Bicycles can be a catalyst for a new lease of life and new opportunities. Coventry Transport Museum commissioned artist Jaskirt Boora to uncover the stories of everyday people and their bikes through connecting to pioneering community initiatives, regional cycling equity schemes and Coventry’s public.


Motorvate is driven by a need in the community to create positive learning experiences for young people at risk of exclusion. Their bicycle scheme has transformed participants’ lives who can access skills development, while utilising the skills of those who want to give back to their community.


At Sähëlï, bicycles have brought women of all ages together, challenging personal and society's perceptions of what they can achieve while creating lifelong friendships. Sähëlï is open to all women, providing bikes, safety equipment and qualified cycle instructors for free. Many women join Sähëlï with little or no experience riding a bike, and go on to significant achievements, including riding on the road, taking part in Vélo Birmingham and Midlands, and becoming cycle instructors themselves.


This body of work is part of the exhibition ‘Gearing Up: From Saddle to Spoke’ at Coventry Transport Museum. To read everyone's individual cycling story tap on 'info' on each image. 


TW: This exhibition mentions domestic violence.

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Shane

My teachers at school found me a place at Motorvate so I came here - it’s way better than school. I come here on my bike a lot. I got this bike a week or two after I started in 2018. Motorvate gave me a bike to help me with getting around. Before I had a smaller bike and it kept rusting up, so it wouldn’t push properly. When I start working it will help me to get to work because I don’t drive. Cycling also helps me get my mind off things. If I’m angry or something it helps me to go out on my bike. When I’m at home and I’ve got a bad mindset or something, I can just go out on my bike and it distracts me. I always feel a lot better afterwards. It keeps you healthy and stuff too. It’s such a simple thing – it's cheaper, gets you around, keeps you in shape. 

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Shane

My teachers at school found me a place at Motorvate so I came here - it’s way better than school. I come here on my bike a lot. I got this bike a week or two after I started in 2018. Motorvate gave me a bike to help me with getting around. Before I had a smaller bike and it kept rusting up, so it wouldn’t push properly. When I start working it will help me to get to work because I don’t drive. Cycling also helps me get my mind off things. If I’m angry or something it helps me to go out on my bike. When I’m at home and I’ve got a bad mindset or something, I can just go out on my bike and it distracts me. I always feel a lot better afterwards. It keeps you healthy and stuff too. It’s such a simple thing – it's cheaper, gets you around, keeps you in shape. 

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Destiny and Levi

Destiny and Levi absolutely love riding their bikes – in the first lockdown we did a lot of cycling all together as a family. They love riding their bikes fast and trying out tricks. 

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Destiny and Levi

Destiny and Levi absolutely love riding their bikes – in the first lockdown we did a lot of cycling all together as a family. They love riding their bikes fast and trying out tricks. 

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Isaiah

Isaiah is learning to ride with stabilisers. He comes to Motorvate a lot to play in the playground and to practice riding his bike. Because of Covid we’ve opted to take him out of nursery. He’s at that crucial age of development where he’s finding it hard to communicate with people. He wouldn’t talk to people when they came round to visit at the door, he’d just hide behind me. Normally he’s very outgoing. Having his photo with his bike has made him more confident! 

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Isaiah

Isaiah is learning to ride with stabilisers. He comes to Motorvate a lot to play in the playground and to practice riding his bike. Because of Covid we’ve opted to take him out of nursery. He’s at that crucial age of development where he’s finding it hard to communicate with people. He wouldn’t talk to people when they came round to visit at the door, he’d just hide behind me. Normally he’s very outgoing. Having his photo with his bike has made him more confident! 

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Shanaz

I was a bit anxious about joining Sähëlï because the last time I rode my bike I was about 18. That’s when my husband taught me to ride my bike. I’m 51 and I came to Saheli when I was 49. They’ve taught me so much about bikes. I was a bit wobbly and I’ve got Meniere's disease, which is basically like vertigo. When I have an attack or if there’s a lot of movement, I get quite dizzy. Meniere’s changed my life - I couldn’t do half the things I used to do, so I didn’t think cycling was going to work for me. At first, if people came to close to me, I couldn’t judge it, and my balance was really poor. I didn’t have any friends and I used to keep my earphones in when I was cycling. One day, I forgot my earphones and the ladies were so nice and welcoming. A lot of us were single moms, a couple of us have had divorces. I’m old, but I’ve made friends with people in their 20s! We’ve really supported each other. 

