Three cycling mums from Northampton saddle up for the ride of a lifetime

Rachel Heap
Rachel Heap

A Northampton mum is saddling up to lead her friends on the adventure of a lifetime.

Rachel Heap is heading off with Catherine Felce and Ann Exton for the London Nightrider – a 100km bike ride through the city at night on Sunday.

Calling themselves the Biking Birds, they are raising money for Bowel & Cancer Research in memory of Rachel’s brother Duncan Symonds who died of the disease, aged just 35.

Six months ago, Rachel, now in her forties, hadn’t ridden a bicycle for more than 20 years.

“My daughters were both starting to go out on their bikes so I dug my dusty old Raleigh out of the garage and thought ‘this is quite good fun’,” said Rachel, from Barry Road, Northampton whose daughters are aged seven and 10.

“Then I saw the advert for Nightrider and thought I’d give it a go.”

Two friends were quick to join her: Catherine Felce from Milton Street who has five children, and Ann Exton from Chapel Lane, Hackleton who has a 10-year-old son.

Juggling training around their respective families has been a challenge. “We’ve been trying to go out for a training ride very early on Sundays before the rest of the family are up – at least that’s the theory,” said Rachel.

“We don’t have a target time. We just want to stick together and get round in one piece without too many punctures and no injuries.”

Her brother Duncan was working for Macmillan Cancer Support in London when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009, aged 34. He died four months later in January 2010.

“He’d been to the doctor a few times and it hadn’t been picked up, partly because he was so young. So I’m keen to help get the message across that early diagnosis is essential, and that bowel cancer does strike the young.

“If Duncan knew that I’d be cycling through the middle of London in Lycra, he’d think it hilarious. He’d also be very proud. We like think he would be cheering us on.”

Chief Executive of Bowel & Cancer Research thanked Rachel, Catherine and Ann for their support. “More than 41,000 people in the UK are affected by bowel cancer every year. Our aim is to try and ensure that people like Duncan Symonds survive in future.”

Anyone who wants to support their fundraising can do so at or text DPHS75 to 70070 and donate your chosen amount.