‘We show people they belong’: Lancashire Bike & Brew project gets men talking, cycling, and smiling

For Empowerment, a Fylde Coast-based charity focused on supporting local communities and improving lives, the formula is a simple one: cycling with mates, sharing a cuppa, and creating a community. Bike & Brew really is as straightforward as that.

“We wanted to combine something active with a chance for men to talk and, after getting funding from Cycling UK and Lancashire Tea, we decided to go for it with the Bike & Brew project,” says Linzi Cason, Empowerment’s Community Engagement Manager. “It’s all about creating a community of men who tackle the stigma around mental health together.”

Aiming to connect young men who may be struggling with their mental well-being, isolating, and loneliness, Bike & Brew is targeted at people who feel marginalised, making sure they get a chance to make their voices heard. And what better way to start talking than over a brew before getting out and about.

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“We’re a preventative service,” says Linzi. “We know that, for people at crisis point, going on a bike ride is the last thing they’re going to want to do, but we also know that physical health and mental well-being go hand-in-hand, so we’re here to bring people together to engage in an outdoor activity. And this is just the starting point: we’re always led by young people.

Luke Johnson, Elliot's Place Activity Officer

“We know there are many men locally experiencing social isolation and loneliness, and that outdoor activity can bring benefits to both facilitating connections and people’s well-being,” she adds. “The success of Elliot’s Place has meant that we have a space where people can connect and the Bike & Brew meets are a great extension to this in creating a community of support.

“It might even be that some people don’t even want to cycle, they just want to grab a brew and have a chat - that’s fine too, you can still get involved,” says Linzi, who has worked at Empowerment for five years. “There’s a real stigma around mental health and suicide, but our groups make people feel like they belong and they’re only going to grow over time. It’s amazing.”

Started in November, the weekly Bike & Brew sessions allow participants to either bring their own bike or use one provided by Cycling UK to go for a ride with their peers and local volunteers before having a brew provided by Lancashire Tea. The initiative is part of Empowerment’s Eliot’s Place project, which was founded two years ago to provide marginalised young men with a community in honour of Eliot Taylor, who died by suicide.

“I’m thrilled that Elliot’s Place received funding through Cycling UK’s Community Cycle Clubs to deliver led bike rides for the local community,” says Laura Howarth, Cycling UK’s Blackpool development officer. “The programme aims to reduce social isolation and improve mental health and well-being through cycling, and the Bike & Brew project is a perfect fit.”

Bike & Brew bikes

“The work I’ve done on the Eliot’s Place project is up there with my biggest achievements,” Linzi says. “It’s opened my eyes and I’ve met some absolutely amazing people who’ve told me incredible stories about the things they’ve overcome in life. Bringing them together is more than a sense of pride, it’s a huge life achievement because we’re saving lives.”

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(From left) Paul Downie of Lancs Tea with Linzi Cason and Luke Johnson of Bike & Brew
(From left) Paul Downie of Lancs Tea, Linzi Cason, Luke Johnson and Laura Howarth of Cycling UK