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Shanaz

I was a bit anxious about joining Sähëlï because the last time I rode my bike I was about 18. That’s when my husband taught me to ride my bike. I’m 51 and I came to Saheli when I was 49. They’ve taught me so much about bikes. I was a bit wobbly and I’ve got Meniere's disease, which is basically like vertigo. When I have an attack or if there’s a lot of movement, I get quite dizzy. Meniere’s changed my life - I couldn’t do half the things I used to do, so I didn’t think cycling was going to work for me. At first, if people came to close to me, I couldn’t judge it, and my balance was really poor. I didn’t have any friends and I used to keep my earphones in when I was cycling. One day, I forgot my earphones and the ladies were so nice and welcoming. A lot of us were single moms, a couple of us have had divorces. I’m old, but I’ve made friends with people in their 20s! We’ve really supported each other. 

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Hema

I grew up in Gujarat in India. When I was around 5 years old, we only had one bike and my dad used to take it to work. It was an adult bike, but my sister and I wanted to learn so desperately. I don’t know how I managed such a big bike! I used to go on the busy road with cars and animals, put someone at the back, I’d drop my mum off at work. Sometimes we used to walk for half an hour to hire a small bike. Once my sister broke her arm, but it didn’t stop her from cycling! I moved here when I was 18. I was 48 before I cycled again. Before Saheli, I would have never dreamt of doing those sorts of activities and it was all free, so I was like “wow, yes”. I wanted to meet new people and be out and about. At the session they give you a bike to use. All the memories came back of how much I used to love it. I’m so grateful to Sähëlï - I get a bit emotional talking about it. It’s a big part of my life. 

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Hema

I grew up in Gujarat in India. When I was around 5 years old, we only had one bike and my dad used to take it to work. It was an adult bike, but my sister and I wanted to learn so desperately. I don’t know how I managed such a big bike! I used to go on the busy road with cars and animals, put someone at the back, I’d drop my mum off at work. Sometimes we used to walk for half an hour to hire a small bike. Once my sister broke her arm, but it didn’t stop her from cycling! I moved here when I was 18. I was 48 before I cycled again. Before Saheli, I would have never dreamt of doing those sorts of activities and it was all free, so I was like “wow, yes”. I wanted to meet new people and be out and about. At the session they give you a bike to use. All the memories came back of how much I used to love it. I’m so grateful to Sähëlï - I get a bit emotional talking about it. It’s a big part of my life. 

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Sarah

I’ve got two brothers who are either side of me, so I felt like the third brother really. Bikes were a big thing in my house growing up. Last time I rode a bike I was 20. Then marriage, kids, work, all of it just took over. I’m 50 now, so it’s been about 30 years. I’d been in a job that was all consuming and I thought “hang on, there's got to be a bit more to life than this”. When I left I thought I needed to do something for myself, so I joined Saheli. On a Saturday morning I would usually be too tired or have lots of chores to do. When I first started, I remember coming in and there were people in their 60s and 70s – ladies that I would call Auntie, even though I’m old myself! It was so nice to see that mix of people – everybody was welcome, everyone was given the same attention and the same motivation. 

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Sarah

I’ve got two brothers who are either side of me, so I felt like the third brother really. Bikes were a big thing in my house growing up. Last time I rode a bike I was 20. Then marriage, kids, work, all of it just took over. I’m 50 now, so it’s been about 30 years. I’d been in a job that was all consuming and I thought “hang on, there's got to be a bit more to life than this”. When I left I thought I needed to do something for myself, so I joined Saheli. On a Saturday morning I would usually be too tired or have lots of chores to do. When I first started, I remember coming in and there were people in their 60s and 70s – ladies that I would call Auntie, even though I’m old myself! It was so nice to see that mix of people – everybody was welcome, everyone was given the same attention and the same motivation. 

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Aleksandras

Cycling is my hobby and my work – when I have free time and there’s beautiful weather outside, I don’t just want to be indoors. I’ve been in the UK for 9 years. My true father is Russian and my mother Lithuanian. I grew up in Lithuania and we have frozen winters at –25 degrees. I used to go ice fishing, so it feels sub-tropical here. It’s different cycling here than to Lithuania. You have cycle lanes in Coventry, cars are gentler and there’s more cyclists – people going for delivery jobs, as a hobby. It’s awesome. 

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Aleksandras

Cycling is my hobby and my work – when I have free time and there’s beautiful weather outside, I don’t just want to be indoors. I’ve been in the UK for 9 years. My true father is Russian and my mother Lithuanian. I grew up in Lithuania and we have frozen winters at –25 degrees. I used to go ice fishing, so it feels sub-tropical here. It’s different cycling here than to Lithuania. You have cycle lanes in Coventry, cars are gentler and there’s more cyclists – people going for delivery jobs, as a hobby. It’s awesome. 

