Play Hard

Behind the ‘gram | Cycling Advocate, ‘Melissa Jane Marshall’

This week we’ve spoken to ‘all things North East Cycling’ blogger, @melissajanemarshall

Written by High Life North
Published 15.09.2020

This week we’ve spoken to ‘all things North East Cycling’ blogger, @melissajanemarshall.

As a cycling coach, not only has Melissa offered realistic tips for those who are thinking of taking up cycling, but she’s recommending the prettiest cycling routes all over the North East – making this a real guide for those who are ready to ramp up their gears! 



1. Hi Melissa! Firstly, I absolutely love your post where you talk about what cycling did for the mind of two 13-year-old girls. So, with this in mind, I wanted to ask you: what made you get into cycling? Did you start for mental or physical purposes, or for both?

To be totally honest, I have always known how to ride a bike to the point where I can’t remember the moment I learnt. However, this all comes a part of growing up and loving physical activity, which really made me want to work in the sports sector, but more on the grassroots and community engagement side.

Throughout the years, I’ve worked in several different sports before I accidentally fell into cycling. My first cycling job was to take adults on bike rides around Newcastle, whilst supporting the adults that couldn’t ride a bike. It was a job I loved and found that I was doing around 90 miles a week through commuting and doing social rides. I’m very lucky now that I still work in cycling, but the focus has shifted to children and supporting them to ride.

However, I also understand that bikes can have a massive effect on health both physically and mentally. I think that with the shift that is happening now people are slowly understanding that cycling can be for everyone and that its not just a physical activity but a great resource for mental health. Throughout the lockdown and whilst on furlough, my bike was my outlet from the bigger issues happening in the world and it was something that kept me going through the tough times.

2. For those who are a bit more of a beginner on a bike and want to venture out for only a couple of hours, could you recommend any cycling routes around the North East?

We are so lucky in the North East to have some amazing cycling routes and with a range of distance there is a route for everyone. Below are some of my favourite regular routes:

  • Newburn to Prudhoe: This route is great as you get to basically follow the river from the beautiful quayside and all the way to Prudhoe. With this route you could stop at Wylam or even keep going and head up to Corbridge. It’s a lovely flat route from Newburn to Wylam so perfect for beginners and families and a good route if your lucky to start off small and build up your fitness.
  • Tynemouth to Whitley Bay: I find this route to be perfect for families. North Tyneside have just created a whole new cycle lane all the way along the coast from Tynemouth town centre up to Spanish city. It is great for families or beginners as the wide land is great. It is also a route that can be extended up to Seaton Sluice or Blyth. Seaton Sluice has a great section of cycle pathway that goes through the dunes which is lovely for children to ride as its safe and wide.

3. And for those who want to go on a full-blown day out, do you have any favourite cycling routes across the North East?

In the North East, again we’re so lucky to have so many beautiful locations within a couple of hours. From reservoirs to some waggon ways, there’s so many cycle routes to explore.

  • The Cycle Hub to Gibside: This route is a beautiful and simple route as you’re just following the waggon way up to Gibside and plus if you’re a national trust member you can make the most of Gibside and make a day of it.
  • Kielder: There is several routes around Kielder and I highly recommend giving them a try. I recently did the 26-mile route, but I think you could spend the day riding around and stopping off and having a picnic. I would say this is a rolling route so for every hill you go up, you will eventually go back down.

I recently started blogging about my days trips on the bike, so I highly recommend checking it out for more detailed routes.

4. But before anyone scuttles off on a bike ride, do you have any general tips for venturing out?

My main advice would be to remind yourself that getting yourself out on the bike is a great start. You don’t have to wear lycra or have an expensive bike to go out and explore.  

In terms of what you need, I personally wouldn’t recommend investing in equipment until you know it really is a hobby for you. Instead, just check that your bike is in working order so if it’s been sat in a shed for years, take it to your local bike shop and ask them to give it a full service.

I would, however, recommend purchasing a helmet, especially if you’re going on the longer routes where roads are involved. Even the most confident riders come off and it only take a bad hit to the head to change your life.

As for clothing, I always prefer to wear more layers as its easier to take them off and place in a bag rather than not having enough layers and being cold.

5. You're currently training for a virtual duathlon! Firstly, congrats! Secondly, would you live to delve into what exactly a virtual duathlon is and what sort of training you're having to do?

My gym was closed throughout the lockdown meaning that my fitness goals for 2020 had taken a bit of a hit so, instead, I set myself a new challenge and something to focus on.

A normal duathlon is an event that includes participants running and cycling over a certain distance, however, I am doing a sprint duathlon which means that the distances are not of a traditional Duathlon. The event this year (ran by Try on the Tyne) is being ran virtual so it will I do the event (5k Run, 20k Bike and 2.5K run) on my own rather than at a specific location like normal and I will send my results via an app.

Training wise, I haven’t been really strict with it but I have a bit of a program. When it comes to the cycling I have a time in my head that I want to get that 20k done in and through lockdown I was riding a lot (on average anywhere between 100K-200K a week) so I know that I can do that distance comfortable but have been focusing on getting a good pace, I really want to get the cycling part done in 45 minutes.

The running part on the other hand is where the training is being strict, I haven’t ran 5k in many years due to having weak knees so I’ve had to go back to basics and I’m completing the couch to 5k so I should have just completed that course the week before the event. I’m feel confident that I can do it in the time cap that I’ve set myself, so fingers crossed that on the day it all goes smoothly!

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