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!

 

Canberra Day Twenty Two

Sunday 2nd October, 2016

What a day!

We started with a sleep in, and daylight savings. Tricky balance! As soon as the sun came through the curtains I was wide awake, rearing to go! There were birds to see and beaches and maybe whales. I was disorganised really and ended up driving around Narooma stopping here and there and everywhere. Meanwhile hubby was having a swim…probably I would have been better off with that, but it’s all experience. Then in typical fashion after I’d been up for an hour I started to flag! Hubby dragged me out onto our little verandah and that was nice! 22 degrees today, but not a hot sun, just perfectly pleasant temperature not too cold and not too hot. Sun, breeze, the rumble of 50 motorbikes leaving our motel for their daily drive!! I pushed through and did wake up a bit ready to face the day. There’s always some anxiety in me heading out to meet new people, to socialize, to be involved and participate. I guess there always will be. But it was at a low level today; thankfully. It just sedates me, stifles me. And I end up not going cos I feel sick to my stomach, like my heart will explode, like I’ll just collapse with the weight of it all. Which I did NOT want to have happen today! My husband is very good. Her reminds me that this is the same that always happens, that we were expecting this, that its not worse than last time, that its just how it is and I’ll get through it; I’ll be fine!

We came over to Narooma to visit a friend, and she was staying with a young family of 6; well 5 were there when we visited. We had such a great day together! Starting with our usual worship then steak and salad lunch with these 3 lively young kids and their awesome parents and our friend. Miss 4, the youngest girl, hasn’t quite figured out relationships and kept referring to my hubby as my daddy! That was a bit off-putting; I never quite got the hang of what she was asking me. Like at the picnic tea beside Wagonga Inlet: your daddy needs his thongs, where are they? Well I didn’t think her dad was wearing thongs, and besides that it was her daddy not mi…hang on, she means hubby!! Here are his thongs! Over lunch she was asking us if we had kids, to which I said no. Then she wanted to know if I had any grandsons!! I didn’t quite know how to answer that one! And so on. She has the confidence of a much older person and I just loved chatting with her! She doesn’t have all those inhibitions that I had as a kid and well into my teens; next thing you know she chatting for 20 minutes to some random girl and her dad at the swings in the park during our picnic!

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The view from the kitchen door at the family’s house where we had lunch – wow! It might not be the beach, but its pretty spectacular!!

Miss 10 was lots of fun, a real tom boy and had a couple of hard fought games of soccer with hubby, who reckons she has a real talent. She’s certainly passionate! When she got new soccer clothes and a ball for her birthday she slept in the clothes with the ball in her bed! How adorable! Her brother’s always telling her if she doesn’t do such and such he’s going to beat the pants off her or something similar (meant as a joke!) but actually I think he’d be hard pressed to win one over her! He’s fun too, I’m less sure how to bracket him cos he’ll happily play sport or sit and talk with the adults, and he seems quite techy. But hey, you don’t have to have it all figured when you’re young.

The parents were so lovely, just took us into the family and we felt so at home! Isn’t that awesome? We’re away from home, out of our state visiting a friend and make a whole family’s worth of new friends!! It was a really special day! So we had lunch with them, had an afternoon nap then went to the gorgeous old fashioned town of Central Tilba, just 20 minutes inland. I’ve been there loads of times as a kid and teenager so it was a real buzz to be back! It always looks the same, but I notice some of the shops have changed owners. We had a meeting in the town hall which is right in the main street, and wall to wall with other shops which was a bit of a new experience for a religious service. It was hot in there! Sweating hot! Then someone opened a window and there is nothing so delicious as a thin little breeze wisping around your neck and face after being hot like that! The day just kept getting better with the service, and with meeting up with old friends that I’ve always caught up with at Bega on our annual holiday to the Sapphire Coast. And a total surprise meeting with a lovely friend who was visiting family of hers that I know in Bega!! We’ve been trying to catch up in Wagga for ages, and of all things we came to Tilba and she came to Tilba and we met in the middle, sort of!! That was a real thrill!!

And to top off a brilliant day, we had a BBQ picnic with our friend and our new family of friends down on the edge of the inlet and it was so beautiful!! Have I conveyed my joy and enjoyment of this day? It truly was a beautiful day physically, but also emotionally!

Oh, and before our picnic we went up to the Bar Lookout and saw whales spouting!! Again!! How cool is it to be on the east coast at the moment??