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Hope

I’ve always been mechanically minded. I used to do cars, tinkering around with engines and that. When we were kids, we were so resourceful - we’d get the wheel of one person and the chain off someone else. We are a throwaway society nowadays. Because of this mentality, a lot of skills are lost in that way. So we teach kids those skills. I retire in February, so I said I’d come and give Phil and Jason a hand. I was at a bit of a loose end and it’s something nice to do. I like being involved in community initiatives so that was a good incentive. We really missed coming down in the lockdown, especially when the weather was so nice.

Speedy

Bikes fascinate me. I always wanted to know how they function. I took a bike apart – and could I get back together? No, I couldn’t, so I went to the bike shop that used to be in Gosford St. I got a little booklet on how to rebuild bikes. I sat down, and I pieced it back together piece by piece. And that’s how it all started! I left home when I was younger and ended up in Birmingham. This kind Rasta guy seen me wandering around and he took me in when I had nowhere to go. He saw that I wanted to work and make something of my life. I didn’t want to lean on people, I wanted to achieve something. I started riding for Tour de France! When I came back to Coventry, I formed a 7-man team in Hillfields. All of that’s all stopped now ‘cause I’m retired. I wanted to help the community and to help the youngsters with their bikes. They bring them up then me and Hope, we’ll sit them down and they’ll tell us what the problem is, and we’ll repair them.

Hope and Speedy are established volunteers at Motorvate. Not only do they work to support the bike maintenance courses utilising their knowledge and expertise, but they’re very good youth mentors too.

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Hope

I’ve always been mechanically minded. I used to do cars, tinkering around with engines and that. When we were kids, we were so resourceful - we’d get the wheel of one person and the chain off someone else. We are a throwaway society nowadays. Because of this mentality, a lot of skills are lost in that way. So we teach kids those skills. I retire in February, so I said I’d come and give Phil and Jason a hand. I was at a bit of a loose end and it’s something nice to do. I like being involved in community initiatives so that was a good incentive. We really missed coming down in the lockdown, especially when the weather was so nice.

Speedy

Bikes fascinate me. I always wanted to know how they function. I took a bike apart – and could I get back together? No, I couldn’t, so I went to the bike shop that used to be in Gosford St. I got a little booklet on how to rebuild bikes. I sat down, and I pieced it back together piece by piece. And that’s how it all started! I left home when I was younger and ended up in Birmingham. This kind Rasta guy seen me wandering around and he took me in when I had nowhere to go. He saw that I wanted to work and make something of my life. I didn’t want to lean on people, I wanted to achieve something. I started riding for Tour de France! When I came back to Coventry, I formed a 7-man team in Hillfields. All of that’s all stopped now ‘cause I’m retired. I wanted to help the community and to help the youngsters with their bikes. They bring them up then me and Hope, we’ll sit them down and they’ll tell us what the problem is, and we’ll repair them.

Hope and Speedy are established volunteers at Motorvate. Not only do they work to support the bike maintenance courses utilising their knowledge and expertise, but they’re very good youth mentors too.

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Phil

Phil is a driving force and strong personality behind Motorvate. Alongside Jason, he created a successful social enterprise that has evolved and responded to a need and the times. He began running road user accredited courses and practical driving for young adults before the programme grew to include bicycle maintenance and construction. He runs bike maintenance courses alongside volunteers Speedy and Hope. The team's dedication to students and the community means going above and beyond, often working into the evening and weekends to provide a service. “We are used to working with the most challenging students. Everyone gets an opportunity with regards to the nature of their behavior, their criminal activity or record; we have always worked with these young people. We're renowned for it, we’ve always got results for it over the years, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Phil

Phil is a driving force and strong personality behind Motorvate. Alongside Jason, he created a successful social enterprise that has evolved and responded to a need and the times. He began running road user accredited courses and practical driving for young adults before the programme grew to include bicycle maintenance and construction. He runs bike maintenance courses alongside volunteers Speedy and Hope. The team's dedication to students and the community means going above and beyond, often working into the evening and weekends to provide a service. “We are used to working with the most challenging students. Everyone gets an opportunity with regards to the nature of their behavior, their criminal activity or record; we have always worked with these young people. We're renowned for it, we’ve always got results for it over the years, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Nadia

