Meet the instructor – Perry Sambridge

Perry is an instructor working in Solihull. Originally from East London, Perry is a life long cycling addict and former bike messenger. We caught up with him about working as an instructor.

March 9, 2023


How old were you when you started cycling?

I was eight years of age, ET had come out in the cinema, everyone was BMX crazy. I lived on a council estate which was built onto a park. For us kids growing up there it was magical. It was like brutalism architecture, everything had massive big ramps and slopes leading to the apartments, and staircases galore. If you’ve just come out of having seen ET, it was the best place ever to have a BMX! 

Being in East London as well, no one owned a car at the time, no one drove a car really, you relied on the underground, the buses and bikes. As a family, as friends, we would all just get on our bikes and just go to the other side of London via the canal. I was very lucky, looking back it was a magical time. 

What motivated you to become an instructor?

It was my son, he’d just done [Bikeability] at his primary school. Embarrassingly I’d tried to get him cycling from an early age and he hated it, and I was a bit gutted about that. So when he said I’m doing Bikeability at school I said good luck to them mate because you hate cycling! He had the best week of his life! I was taught to ride a bike where someone held you on the back of the saddle and threw you down a hill and said good luck, I thought obviously that’s how you teach someone to ride a bike. Now I understand why he hated cycling at such an early age. I know how to do it properly now, don’t worry I don’t do that anymore!  

He got talking to the guys at Bikeability and told them my Dad’s a crazy cyclist, he used to be a cycling messenger and they said we’re recruiting, so I applied for it, had the interview and they were like when do you want to start? He loves cycling now, because they’ve done such a good job and they won him over and it got me the job, so it’s worked out well. 

To make things more exciting I’m deaf in one ear and have a thumb missing. I use these as a tool with learners (children and adults) to prove with practice and patience you can cycle. If I can do it, you definitely will! 

What’s the best part of the job?

The best thing is probably about the third day into it at Level 2, when kids are actually making their own decisions and it’s the correct decision. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, it actually clicks. I can see them doing their checks, I can see them at a junction, I see them checking and checking and checking, I see their positioning in the road. Everything clicks into place and they look so assured and so confident. They’re on the road and they’re doing it exactly how it should be done.  

It’s just to see their faces as well, just to see that they are literally ‘oh my god I know what I’m doing, I’m going for it’. That is still the best bit about it, it really is. 

What is your favourite cycling memory or experience?

When I was a cycle messenger in London, it sounds crazy and I wouldn’t do it now obviously ‘cause it would probably kill me, it was very exciting. There was a great scene of people, you knew other couriers, other messengers from other companies. It was lovely seeing other cyclists in the profession you were doing. It was an absolute joy being in London in the 90s cycling around London. You might do a mad job one side of London to the other side of London but along the way you’d go into a gallery, or you’d go somewhere for something to eat quickly, then back on your bike and just bombing it about London looking at architecture.  

Just having so much history around you and the fact I’m getting paid to cycle through it. It was hard when it was chucking it down with rain or snow and you’re getting cut up by buses and lorries. But at the same time, you know your routes and it was beautiful just to be cycling through parks. And there are so many bits of London that people that live in London do not know are there. I still love cycling now but looking back that was a beautiful moment. 

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I got trained to be a travel agent, it was before the internet and part of my job was one week a month I’d be sent all over the world to review hotels and restaurants. I have been all over the world, but I think London would be my absolute favourite. There’s everything there, architecture, food, drink, galleries, museums, everything about. It’s definitely the best place I’ve been! 

Instructor Perry on his blue Trek cycle in the sleet

Do you have any top tips for people who want to start cycling or cycle more?

My top tip is, look for your local family cycle get together.  

Recently we were doing family cycles and adult cycles. After covid a lot of people bought bicycles and didn’t really know how to ride correctly on the road and didn’t really have a clue but at the same time very brave that they wanted to learn how to do it. So I had to show these people how to cycle correctly around the streets of Shirley and I actually loved it. I was meeting such a mish mash of people, it was really good fun. 

The family training was because there were quite a few of the kids who I’d been teaching throughout the year anyway, so it was nice meeting their mum and dad and younger or older siblings. And what was cool about that was the kids I’d been teaching were literally showing their mum and dad how to ride the bike correctly. It was lovely, I was making them be the lead rider and I was like you show mum and dad how to do it, they follow you, and I was at the back just making sure everyone was safe, and it was brilliant, it really was nice.  

And just nice to meet the parents and get feedback and they’d be ‘oh she came back from school buzzing because of you guys’ and that made me feel really good. Sometimes you don’t know if they’re ever going to go on a bike after being with us or apply everything we’ve shown them. It was a real absolute joy and I think we are going to be doing it again this summer. 

So if you ever see a family ride advertised, I would definitely do that! 

Who’s your cycling hero?

Tao Geoghegan Hart, he’s from the same part of London as me, and he went to my primary school. He won the Giro d’Italia about three years ago and he’s just a local kid from Hackney. A few people got injured and fell out and they took a risk and made him their main cyclist that year, and he went and won it. He goes back to my primary school now and he gives them quite a bit of money and he really is a sincere good guy. I just think for someone who’s just from a normal council estate London background, sounds like myself obviously, he’s done really well and he’s just a normal guy. You still see him cycling around London apparently just doing his own thing.  

Perry with the Commonwealth Games Bull waving and smiling

If you weren’t a cycle instructor, what would your dream job be?

I’ve had quite a few jobs and it sounds really corny and cliché, but to believe that I’m actually getting paid to pass on my skills in cycling and they still employ me every month, I’m over the moon. It’s probably one of the only jobs I’ve had where I actually look forward to it, I really do. I really do recommend it. It’s like one of the instructors said to me a while ago, you’d do it even if they didn’t pay you and it’s true. We are run like such a good little tight ship at Solihull Council it really is a dream, and everyone seems just really happy and chuffed with each other. It is a dream job. 

Are there any projects or things you’re doing that you’d like to tell us about?

At Tudor Grange School they’ve got a EBSA {emotional-based school non-attendance] part of the school. There’s only about six kids in this class, and we got invited to go there the other year and we did a bike fix with them, and then we did Level 1 in the playground and they absolutely loved it, it was really good fun.  

The school invited us to go back to do Level 2. We took them out and about and took them for a coffee, and we actually got them to do a map and we threw a coffee shop in as well just to make it more exciting. And they rode the map out and we followed it and they were the leads for the day. That was a really cool moment, again just seeing their faces being in control, being in charge, making the decisions. The teacher came along and he just loved every second of it – he’s actually taken up cycling because of it.  

I’m hoping that will be back on the cards this summer. The whole idea is to just give them a little helping hand and the fact that they asked us to come in and do some cycling with them. And they were absolutely brilliant, we took a bike to pieces and made them re-build the bike and it was such a good thing for them to do, get their hands dirty and get stuck in. 

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