Recovery Road Cycling Club – A Lot More Than Just Cycling 

Every cycling club has its own aim and ambitions, that focus can change with time and membership. One club which has a somewhat unique story to its growth and development is Recovery Road Cycling Club in Ballymun, Co. Dublin. 

Sitting in the Ballymun Youth Action Project talking to some of the members of Recovery Road Cycling Club, it’s hard not to smile. The enthusiasm from everyone in the room is infectious. 

There is a palpable love for cycling and an appreciation for how cycling and this club has helped members transform their lives. 

‘Transform’ is a word that the members use – Recovery Road Cycling Club has brought confidence, fitness, comradery, a sense of self-belief and, for many members it has changed the course of their life. 

The club was formed to help those recovering from addiction and those impacted by addiction. It is a social club which focuses on leisure rides, while setting and surpassing goals as they progress. 

Over the past four years the club has developed and grown, gaining the support of the local community and fostering a new sense of pride and belonging in Ballymun. Open to men and women, there were 44 members last year. 

Recovery Road is a vital cog in the wheel of recovery. It not only offers a physical outlet but also a social connection and an opportunity to step away from the daily stresses of life and step into a new identity and purpose. 

Unfamiliar Territory 

Starting to cycle was a huge step for many of the members, bringing its own challenges.  

Members reminisced about how alien it was to put on a helmet and how they lacked the correct equipment and clothing to start with. Yet, these did not prove to be stumbling blocks. 

Looking like a cyclist took courage, it was such unfamiliar territory. They joked that they would have been more comfortable in balaclava’s than a helmet. 

When chatting about the impact Recovery Road CC has had one member said: “A sense of belonging, fitting in, reconnecting with my old community.”

Another member added that if they were to give anyone considering joining Recovery Road CC or a similar club advice they would say: 

“Give it go, you can’t lose. It’s all win, win, win. You’re going to meet good people, good contacts. It’s all great. You lose weight. Great adventures, great support, great community. It’s just all great experiences, lifetime experiences.”

Some of the now well-seasoned members of the club explained how rewarding it is to see new people join and come out for a spin. It gives them an opportunity to open up in a safe space. The joy and often the release that joining the club brings serves as a reminder of why the club came into existence and is something the members are very proud of. 

Addiction comes in many forms. Recovery Road CC open to anyone battling addiction and to those around them. 

Brian explained how simple tasks around getting involved can play a big role in the recovery process. 

“Drug use is probably one of the most stigmatised addictions in the world. There is a lot of self-stigmatisations within that process as well. All those things like wearing the helmet, wearing the hat, wearing the shorts, talking to other cyclists in a coffee que – these are all little momentous moments.”

More Than Cycling

One of the club founders described the club as “the most productive cycling club he’s ever seen” and this isn’t a stretch. The support throughout the club, the need for the club to succeed is bigger than cycling, it’s about changing lives. 

When asked about the impact the club has had on his life and his recovery, one member, who only joined in recent months, said:

“I’m in early recovery, recently out of treatment. Only for the outlet with the cycling I don’t know what I would be doing with my free time, especially in early recovery it’s a Godsend to be with the lads. With the help of The Rediscovery Centre, Ballymun, I have my own bike now so I’m able to go out on my own a bit now and I’m loving it.

The addiction for me is all mental health, it’s not even the substance, it’s just living with my demons and an outlet like this is brilliant.”

It’s about the journey not just for each individual, but for their families and the wider community. 

Brian Foley, the Client Programmes Co-Ordinator at Ballymun Youth Action Project has spearheaded this growth of the cycling club. Speaking about the positive implications of the club, he said: “It’s about reaching all levels, the individuals, their families, the community.”

The club has broadened the horizons for its members, introducing them to new people and bring them to new places. 

Cycling brings a freedom, getting out of Ballymun, seeing the world. Locations that were unknown are now familiar spots for a weekend spin and a coffee. 

For some getting out of Dublin and Ballymun offers a chance to breathe and reflect without the daily pressures of life. 

One woman who has experienced the benefits of the club first-hand explained the role it can have, especially for women: 

“Everybody gives a dig out, it’s real social element for a lot of the people. It’s great for the women, getting out and having that social element, getting out of the house and normality. Getting out and to interact with people, stopping to have a coffee and chatting to other cyclists because you just don’t think you’ll have those conversations.