For two and a half decades I didn’t touch a bike. I was worried people would look at me weirdly because I’ve got my scarf on. A friend told me about Sähëlï and explained that it’s ladies only, which was important to me. I felt that wearing a scarf was a stigma but coming here and seeing ladies of all ages and ethnicities on bikes gave me confidence. I go on the road and I don’t care if anyone looks at me. I’m also asthmatic and cycling has helped my lungs a lot. Before I used to have difficulty going to work speed walking, but this has helped a lot. The instructors supported us to take part in the Vélo. There were 20 of us taking part and at the end we received free bikes. That was big time motivation for us because obviously some people can’t afford bikes. I got rid of my car so I’m one of the cyclists now! Health wise and environmentally wise, it’s good. 

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Nadia

For two and a half decades I didn’t touch a bike. I was worried people would look at me weirdly because I’ve got my scarf on. A friend told me about Sähëlï and explained that it’s ladies only, which was important to me. I felt that wearing a scarf was a stigma but coming here and seeing ladies of all ages and ethnicities on bikes gave me confidence. I go on the road and I don’t care if anyone looks at me. I’m also asthmatic and cycling has helped my lungs a lot. Before I used to have difficulty going to work speed walking, but this has helped a lot. The instructors supported us to take part in the Vélo. There were 20 of us taking part and at the end we received free bikes. That was big time motivation for us because obviously some people can’t afford bikes. I got rid of my car so I’m one of the cyclists now! Health wise and environmentally wise, it’s good. 

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Kauser

I thank Shaafia at Sähëlï so much because she encouraged us and didn’t let go. The few times that I fell off, she just lifted me back up again. The instructors are always there at the park. I come every week and it feels like I’m seeing friends and family. During the first lockdown everyone started cycling, and it was amazing. On the road were loads of bikes going up and down, up and down. Especially at night at half twelve, one o’ clock in the morning, because at that time we were fasting. We used to finish praying and then there is no point going back to sleep before the next prayer. Covid has had a huge impact on our community and a lot of us have had family members who have died. Cycling more was one of the good things that came out of the pandemic. 

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Kauser

I thank Shaafia at Sähëlï so much because she encouraged us and didn’t let go. The few times that I fell off, she just lifted me back up again. The instructors are always there at the park. I come every week and it feels like I’m seeing friends and family. During the first lockdown everyone started cycling, and it was amazing. On the road were loads of bikes going up and down, up and down. Especially at night at half twelve, one o’ clock in the morning, because at that time we were fasting. We used to finish praying and then there is no point going back to sleep before the next prayer. Covid has had a huge impact on our community and a lot of us have had family members who have died. Cycling more was one of the good things that came out of the pandemic. 

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Anthony

I use my bike to get around everywhere. I’m from Jamaica but I lived in Rugby for 7 years. I met somebody nice, we got married. We had two kids, one boy, one girl. We lived for 7 months with cancer. It really knocked me off my feet. My wife was a community nurse. She’s a caring person. She helps people in the community, people in need. Since I’ve had kids I’ve changed my life. What people say about me – it's not nice but I don’t let it put me down. I just continue with my life and make sure my kids are happy. Iggle Piggle on my bicycle is a reminder of my son to me. We used to watch him together on tv, and he used to love that big ship up in the sky. 

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Anthony

I use my bike to get around everywhere. I’m from Jamaica but I lived in Rugby for 7 years. I met somebody nice, we got married. We had two kids, one boy, one girl. We lived for 7 months with cancer. It really knocked me off my feet. My wife was a community nurse. She’s a caring person. She helps people in the community, people in need. Since I’ve had kids I’ve changed my life. What people say about me – it's not nice but I don’t let it put me down. I just continue with my life and make sure my kids are happy. Iggle Piggle on my bicycle is a reminder of my son to me. We used to watch him together on tv, and he used to love that big ship up in the sky. 

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Stacey & Ashleigh

I live in Binley and she lives in Willenhall. We’ve been friends since we were about 16 and we’re 30 now. We normally go to the gym three or four times a week but since Covid we cycle instead and it’s brilliant. We love it and we’ve been everywhere – even through woodlands and everything. 

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Stacey & Ashleigh

I live in Binley and she lives in Willenhall. We’ve been friends since we were about 16 and we’re 30 now. We normally go to the gym three or four times a week but since Covid we cycle instead and it’s brilliant. We love it and we’ve been everywhere – even through woodlands and everything. 

