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How do I experience strength, determination, satisfaction and joy through my cycling?

In 2010, I was already a keen cyclist, but I met a man who would inspire me to do more than just achieve personal goals with my cycling.  He is the frontman of a band called The Alarm who has set up a charity dedicated to raising money to help the fight against cancer.

An idea formed and in 2011, I set out to cycle from South to North Wales, Cardiff to Prestatyn, mainly off road on a mountain bike, in 5 day, to raise as much money as I could.  I carried all my own kit and stayed in B&B’s along the way.

I underestimated how difficult I would find this but along the way experienced all the feelings listed above as well as pain, suffering, exhaustion and hunger, sometimes all within one hour.  The next hour all these feelings would be repeated again, perhaps in a different order!

The joy as you sweep down singletrack path, having spent every last cent of energy to drag you and the bike to the top of the pass when the road ran out, the determination when a knee injury flared up on day one of the bike ride, the strength to keep going when it feels easier to collapse by the roadside, the sheer joy at beholding the view, in the rain, it was Wales, over the vast countryside when there has not been another person in sight for three hours; the camraderie as you nod to each passing cyclist; the frustration when you take a tumble and have to perform a quick brake repair; the despair when you see the road going up … again and the despair when you see a downhill section, sure in the knowledge that it will go up again soon; the pride in your fellow man as they stop you to donate money to the cause and finally the immense satisfaction at reaching the end of the journey and the knowledge that you have done your bit to help others who are not so fortunate.

This year I am climbing Snowdon, cycling to Ben Nevis and climbing that to raise money for Love Hope Strength Foundation and next  year who knows….

All because of the love of being alone with my bike off the beaten track… completely selfish really!

-By Lydia Franklin, 30, Reading,UK

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Swift Industries’ Tough & Tender Project is an annual LITERARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S EXPERIENCE OF THE BICYCLE because Women’s experience of cycling is not celebrated enough in bicycle communities. Cycling is a male dominated activity and industry, and it’s our experience as women and female-bodied individuals that cycling empowers and inspires us in ways which are not portrayed by mainstream bicycle culture. It’s time for something different!