She may share a name with the wife of famous rock wildman Ozzy, but it’s the wildness of Ireland’s Atlantic coast that will be of foremost concern to Wexford cyclist Sharon Osborne over the next couple of weeks.
Sharon, originally from Gorey, is a UK-based fashion designer who has been profoundly deaf since birth. She is currently in the final stages of preparations for the Wild Atlantic Way cycle, a 12-day trip that will see her cover over 1500km along Ireland’s west coast from Derry to Limerick to raise awareness and funds for two worthy charities, the Irish Deaf Society and Talk to Tom.
Three days of the cycle will take place in Mayo. All going to plan, Sharon will arrive in Ballina on Monday (June 7), where she will have a day of rest before hitting off again on Wednesday, taking in Killala, Ballycastle and Belmullet and overnighting on Achill Island. On Thursday she’ll go from Achill through Mulranny, Newport, Westport and Louisburgh before finishing for the night at Roonagh.
Talking to the this week, Sharon explained that after being furloughed from her pattern-cutting job at the onset of the Covid pandemic, she turned to her love of cycling for inspiration and mental wellbeing.
“I’ve always loved to cycle since I was a child, probably because I couldn’t sit at home and listen to music or gossip with my friends,” said Sharon.
“I bought my first road bike back in 2014 and learned road cycling techniques. In the past I loved taking part cycling events as it’s such a social environment.
“I’ve taken part in several cycling challenges, including the Colchester 30 miles (my first ever), 200km Wicklow route which included a 2,000 metres climb for eight hours straight and my biggest challenge to date, which was cycling 420km through Death Valley in California.”
Sharon is funding Wild Atlantic Way cycle herself and is still searching for additional sponsorship. She will be supported on the journey by her interpreter Dave.
The two charities Sharon is supporting with her cycle – the Irish Deaf Society (IDS) and Talk to Tom – are both close to her heart. As a deaf person, she wants to highlight the everyday difficulties deaf people face in the hearing world.
“As you can imagine, I have overcome many challenges in my lifetime, from bullying at school to unprofessional working environments and this has led me, on occasion, to suffer from mental health issues,” she said.
“This is why Talk to Tom and the Irish Deaf Society are so important to me, as they have always been there in my hour of need. I want to say a massive thank you by helping raise funds as well as exposure, to showing the help and support they provide.”
The IDS seeks to achieve and promote equality and the rights of deaf people in Ireland, while Talk to Tom is a suicide prevention charity which offers a range of varied services for communities around the South-East of Ireland.
Sharon has spent the last few months training hard for the cycle, which will see her cover eight counties over the 12 days. She has been receiving support in her training from the Irish Cycling Sport International Cycle Project.
“They’ve taught me so much, for example how to face my fears. For me, it has always been those dreaded climbs that are an important part of my training. I’m glad to say, I’m now really comfortable cycling climbs and look forward to facing the Wicklow Mountains, Dublin Mountains and Sally Gaps,” said Sharon.
“Cycling is an adventure to me. Yes, it can be hard some days, but it makes me happy and helps me keep those bad vibes at bay.”
Sharon has also used lockdown to combine her passions for cycling and fashion. Over the last year she has designed bespoke activewear designs for women, fulfilling a demand she feels is not currently being met for women’s cycling wear.
“My passion is to design outfits for the modern woman, something chic that not only makes you look good but also makes you feel great when cycling,” she explained. “So I have combined both fashion and cycling to create my very own unique brand, Rebel Cycler.”
Looking forward, beyond the Wild Atlantic Way cycle, Sharon hopes to continue to pursue both fashion and cycling. She intends to become a qualified cycling instructor later this year and to coach cycling in both Ireland and the UK.
“Once trained, I’ll be able to teach children and adults, both hearing and the deaf, the pure joys of being outdoors on your bike, the health benefits as well as cycle maintenance for those days when things go wrong,” said Sharon.
“Cycling has been such a huge part of my life; it has always been there when I’ve struggled with my mental health or found barriers in my way to achieving my dreams. I want to share this with like-minded individuals so they can learn the pleasures of cycling too.”
Sharon’s Wild Atlantic Way Cycle begins on Thursday, in Derry. To follow her progress or to donate to the cause, visit wildatlanticcycle.ie.
Sharon has extended her thanks to her promotional team, ELREM Ltd, to Paragon Interpreting for their support, to Kalas Ireland and the Irish Cycling Sport International Cycle Project for their sponsorship, to Declan Gilmore from NN Sports Coaching, to Rachel Nolan from Rachel’s Irish Adventures and to her family, particularly her brother James and her father.