Daniela Schwende

Riding It Out: Film documents how cycling helped Sheffield junior doctor during pandemic

Exposed spoke to Daniela Schwendener, a junior doctor based in Sheffield who found solace from hectic wards during the pandemic through cycling in the Peaks. Her experiences will be documented in a new film ‘Days Off’ set to premiere at ShAFF next month.

Photography: Richard Baybutt // Cotic 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what first drew you to mountain biking as a pursuit?
I came to the UK from Canada for medical school and now work as a junior doctor. I first got into mountain biking during medical school; things were getting a bit hectic, the workload was really high and I needed something else I could focus my mind on. There are a few different pros to it, I guess. Fundamentally, it allows you to get out in nature, enjoy some exercise and be social – all very important when you work in a hospital environment. About five or six years ago, I met a couple of people on a Facebook group for girls who mountain bike and started riding through that really.

“The workload was really high and I needed something else I could focus my mind on.”

The film delves into how mountain biking really helped your mental health during the pandemic. Could you talk to us about that?
Yeah, the film focuses on how mountain biking and cycling in general helped to get me through the beginning part of the pandemic. As you can imagine, it was a chaotic time to work in a hospital – it was a very confusing and at times quite harrowing experience to work through. Also, even when you were out of work, all anybody was talking about was the pandemic, whether that was people around you or on the news. Even when you came home it felt like you couldn’t get away from it. I got a gravel bike from Cotic [Sheffield bike company] and started going out for rides in the Peaks, cycling out from my flat in town all the way out there.

It gave you the space you needed?
Yeah, that’s it. Like a bubble where there’s nobody around, where there’s no talk about the pandemic; it’s just an escape. On a more general note, getting outside just helps your mood, helps you put things in perspective. As you said, it’s getting that space. It felt like I could breathe.

“I felt like I could breathe.”

Do you have any favourite routes or places you’d ride to?
I guess it depends who I’m riding with really. There was one route I was riding quite a lot, a nice little loop around Bradfield Dale. And there’s Our Cow Molly’s ice cream shop on the way back, which is an added bonus! 

Having moved here from another country, you’ve got quite a unique perspective into Sheffield’s offering as an outdoor city. What’s been your impression of that side of things since settling here?
I specifically chose to come to Sheffield after studying in Nottingham because of how outdoorsy it is. Access to the Peaks is a big one, but also all the like-minded people here who are interested in cycling, climbing, etc. It’s much easier to find people here who you can relate to with that sort of stuff. It’s great.

‘Days Off’ will premiere at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) next month.

@dschwendy // @coticbikes // shaff.co.uk

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