Wheel Women

This past week, and the week before that, were all about the bike. And the women. And the rides. And the cafes. Put it all together and it’s a winning formula; there is almost nothing I could recommend more! And it’s all due to the women’s cycling group Wheel Women. Have I mentioned them before? Once, twice?? But they’re always worth another mention or more because they do amazing work getting us women on bikes and keeping us there.

I have to say that my involvement with (possibly read: dependence on) Wheel Women is one of the main reasons why going to Canberra for 3 months from September to December 2016 was hard, and why coming home was so good. I really didn’t know if I’d keep up riding in Canberra without my supportive group. Wheel Women’s director kindly put me onto a cyclist in Canberra, but her group was more of a mountain bike club, and the road cycling group she referred me to rode at 6am on a weekday; enough said! She offered some one on one rides, but in the end I sort of bumbled around until I found a few places on my own. It was a nice offer though.

Of course I took my bike, helmet, cycle computer, bike clothes and other accessories (there a lots of add on products that you “need” when you start riding!!) with me to Canberra. But having the stuff with me, and actually using it are two different things. I’ve proved this before. Having to think out where to go, how to get there, what the route will be like, what to do if I got stuck halfway due to accident or mechanical, if I’m up for it etc becomes a barrier very easily. With Wheel Women, organised rides are thought out, planned and advertised by someone else. All I have to do is turn up at a specific place and time and follow the leader; that holds a lot of the attraction for me to keep up riding, I’ll admit. Is that laziness? Maybe. But it’s a winning, working formula and I think it’s an attraction for a lot of us Wheel Women members. I did try to find some new riding locations in Canberra, and I fell in love with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding bike paths so that kept me going on rides a bit. A few local rides to brunch or dinner, to sightseeing near our place etc made up the rest of the rides, twenty in all; not terrific for 90 odd days but hey I did something more than look at my bike on the verandah!

As much as I was looking forward to riding with Wheel Women again when I got home to Melbourne, I didn’t get straight back into it because we were away a lot during January; but now that I’m back into it, I feel like I never left. It has amazed me though how quickly your bike fitness diminishes when you aren’t regularly riding. You really do have to do a couple of rides a week to maintain your level, and it is worth maintaining that level of activity so the next bike ride feels better. But on the plus side, it only takes a couple of rides to get back to where you were; it’s a constant state of flux.

What has been the most wonderful thing about returning to Wheel Women rides, aside from the excellent rides, is the response of Wheel Women members. I’m not saying I’m anyone special, or trying to be pompous, or blowing my own horn but the lovely, sweet response I’ve received to being back on rides has been overwhelming. I honestly don’t know whether I feel more humbled or thrilled or excited or overjoyed or loved at each next ride. Catching with my old friends and being welcomed back so warmly; meeting new members and striking up new relationships. Man, it is SUCH a great group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group of women that are so unanimously supportive of each other, tolerant of others at a lower level, encouraging to all, utterly friendly and so focused on building each other up regardless of individual personalities. It’s such a privilege to be part of Wheel Women!

So, here I am back riding with my cycling group and loving it! But it’s not a group that you make friends and develop relationships with, it’s each of the special women that have made my day each time I’ve gone out riding with them. These women are really special treasures: women who’ve overcome their fears, their past experience, their lack of experience, other people’s unhelpful opinions, their weight, their age and more to tackle what is essentially a sport but for most has become a means to transport, to a broader social life, to permanent skills and, most importantly, to independence. Who knew that so many benefits could come out of trying out cycling?

I certainly had no idea of the depth of experience and privilege I would come to experience when I started cycling with Wheel Women. I wanted to attempt to start bike riding again; that was my entire ambition. A few years hiatus from cycling followed a bad fall off my bike onto my chin and hand, narrowly missing falling into a 3 lane road in peak traffic. This left me shaken and lacking confidence to return to commuting to the train station to travel into uni. Several years down the track, I was off work on sick leave but having been used to working hard, full time I wanted to do something, anything, to fill in a little time in my week. My hubby was riding lots, commuting to work every weekday, long rides on Saturdays and 2 or 3 early start weekday rides plus any other chance he got. I thought it would be nice to get started back on my bike slowly before attempting anything too drastic with him. Knowing my fitness wasn’t great, and I’d recently stacked on a LOT of weight, I wanted a quiet, friendly environment without too much expectation and did I get a lucky break falling into Wheel Women’s arms! They wrote and taught the 8 week program administered by another agency, and so I was involved with them right from Day One. A very good way to start. I’ve talked about some of those early days before and you can read about it in my other blogs.

