ROGER Dyson believes the Swindon Sky Rides have helped to get his health back on track, just months after he underwent heart surgery.

The 76-year-old great grandfather-of-seven, from Haydon Wick, had an angioplasty last November to unblock an artery, but he was determined to get back in the saddle as soon as possible, and the local Sky Rides are proving just the tonic.

Roger, a retired factory worker, said: “I’ve been on one every Sunday since they started and think they’re brilliant. I’ve been building up my distance steadily and the longest one I’ve done was 16 miles, so my fitness level seems to be back to normal.”

Sky Rides, open to all, take place across the borough every Sunday until September. Funded by Sport England, the guided rides are free and organised by British Cycling in partnership with the council. There are 12 different routes, which cover often hidden beauty spots and vary in difficulty.

Roger said: “I’ve tried the Helter Skelter at Coate Water and the Purton Stinger – they’re all very well organised and it’s great to see the younger generations getting involved. The rides make a great family afternoon out and everyone is really friendly.”

Cycling has been a saviour for Roger, ever since he bought a bike after suffering a heart attack at the early age of 44.

“I realised I had been burning the candle at both ends, with a hectic work and family life. It was a wake-up call, prompting me to change my lifestyle. I gave up smoking, improved my diet and bought a bike. I’ve been cycling ever since,” he said.

“I used to go out with the local Cyclist Touring Club, then after retiring I started going out for rides with a group of friends and we could easily cover 50 miles, going out to Fairford or Minchinhampton. Cycling is such a good way to be sociable and get out in the beautiful countryside, which we’re fortunate to have so close by.”

Roger credits his swift recovery to the support from cardiac nurses and pedal power.

He said: “The after care has been excellent. I go to weekly circuit training classes and also get practical advice about things like diet. I’ve never been particularly overweight, but there are still changes like switching to skimmed milk and low-fat spread which can help.

“Staying active is key. I volunteer with the home library service and will carry on cycling for as long as I can. The Sky Rides have got me back in the swing of it and, thanks to them, I’m feeling back on form.”

Sign up at www.goskyride. com/swindon. Find out more about other cycling opportunities in Swindon at www.leisure