Photo by Cecil Mahumane
I studied psychology at university in England, but after I graduated, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I was 24 and decided to go travelling with my sister to try and find my way. It was while we were in Australia that I discovered a huge passion for cycling, and I knew I wanted to motivate other people to cycle as well.
I love the freedom I feel when I’m cycling. Personally, I prefer cycling alone or with a few close friends because I ride to clear my mind. It helps me practise mindfulness, so that when I’m atop my two wheels, I’m completely in touch with what’s around me. Plus, cycling is great exercise.
It was in 2011, at a yoga retreat on Fuerteventura, that the idea came to me. I created ‘Cycle Your Heart Out’, the world’s first heart-shaped cycling and wellbeing initiative, then and there, and I plan on spending the rest of my life travelling around the world, creating heart-shaped bicycle routes in different cities, and inspiring other people to follow their hearts and do the same. There’s an anonymous quote that I put my own twist on, that goes, ‘Your wheels are your paint and the world is your canvas’. I think it’s a beautiful depiction of what Cycle Your Heart Out is about.
My first heart route was in my hometown of Milton Keynes. I cycled it for the first time in July 2011 on the day before my birthday, as a unique sort of celebration. My family joined me, along with some friends and people from the area, and I used the event to raise money for a charity called Re~Cycle, which sends bikes to Africa. It was a really incredible day.
I’ve now done 18 heart routes in seven different European countries. To make a new heart route, I follow a five-step process. First, you listen to what your heart is telling you to do. This leads to step two: picking your location. Step three is to map out your heart route. To do this, I collect maps of the area and locate places I want to see. I also speak with locals or anyone else I know living locally and ask them to highlight the best bicycle paths. I piece these details together to form a heart-shaped route. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect; after all, life and love are never perfect. Step four is to cycle your heart out—alone or with family or new friends—and step five is to spread the love. Sharing routes with people you care about can start a ripple effect that naturally inspires people around the world to cycle.
All my heart routes were created for a special reason, whether to overcome fear in Portugal or embrace change in Formentera. I did the route in Frankfurt, Germany with my brother and his wife to celebrate their engagement, and I dedicated my heart route in Toulouse to my sister, who had just completed a four-month, 3,007-kilometre trek across New Zealand. And all of them have varied in distance, from five kilometres to 23, depending on what my passions were at the time.
I moved to Barcelona in 2013 because I had to live by the sea. The number of bike lanes and growing cycling culture were a plus, as well. I’ve cycled this heart route many times. It’s become one of my favourites because people who come to visit me enjoy doing it, and it goes past the areas of the city that I love most. The route includes Sagrada Família, Parc de la Ciutadella, Poblenou and, most importantly, the sea. It’s a very chilled route, like Barcelona itself.
I’ve painted ever since I was a little girl, and now I make it a point to sketch the landmarks along my heart routes. On July 2nd, Cycle Your Heart Out will be five years old, so I’m going to make my prints available for purchase to celebrate the occasion. This way people can take a piece of my heart routes home with them. A percentage of the sales will go to charity.
For my next heart route, I want to go back to the place that originally triggered my interest in cycling—Australia. My sister is living there now, and I haven’t seen her for nearly three years, which has been tough. I want to surprise her one day by turning up in Canberra, then I’ll let my intuition guide me to the spot of my first Australian route.