Today I want to share the rides I’ve done in this 2 week period. Between the beginning of the week before last and the end of last week (a fortnight all up) I have done 7 bike rides, each and every one of them has been with Wheel Women.  I should say that this is the most I’ve EVER ridden in a similar period. It’s also the only time I’ve gotten on my bike to do a ride THREE days in a row. So I’m kicking goals, as they say, which is not the point of the piece, but I just wanted to make sure you realise that this isn’t a typical or usual or expected run of rides. All the same, I’m thrilled that I did it all, and it’s more points on some fictitious blackboard somewhere out there in the universe that tells me whether I’m doing good or not. I’m doing good! Brain, take note. You seem to very easily let the good things slip through the net while retaining the smallest bad things for my constant reminding. Well, here are some solid facts for you as proof that I can do it, okay?

13th Warburton rail trail, 34.5km

Chatting to Alicia at Woori Yallock

This is cycling to me – riding with my friends and chatting at any opportunity

15th Moonee Ponds Creek trail, Upfield bike path, Capital City trail, 18.5km

Mixed business cafe with the girls

The face of cycling to me – smiles, happiness, water, and a new cafe menu to check out

17th Specialized sale, Capital City trail, Moonee Ponds Creek trail, 16.5km

oo ooh so much stuff

RIDING to a BIKE clothes sale with my BIKE buddies and shopping for BIKE stuff galore…now how to get it home??

18th Otway and Great Ocean Road classic, 30.5km

yep struggling a bit

This is Wheel Women – when the going gets tough, there is always someone beside you keeping you company, someone at the top of the hill encouraging you to get there, someone behind you letting you know you aren’t being left behind and someone at the finish line cheering. It inspires me to dig deeper.

 

23rd Merri Creek trail, Main Yarra trail, 25km

me and kathy

Friends on every ride

24th Williamstown, Maribyrnong River trail, Bay trail west, 30.5km

Classy ladies Sylvia, Robyn, Judy, Alicia, Lyn

We ride, we find thrones…what can we do but be glorious, Lycra-clad queens of cycling?

25th The Women’s Ride, Gardiner Creek trail, 13km

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The aqua and purple team of Wheel Women teaching 30 women how to change a flat tyre after a ride along the Gardiner Creek trail – what a terrific morning!

That’s 168.5km all up in a fortnight in case anyone is counting. I’m sort of stuck at the 30km per ride mark which is my next thing to tackle, alongside mastering hills. But it’s not really the point is it? The point is the company, the enjoyment, the fresh air, the friendship, the new cafes, the new sights and places; the personal achievements are kind of a lovely bonus.

P.S. Aren’t you glad there are keen photographers around to capture all my best moments?! All photo credit to the Wheel Women Facebook page, most likely to a coach or ride leader, or fellow member. Enjoy!

 

New Zealand trip Day Five

[Monday 31st October, 2016]

I’ve been trying to get this done for days, obviously more than a week even but my computer has started down the slow walk to death after various bad treatments over the not so long period that I’ve had it. You know, dropping it on the floor while carrying it in one hand and food in the other (I mean tough choice, which do I save?), accidentally letting it fall off the bed while it was balanced on the edge trying to connect to the wifi while I’m upstairs (the wifi connection keeps getting weaker!), lugging it in a suitcase or carry on luggage or hand bag around the city and the world, letting it fall down the stairs while carrying it one hand stacked with all kinds of things that need to go up or down the stairs; all the way down the stairs! Balancing it on the laundry sink while doing the washing and maybe it slipped in…carrying it in the washing basket maybe getting it a bit damp, tripping over the power cord and tugging it off the couch, it all comes out! Obviously I live a bit too closely with my laptop, but that’s another issue. What have you done to your laptop?! says hubby. Oh nothing, why, it’s fine! But the toll has started taking its grip with a screw falling out, then another screw, then the backing coming off (but you can put it back on!) and finally a loose wire poking out! Oops! I do regret the amount of damage that I do…it’s becomes one long line of sorries! I never mean to do it, I never plan on it, and it always comes as a surprise somehow even though in hindsight obviously it wasn’t the best plan. Am I just clumsy? Hubby thinks more like careless or thoughtless or something. Either, either…well that doesn’t work well as text, but you know what I mean. The point of this gibber gabber? My computer which was never strong on finding wifi connections right in front of its nose has now almost ceased to find them at all! I stick the wifi right under its nose, it’s right there, but it secures the connection without internet, or connect to the internet but so tenuously that as soon as you want to actually USE the internet, it all falls down and drops out! So I’ve been trying on and on to upload a photo for this blog and I can’t! Jolly annoying since all the photos are on my computer only. And of course being away from “home home” I don’t have a USB to transfer the photo to hubby’s laptop. They are still on my camera so by some lengthy process involving cables and memory cards and installing software I’ll figure it out, but now my internet isn’t even sufficient to save this draft. Blah blah blah excuses excuses. On to the actual matter at hand!

