myself and planned all our stops and it was just an incredible journey. We did it at the start of that long heatwave and had barely any rain for the entire 1,600km which was very unexpected. Scotland was amazing; I want to go back.

What advice would you give to someone getting into cycling?

I’d say just get out and ride as much as you can (and as much as you find enjoyable). Also there are no rules: ride a cheap bike. Ride an expensive one. Wear lycra. Don’t. Clip in. Or not. Ride far. Ride little. It’s up to you. Find your niche, whether it’s a pootle for cake and coffee, or smashing it round Herne Hill Velodrome, or doing 200km+ days in the saddle, you’ll find it.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done on a bike?

Besides Paris-Brest-Paris? While preparing for said ride, one day in the lead up I cycled straight from work to Essex to the start of a 300km audax. I did the ride, then rode home. It was the longest commute home I’d ever done, nearly 450km!