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!

 

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Canberra Day Seventeen

Tuesday, 27th September, 2016

A bit of a nothing day really. Woke late, didn’t stay up long before going back to bed for a midday nap. Lunch was drive through, afternoon snack was drive through, liquid of the day was lemonade; not a high moment. Did not a lot of anything until I finally got myself out of the house to do some exploring/bird watching in the beautiful sunshine. Had to do something or it’d feel like a total waste of the day! I’ve always got a list of what to do next, and this one was very local which helped. A nice walk through the Goorooyarroo reserve turned a bit annoying when I was harassed by magpies for the first time in a long time! So harassed that I changed my entire route home to avoid them; they just wouldn’t give up! I can’t help that they built their nest right next to the walking track when they have a nature reserve that goes for literally miles! Took a gazillion photos and got two birds that I’ve never seen before!! YAY! And countless kangaroos, and a swamp wallaby, and a few rabbits. Nature reserve indeed. I ended up taking the route less travelled tracking down a bird call, and ended up making life hard for myself by having to haul myself up an enormous hill. I feel like this is some kind of metaphor, me taking 10 times longer than it should take to get anywhere because of having to drag myself uphill! So it’s my photo of the day.img_6469

The day actually got better and better from then on. Hubby came home and we had one of the best nights together that we’ve had in ages! Just good fun and easy company doing the groceries then having dinner out to fill his laksa craving, then a good honest chat about a few things that have been getting fudged about or glazed over or beaten around in the bush about. It’s given me inspiration to be more upfront in my relationship about the things that I’m struggling with, instead of hiding them away. I always think I’m a stigma fighter, but here I am encouraging stigma by hiding what is plainly obvious. I have issues with food these days. I mean, you don’t get to be my size on Vegemite sandwiches! But I try to squirrel away the fact of what I’m actually eating, as though there is any point to that. But it takes a hero to help you come out of yourself enough to be able to admit what you most dislike about yourself. I’m a lucky lucky woman to have just such a hero!!

Canberra Day Fourteen

Today was so satisfying.

We were planning to go away for the ACT long weekend. Ever since we first found out that we were coming up here we’re planned to explore the area around Canberra and into NSW while we’re nearby. So, first long weekend, what to do? Unfortunately the week just flew by and it was Friday night before we knew it and we hadn’t organized anything. Don’t panic, all is not lost. As it turns out hubby wanted to do a morning bunch ride which would get him back home by 9.30am, and I really wanted to attend the Government House open day at 11am because I had heard that these days don’t come around often, and it’s something I’ve never done. So we happily “compromised”. Read: not really, we just changed our thinking from what we “should do” i.e. leave Friday night after work, to what we wanted to do and what worked much better for us. A victory over the “should”s.)

Hubby did a ride, and then another ride; very excited to be out riding and out riding with a group of like-minded people who wanted to push themselves, and I’m thrilled that he’s back out because he really needs his riding to keep everything else in balance. No riding for hubby=no joy for wife. I went to Government House and was blown away by the sheer crowds of other people wanting to do the same thing! Seriously, it was incredible! And the whole Government House experience was worth it, for sure. The old English style very much prevailing in old fashioned buildings. Hubby feels sorry for the Queen who never gets to say in upscale modern buildings with all the mod cons. But there’s something so familiar about these old places; or maybe that from my grandparents-in-law’s sitting room…the exact same floor rugs and carpets, tea settings, sofa chairs; the list goes on! Even a cushion in the EXACT same fabric. Sadly you couldn’t take photos inside.

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So mission accomplished for both of us. Then time to chill and check out accommodation without rushing, and set off on our holiday, still with two days ahead of us. We might do it this way again; it really worked for us. A gorgeous drive over through the dramatic and scenic Kangaroo Valley and surrounding mountains which should be worth visiting on the way back, and arriving just in time for a walk along the bay/river at Shoalhaven Heads where we’re staying at the hotel. A yummy dinner in the hotel restaurant watching Bulldogs reign supreme over GWS in the proper football code on the big screen, then a baffling time trying to figure out what the Raiders and Storm were doing; and don’t dare barrack for Melbourne in that room!! So much to look forward to, so much enjoyed already. Life is good.