Paul Ashman, 42, is co-founder and secretary of the Recycles Cycling Club, which recently celebrated its second anniversary with an awards ceremony whose guest of honour was Mayor of Swindon Maureen Penny. Open to all, the club grew out of Recycles, the bike recycling and repair shop run as a social enterprise by Salvation Army-owned Booth House, which helps people who have experienced homelessness and other challenges.

SUGGEST that Paul Ashman is an evangelist for cycling and he cheerfully agrees.

“Cycling can help all people in all walks of life. It encourages, obviously fitness and healthy living, and it has been proven that cycling can help people suffering with certain mental illnesses and stress, enabling them to just forget a little bit about their worries and their problems. Cycling can help to encourage team-building and working together – that’s something I find in schools.

“It’s a great way of making friends. It’s so sad that there are people who are quite lonely and have a problem making friends, and cycling is such a friendly sport.

“You could go for a ride and just turn up at a cafe on your own – you don’t know the café and maybe there’s a group of riders parked up – and within five minutes you’ll be talking to other cyclists. These are maybe people you’ve never met before in your life.

“Cycling can also build confidence and self-esteem.”

As physical exercise, Paul believes cycling has a major advantages.

“I’m not knocking anybody for wanting to enjoy a hamburger or a bar of chocolate, because we all do, but if you can go out and do a bit of fitness that can help.

“I just personally think that for somebody who maybe hasn’t done a lot of fitness before, actually going out for an hour’s bike ride in the sun, in the countryside, maybe stopping for a coffee part way round, is far more enjoyable than going and absolutely sweating blood and tears in a gymnasium for an hour.”

Paul is originally from Melksham, and moved to Swindon 20 years ago.

He remembers first enjoying cycling on a Raleigh Strika, which looked a little like a child-sized mountain bike.

“It was black and silver and it was a Christmas present from my parents. That was the first time I’d go out and be riding all around the streets, across the fields and in the local forests.

“That in turn led to a passion for mountain biking through my teens.“

After school Paul, a percussionist, spent eight years as an Army musician. In civilian life he became a music teacher.

The cycling boom in recent years, which he puts down to spectacular British successes in competition, inspired him to set up Paul Ashman Cycling a few years ago.

When not attending to his voluntary club duties, his business sees him visit schools and meet about 800 pupils a week.

“I’m very much working at grass roots level. A typical morning for me could be on a school playground with 60 five-year-olds on bikes, some on stabilisers, some not.

“I’m trying to instil in them the fun and passion and enjoyment cycling can bring, along with safety, bike maintenance, looking after themselves, riding safely, riding correctly, and also I teach them a bit about lifestyle, physical exercise, diet, the history of cycling.”

Recycles Cycling Club was set up in October of 2015 by Paul and Simon Styles, manager of Recycles.

Paul’s approach to the club is simple: “One, I’m passionate about cycling. Two, it’s creating something that allows cyclists in Swindon to come together in a very relaxed, sociable atmosphere.

“That’s the big thing we promote with our club. We welcome anybody of any standard, and it’s very friendly.

“One of our members’ son was over on holiday from the Netherlands and he came out riding with us. Something he said was how friendly and welcoming the club was.

“Some of the members are people from within the Salvation Army, including some of the residents, who work at the shop. Amongst the other people are the general public – we didn’t know them until they heard about the club and contacted us or popped in.

“We tend to find that a lot of our members are people who’ve just popped into the shop, maybe just to buy an inner tube. We always try to push the club.

“We welcome people of all standards. On a Sunday morning when we go out on our ride, we have two groups.”

One group rides for 25 or 30 miles at a fairly relaxed pace, while the other tackles longer distances at a faster pace.

The regular haunt for both groups is the Waterside Café in Ashton Keynes.

“We all meet at the same café and have that camaraderie, the family team spirit of the club.”

Paul organised a cycling trip for six members in the Alps earlier this year; a dozen will make the journey next year.

He is a passionate believer in the value of the Recycles shop, whose staff emerge from challenging circumstances and learn officially-recognised skills.

“I think one of the most important things is that it makes them feel wanted. So many of them have had the rug whipped from underneath them and suddenly find themselves with nowhere to live and a bag. It can make them feel worthless, but coming here makes them feel worthwhile and wanted. They’re doing a job that is respected by everybody.

“It’s helping them to rebuild their lives, make new friends, build the confidence and teamwork skills to enable them to go back out into life.”

His message to potential club members who perhaps haven’t ridden for a long time?

“There’s an old saying about riding a bike, that you never forget, and you don’t.

“I can guarantee you, if somebody hasn’t ridden a bike in 30 years and they get on a bike for a few minutes they’ll be riding.

“We welcome absolutely anybody who enjoys riding. All they need is a road bike, a helmet and a smile on their face.

“If they can turn up with those three things on a Sunday morning, Recycles will welcome them with open arms every single week.”

Further information about the club and cycling in general can be found at