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Muslim Women Support Each Other To Ride In Winter Cycling Challenge

Muslim women cyclists on London Bridge looking at Tower Bridge and the River Thames with Bikes
Jasmin (right) observing Tower Bridge and the River Thames from London Bridge on a ride during the Smiles and Miles Challenge

Over 220 women took part in a London-wide challenge to set a personal miles target for the month of February and push their cycling boundaries! Collectively participants cycled a tremendous 25,000+ miles during the month, as part of Cycle Sisters’ annual Smiles and Miles Challenge. 

This extraordinary feat wouldn’t have been possible without the beautiful sisterhood that emerges from the challenge, with fellow cyclists supporting each other on group rides, and ride leaders encouraging people to join in for the first time. 

Some of the women who  took part were already seasoned cyclists just looking to keep their miles up, while others wanted to cycle to new destinations and meet up with their cycling buddies.

Some, however, were new and nervous cyclists, or didn’t have a bike of their own to use for the challenge - but they didn’t let that stop them.  This year we partnered with Brompton, Waltham Forest Council, Newham Council and Peddle My Wheels to provide free bikes for women who don’t own one to use in the challenge.  

Foldable Brompton Bike in a Mosque
Najiya's Brompton at East London Mosque in Whitechapel

​​Najiya learned to ride as an adult and had never cycled alone on the roads by herself before, nevertheless she signed up to cycle 50 miles during the challenge. She ended up smashing her target by over 250 miles on her borrowed Brompton bike. 

Najiya was very happy to have beaten her target, but the freedom of having her own set of wheels meant a lot more to her.

“I gained a lot more than I expected…However more than the miles I accumulated, I had a bike to call ‘my bike’ for the first time, had the accomplishment of cycling by myself alone on the road for the first time, commuting to masjids (mosques), shops and cafes,” she said. 

Sara* was equally grateful for the opportunity to borrow a bike to take part in the challenge. 

“The Brompton bike allowed me to cycle in my own time to different destinations. I do not own a bike therefore would never have had the opportunity to join in. I will miss not having the Brompton bike,” she said. 

Jasmin, who taught herself to cycle as an adult, borrowed a bike from Waltham Forest Council and since taking part she says her cycle skills have improved.

Muslim woman in a bike helmet looking at the River Thames and the London Eye
Jasmin on a ride from East London to Battersea stopped to admire the view

“Joining the challenge has given me a confidence boost, I can cycle more, cycle better, cycle confidently on different cycling routes,” Jasmin said. 

Jamila had never cycled on road before or on her own, but did exactly that during the challenge. With a bike she borrowed from Newham Council (via Peddle My Wheels) she was also able to enjoy family rides.

“The bike gave me the independence I needed. My kids have two old bikes that also helped us to cycle outside as a family,” said Jamila. 

Issath, who loved riding her Brompton that she borrowed, was astonished by the number of miles she was able to ride and decided she didn’t want to stop after the challenge was over.

I was able to cycle independently on London roads and definitely loved the cycling atmosphere which has triggered me to buy a bike and transit to places with it whenever possible,” said Issath. 

two muslim women with foldable Brompton bikes in the park
Issath (left) and Najiya (right) went on a ride together with their borrowed bikes

Issath hadn’t cycled since she was a teen, but now looks forward to many rides to come on her own bike. 

Whether it was Najiya exceeding her goals, Sara relishing her newfound freedom, Jasmin honing her cycling skills, Jamila embracing family rides, or Issath deciding to continue her cycling journey beyond the challenge, their stories highlight the life-changing impact cycling can have on people’s lives and wellbeing. 

Through Smiles and Miles, these women not only travelled many miles on London's roads but have also embarked on new cycling journeys, inspiring others along the way. 

We’re very grateful to our sponsors, Brompton Bike Hire, Newham Council, Peddle My Wheels, Waltham Forest Council, Hounslow Council, LiteLok, A&S Cycles, She’s Electric and Cycle Spirit, who made the challenge possible. 

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