“IT’S just good fun isn’t it?!” says Sylvia Briercliffe as we embark on the third and final lap of the Newton playing fields in our side-by-side tandem bike.

She’s got a huge smile on her face as she negotiates the bends and instructs me when to ease off the pedalling and when to put a bit more effort in.

We make a good team, I think to myself, a bit like Batman and Robin! (Although it’s pretty clear who’s who in this particular dynamic duo…)

Looking at her it’s almost impossible to think she’s approaching 90 years old – she’s like a schoolgirl trying out a new bike for the first time on Christmas Day.

And it is exactly this sense of childlike excitement and fun that she’s hoping to inspire in women over the age of 50 across the area.

Sylvia had asked me to visit her at Live! Cheshire – a charity that works with people with disabilities in Chester - to tell me more about her message.

Chester and District Standard:

Sylvia with her bike Etty, named after her friend Betty who she lost to Alzheimer's.

She volunteers at the centre on Lime Wood Close in Newton every Monday, helping out with the Give it a Spin project that aims to make cycling accessible to everyone.

“When I was 85 I went through a bad patch,” she tells me honestly. “I basically decided I had been very selfish and hadn’t done anything useful with my life.

“I was also living alone, my children had their own lives, I had lost my friend Betty to Alzheimer’s, my partner had left and a realised I was close to depression.”

Sylvia, who lives in Eastham, Wirral, says she then had an epiphany as she cycled to buy some eggs and looked up at the grey sky to see a small patch of blue.

“I just remembered that the blue sky is always there – you go up in a plane and there it is!” she says. “A brilliant idea then occurred to me – I’m on my own but still with good health and still on a bike. I decided to raise some money to help people worse off than me.”

She then challenged herself to ride 1,000 miles in 12 months, which she did and raised £2,000 split between an Alzheimer’s charity and Live! Cheshire, which had been recommended by a friend.

“It changed me,” she says. “I made myself aware of my own health, both physical and mental. I rediscovered my joy of cycling.”

She then can’t resist a quip: “I’m a recycled cyclist!”

Sylvia then embarked upon her plan to encourage as many women as possible to follow in her footsteps and get in the saddle.

And she went on to be named as one of the Cycling UK organisation’s ‘100 Women in Cycling’, picking up her award at a glitzy event in London last July.

“I want to reach out to an audience of women over the age of 50 who ought to be thinking about their health,” says Sylvia, who used to work in social care.

“I often start by asking them if they ever had a bike. Then if they did I ask how it made them feel and they almost always say ‘it was fun’. That’s the word for me – ‘fun’. I’m trying to get people to remember what fun it was.

“Usually people are worried about traffic and confidence but they can come here and have a go without having to worry about the roads. People also don’t know there are so many cycle paths around here now.”

Sylvia says she recently took an 88-year-old friend from her Tai Chi class out on one of the tandem bikes.

“We did two laps of the fields here and she loved it,” she says. “She agreed it was fun!

“It just ticks so many boxes as it’s not only good for you, it’s also good for the environment and costs almost nothing.

“It’s great cardio but also has less of an impact on your knees than walking, which is good when you get to my age! You’re out in the fresh air and just lifts your spirits.”

Sylvia aims to keep plugging her message and wants to start doing talks, possibly at WI group meetings.

“People can be quick to write you off when you’re 89,” she says. “But we can still have fun!”

To get involved and for more information on Live! Cheshire and the Give it a Spin project visit http://livecheshire.org.uk/