About us

What is Sofa to Saddle

Simply put, Sofa to Saddle is a cycling group dedicated to nervous and novice riders.

Our aim is to make cycling accessible to everyone.

What does it cost

If you just want to join any of our #SocialRides, it’s completely free. You will have to register as a Social Member, but that’s free as well.

Our regular Club Rides are for paid members only. You can find out more about our membership plans by clicking here.

We also occassionally organise a Feature Ride, which may involve refreshments or even overnight accommodation. These are charged on an individul basis.

Who can join

Absolutely anyone! There are no age limits. Although under 18s will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

We do however, have to consider the needs of the group, so you have any concerns about any disabilties, please contact us directly.

What kind of bikes are suitable

Most of our #SocialRides are on tarmac, so pretty much any bike will be suitable, although we don’t recommend full suspension mountain bikes or knobbly tyres, because they make it harder for you, on the road. If you have any concerns, take your bike into West Malling Cycles and ask Tim to give a quick look over.

If you don’t have a bike or your’s isn’t suitable, with prior notice, we can usually lend you one, FREE of charge.

The team

Sofa to Saddle is an ever expanding group, that relies on many individuals. As we grow, we'll be bringing on many ride leaders, and supprt crew on the longer rides, but for the day to day running of the group, you have to blame this motley crew.

Jon Hart

Growing up in the sticks meant, whether I liked it or not, cycling was a necessity. Fortunately, I loved it! And when all my mates began whizzing around on mopeds, my dear old mum bought me a new Dawes racing bike.

It's hard to fault her reasoning, as I regularly found myself in a heap at the side of the road on that. God knows what I'd have been like with petrol power beneath me.

I have never taken cycling too seriously. I'd have never just got on my bike and gone for a ride. But, as I got older, given the choice of doing a journey in a car or on a bike, the bike has begun to win, on longer and longer journeys.

At its worst, cycling is a convenient mode of transport that offers both fresh air and exercise, and it's quicker than shanks' pony. At its best, when the weather's fine and time is on your side, it is a great way to explore the world you live in, especially when you do it with friends.

  • Creating routes and planning rides
  • Planning events
  • Managing membership
  • Leading rides
  • General admin

Tim Watling

You might think of me as the Swiss Army knife of the team. On the longer rides, I'll bring a camera, laptop, smartphone, toolkit, sat-nav, pen & paper and a folder full of mechanic’s and first-aid notes – and I use them all, as ride photographer and chief mechanic.

I've been cycling, and tinkering with bikes since the days of the Penny Farthing. A week’s cycling as a teenager would consisit of two five-mile paper rounds every morning, the ride to school and back most days and then spending most evenings out and about on bikes. I liked to end the week with a 50 mile round trip to somewhere like Southend and back most weekends. All in football shorts and a pair of Dunlop Green Flash!

After several years mucking about – and getting mucky – on mountain bikes I now enjoys leisurely rides on a lightweight 30+ year-old lightweight road bike.

  • Chief mechanic
  • Planning events
  • Leading rides
  • Photographer
  • Support team manager
  • Post ride refeshments

Dan Hardstone

I guess I am what you'd probably call a born-again cyclist, having spent most of my teenage years cycling in every spare minute of my time. This included Club Rides, Time Trials, Road Racing and Touring. However, I then discovered fast cars and not quite so fast women (or was it the other way around), the bike was therefore despatched to the garden shed not to be seen again. Eventually, in my mid 40’s, I rediscovered cycling, and I'm so glad I did.
Once again I spend every moment I can, riding my bike. I am an experienced ride leader and have been a Ride Captain on various Charity Rides, including The Tour of England, The British Legion Pedal to Paris and SportsAid on numerous occasions. I also lead Club Rides. I enjoy all types of cycling and love to take part in Sportives and Audaxes.
At the time I rediscovered cycling I was both over weight and very unfit so I know what it is like to struggle with fitness whilst trying to re-learn old skills. I love to encourage and promote cycling at all levels, and believe that cycling should be about fun and friendship, as well as achieving personal goals. Every time I set off on my bike I once again feel like a child and the only worry I have is getting home in time for my tea!! It is this feeling which I love to share with everyone else by encouraging other to reach their cycling potential.
  • Senior ride leader
  • Risk assesment
  • Rider coaching

Our story

Where it all began

Founded in 2016, by Tim Watling and Jon Hart, Sofa to Saddle was the answer to the oft asked question; “Are there any local riding groups for people like me?”

The problem for most of the people asking is that they either don’t believe they can, or simply don’t want to, ride for 20-30 miles at close to their maximum speed, with a group of people they don't really know. Even in the beginners groups, the riders with most cycling clubs will tend to have a reasonable level of fitness and confidence on a bike, which makes being the new bod a little daunting. Many haven’t ridden for years and feel they almost need to learn to ride a bike again.