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Jason

Jason joined Motorvate to evolve the construction side of their training programmes for young people. In Hillfields they serve the local community by providing refurbished bicycles and offering repairs for free, while offering bike maintenance and construction courses. “We love the work we do with a passion and at times it doesn’t feel like work when we are making a huge difference to these young people’s and young adults’ lives. We get a lot of students for which Motorvate is a last chance saloon .We build a relationship with students which is built on trust. You become counsellors and go above and beyond to get them recognised. We wouldn’t have it any other way – individuals become part of the furniture. We find that 24, 25, 26 year olds come back asking for voluntary positions, just to say thank you and give back.”

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Jason

Jason joined Motorvate to evolve the construction side of their training programmes for young people. In Hillfields they serve the local community by providing refurbished bicycles and offering repairs for free, while offering bike maintenance and construction courses. “We love the work we do with a passion and at times it doesn’t feel like work when we are making a huge difference to these young people’s and young adults’ lives. We get a lot of students for which Motorvate is a last chance saloon .We build a relationship with students which is built on trust. You become counsellors and go above and beyond to get them recognised. We wouldn’t have it any other way – individuals become part of the furniture. We find that 24, 25, 26 year olds come back asking for voluntary positions, just to say thank you and give back.”

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Kevin

My mum came from South Africa in the 50s and fostered over 100 kids in this city. So I know what a lot of families go through, but there’s always a lot of goodness – that’s how we are working class. What Motorvate is doing is a good thing – they provide a service where there’s a need in Coventry. They give people who are underprivileged a chance. You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on a bike - go down to Motorvate and build one yourself, they’ll show you how! 

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Kevin

My mum came from South Africa in the 50s and fostered over 100 kids in this city. So I know what a lot of families go through, but there’s always a lot of goodness – that’s how we are working class. What Motorvate is doing is a good thing – they provide a service where there’s a need in Coventry. They give people who are underprivileged a chance. You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on a bike - go down to Motorvate and build one yourself, they’ll show you how! 

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Saima

I was a stay-at-home mom, so a lot of the time I was just looking after the kids. I’ve been through domestic violence for 8 years; my husband put me in a shell, and I couldn’t speak or talk to anyone. I went for a wellbeing test just before I was 40 and I was told my cholesterol was high, blood sugar was high, blood pressure was high, everything. I started jogging in my local park and I saw lots of ladies on bikes – ladies who looked my age. This area is quite deprived, so for some people to even get a bike is difficult. I joined Sähëlï, met new people and started to have something to look forward to. Saturday became “me” time. I wasn’t worrying about cooking or chores. It’s brought years back to my age and it’s made me realise that yes, I do have a life outside of just being a mom. I’ve achieved so much in a small amount of time and people have noticed a change in my confidence. 

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Saima

I was a stay-at-home mom, so a lot of the time I was just looking after the kids. I’ve been through domestic violence for 8 years; my husband put me in a shell, and I couldn’t speak or talk to anyone. I went for a wellbeing test just before I was 40 and I was told my cholesterol was high, blood sugar was high, blood pressure was high, everything. I started jogging in my local park and I saw lots of ladies on bikes – ladies who looked my age. This area is quite deprived, so for some people to even get a bike is difficult. I joined Sähëlï, met new people and started to have something to look forward to. Saturday became “me” time. I wasn’t worrying about cooking or chores. It’s brought years back to my age and it’s made me realise that yes, I do have a life outside of just being a mom. I’ve achieved so much in a small amount of time and people have noticed a change in my confidence. 

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Shaafia

My passion is to increase women’s participation in cycling. Sähëlï shared my passion of providing activities at grassroots level, and I’ve been with them since. I am now one of the lead instructors and after setting up the Club, I am also the Club Secretary. I have been consistently present in the park for nearly 10 years and always speak positively of our space. The sessions run in almost any weather, and people come. This sends out a positive message to other parks users and participants as the passion and enthusiasm is shown and shared. My sessions are always fun and engaging and I encourage friendship groups to form in the sessions.

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Shaafia

My passion is to increase women’s participation in cycling. Sähëlï shared my passion of providing activities at grassroots level, and I’ve been with them since. I am now one of the lead instructors and after setting up the Club, I am also the Club Secretary. I have been consistently present in the park for nearly 10 years and always speak positively of our space. The sessions run in almost any weather, and people come. This sends out a positive message to other parks users and participants as the passion and enthusiasm is shown and shared. My sessions are always fun and engaging and I encourage friendship groups to form in the sessions.

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Marcin

I use my bike every day to get to work, for shopping, for everything! 

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Marcin

I use my bike every day to get to work, for shopping, for everything! 

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