We used to not be okay, but it’s okay not to be okay. I can still live my life and be what I want it to be, I don’t have to be alienated from these people.”

Accessibility and Visibility

Accessibility and visibility are two core values within Recovery Road CC. There is an open-door policy with the club, it is accessible for everyone whether you are in recovery or whether a friend or family members suffers with addiction. The club is a safe space for anyone touched by addiction. 

In a conscious effort to make the club appeal to and welcome those most in need of its support, there is no hierarchy. Brian is very much a driving force and there is staff involvement but there is no captain’s parking spot, no vice-captain’s, everyone comes and just gets on their bike and hits the road. Everyone is the same. 

The focus on inclusivity has been pivotal in the success of the club. It has helped to break down borders and to unit a community. 

There is no judgement, when you’re out on a cycle you’re just another person on a bike – everyone is equal. The staff members from Ballymun Youth Action Project often enjoy a spin of a weekend, helping to break down the barriers. 

Recovery is very often an anonymous process, but not at Recovery Road CC. Visible recovery is an important element of the club’s ethos. 

There are several benefits to the club being a visible symbol for change. It has helped foster a sense of identity and pride within the club. Beyond the club each member has become a role model, showing that change is possible. 

“You get a level of fitness back, and then there’s four or five from the cycling club that have joined the running club as well. You’re branching out, you’re connecting.”

Another member added:

“It leads you to different things in the area and the community. There’s a huge social aspect of that you will meet new people from different backgrounds, from different places, people that you’d have never thought you’d speak to or train with. Nobody is here to be judged.” 

People within the community have also seen the transformation of members of the club. This is something that not only inspires others to get involved but for the members of Recovery Road there is a great sense of pride in knowing that they are now role models within the community. 

The confidence that has developed among the members is testament to the success of the club, people that previously would never have left Ballymun are now happily going out on cycles around Dublin, with the club but also, and probably more importantly, on their own. 

Pride and Identity 

Talking to the members the sense of pride is unmistakable.

“When we’re all out together in our gear, it looks really professional, and it feels really good.”

Creating a sense of pride and identity within the club is something that is very important to the club founders. 

From starting out with little knowledge, a mismatch of equipment to now having club kit, support from local businesses and sense of belonging, not just in Ballymun but in the wider cycling community. 

The kit has played a significant role in developing club identity. Brian explained how they approached local organisations and businesses to contribute, this not only helped to cover the cost but also created another link within the community. For the local organisations this proved a great opportunity to be seen to be part of something that was such a positive movement with Ballymun. 

People in the community know and respect the club, often passing on words of encouragement as they cycle past. 

One member described the connection that the club has brought within the community:

“For any community as a whole, one person down that end wouldn’t know what the other person up that end was doing. You put in something like a cycling club and it’s brining everyone together. 

As they reflect on the journey of the club to date, some noted how cycling has given members of the group who previously would have been very shy and uncomfortable to speak a new-found confidence. The club is providing a physical outlet but also helping each member to grow within a wonderfully supportive environment. 

Call to Action

Clubs such as Recovery Road have the power to change communities and lives. Cycling offers are a great outlet, no matter who you are and what you might be struggling with, to have an opportunity to talk and make connections. 

One member added: “This is a lot deeper than just a group of people getting together.”

The success of Recovery Road CC is undeniable and by sharing this story Cycling Ireland would like to encourage other cycling clubs and organisations around Ireland to implement similar projects. 

Just as Brian champions the club in Ballymun, Jamie is doing the same in Clondalkin Recovery Roaders Cycling Club, supported by Tus Nua. 

Those involved in Recovery Road CC are keen to share they knowledge they have gained and help support clubs looking to set up similar initiatives. Recovery Road CC has benefited from private external financial support which helped get the club to where it is now. Similar financial support is available to clubs and organisations looking to develop similar initiatives. 

If you are keen to find out more about how you can become involved and create a similar environment, please do not hesitate to reach out. 

If you would like to establish a club please do not hesitate to contact Recovery Road Cycling Club

Brian Foley - 

Catriona Nally -