Today is the last day of our cycling tour. It has gone really fast!! So far 78 kilometres, oh my. 78 kilometres of beautiful scenery, great food and birds; oh and nice company. Today is going to be our longest day, but plenty of stops so let’s do this! We started from Havelock North at 9.30am with the plan to cycle back to Napier, then onwards to the next part of our holiday. My quads are really stiff today! Maybe due to getting very wet, then very cold then huddling inside getting warm with no stretching yesterday blah blah. So I’m feeling a bit sluggish from that, then the first 3km are a small grinding gradient uphill making my legs feel totally feeble and useless. I hate grinding gradients! Although I am not a fan of hills, I’d rather go up and down sharp hills all day then grind slowly upwards. But after that 3km the rest of the day was lovely and flat so…besides at the end of that short 3km was an absolutely gorgeous winery, Black Barn Vineyard! I mean this was the epitome of a beautiful Tuscan vineyard set on a sloping hill with olive, fig and citrus trees, a private estate for rich people at the top of the hill with ocean views then a stunning winery including outdoor dining under the vines and…gee, am I gushing? It also has a cute boutique food and gift shop. It was so nice! BUT…it was before 10 in the morning so no tastings. It’s just a bit early. Besides, we’re not exactly starving for wine, hey? Next stop: Te Mata cheese factory! Oh yeah, much more interesting; I LOVE cheese! Tastings, tastings, tastings but sadly no purchases; just too difficult to get back to Aus. But seriously: Takina Gold, Camembert, pink and white terraces named after the now-extinct landmark, sheep hard cheese Sleeping Giant, young sheep cheddar, drool, drool, drool! Aahhh, but sadly no. But instead we had a drink and snack and I discovered the amazing New Zealand creation of berry smoothie in a bottle! Delish! Now back on the bike. We could sit here all day but…gotta get back on the flood levee bike paths and follow the Tukituki river out to the coast and check out the lovely wetlands around the mouth of the river. What a lovely ride once again, so pretty and what a fine day today; fine, warm, excellent! Then through the cute little town of Haumoana and along the coast on a gravel track to the stunning Elephant Hill winery for a tasting. It’s another beautiful vineyard and a unique winery with the outer building completely made of copper, designed to look like the ocean; and it really does, sea blue with an infinity pool, very posh eating, all the drinks back lit with blue lighting, and very professional staff. Actually by the time we got there I was a bit in the zone. 3 days of riding, of socialising, of new experiences, new people, new scenery, and I am a bit washed out. Plus its our last day in the north island and I’m not at all sure that I’ve seen enough birds yet. A tasting or two in and I’m over it. Instead I’m going to wander around outside in peace and quiet and solitude and talk to the birds and get some photos until the others are ready.

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Next up is lunch at the Te Awanga winery up the road (literally, like 300 metres) and a tasting at the table there. Much better than standing around tasting. Another beautiful lunch and a lovely lady who brought us tastings with sea views and a gorgeous cottage garden. Actually I’m over tastings, well not the white ones but reds have gotten on my wick, I never liked red much to begin with but tried them anyway and a couple were alright in that they weren’t very red-like, but I’m done with them now, unless its a sticky dessert type thingamebob. It’s odd, with the last tour I didn’t get sick of tasting over the 5 days, but here after 2 days I’m done. Well after filling our faces, off back to Napier. After some issues with wind, it’s meant to be a tail wind all the way home! YIPPEE! And what do you know? A lot of the way home is along a wetland between the shore and the levee, YAY for me! Birds and more birds! So 47km done today bringing our grand total to 126km with the group, and another few kilometres around town. Unfortunately my grand plan of doing the 1 hour walk around the boardwalk on the estuary in town didn’t really eventuate. I mean let’s be realistic: 47km today, 134km all up and I thought I was going to do a walk? With no way to actually get there once the bike was returned? No, no. A shower, a spa to repair my legs and wait for it, the best is yet to come! Dinner at the Mission winery! Exceptional 3 course meal! Truly amazing! Crayfish bisque; superb! Absolutely divine pork belly, which nearly everyone at the table chose. And vanilla and peach schnapps creme brulee with the most amazing super thinly sliced pink lady apple flash frozen and super sweet! Fantastic! Definitely a recommendation. No sad goodbyes, just glad that we got to do the tour and on to the rest of all our holidays.