British Cycling run a scheme called Let's Ride, which is a really good starting point for most, but in September 2016, in many areas there were simply no rides to join. Even for those areas that did offer rides, and Kent wasn't one of them, there was no natural path of progression.

Tim & Jon both felt that the only way to stop these people abandoning their bikes in the back of their sheds again, was to lead them along a path that would get them to the point where cycling would become a regular part of their life. For some this would be joining a regular cycling club, for others it might mean adopting the bike for their regular commute.

What happened next

Our first Sofa to Saddle ride

Five novices joined experienced ride leaders Bernadette and Dave, for our first official event, which was a 7.5 mile ride, broken into two sections. It became very clear to all those who participated that everybody was capable of much more, so the next ride was a straight 10 miles, with a couple of stops to regroup and catch our breath.

Over the following months, we adopted a regular schedule for these rides, which we now refer to as our Sunday Socials. These are usually held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, under our #SocialRide banner.

Greater challenges

On the Spring Bank Holiday, two groups of riders set off on our first Feature Ride. One took a fast but circuitous road route, whilst the other went straight through Mereworth Woods. We met, for a pub lunch, at the Swan on the Green in West Peckham, before splitting up for return journey.

Such was the level of enjoyment, that the particpants demanding bigger and better things. What everybody wanted was a challenge. Somthing to aim for, that would encourage them to keep riding.

And so we planned the first Big Weekender.

The brief was a simple one, the participants would have to cycle around 60 miles in one day, then, after an overnight stay in a reasonable hotel, cycle back home.

The result was phenomenal. 23 riders set off from West Malling on the 30th September, and headed off to Rye. The ride included various refreshment breaks, including Frankies legendary sausage rolls, the Dungerness Lighthouse and a fantastic Sunday roast. But most importantly, it include 120 miles of cycling over two days!

More frequent rides

With the Big Weekender looming and regular participants wanting to do more, we needed something to help those that either weren't ready or just didn't want to join a regular club. And so, on those long, light evenings of June, the Tuesday Trundle was born.

These quickly became very popular, especially when the post-ride refreshments became a regular thing. Even the cold winter's evening couldn't stop some people.

Although we've had to cancel a few rides, because of ice, even in December, the numbers have regularly been in double figures.

Our 'Stuffing Buster' ride this year, was 13 mile romp on mountain bikes. Sticking mostly to country lanes, which were plagued with black ice, and a four-mile section of single-track, along Pilgrims Way, this was a great opportunity for many of our riders to experience some proper Keystone Cops moments.

Where do we go from here

We'd like to be able to offer #SocialRides to more people, at more locations and more often than twice a month. In fact, we'd rather like it to become 'Parkrun on wheels'. But, compared to running, cycling takes a lot more management. Keeping relative newcomers safe, on a bicycle, on public roads, is a lot tougher than looking after a few runners in a local park. So, we have to make sure we do thinks properly from the outset.

Our aim is to continue to provide a free-for-all opportunity, for riders of all abilities, to experience social group cycling, where timing and speed are completely irrelevant.

If you don’t know Tim, he runs West Malling Cycles and is passionate about making cycling more accessible to everyone. He's on-hand every Sunday, to fettle the bikes before and after each ride.

Throughout 2018, we'll be talking to other independent cycle shops in the hope of finding alternative locations for Sofa to Saddle groups. We'll also be looking for experience ride leaders to join us, so that we can organise more rides.

But, perhaps most importantly, we'll be looking for new challenges for those who've developed their cycle skills over the last year.

Club membership

Because we're not a 'cycling club', we don't want to opperate like one. We'd like those members that progress to a level where they'd feel confident riding for longer distances and at a faster pace, to go out into the world and ride with an established club. Most have groups of different levels, including one for beginners.

But, since launching in October 2016, we've found many riders who are happy with our relaxed approach, and they enjoy the gentle pace of our #SocialRides. Although, I think to post-ride refreshments may have something to do with this, particularly on the evening rides, so we've tried to organise at least one ride every week.

The planning and administartion for the additional rides is often far greater than it is for the short, well-structured Sunday Socials. They also require a great deal more commitment from the ride leaders. So, for 2018, we're introducing a membership scheme to help us to balance the load.

Basic membership is free, and it allows you to participate in any of our Social or Feature Rides. However, to participate in any of our Cub Rides, you will need to signup to one of our paid membership plans. These plans will offer other benefits too, such as free insurance and discounts in retail outlets.

Most importantly, the membership fees go towards additional training for ride leaders.