call back

Re-ignited childhood passion culminates in gruelling cycling challenge

When the world was forced to otherwise grind to a halt our Client Services Director Martin improved his physical and mental wellbeing through the cycling community he found on Zwift.

Martin Pownall is client services director for Leeds-headquartered IDS Group

It began as a childhood hobby, but it was more about mountain bikes and less about lycra, when I was young. Like many kids I was always on my bike. 

But as is often the case with hobbies – particularly ones relating to fitness – general life got in the way as I grew older. My growing family and career came first, so taking time out on long rides felt tougher to justify.

Until around three years ago, I took a bit of a rain check. I think many of us reach the stage where we reassess how well we’re actually looking after ourselves – in terms of both our physical and mental wellbeing – and for me, hitting the gym re-ignited my passion for cycling. 

I began strength and conditioning training at the Lion Fitness Studio in Selby enduring 1-2-1 PT sessions and boxing classes. The fitter I felt, the more encouraged I was to get on the bike again – spurred on, too, by head coach Mark Wilson.

I bought a fairly expensive carbon fibre road bike.– that makes me sound serious about it doesn’t it?! And LOTS of lycra, which, believe me, as a former mountain biker, I never thought I’d see the day!

There’s naturally quite a community feel at the fitness studio, and the more people I met who were also into cycling, the more we’d go on rides together. As much as it’s quite therapeutic to get out on the road alone, I enjoyed the camaraderie that came with joining others, so I set up a group and organised more pre-planned routes for all of us. We’d head out on different local rides, primarily across North Yorkshire, with a trip to Castle Howard an early favourite.

We joked that if it wasn’t on Strava, it didn’t exist, and fast forward to the end of 2020, I’d clocked up 3,600 miles last year alone – not bad given the many lockdown restrictions we had to contend with. 

In fact, cycling was my solace during the Covid-19 outbreak. Of course, we had to call time on the group rides, for much of the year. So, I connected a bike up to the turbo trainer and enjoyed the social elements of the Zwift community instead. I soon started racing for Team TFC on there, and once again, found I wasn’t just exercising for fitness and wellbeing, but to have fun too.

I still felt connected to other people, ever so slightly, when the world was forced to otherwise grind to a halt. I’d jump on for a quick ride in and around work – as IDS remained busy throughout the pandemic – but 9pm would be where I’d typically clock up the miles, when the children were in bed. I’ve met new people all over the globe, when we weren’t allowed to physically see anyone! I’ve even held client catch ups on there! At times, indoor training offered a sense of escapism too.

Now that the evenings are getting lighter and the ‘rules’ allow, I’m of course back out on the road again – and I need to be, as I’ve signed up for the iconic one-day coast-to-coast challenge in 2022.

It was a friend’s idea, as he’s turning 50, and wants to mark the milestone while helping to grow the cycling community he has founded and I couldn’t say no. It’s not my first fundraiser, as I’ve already done a 65-mile ride for Yorkshire Cancer Research. But this one will be gruelling – stunning, but gruelling. 

The 150-mile route with 4,500m of ascent will take four of us – affectionately known as the Cycling Seniors – through the mountains of the Western Lake District, before we cross the Yorkshire Dales, across the flat Vale of York, and finally head into the Northern Valleys of the North York Moors, finishing in Whitby. It’s very flat where I live so this WON’T be easy. 

We’re ‘warming up’ for next year with the Thorne Flat 100-mile ride at the beginning of June 2021We want to raise as much money as we can – i We have set a goal of £1000 – for the charity Group B Strep Support. It’s arguably a lesser-known organisation, but I think this makes it an even more worthy initiative to support.

Group B Streptococcus is a type of bacteria which lives in up to 40% of UK women, and while not harmful to adults, it can have devastating consequences for babies around the time of birth. Most early-onset GBS infections are preventable, so I’m championing the charity’s awareness-raising efforts so that more pregnant women know about the test they can have. It’s a subject close to the heart of a friend, who tragically lost her little girl Phoebe because this simple test was not carried out, so donning some lycra and cycling 100 miles is the least I can do. In fact, given I’ve got the fundraising bug, so there’ll be plenty more cycling challenges too!

To support Martin with his cycling challenge or discover more about the charity, see

Back to News