South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Stephen and Dawn Dodd

Profile: Stephen and Dawn Dodd - (Jan/Feb 2004)

This profile tells us how the Beginners Section opened up to Stephen and Dawn Dodd, and their young family, the new enjoyment which cycling can offer. It is nearly a year since Dawn first rode with the Beginners with daughter Natalie behind her on the 'tag along' trailer to Oaks Park. A lot of new opportunities have opened up since that day, new activities, new places and new people, all crammed into a busy life with the demands of Stephen's work and career and their family of three lively young daughters. The eldest of the three is Sophie aged 10½ who is already an experienced cyclist - she rides with her mother and father on Beginners Rides and rode on the 125th Anniversary Ride in the London Parks when she kept an eye on the younger children and later cycled up the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

'I felt like a queen', Sophie was reported to have said.

Her sisters are Lucy aged 9 and Natalie 5 whom we look forward to seeing when she has graduated from the trailer. Lucy is affected by a medical condition and her parents hope that one of the new electric motorised bicycles will help her.

Their first contact was with Shirley Quemby at the Church of St Paul at Howell Hill in Cheam. Shirley's usual enthusiasm persuaded Dawn to consider riding with the Beginners from nearby Nonsuch Park.

"I was so scared that I would not be able to keep up for a long distance" - a common worry frequently heard from newcomers. It was banished after the ride when Dawn said she had little trouble keeping up, and added, "It was good, I felt a great feeling of freedom".

The worry was understandable. They had not cycled for many years. Dawn had not cycled since her childhood days on the Isle of Guernsey where her bicycle was a 'handmade' machine of bits and pieces by her father. Stephen says that this bike exemplified the qualities of resourcefulness and innovation that his father in law had shown in the terrible years of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

Stephen's experience of cycling was more extensive. His introduction to cycling was in the early 60s in Singapore where his father was serving with the RAF. "As a youngster I was driven about in style in a rickshaw and I had a Raleigh tricycle in the garden when I was 5 years old - it was my pride and joy because it was bigger than my brother's!" Stephen did cycle in his schooldays back in England when he rode in Christchurch on his Coventry Eagle. As a 16/17 year old he toured with school friends in Dorset and the Lake District. His cycling was sadly stopped however when his bike was stolen at Stoke Mandeville where he was training for Vale of Aylesbury Athletic Club.

Whilst Stephen's experience of cycling was more extensive, neither had been 'committed' cyclists. So the prospect of riding out with these experienced cycle riders from Nonsuch Park on a Saturday, did seem a little daunting at first. They have told me that in those early rides they were grateful for the help they received. Dawn commented with feeling, "The leaders are lovely, they care about people they lead. They stop for anyone who has difficulty in keeping up. The other day one pushed me up the road." Jesting, husband Stephen added a caution, "Yes just watch him, I saw him pushing you with his hand on your bottom!".

Stephen recommends the Saturday afternoon rides as a source of relaxation for anyone suffering from work stresses in the City. "Don't get worried about joining the Lycra Brigade. Get out on a bike and you will be hooked. It's good for the family and you will meet a lot of new friends, and visit new places, such as Garson's Farm near Esher which was our venue this last Saturday."

Getting hooked has progressed even further for Dawn. She has joined the Midweek Wayfarers. "Before riding with the Beginners, I didn't realise there were so many beautiful places which I could reach on a bicycle from my home in Sutton. I have lived here for 14 years and the Wayfarers have introduced me to new places such as Cobham which we visited last week." She also gave them some personal praise, the like of which the Wayfarers have probably never heard before! "The Wayfarers are incredible. It's a privilege to know them. They have been riding for so many years and have so much special knowledge as a result. I feel humble that I can learn so much from them".

I asked Stephen and Dawn whether they have any plans for cycling in 2004 and beyond. Dawn's response was great, more than you might expect from a mother with less positive attitudes than Dawn's. "Yeah! Yeah! There's a lot I want to do. I have big plans for longer rides, for weeks at a time, in this country and abroad. I need a new car to carry bikes and equipment for these new opportunities." She has already joined the CTC to help make these plans a reality. Her next appearance could be as winner of the DA Award for the rider of the Most Interesting or Ambitious Ride of the Year.

Dawn and Daughter - click to enlarge