Love To Ride!

Let's chat with Kate Spooner cycles to work and when she's out on visits.

Tell us a bit of yourself, your work and when you cycle.

“Hi, my name is Kate Spooner. I am an Occupational Therapist and Care Coordinator in the West Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), working out of St Mary’s Hospital in Armley. I’ve worked in this role for about 15 years.

I have loved cycling all my adult life. I cycle to work whenever I need to, a 7-mile round trip, and enjoy getting in the saddle on my days off and when we’re on holiday too. I also regularly cycle when I’m doing home visits to service users – it can be as little as 2 miles or up to 15 miles a day on top of my commute. Occasionally I go even further afield, say if I’ve got a meeting with colleagues.”

Why do you enjoy cycling so much, and what do you find are the benefits? 

“I feel better in myself – just healthier, really. When I do home visits, I also feel more awake and ready for the appointment when I get there. It’s a great way to dodge the traffic jams around the city centre. I don’t have the problem of parking at the other end – I tend to just secure my bike anywhere near to where I am for my appointments or meetings. 

Another great thing about it is that I am really practising what I preach – about the value of activity and exercise to mental health. It’s a great conversation starter when I arrive at someone’s home on my bike. People are usually interested in chatting about it as soon as I come in the house and take off any waterproofs. It breaks the ice and gets their interest straightaway – it’s always a positive start to the appointment, I find.”

What kind of bike and equipment do you have?

“So, I have two bikes actually – an electric bike and a regular town bike. The electric one is great when I’m feeling a bit tired. It has 3 settings that help you a little or a lot – great if you find you’re ever running out of steam. Before this, I had a folding bike which was great for hopping on and off public transport if you need to travel on a bus. 

For me, panniers, breathable clothing and also light waterproof layers including footwear are essential. I will cycle in pretty much any weather. I always look professional for work – I don’t wear Lycra to home visits, so I always look for comfortable, presentable and functional clothing and the right material so I don’t feel sweaty.

I use puncture-resistant tyres too – I have never had to fix a puncture by the roadside. You can usually inflate the tyre until you get to your destination. I’ve got a really fab local repair shop, and if I need a repair, they are really quick to sort it out for me.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking about cycling to work?

“You could build up your confidence gradually with your new routine – you could start by popping your bike in the car and cycle one way, or go on public transport one way. You could try taking your bike once or twice a week or alternate days. 

Plan out your route; you can find loads of information online for Leeds like Leeds Cycling Campaign. There are also more and more cycle lanes now round the city centre if you’re worried about cycling in a lot of traffic. The website Sustrans is also a good one to look up.

Maybe even plan a quieter route to start with. Also, make sure you have the right kit that suits you. My electric bike was a little more to buy up front, and I also have to pay more to keep it serviced, but if you don’t go electric, you can get a decent normal bike for about £350. It’s still definitely a lot cheaper than most cars! Also, it’s good to buddy up with someone where you work. Even if you don’t cycle together, you can still swap tips and info.”

Thanks, Kate. We really enjoyed interviewing you for Cycle to Work Day. Happy cycling!